Warning: Spoilers are ahead for season eight of The Walking Dead. Keep reading at your own risk.
The all-out war with Negan is finally over.
The Walking Dead ended its eighth season with a final showdown between Negan and Rick, wrapping up a storyline first introduced in late 2015. While the episode nailed the crucial plot points of the source material, we also saw several divergences that set up intriguing future storylines.
So how does the finale stack up to the comics, and what can we expect for season nine? Let’s first start with Rick. This week, Rick finally listens to Carl’s dying wish and aligns with his comic counterpart (who is less murderous and has more faith in people at this point in the arc). Rick has a heart-to-heart with Siddiq, who tells him how Carl dies and says, “All that’s left of the people we lose are their ideas.” This, along with a talk with Morgan—who laments that “we are worse than we were, me and you”—finally causes Rick to come back to himself.
In the battle with Negan, Rick calls for a truce and gets Negan to drop his guard. In the show Rick banks on Negan grieving over Carl’s death for this, but in the comics the scene is dialogue-heavy, with Rick giving a speech about the limitless possibilities if their communities worked together. The show removed the moment where Negan admits he never even considered cooperation, but it does keep the result of Negan’s distraction: Rick suddenly slashes his throat, wounding him enough to declare victory. (In the comics, their scuffle actually happens after Negan’s throat is slashed, which would’ve likely stretched credulity.)
Negan is subdued, and it’s actually Dwight who declares the end of the war and says much of the speech that is given to Rick in the show. The final lines to Negan as he recuperates are virtually the same, with Rick telling him that they’re going to keep him alive and let him rot away in a jail cell while he watches their society thrive without him.
Eugene similarly aligns with his comic self, finally revealing himself to be #TeamRick. In the comics, Eugene never even agrees to make ammo for Negan; in comparison, show Eugene values his self preservation above all else, and until this episode it was unclear if he would ever make his loyalties known. But Eugene ends up being pivotal in the fight, sabotaging all of the Saviors’ bullets and causing them to all backfire. Eugene later admits to Rosita that it’s her words that got through to him, and they reconcile.
While Eugene and Rick fall back in line with their comic selves, others spin off. Maggie is the most interesting example of this, as her characterization feels pretty similar before it takes a surprise turn. Maggie is understandably upset that Negan isn’t killed; while Maggie and Rick argue about this in the comics, the show ups this conflict. We see Maggie, Jesus, and Daryl meeting about how they disagree with Rick’s decision, and plan on building up Hilltop’s strength so they can, it sounds like, take Negan from Rick by force. This is the kind of emotional intra-community conflict that we haven’t really seen since Shane, and which the show has been sorely lacking.
There’s a scene in the comics where Maggie, after a failed assassination attempt, publicly executes Gregory; between that and this TV setup, are we about to see Maggie as an antagonist?
Dwight and Morgan are also different in the comics, where Dwight declares himself the new leader of the Sanctuary, and he serves for the two years before abandoning the position. It’s unlikely we’ll see that in the show; Daryl threatens Dwight that he’ll kill him if he ever returns, and this Dwight’s only interest seems to be to find Sherry.
It’s possible we may never even see Dwight again on the show, and the same could definitely be said about Morgan. Tonight marked his departure from The Walking Dead as he crossed over onto Fear the Walking Dead. It’s hard to know what the future will hold for him, as his comic self died when the zombie horde overran Alexandria. The move is clearly a step in the right direction, though. At the end of the day, Rick just isn’t good for Morgan, and maybe with this change he’ll be able to find some sort of healing.
Aaron and the women of Oceanside are another interesting change, as they show up in the final battle wielding Molotovs against the Saviors. Oceanside isn’t an all-women community in the comics, and they don’t participate in the fight against Negan. Hopefully season nine will explore their dynamics more, and maybe give Enid some much-needed character development as she works out what happened with Cyndie.
Jadis is another wildcard who’s not in the comics. While early fan theories had her pegged as Alpha of the Whisperers, her people are now gone, and she’s heading to Rick to join his community. What future does Jadis (who reveals her name is Ann) hold? When are we going to get answers about that helicopter, or the ultra mod living space she was in?
And what happens to Negan? Comics Negan does indeed rot in jail for about two years, but when the new villains are introduced—the Whisperers, a ruthless gang who wear zombie skin and wander among the walkers—Negan ends up actually working alongside Rick to defeat them. It’s an uneasy partnership, and one that opens the door for Negan’s redemption. But is redemption even possible for a character like TV's Negan? Only time will tell what’s in store for this character, but suffice to say there’s certainly plenty of content to mine for season nine.
What are your hopes for the next season? Sound off in the comments!