Warning: Spoilers are ahead for season eight of The Walking Dead. Keep reading at your own risk.
On this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Worth,” several characters are finally called upon to quite literally prove their worth. At this point, the season finale battle can diverge any which way from the comics, and Dwight, Eugene, Aaron, and Simon will likely all have key roles in how it all plays out.
Well the first three do, at least. This week we finally said goodbye to Simon, whose fate was pretty much sealed the moment Negan walked back through those Sanctuary doors. Ironically, Simon’s own death ends up having the effect he was looking for: Negan is now fully prepared to kill everyone at the Hilltop. This finally aligns Negan with his comic book counterpart, who says something similar when he first introduces the plan to gunk up their weapons with walker guts.
In the comics, rather than set up a perimeter and pick them off one by one as TV Negan suggests, they storm the Hilltop outright, and it’s Dwight who shoots Rick with an infected arrow. This surprisingly doesn’t kill Rick, and his unexpected recovery allows him to catch Negan off guard enough to end the war. Is it possible we see something similar in the show? When Rick says his now infamous “my mercy will prevail over my wrath” line, his eyes do look rather pink, so it’s possible he says that as he’s overcoming the fever. On the other hand, having Rick miraculously beat an infection, on top of wrapping up the season, may be too much for one episode.
TV Negan is now also aware of Dwight’s loyalties, so it's hard to see him trusting Dwight to shoot Rick at this point. Right now it feels more like a question of: is Dwight going to survive the next episode? In the comics, Dwight ends up becoming the leader of the Saviors for a while, and even takes Lucille as his own, claiming he wants to change what the bat symbolizes.
But show Dwight doesn’t feel like he’d go that route. He seems disinterested in leadership, and we know for a fact that Daryl, a non-comic book character, has been gunning for his demise for almost two seasons now. With Rick and Daryl likely to believe Dwight purposely set a trap for them, is the season finale going to be the final episode for Dwight?
There’s also the question of what Eugene will do, as he’s had significantly more, shall we say, flexible loyalties than the Eugene of the comic. While Eugene has been a frustratingly self-serving character this past season, this episode finally gave us a possible allusion to something more: “Here we go; time to do something useful with our pathetic lives,” he says, promising to make a ton of bullets for Negan to “change Savior history forevermore.”
The writers made sure to include an earlier scene where Eugene warns Gabriel that if he doesn’t properly seal the bullets, they may backfire on the Saviors. Is it possible Rosita’s words finally got through to him and he’s going to sabotage Negan’s forces? The other option is Eugene going the way of his comic book counterpart and escaping the Sanctuary, delivering a truckload of ammunition to Rick. It’s hard to see how that would play out in the episode with Negan’s current plan, but one can hope Eugene finally does the right thing.
The real outlier here may be Aaron and his connection to the women of Oceanside. Oceanside is a community that has been on the periphery since season seven, and their demographics and participation in the war against Negan are different in the comics. They’re an intriguing and sorely underused plot line, though, and it will be interesting to see how successful Aaron has been in convincing the women to help. Oceanside may very well be the key to victory that Rick has been looking for this whole time.
And then of course there’s the question of Negan. We know Negan is unlikely to die—as he doesn’t in the comics, and all of Carl’s pleading for peace has to mean something now—but how will Rick subdue him? And who’s going to die before we get there? With a main character like Carl gone, it suddenly feels like nobody is safe.
With so many elements in play, it’s exciting to think about how the finale will shake out. What are your theories for this season’s final episode next week? Shout out in the comments!