Synopsis of 8×08: We jump through some sloppy hoops to get there, but the midseason finale does indeed end on a shocking note – if only because of what it means for the continuation of the series.

The midseason finale picks up right where audiences left Rick last episode, dumbfounded at the Sanctuary. When he leads the trash people towards the building, they suddenly find themselves taking fire from the windows and the trash people immediately flee. What was the point of Rick going there, getting captured, almost dying, and dragging them to the doorsteps for them to run away again? No one knows. Just like no one knows why Carol and Jerry were conveniently driving to the Sanctuary and were able to pick up Rick.

Cutting between that tense scene is a flashback to Carl and Rick arguing over how Rick treated Siddiq at the gas station. Carl continues to drive home the less that they’ve got to be better than the Saviors, they need to fight for more than just killing them all. Just like Jesus, if they’re going to win, they have to find a way forward in the end.

Aaron and Enid are headed to Oceanside in hopes of recruiting them for All Out War. On the way there, Aaron is still reeling from Eric’s death, he allows Enid to drive the car, and she makes the executive decision to stop at the Roanoke Way Distillery to bring a bribe to the women.

Of course, after they accomplish that and stop for the night, Aaron spots someone watching them. He and Enid go in search of the person and when they get the upper hand over Aaron, she shoots them. Turns out, it’s Natania – the Oceanside leader – and Enid slowly realizes the mistake she’s just made. How it turns out, audiences will have to wait and see in the second half of season 8.

Daryl and Tara both make concerted efforts to inform Michonne and Rosita that their plan worked, even as they’re all gearing up to go finish off the Saviors. Carl, meanwhile, is writing his absent father a note and also reads one that has Enid’s motto on it, ‘Just Survive Somehow.’ He then packs a bag to take more supplies to Siddiq in the sewers, but before he can leave Alexandria hears a knock on the gates. Negan gives them three minutes to open the door.

At some point, Rick, Carol, and Jerry all got their own cars to drive and someone sideswipes poor Jerry. Turns out, the Saviors need him for a show and tell demonstration for Maggie and the Hilltop – who are cut off by a fallen tree on the road and stopped by the Saviors.

Simon is there to let her know the new plans for the Hilltop. After disarming them, Simon tells them that they’re going to go back and continue farming for the Saviors. Instead of killing Jerry, he kills an extra named Neil in order to really drive the point home that if she doesn’t cooperate, they’ll kill her and put her head on a pike at the Sanctuary. She agrees, but asks for the wooden box they would’ve used to transport her in – as a coffin to bury Neil in.

Ezekiel’s brooding is interrupted by the Saviors storming the Kingdom, with plans to take it as their new home. He hides, but everyone else is rounded up as Gavin gives them the speech about the new normal. The Kingdom will be the Saviors’ home and everybody else will go rebuild the Sanctuary for them. Before they can find Ezekiel, he causes an explosion and delivers enough of a distraction so that his people can get free. Unfortunately, in order to do that, he must sacrifice himself to the Saviors as a hostage.

While Ezekiel gets a lecture from Gavin for his choices, it’s revealed that Morgan survived the snipers’ massacre (if there was one) because he’s listening outside the walls to the conversation. Of course, Lennie James is headed to Fear The Walking Dead, so what that means for Morgan in the present is not yet known.

Carl takes command of Alexandria, telling them that they just need to survive tonight, and barking out orders to get everyone prepared to leave. He goes up onto the wall to confront Negan and offers himself up as a sacrifice, something which surprises Negan – who has a soft spot for Carl. That’s enough of a distraction for everyone else to drive through the back gate in garbage trucks, easily breaking through Dwight’s intentionally easy roadblock.

Pissed, Negan has the Saviors rain grenades down on Alexandria. Where they got so many guns and why they didn’t use all these grenades on the herd is anyone’s guess. Jumping down from the wall, Carl hurts his leg and ends up limping away as he sets off smoke bombs. He narrowly avoids an explosion as he dashes off a porch. Most of Alexandria is burning and the Saviors break down the wall.

Hidden in the woods, Tara tries to tell Daryl, Michonne, and Rosita that the Saviors didn’t escape because of their plan that definitely worked. Rosita, weirdly, is the one to tell her that even if they did, it was only a mistake on Tara and Daryl’s part. They’re interrupted by Dwight’s caravan coming up on them as Daryl tosses a smoke bomb into the road.

Laura tries to get Dwight to stop ahead of the obvious trap, but he takes his chance and drives right up to where Rick’s group can start gunning down Saviors. He turns his gun on the Saviors too, revealing himself to Laura as the rat, and she shoots him in the arm before running off to tell Negan. The group begrudgingly collects Dwight and brings him back to their group after he reminds them of all he’s done for them and explains that Eugene got the Saviors out. Not before Daryl gets his vest back though.

After struggling to get to sleep, and taking a wine shot to try to calm his mind, Eugene goes about assuaging some of his guilt. He wakes up Doctor Carson and a sickly Gabriel, telling them that they can leave if they want. The guard on the north side is suffering from a sudden and mysterious illness – Eugene may have dosed his coffee. He accidentally drops the keys to a car before leaving, opting to stay at the Sanctuary. Doctor Carson and Gabriel, however, are off to the Hilltop for Maggie.

Speaking of Maggie, she’s mad as hell and back at the Hilltop herself. She pulls the Savior who tried to kill Jesus from the pen and shoots him in the head before packaging him up in the box that Simon let her have. One of theirs for one of Maggie’s people, she writes, “We have 38 more. Stand down.” on the box, with the intention of putting it somewhere the Saviors will find it.

Rick finally makes his way back to Alexandria, only to find chaos. He immediately goes home in search of Judith and Carl – which is where Negan was waiting for him. They get into a brief scuffle, where Rick hits Negan with the non-lethal end of Lucille before he gets his gun back. Negan throws him out of a window and instead of turning around to shoot him, Rick runs off.

When Daryl, Rosita, Tara, and Dwight climb into the sewers to join the rest of Alexandria, Michonne opts not to join them. She heads back into the town instead – intent on taking her anger out on walkers and Saviors alike. Rick finds her and shakes her out of it somewhat. It’s enough for her to take him to the sewers and the rest of the people at least.

As he moves through everyone, huddled afraid, he finally gets to Siddiq and Carl – who is looking pale and reveals to Rick that he was bitten previously. One of the walkers he and Siddiq put to rest got the best of him the day before. A long zoom out and the midseason finale is over.

Carl’s dead or dying after some of Chandler Riggs’ best acting for the show and it’s not without plenty of controversy. Carl is integral to most of the story arcs after All Out War and Robert Kirkman himself has often indicated that the comics will slowly become Carl’s story and not Rick’s. So in the second half of season 8, fans of the show and comics alike are headed into uncharted territory it seems.

But think of the bright side, we won’t have to watch anyone lick Carl’s empty eye socket now…

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