The end of the line is almost here. The only question now is: Will mercy prevail over wrath?
OK, it’s not the only question, but it’s a big one! Since the start of The Walking Dead‘s current eighth season, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) has been seen pondering this very dilemma. At first, viewers weren’t clued into the context of Rick’s question. Now, the particulars have come into focus: Rick’s wrath and mercy both reside beside him underneath a tree, as he’s bleeding out at some point in the future — some time after losing his son Carl (Chandler Riggs), sending him into a murderous tailspin.
With only one episode left in the vicious season, and with the stage well and truly set for a climactic battle between Rick and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), we’re about to find out where Rick lands when it comes to the extent of his bloodlust. But there are other fates and twists to consider as well. A longtime series regular is about to leave the show for a new zombie adventure; another is likely leaving as well, albeit under less than ideal circumstances.
Below, The Hollywood Reporter weighs in on the outcome of Rick’s war, the characters set to depart Alexandria (one way or another) and more. Here are our predictions for what’s coming up in the season eight finale.
1. Negan Survives
Not a tough prediction, assuming you’re hip to the Walking Dead comic book lore. At the end of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s “All-Out War,” Rick overpowers Negan and decides to lock him away for the rest of his life, rather than kill the man. The show is geared to follow the same path, or a similar one at the very least. It’s why we keep going back to Rick’s question about mercy prevailing over wrath, for one thing. For another, Morgan (Lennie James) didn’t build that prison cell in Alexandria all those episodes ago for no reason. Expect Negan to wind up in the cell by the end of season eight, with plenty more stories in his future as Walking Dead moves ahead.
2. Dwight Dies
Austin Amelio’s traitorous Savior, Dwight, has a lot of life left in him if we’re going based on the comics — but the death of Carl earlier this season should make it clear that all bets are off in terms of fidelity to the source material. What’s more, there’s nothing in Dwight’s future that can’t be achieved through Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), who doesn’t exist in the comics. Dwight’s death would mean an end of the old Saviors’ regime, Negan notwithstanding. As the series looks to move into new stories now that its episode count numbers well past 100, we’re banking on another big shake-up from the original Walking Dead tale in the form of Dwight’s death and Daryl’s subsequent ascension.
3. Morgan Flies
Again, not a hard prediction to make: Morgan’s leaving The Walking Dead for Fear the Walking Dead. “It is known,” as they say on another show. But how is he going to wind up in the Clark clan’s orbit? The answer may reside with the helicopter previously seen at the Heaps. Whoever and whatever that party entails, it’s a fair guess that Morgan getting to the chopper could be his ticket to Texas.
4. Maggie’s Surprise
Lauren Cohan’s future with The Walking Dead is very much up in the air at the moment, with the actress signing on to star in Whiskey Cavalier, an ABC drama pilot co-starring Scott Foley. Since it’s a recent development that appears to have taken the Walking Dead creators by surprise, it’s not likely that her character Maggie’s exit is in the offing for season eight. What’s the big surprise awaiting Maggie, then? It’s the fact that there isn’t any big surprise planned — meaning, fans might be in for a very anticlimactic ending for Maggie’s time on the show, depending on factors having nothing to do with the story of Walking Dead.
5. The King and Queen, Side by Side
Earlier in the season, Ezekiel (Khary Payton) lost everything: Shiva, his people, his self-esteem. Through it all, Carol (Melissa McBride) has been nearby, if not always directly at his side. The show has hinted at a romance between the two characters ever since they first met in season seven. As both the war and season draw to a close, we’re calling the shot: Ezekiel and Carol are coupling up.
6. Alexandria Thrives
The season began with a glimpse into the future. We later learned the true nature of those visions: They were Carl’s hopes for his father’s life after the war. Walking Dead comic book readers know that the story eventually skips forward several years in time, featuring a utopian community eerily similar to the one sketched out by Carl. Once the war ends in the finale, the chances are good the story will skip some years down the line as well, with Alexandria and the surrounding communities hitting the peak of their powers. Heck, maybe even Georgie (Jayne Atkinson) will make good on her promise to check back in on the group. What’s more, another group might surface…
7. The Whisperers Hide
Following “All-Out War,” the next major conflict in Kirkman and Adlard’s comics centers on a group of vicious survivors known as the Whisperers. These men and women (and even children) survive on the open road by wearing flesh suits as disguises, blending in with and walking among the dead. Feral and ferocious, the Whisperers make their impact known in a decidedly gruesome event that takes more than a few main characters off the board. Season eight likely won’t go quite that far down the road, but some sort of tease about the looming Whisperer War is very much in the cards.
What are your predictions for the finale? Sound off in the comments section below, and keep checking THR.com/WalkingDead for more coverage.