‘The Walking Dead’ Season 8: Rick in a Box

As we head into the final episode of the year, I thought it was time for a quick check-in with “The Walking Dead,” what with the show not returning until February and all. As fans know, after a strong start which saw everyone concerned working together as a united front against the threat of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors, recent episodes have seen the gang back to being fractured and making some dubious decisions yet again.

When we last left group leader Rick (Andrew Lincoln), he was at odds with Daryl (Norman Reedus), who wanted to strike while the iron was hot and finish off the saviors while the group still had them trapped and on the verge of being destroyed. Rick, on the other hand, wanted to wait and rally the disparate groups together, in hopes of saving the people that were being forced to work for Negan against their will through threats and intimidation.

Both understandable motivations, and one can hardly blame Daryl in particular, after being held hostage by Negan and beaten and forced to listen to crappy music until he very nearly broke down and gave up. Well, Rick can now relate, after likewise getting the same treatment from the Garbage People, led by the oddball Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), who after rejecting Rick’s request to join them in the fight against the Saviors, promptly captured him and stripped him down and tossed him in a boxcar.

Lord only knows what he was thinking, after the Garbage People already betrayed him once, but I suppose he wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, what with the Saviors having the upper hand previously- but not anymore. Or so Rick thought, at least, before Daryl and the people he assembled decided to take matters into their own hands.

After a memorable attack by Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) on a couple of renegade Saviors that were plotting to draw away the walkers by blaring music at them and leading them away from the Sanctuary where Negan and the others were trapped- including Rosita blowing one of them to smithereens with a rocket launcher! – Daryl demolished the would-be savior Savior with a garbage truck, putting that particular plot to a premature end.

Those three, along with Tara (Alana Masterson) and Morgan (Lennie James) opt to team up, with the plan being to drive said truck into the Sanctuary compound and fire upon the Saviors that come pouring out as a result of the ensuing walker invasion. Only, naturally, that’s not what ended up happening.

Though the gambit halfway worked- walkers did indeed invade the Sanctuary, killing everyone in their path- the head honchos, including Negan and his chief lieutenants, hid out in the upstairs area, closing it off from the remainder of their people. So, though the Saviors definitely took a hit as result of the action, most of the ones killed were the very ones Rick had hope to save and recruit. So much for THAT plan.

Even worse, after Rick yet again turned the tables on the Garbage People, when they tried to take him out with another of those walkers with an outfitted steel encasing put together by the sculpt-happy artist contingent of the bunch, and threatened to kill Janis if everyone didn’t back off, he managed to eke out a deal with them to join the fight against the Saviors after all, only to arrive to discover Daryl’s handiwork.

It remains to be seen what exactly Rick and the others will do next, or, for that matter, what Negan and his people did next, either. Have they taken advantage of the invading walkers and snuck out the side entrance? Or are they still trapped? Where have Daryl and his supporters gotten to?

We know that Michonne, Tara and Rosita all had second thoughts about the attack, so they probably got out of there sooner than later, but that still leaves Daryl and Morgan’s fates up in the air, and they might not survive a retaliation from the Saviors, given how many of them there still are.

In addition, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) made the dubious decision to entrap the kidnapped Saviors within the interior of the Hilltop, and there’s no way they aren’t plotting to escape, probably with an assist from the wily Gregory (Xander Berkeley), who found himself likewise trapped in with them, after Maggie determined he couldn’t be trusted, either.

While I understand Jesus (Tom Payne) wanting to err on the side of caution, pointing out that they may not all be bad, which may well be true, there’s almost no way this is going to end well. Fortunately for the Hilltop, they have a bona-fide bad-ass in Maggie, to say nothing of Jesus on their side, so they should be okay.

Meanwhile, The Kingdom is facing some hardships of its own, as King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) is still reeling from the defeat that cost his entire team their lives, save the stalwart Jerry (Cooper Andrews) and, of course, Carol (Melissa McBride), who does her best to try and encourage Ezekiel to boot and rally the remaining troops, who are in dire need of some encouragement right about now. Alas, she has failed in her efforts so far, leading her to contemplate leaving the Kingdom for good this time.

Back at the Sanctuary, we do discover that Eugene (Josh McDermitt) has indeed figured out that Dwight (Austin Amelio) is the traitor that is working with Rick and company that Negan is trying to suss out. For the time being, he agrees to keep Dwight’s real alliances secret, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to solve the Saviors’ current dilemma, much to Dwight’s chagrin, who tries to stop him at every turn, destroying a makeshift iPod kite Eugene puts together in hopes of leading the walkers away from the Sanctuary.

Right after that is when all hell breaks loose, so we’ll have to wait and see what Eugene chooses to do next, given all the information at his disposal. Complicating matters is an ailing Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), who is almost certainly not long for this world if he doesn’t get medical attention soon. It may not matter, though, if things go down a certain way.

That’s where we leave things for now, leaving for a perfect set-up for the mid-season winter finale. Count on at least one major death, if that trailer for next week’s episode is any indication. My money’s on Gabriel, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Morgan also dies, given the announcement that he will be joining the cast of “Fear the Walking Dead” moving forward, which is in a different, earlier time-line than this show.

Some have also worried that Daryl might die, but I seriously doubt that- though it would certainly be a shocker, that’s for sure. Ditto Rick, which is even more unlikely. No way they’re killing him, not before he gets a showdown with Negan. However, other possibilities include Eugene- which would serve him right- and Dwight, especially if he’s exposed to Negan for his trespasses. Simon (Steven Ogg) might want to watch his back, too- or really, most of the remaining Saviors in general.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if Gregory bites it, probably after helping the kidnapped Saviors to escape, and it honestly, it would serve him right, especially after abandoning Father Gabriel like he did- though some would say Gabriel had it coming, given that he turned his own back on his flock way back when, if you’ll recall. But definitely count on some drama at the Hilltop, that’s for sure.

As for Carl (Chandler Riggs) and his newfound buddy, Siddiq (Avi Nash), I think they’ll be okay, and that Siddiq is an alright guy. I liked that whole thing about “freeing the souls” of the dead- it was kind of poetic. Although that whole business with the plastic bag reminded me of “American Beauty,” lol. (Not a good time to be reminded of Kevin Spacey, needless to say.)

I’m definitely excited to see what happens next, and my hope is that they end things strong as they begun them, with lots of action and surprises. I’ve no doubt there will be some sort of cliffhanger of some kind- it just wouldn’t be a “Walking Dead” finale without one, right? Hopefully, it’s not as abrupt and jarring as the one with Negan and the bat in the sixth season finale, though at least we wouldn’t have as long to wait as we did for that one.

What do you think will happen in next week’s mid-season finale? Any predictions? Who will die, if anyone? Is Rick’s plan dead in the water after Daryl’s unexpected actions? Will Ezekiel get it together and rejoin the fight? Will Maggie’s decision to cage the Saviors backfire? Will Eugene rat on Dwight? (BTW, loved that moment where he kissed Negan’s hand and Negan’s reaction to it: “Uh, I was going for a handshake, Eugene.” Lol)

Make your predictions down below in the comment section and be sure to join me next Monday for my take on the big finale!