“My mercy prevails over my wrath.”
And just like that, The Walking Dead disappears off our TV screens again for another 6 months. But ‘Wrath’ is a season finale unlike any others as it’s biggest and most surprising twist is that somebody lived – as opposed to the tried and tested way of using a season finale for a big character death. Of course, we’re talking about Negan; Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s charismatic antagonist who’s plagued Team Rick for over two seasons. I personally know people who are gonna be pissed off by this ‘twist’ although, admittedly, it’s not a surprise if you know the source material. Saving Negan confirms some of the season’s main themes, namely that Rick’s mercy can prevail over his wrath; – that he doesn’t have to be full-blown psycho all the time. It’s much appreciated after Rick’s slip to the dark side in the bar a few episodes ago and is hopefully a sign of Officer Friendly returning.
This turn of events also sets up some exciting storylines only hinted at in this episode. Namely that Maggie seems to have gone full Corleone and is planning to betray Rick over his decision to spare Negan. Maggie has more than enough reason to want Negan dead mind, Glenn’s death was only about 3 weeks ago in the show’s timeline. Lauren Cohen gives one of her best performances in this episode too; even the most ardent Negan fans will be struggling to disagree with her after her heartbreaking screams at Rick’s decision. But while the Maggie betrayal feels earned, I’m a little more unsure about her roping in Jesus and Daryl. Daryl’s motivation I can just about buy – we’ve seen the lengths he’ll go to behind Rick’s back to try and kill Negan. But Jesus I struggle with. It was only this episode that he gave a rousing speech to Morgan about the virtues of saving lives as opposed to taking them, surely he’d be one of the first wanting Negan to be spared? It doesn’t help that Jesus has been sorely missing from the rest of the season. Hopefully he gets a bigger part next time around, perhaps we’ll see the wonderful comic arc that sees him hook up with Aaron (who is conveniently newly single on the show).
How great was Eugene’s betrayal?! I called it last week but it was incredibly satisfying to see him finally make a move and stand up to the Saviours. And in such a debilitating way too – he literally took out all of their guns. Glad he’s back on the right path and hopefully we’ll be getting some of his late-stage comic storylines. I’m unsure what the future holds for Dwight though, who we last saw being let go by Daryl with the threat of ‘come back and you’re dead’ hanging over him. The last few moments of the show confirm his wife Sherry is still out there but he’ll have to return to the main group eventually. Ideally as Rick’s lieutenant in the Saviour camp. Austin Amelio is one of the show’s strongest actors so I hope Dwight isn’t away for too long. Morgan is a different story, however, as he’s going to be away for a long time, joining up with the cast of TWD’s sister show, Fear The Walking Dead. I’m not a big fan of this movie, mainly because it robs us of Lennie James’ awesome performance, but also because I don’t actually yet watch FTWD. It’s easier for US audiences as Morgan’s appearance in FTWD was aired straight after his TWD departure on the very same channel. But in the UK the main show is on FOX while FTWD is on the pay-per-view AMC UK channel. I’ll catch up through the Blu Rays or Amazon Prime but I can’t help but feeling I’m soon going to be missing out on a large part of the lore.
The direction of the show from here on out is anybodies guess. I hope the show follows the comics and keeps Negan alive in a cell, eventually releasing him to become an ally of Rick. That’s obviously why showrunner Scott Gimple kept him alive but with an upcoming showrunner change-up, the plot lines are up in the air. I think it’s a good bet that the show will have a time skip before season 9. It’d let the characters catch up to their actor’s real ages and give the show a chance to make some world changes and introduce a new big bad (the whisperers perhaps?) Whatever happens, I’m excited. It’s gonna be a loooong wait until October…