Not everyone makes it out of "The Walking Dead" alive, even though there are already several spin-offs in the works.
It's all over except for the ever-growing "The Walking Dead Universe." Nevertheless, it's a big deal that the series that started it all, "The Walking Dead" said goodbye after 11 seasons.
This super-sized series finale served up the final chapter in the war between the Coalition of survivors (Alexandria, Hilltop, Oceanside) and the Commonwealth -- which eventually became a battle between Governor Pamela Milton and everyone else.
It also delivered a surprise time jump and a true sense of conclusion for all of those who survived the harrowing situation we left everyone in after last week's penultimate episode. It wouldn't be a "Walking Dead" finale without at least one death, and this one gave us more than that.
But it also gave us a glimpse into the future and set the stage for multiple spin-offs to come, and the possibility of returning to this new world order at some point in the future. After all, we're in the franchise era of television, and "TWD" is still a huge moneymaker for AMC.
Ending the parent series actually cuts the cost, too, as production costs go up with each subsequent season of an ongoing series, not to mention syndication deals and whatever other deals were tied up with it from its early years.
Now, AMC is free to expand this universe however they want and negotiate new deals with anyone and everyone to tell new stories with new characters in new places, or even tell new stories with old characters in old places. How long before the sequel?
Until then, even as we said goodbye to "TWD," we were already being prepped for all those spinoffs. There is, of course, the continuing saga of Morgan and Dwight and the returning Alicia Clark in the ongoing "Fear the Walking Dead."
Next up is "The Walking Dead: Dead City," which will follow Maggie and Negan as they make their way into Manhattan. Then, there's "The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon" which will follow ... well, that much should be obvious.
The same for "The Walking Dead: Rick and Michonne" (title appears to be this, but could change), which is the evolution of what was originally going to be feature-length films. Already, this one seems destined to reconnect to the parent series' characters, with the others close.
So how did we get to this point? How on earth will Maggie and Negan go on any adventure together, and why? What is Daryl up to and why does he head off? Well, to figure that out, we need to break down how things ended, who died, who lived and where we left things.
When we last saw our intrepid survivors, Pamela had basically unleashed a herd on her own citizens and locked herself up in her fancy gated community where she could watch them all die. Was she torn about this? Her depravity has been on full display, so it's easy to imagine she saw them all as expendable by this point.
What unleashed in the first half of this episode was one of the most epic and walker-filled events we've seen in a long time. Pretty much everyone was overrun.
We got to see groggy Judith prove her mettle by single-handedly and bravely securing the room she was in with Daryl, who was passed out on the floor from a swarming mob of walkers. She passed out right after getting the door secured, but it was enough to buy them some time.
Eventually, the survivors converged at the hospital, which had been stripped of staff and supplies by Pamela. From here, we got to enjoy another of those classic office building sequences where there are the dead around every corner and it starts to look like there's no way anyone can survive.
We also got another glimpse of this walker 2.0 breed when one of the walkers is clearly using a rock to bang on the glass, which ultimately breaks it. This is in line with the ones who can climb ladders, and we can only hope these more dangerous walkers continue to be explored in future series.
In one of the saddest sequences early on as the survivors try to make their way to the hospital, we see Luke separated from Jules, who winds up getting bit and pulled into the crowd of walkers. As he has to watch the woman he loves die a horrific death, Luke himself is bit and gored pretty good before his friends save him.
As Carol and Daryl are doing what they can to stabilize Judith on one side of the room, Magna's group of survivors, which includes Yumiko, Connie, and Kelly, are having to say goodbye to one of their own. It was an interesting disparity as they were devastated, while Carol and Daryl were more stoic about it.
It's indicative of just how big the show has gotten with all of these groups. Even though Magna's group was integrated and accepted, they clearly never became "family" to Daryl and Carol the way the original survivors all did.
It's not a knock on anyone, as this is just what happens. As groups and communities grow, you wind up with sub-groups within that community. Magna's crew had also been together for quite some time. so we were able to imagine all their shared history in that moment that we never got to see.
Things hit a little bit closer to home a bit later after Eugene, Ezekiel and Rosita went all badass on their way to the nursery where they found a bunch of dead adults and babies luckily trapped underneath flipped cribs (or strategically, perhaps, to save their lives).
Rosita was reunited with her baby and with babies in tow, they began to make their way to reunite with their friends. While it was a well-filmed sequence when they got trapped outside their ambulance and decided to climb a pipe to a second-floor window, we did find ourselves wondering why we spent so long on it.
Rosita insisted that the guys go first, for some reason (considering she had the baby strapped around her, she should have gone first). As they tried to reach for her, she fell back into the crowd. But she managed to fight her way back to her feet, on top of the vehicle and jump again for the pipe and scurry up.
Unfortunately, she revealed to Eugene a bit later that she got bit on the shoulder, which isn't the same as what happened to Lydia last week -- you can't just cut someone's shoulder off. This was a death sentence.
While this was happening, Princess and Maxxine were rescuing Mercer from the cell he was held in. They then armed up to figure out their next move. Eventually, everyone was reunited and Mercer decided that they should make a run for it while he fights for his people
Ezekiel then did his thing, as the consummate leader he was born to be (even without a tiger), and rallied everyone to fight for the Commonwealth, despite how awfully it has treated everyone.
As it turns out, that wasn't too hard of a fight. All they had to do was get behind the gates and with Mercer's loyal soldiers and the Coalition fighters, Pamela's militia was outgunned and outmanned. She still postured and threatned to shoot anyone, but Father Gabriel fearlessly walked up to the gate to unlock it.
This time, it was Daryl who had to give an inspirational speech about how we're all better than this. It was the kind of thing Rick Grimes would have knocked out of the park, but Daryl gruffed his way through and it was effective enough.
The citizens were let in just before the herd made it to the gate. Coincidentally (or not because this is all scripted), one of the walkers at the gate was Lance Hornsby. Defeated and cuffed, Pamela almost walked right into him, but Maggie picked him off with her sniper rifle.
Ultimatey, Pamela was jailed and the Commonwealth was freed from her tyranny. There was, though, still the problem of that massive herd.
For an episode that spent a lot of time crying over Luke, they really rushed through explaining this plot to lure all the walkers into Pamela's gated community, fill the sewers with fuel and blow them all to kingdom come -- all to the music of Living Colour's "Cult of Personality."
We get it would have been boring watching a lot of scenes of people setting explosives, but it felt weird with the voiceovers explaining the plan and the random visuals we did get. It all just kind of whizzed by and suddenly the record stopped and the fireball incinerated hundreds (perhaps thousands) of walkers.
It was also made clear that while Pamela's home was a blazing inferno, the lower part of the Commonwealth, where she'd originally unleashed the herd, was intact and did not appear in danger of catching fire. Just like that, the Commonwealth was saved.
Did you catch that part about Maggie with a sniper rifle? Yeah, she was going to go shoot Pamela in the head and try and take care of the problem that way. Only, when she went to do it, Negan had taken the gun and was setting out to do it.
What happened next was one of the most important sequences in their entire relationship. Negan's story has been an interesting one because how do you redeem someone who did the awful things he did. Can you?
In this episode, he shared with her that when his wife and unborn child were on the brink of death, he finally fully understood what she was going through all those years ago when he bashed Glenn's head in with Lucille.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan both knocked it out of the park with their exchanges this week, too. Negan gave a heartfelt apology, which Maggie was not able to accept in the moment. But she did invite him to join her to snipe Pamela.
Instead, they witnessed Mercer and the Coalition survivors show up and force her surrender and ultimately arrest her. Maggie stopped her from committing suicide via Lance, but otherwise opted to keep her alive to suffer (in a way) the same way Negan did. Now, she has to live with the choices she made and the lives she cost.
A little later, she sat down with Negan and shared her side of the whole thing. The apology meant everything to her, but it also showed her that she can't forgive him and she may never be able to. She said he's earned his place in the community and she's grateful he saved her son, but every time she looks at him, all she sees is that night when he killed Glenn.
At the same time, she said that she sees that he's genuinely trying and added that she's trying, too. She's trying to let go of this hate for him because she doesn't want to carry that and she doesn't want her son to see that someone has that kind of hold over her.
Honestly, this was so much more sincere and plausible a place to leave things with them than we thought they could get. It's been years and Negan is clearly a changed man. But the hurt he caused is still so powerful, Maggie can't shed that. We weren't sure how they would handle it, but it was done beautifully here. And Morgan, again, with basically no dialogue, beautifully portrayed Negan's inner struggle through Maggie's monologue about why she can't forgive.
Just like Magna's group had a heartfelt farewell for Luke, the OG survivors held their own vigil for Rosita, once they found out that she was dying. She'd only told Eugene in the first place.
It was at the post-victory celebration dinner, when she was wistfully watching the joy on everyone's faces, that she told Gabriel (and Judith picked up on it by watching their body language).
From there, we moved to a touching farewell sequence where she was brought into her room to lie next to her baby for a bit. Gabriel came and performed last rites for her before it came down to just Rosita and Eugene.
He'd been in love with her for years to to this point, and she'd grown to love him as well. But by this point, it transcended romantic love into something deeper and more impactful. They'd been through so much together and Eugene had always been there for her, no matter what.
It was right that he was the one there with her in the end, and he was, as we got to watch her final moments of life flutter away. It was definitely one of the more beautiful deaths on this show, filmed with respect for Christian Serratos' years as Rosita and the relationship she and Eugene had forged in that time.
In a surprise move, we suddenly jumped ahead a year to see that Ezekiel had been elected the new governor of the Commonwealth with Mercer as lieutenant governor. Carol has taken over Lance Hornsby's job. They were honoring the one-year anniversary of the battle we just witness, and all the lives lost.
We got to check in with basically everyone at this point, seeing things like the fact that Lydia is now working for the postal service alongside her man. She delivered a package from Negan to Judith -- he returned her compass -- suggesting that he's not living there anymore, and possibly not at any of the Coalition sites.
Aaron and Jerry show up from Alexandria, suggesting that the communities are all working together again and that the group has spread out to where they're most comfortable. Maggie also returned.
In doing so, she said that she wants to talk about the future. "There's a lot out there to find out and I think it's time we did." This is clearly setting up her and Negan's adventures into Manhattan, though it doesn't explain why she thinks this is important.
Doesn't she remember how bad things tend to go when they try to reach beyond their little corner of the world? Hell, the Commonwealth itself became a huge nightmare, not to mention CRM and the Saviors and, well, pretty much everything.
Clearly filmed after it was decided that Melissa McBride would not be joining Norman Reedus on the spinoff, we got a farewell scene for BFFs Carol and Daryl.
When she started getting weepy, Daryl said, "It's not like we're never gonna see each other again." Carol's response was, "I'm allowed to be a little sad." That pretty much sums up our feelings about this finale. It's not really the end of anything, but we can still be a little sad to say goodbye after all these years.
Ultimately, the push seemed to be that Daryl is heading off with the hopes of finding Judith's parents, RIck and Michonne, and bringing them home. Judith tells him, "You deserve a happy ending, too." We then get a shot of him riding off past walkers and into his own spinoff.
Then, in perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, we suddenly starting getting narration from two familiar voices we haven't seen in a long time. Both Rick and Michonne are narrating as they write, Michonne a letter to Judith and Rick a more generic letter.
As we expand into these scenes, we actually get some real footage of Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira reprising their iconic roles in what appear to be all-new flashback scenes. We suspect this because Rick throws his bag on a boat, and that bag has already been found that we've seen.
He's also clearly still captive of the CRM group, as it looks like he's maybe trying to escape only to have a helicopter drop down, calling him Consignee Grimes and telling him he's been located and his instructed to surrender. Is this some kind of training game or an actual escape attempt?
As for Michonne, at whatever point in time this is, she is clearly all alone now but continuing her search for RIck. The final scene for her is her on horseback with sword in hand riding towards what appears to be a massive herd. Why on earth would you ride toward it? We get she's a total badass, but this seems incredibly reckless!
Nevertheless, this is clearly setting up the inevitable reunion of Rick and Michonne in their own upcoming spinoff. IWe know there are at least six episodes to come, but is that the whole thing or just a first season?
Will they spend some of those six episodes filling in all those missing years or pick up with their reunion and move quickly into what comes next? There are so many stories yet to tell in this world, and clearly AMC is determined to tell as many of them as they can -- so long as the fans continue watching them.
For now, "Fear the Walking Dead," "Dead City" and "Daryl Dixon" are slated for 2023. The Rick and Michonne spinoff was also originally announced for 2023, so if it hits that mark, it'll likely be much later in the year. Fans have been waiting nearly four years already, so what's one more, right?