[Spoilers for The Walking Dead season-eight finale below, obviously.]
The eighth season of The Walking Dead was brought to a close with the “all-out war” that AMC’s teased since at least last year’s San Diego Comic-Con. On one side, there was Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), his bat, and his band of Saviors, who were all fighting for... well, let’s see. They continued to behave abominably for the most part, laying waste to other survivors for having the audacity to not want to become indentured servants in the Sanctuary. Under Negan’s command, they bombed Alexandria for hours while Carl breathed his last (albeit unknowingly); and when left to his own devices, Simon (Steven Ogg) slaughtered the Scavengers.
Those are among the many, many reasons Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln—or, as he’s known on Talking Dead, Andy Lincoln) was ready to kill Negan once and for all, even though the former sheriff hardly fits the bill of “hero” himself anymore. But, if you watched the finale—and we certainly hope you did, if you’re reading about the cast’s thoughts on “Wrath”—then you know that while Rick did slash Negan’s neck after they kicked the shit out of each other, he immediately had the wound treated. Now Negan gets to recuperate while imprisoned at Alexandria, which is part of the lesson on mercy Carl hoped his dad would re-learn, we guess.
After the finale aired, Lincoln, Morgan, and EPs Scott Gimple and Robert Kirkman joined Chris Hardwick on Talking Dead to, uh, talk about that Walking Dead finale. Entertainment Weekly took down some of their post-war analysis, including Lincoln joking about inadvertently robbing Morgan of his chance to speechify as Negan: “I was a bit concerned when I slit his throat, because up until now, Jeffrey Dean Morgan has been amazing, and one of the greatest assets he has brought to the show is the fact that at the end of each season, he does a three-page monologue. So when I slit his throat, kind of thought… oh, it’s going to have to be me. And I’ve never seen him look so happy with so much blood on his chest.”
If you’re like Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and are pissed that Negan survived after all that bullshit—including killing Glenn (Steven Yeun)—Kirkman explained the stay of execution that can also be found in the original comics. For Rick, this is “a huge turning point in a long series of turning points... But this is him finally realizing that he has to choose a different way.” See, “every major conflict in the history of The Walking Dead has ended with a huge death or someone dying,” but with this switch-up, Rick is following his son’s (and Irvine Welsh’s) advice and is “choosing life. This is him turning over a new leaf and deciding there’s a different way forward.… It shows that from this point on the stories are going to be very different.”
When Hardwick asked what lies ahead for the band of survivors and that massive horde of undead, Gimple teased they’ll be “facing different problems with each other. And the world itself will be very, very different.” Wow, that is... both spot-on and vague. But Gimple did hint that the full-blown conflict—hey, maybe that’s what they’ll subtitle next season—between Rick, Michonne, Maggie, Jesus, and Daryl will feature prominently next year. Cohan’s character has gone “[full Corleone].” As for her ally, Jesus (Tom Payne), he may not have lost it like Morgan—who’s making his way to Texas now—but he could “kill Negan. That certainly isn’t off the menu for Jesus.”
If you want to learn more about all the explosive twists, including Eugene’s bullets and Negan’s commuted sentence, you can check out the season finale of Talking Dead here.