9:45am PT by Josh Wigler
Has 'Walking Dead' Revealed "The Key" to the Next Big Death?
[This story contains spoilers for season eight, episode eleven of AMC's The Walking Dead, as well as the comic books from Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard on which the show is based.]
"They don't scare."
That's what Steven Ogg's Simon says, speaking in a sneak peek at the next episode of Walking Dead, called "The Key." The hour looks to focus on the escalating conflict between the Alexandria Safe-Zone and the Saviors, with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) recently deciding upon an unconventional tactic to take out his enemies: germ warfare, as in outfitting his troops' weapons with zombie gore for the purpose of infection.
There's one massive problem with Negan's plan, however: loyalty. Namely, the most loyal people in his army don't have any. He's lucky that Eugene (Josh McDermitt) has remained so steadfast across the last season and change, as the comic book version of the character offers no support whatsoever to the King of the Saviors; his turn in the TV show feels inevitable, if slower. Likewise, this past week's episode brought Dwight (Austin Amelio) back under Negan's employ, even though the scarred Savior is fully Team Alexandria at this point in the comics and very likely in the show as well.
Dwight and Eugene's true loyalties shouldn't come as a shock, but the big kicker is the one that's only recently started coming to light: Simon, the wild-eyed killer who viewers first met in the season six finale, "Last Day on Earth." Whether it's his handlebar mustache, the way he puffs his chest out and towers over everyone he comes across, or the slow yet decisive manner in which he speaks, Simon has swiftly become one of the most memorable characters in the entire Walking Dead show's lore, let alone in recent memory.
But it's starting to very much look like Simon will soon be nothing more than a memory, given the trajectory of the storyline. Two episodes earlier, Simon viciously disagreed with Negan on his plans to instill some fear and loyalty from his dissenters, instead taking matters into his own hands when he slaughtered all of the Garbage People, save for Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh). What's more, Simon lied about killing the scavengers when he spoke with Negan, following the grisly act. Something dark is stirring within the man Negan trusts most, in other words, and it's going to manifest as soon as next week's episode.
Watch the official preview for "The Key," in which Simon and the Saviors travel toward the Hilltop:
Next week's episode sees Simon, Dwight and others traveling toward the Hilltop with murder on their minds, albeit a limited amount of murder. In a sneak peek of the episode, a conversation between Simon and Dwight makes it clear that Negan wants the standard procedure followed: just enough damage to scare Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the others into submission. During their talk, Simon makes his conclusion about Rick's people known: no matter what they throw at the Alexandrians, they don't get scared — implying that the only way to win the war is total annihilation.
Of course, Simon's talking to the wrong guy when it comes to this pitch. Dwight wants to win the war, and he wants Alexandria standing at the end of it. Is he positioned to sell out Simon to Negan, in order to get closer to the Saviors' boss once again? Negan's still trying to ferret out a traitor, after all, and if Dwight can compellingly make the case for Simon — who at the very least outright betrayed Negan's desires on his most recent mission, and fully lied about it — then perhaps a major power shift within the agency is about to commence.
Whether or not Dwight's involved, it feels like Simon's already short fuse is about to burn out. It's hard to imagine the character deceiving Negan and getting away with it. Simon is a character invented purely for the show, so there's no comic book road map to gauge in terms of his future within the series. However, comic book readers know that Negan does in fact survive the coming war, and is destined to spend the next several years of his life rotting away in an Alexandria jail cell. If Simon dies on the show, is it a twist designed to soften the blow if Negan manages to survive season eight, much like his comic book counterpart?
However it shakes out, if you're a fan of Steven Ogg's magnetic turn as Simon, enjoy every moment with the mad man you have from here on out. At any time, it could be his last.
Watch Simon and Dwight debate the Saviors' tactics in the video below:
What do you think will happen to Simon? Sound off in the comments and keep checking THR.com/WalkingDead for more coverage.