The Walking Dead season 8 got political with its penultimate episode this week, as Negan consolidated his power and doused the flames of internal rebellion while simultaneously devising a master plan to trick both those within his own ranks and beyond them. There was some good viewing material to chew on in episode 15, then, but you can’t help feel as though AMC is saving the best till last for the final showdown next week.
The show tends to take a ‘go big or go home’ approach with its season finales, so episode 16 is sure to feature plenty of drama, action, and (hopefully) answers to some of the biggest questions we’re still left asking after this week’s instalment of The Walking Dead.
1. Is Gabriel dying?
The short answer? Most probably. The good father is dosed up on meds and under the expert supervision of Dr. Eugene, but it sounds as though his condition is rapidly deteriorating, and the diagnosis from said Doctor is not a positive one. Eugene’s best guess is that Gabriel’s sickness is either “influenza or cryptococcosis”, both of which are airborne viruses which can prove fatal to the host without the right treatment. And Gabriel is definitely not receiving the right treatment.
In fact, he’s still working overtime in Negan’s bullet factory, which is now in serious crunch mode as the Saviours prepare for the final battle against Hilltop. Even if the sickness doesn’t take Gabriel from this world, it’s become increasingly clear that he’s really not cut out for it.
2. Is redemption possible for Eugene?
Speaking of cretinous cowards, Eugene potentially crossed a line that he can’t come back from in episode 15, and that makes me sad. The power has got to his head as master gunsmith, meaning any connection he had for his former allies has been cut off for good. After aggravating Daryl with his penchant for endless verbiage, puking garlicky vomit all over Rosita, and hiding in the ashes of a human graveyard, it’s safe to say the man is now 100% Negan.
That's a shame, because those of us who are fans of Eugene’s loquacious manner and off-kilter humour were probably hoping for his eventual return as a Hilltop mainstay. Sadly, if the threats of Rosita and Daryl are anything to go by, Hilltop wants nothing to do with this human cockroach anymore, and - given his rather pathetic escape - neither does he.
3. What are Negan’s plans for Dwight?
This episode’s shock twist was that, yes, it was indeed Laura who Negan had picked up at the end of episode 14, and she had naturally spilled the beans on Dwight’s status as a double crosser. Even more surprisingly, Negan didn’t set Lucille on Dwight, despite being visibly angered by his newly discovered backstabbery. Instead, the big boss simply teased “big plans” for his former right hand man, which could mean a whole number of things, but at least suggests Dwight’s still got a chance at survival for now.
My best guess is that Negan will bring him to the finale’s big battle, so he can be a first-hand witness to Hilltop’s defeat with a front seat to all the blood and tragedy which that’ll likely entail. Beyond that, though, I’m really not sure. Torture? Imprisonment? Room and board with Eugene? It’s all up in the air at this point.
4. Are Oceanside finally on board?
Somehow, as if by magic, Aaron’s pathetic plan for persuading Cyndie to take up the fight against Negan worked. All he did was hopelessly stumble around Oceanside’s surrounding forest hoping they’d feel sorry for him, but, after taking on several zombies like a inebriated ragdoll and shouting hysterically from the muddy woodland floor, Cyndie appeared to be suddenly on board with his requests.
It was an unearned U-turn for sure, but this news could be the game-changer that turns the tide of war in Rick’s favour, especially if Oceanside turn up at the right time during the season finale’s showdown, like Gandalf at Helm’s Deep or, uh, Littlefinger in Game of Thrones’ Battle of the Bastards. It’s a Deus Ex Machina miracle.
5. Will Rick fall for Negan’s trap?
Ooh you cheeky son of a gun, Negan. For all your flaws, I have to admit that getting Dwight to send Gregory back to Hilltop with a fake plan to lead Rick into a carefully designed ambush is one of the smartest things you’ve ever done. But will he bite the hook? The level of trust for Dwight at Hilltop is still tenuous, so I’d be surprised if Daryl, Maggie, and all the rest unanimously put their faith into his conveniently timed intel.
That said, it’s the best and only information they have, and we all know Rick is as eager to end this as ever, even if reading Carl’s letter at the beginning of the episode has hopefully tempered his bloodlust since murdering those Saviour defectors in last week. Could Rick perhaps double bluff Negan’s bluff? If he has any hopes of winning, he should probably consider it.