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‘The Walking Dead’ Review: ‘Wrath’ Feels Like It Wants To Get Itself Over With

The Season 8 finale is a bore, but Season 9 has possibilities.

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Tom Payne as Paul 'Jesus' Rovia, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 16 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Gene Page/AMC

Whose Episode Is It?

It’s all hands on deck for the big final battle, and if you thought you were actually going to get a big final battle, well, joke’s on you. It’s honestly downright amazing what an anti-climax “Wrath” turns out to be, considering it’s the culmination of a conflict that’s played out over two full seasons of television (add another half-season if you count when the Saviors first showed up). Now obviously that was far too much time to give to the war between Rick and Negan, and if “Wrath” is any indication, the creators agree. The episode feels utterly perfunctory, checking all the necessary boxes so everyone involved can finally move on to something new. Nothing is particularly bad here. It just lacks any drama or urgency.

The War Effort

So yeah, the Saviors lose the war instantaneously when it turns out Eugene personally sabotaged every single one of their bullets, causing all their guns to explode. There’s a bit of convoluted business with Negan setting a second trap for Rick because he figures Rick will think the first trap is a trap (look, don’t ask me), but Rick eventually falls for the scheme, and would have totally lost if Gabriel hadn’t given Eugene a last-second brainwave. Rosita socks Eugene one after the battle, but says it was “for the puke,” so I guess she’s turned around on Eugene, even though he at best deserves to be locked up with Gregory.

Negan also sends what looks to be around 15 guys to attack Hilltop, but they must be really intimidating guys because Tara and the others who remained behind all flee immediately. Tara volunteers to hold them off, and she’s joined by Alden (the Sensitive Savior) and the other Savior defectors, because they want to prove themselves. But before they get their chance the Saviors are all annihilated by Molotov cocktails thrown by the Oceansiders. It’s nice that no one from Hilltop suffered any casualties, but it’s still a stretch to say that the Oceansiders were necessary to the war effort. Still, at least the storyline was consistently an afterthought from beginning to end. Hopefully Aaron gets something to do next season.

Lennie James as Morgan Jones - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 16 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

A Shred of Humanity

Negan skedaddles as soon as the Saviors lose, and Rick chases him down under a tree with stained glass hanging from it so he can do that bit from the premiere. Negan gets the better of Rick, so Rick begs for 10 seconds to explain to Negan how they can move forward. Rick repeats several of Carl’s talking points, and the second Negan lets his guard down, Rick slits his throat. Don’t worry, though! It was one of those super-precise minor throat slashings that can be stitched up by a med student in the middle of a field. So yes, Rick’s mercy prevails over his wrath, because otherwise what the hell were we doing all season. Maggie loses her shit when it’s clear that Rick isn’t killing Negan, and Lauren Cohan’s naked anguish is one of the few beats of real emotion to be found in the episode.

Rick then gives a big, impassioned speech to his army and the remaining Saviors, again reiterating all the stuff Carl’s been saying in voiceover since he died eight episodes ago. And to be fair, I’m all for it. “The Walking Dead” has to get out of its rut if it has any chance of being interesting again, and rebuilding society alongside the Saviors is something new with plenty of dramatic potential. But we’ve still heard this spiel an awful lot this season, especially Rick’s plea that “There’s gotta be something after.” And part of that “after” is locking Negan up for the rest of his life, so show everyone that they’ve moving forward to building a new civilization, and Negan gets to see how wrong his philosophy was. At last, some actual justice on “The Walking Dead.”

In other news, Morgan’s murder switch gets flipped back to “No” after Jesus gently suggest that killing everyone he sees probably won’t be great in the long run. Morgan finally realizes he’s a danger to himself and others and wanders off to go guest star on “Fear the Walking Dead” — another season-long storyline with an extremely weak payoff.

Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 16 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Man Is The True Monster

In the most promising tease for next season, Maggie holds a council at Hilltop where she and Daryl tell Jesus that he was right to keep the Savior prisoners alive, but Rick and Michonne made the wrong call in letting Negan live. So they’re going to bide their time and wait for the perfect moment to strike. Fingers crossed that the show downplayed all the possible interesting conflict between the leads this season so they could really explore them next season. Of course, why you would recruit Jesus into your “Let’s kill Negan” plan, when he was the one arguing that murder was wrong, is a mystery but I’ll take what intrigue I can get. (If Jesus expressed some desire to kill only Negan like a year and a half ago and I just forgot, I apologize.)

The final series of scenes seems to indicate the Saviors are completely fine with being integrated into the larger community, but obviously that can’t last. For now, it’s an extremely sunny ending to a very thorny conflict. For the first time in a long time, the story possibilities on “The Walking Dead” seem wide open. It’s just a shame it took such a long, dreary road to get there.

The Remains

  • Oh, Daryl lets Dwight go, but probably only because Negan monologues about how Dwight was totally on Rick’s side. Daryl says he’ll kill Dwight if he sees him again, and Dwight finds a solid lead on his wife’s whereabouts, so it might be the last we see of him.
  • Morgan heads to the dump to let Jadis know she’s welcome to join the new world. Jadis admits that her real name is Anne. Aww!
  • Wait, what was with that helicopter???
  • Gabriel closes the season by sitting in the burned out remains of Alexandria’s church and saying, “I can see.” No idea what that’s about.
  • No Gregory this episode? Booooo!
  • Rick closes out the season by writing his own letter to Carl. “You showed me the new world. You made it real. I see it. I remember.”

Grade: C

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