This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Warning: contains major spoilers.
The Walking Dead’s seventh season was all about Negan and the Saviors holding the other communities in the palm of their hand and squeezing, hard. Season eight was all about those communities resisting and waging all-out-war on their oppressors. It started with a fantasy vision and a hail of gunfire, and ended in a hail of backfiring bullets and a memory from years before the outbreak. Rick suffered a major loss that made him choose a new path: mercy over wrath.
As season nine approaches, here’s a refresher on all the major action from last time around…
After the battle of Alexandria, in which Rick’s Heapster allies double-crossed his people and sided with Negan’s Saviors, the combined forces of Hilltop, the Kingdom and Alexandria went on the offensive. In a coordinated attack in armoured cars, they lured a herd of Walkers towards the Sanctuary and opened fire, blasting open the gate to let the Walkers in to surround the place. Negan hid out in a trailer, along with Father Gabriel, whose getaway vehicle had been stolen by Hilltop fink Gregory, who’d been at the Sanctuary offering a deal in which any Hilltop families who’d sided with Rick would be exiled.
Negan and Gabriel escaped their hiding place, covering themselves in Walker viscera to remain undetected, which caused Gabriel to become seriously unwell and after a long illness, to lose the sight in one eye. Sanctuary Chief Engineer Eugene discovered that Dwight has been double-crossing Negan and passing on his plans to the Alexandrians, and confronted him, but didn’t tell Negan. Eugene came up with a plan to use loud speakers on vans and drones to lure the Walker herd away from the Sanctuary walls. When that plan was thwarted by the Alexandrians and Dwight, Eugene suggested using the Sanctuary’s ammunition to lay waste to the Walkers, saying that he can always make more bullets.
In the end, the Walker herd outside the Sanctuary was dispersed by Daryl, Tara and Michonne, who, in their haste to punish the Saviors, went against Rick’s multi-stage plan and drove a rubbish truck through the Sanctuary walls, allowing the Walkers to flood in and attack those inside. After suffering heavy losses, the Saviors shot the Walkers, ending the siege, much to Rick’s distress.
The attack on the Sanctuary was just one part of Rick’s plan. Splinter groups also attacked two other Savior strongholds. One group was searching for a stash of machine guns Dwight had told them existed. Instead of finding the guns, Rick killed a Savior, orphaning his baby daughter Gracie, who was later taken back to Hilltop. After killing Gracie’s father, Rick was held at gunpoint by Morales, an old acquaintance from season one now turned Savior, but Daryl killed him without remorse. Aaron’s boyfriend Eric was also killed in the battle, and last seen reanimated and stumbling away to join a Walker horde.
Ezekiel’s group initially did well, but were eventually ambushed by Saviors using the very guns the teams were looking for, killing almost the entire group. Ezekiel, protected by his subjects, survived, as did Carol and Jerry. They led the injured king to safety, but not before his tiger Shiva leaped into the fray and was killed by Walkers, allowing Ezekiel and co. to return to the Kingdom. The in-demand machine guns meanwhile, were transported away, pursued by Rick and Daryl, and destroyed in an explosion.
Rick, meanwhile, had gone to parlay with Jadis and the Heapsters but was instead imprisoned by them. He fought his way out and they demanded to see the Sanctuary siege for themselves. When they arrived, Rick discovered that Daryl and co. had destroyed his plan and dispersed the Walkers, allowing Negan to escape.
A grieving Aaron, meanwhile, went with Enid to make peace with the Oceanside group after the Alexandrians took their guns last season. Defending Aaron from attack, Enid shot and killed Oceanside leader Natania. Aaron and Enid were taken prisoner by Natania’s grand-daughter Cyndie, but released. Enid returned to Hilltop, but Aaron stayed at Oceanside to persuade the women to join the fight against Negan.
While all this was happening, also against Rick’s wishes, Carl had taken a newcomer back to Alexandria to join the group. He had first encountered medical student Siddiq at a petrol station in the season premiere, when Rick had fired a shot at Siddiq and warned him to stay away. Carl and Rick had disagreed about helping people they didn’t know, and Carl left food and water for the stranger. On the journey back to Alexandria, Carl and Siddiq encounter a group of Walkers and Carl was bitten.
Enraged by the attack on the Sanctuary, Negan and the Saviors arrived at Alexandria baying for Rick’s blood. Another group of Saviors arrived at the Kingdom and, wracked with guilt over the earlier loss of his subjects, Ezekiel attempted to sacrifice himself to allow the surviving Kingdom residents to escape.
In Alexandria, Carl distracted Negan, allowing the townspeople to escape via the sewers. The Saviors burned down several buildings in Alexandria, including Gabriel’s church. When Rick and Michonne returned to Alexandria, Carl revealed his Walker bite to them. While the rest of the Alexandrians escaped to the Hilltop, Rick and Michonne stayed with Carl, who had written letters to various characters be read after his death. Carl told Rick that his dream was for his dad to grow old with Michonne and Judith, and lead the community in a peaceful life where Negan has been rehabilitated. To stop Rick or Michonne having to do it, Carl shot himself in the head so that he wouldn’t reanimate.
At Hilltop, a group of Saviors were kept as prisoners of war by Maggie and Jesus, who persuaded an increasingly unhinged Morgan not to kill them. Gregory, who betrayed the Hilltop people to Negan, was kept prisoner alongside them.
Maggie encountered Georgie, a mysterious woman who swapped for food and LPs a book of instructions she called “the key” for building mills and farming equipment to start a new world.
The Hilltop came under fire by the Saviors, who had weaponised Walker blood to make their attacks even more deadly and make even light injuries fatal. Hilltop suffered severe losses, and the prisoners got away but Rick and Morgan tracked them down and executed them in cold blood.
After Carl’s death, Rick became even more murderous and hell-bent on killing Negan. He ran his car off the road and fought him, but both survived. After the fight, Negan was taken captive by Jadis at the Junkyard, in revenge for Simon and the Saviors killing all of her people (against Negan’s orders). Jadis failed to signal to a helicopter she was expecting to pick her up, and let Negan go.
Negan was picked up by Savior Laura, who informed him that Dwight was a traitor. They returned to the Sanctuary, where Simon and Dwight had colluded in the lie that Negan was dead in an attempt to seize power. Negan set up a plan to catch Stephen out, and beat him to death in front of the Saviors for having massacred the Heapsters and lied to him about it.
Meanwhile, Eugene was tasked with making more ammunition and discovered that prisoner Gabriel was deliberately sabotaging the Sanctuary’s bullets, giving him an idea. Daryl and Rosita attacked Eugene’s bullet factory, taking him prisoner, but he escaped by vomiting on Rosita. Gabriel’s actions though, and Rosita’s harsh words, had changed Eugene’s mind about the work he did for Negan.
Knowing that Dwight was a traitor, Negan fed him false battle plans in the knowledge that he would leak them to Rick. Rick fell for it and led his people straight into Negan’s trap, where the Saviors awaited to shoot their enemies down. At the crucial moment, thanks to Eugene’s sabotage, the Saviors’ ammunition misfired, killing most of them and causing the rest to surrender after a fight. The Oceanside women, with Aaron, joined the fray to defend Hilltop.
Rick and Negan faced off alone, and Rick cut Negan’s throat, then instructed Siddiq to stitch up the wound and keep him alive. In an unpopular decision, Rick intended to keep Negan alive and a prisoner as a symbol of the civilisation he and Michonne planned to build in Carl’s honour. Maggie, Jesus and Daryl, unhappy with Negan being allowed to live, plotted to do something about it…