AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 8, Episode 12: “The Key”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Corey Reed & Channing Powell
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Dead or Alive Or” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Do Not Send Us Astray” – click here
Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is greeting Dwight (Austin Amelio) back into the Sanctuary, amongst the Saviors once again; the latter has to pretend like it wasn’t utter necessity that drove him from Tara (Alanna Masterson) in those woods. The big leader has a new plan in store for all those at Hilltop and the rest. They’re preparing lots of zombie guts, as well as dipping their weapons in the tainted blood of the undead.
Are they going to infect a ton of people then let them loose? Morbidly interested in what Negan’s thought up. But I’m also curious about Dwight, and Simon (Steven Ogg), as well. Simon appears to be falling further out of love with his master’s idea of what post-apocalypse society ought to look like. Then again, it’s hard to tell what any of these guys are thinking, because they lost their humanity a long while ago, around about the dawn of the zombie.
Back at Hilltop, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) talk about the “people that are gone and the people that are still here.” Daryl wants to reconcile with Rick, after all that went on at the Sanctuary. Most of all, we see the grieving father coming to terms with what it means to survive sometimes; much as we don’t like it in or binary world, survival can, sometimes, mean OUR survival at the expense of ANOTHER’s survival. It’s not easy to let that part of humanity go, which is an ongoing struggle for former Sheriff Grimes.
On their drive, Simon and Dwight have a candid chat about what’s to come following them delivering their “warning.” The falling out on Simon’s side, between him and Negan, seems to be he’d rather be more severe about their dealings with Rick and the rest of the survivors. He realises there’s a futility in trying to “scare” these people.
In the distance from Hilltop, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) spots some crates. With them is a note, asking them to fill the crates. In exchange? “The key” to the group’s future. Michonne (Danai Gurira) doesn’t believe the Saviors would do anything this subtle, and she offers to go scope out the situation, in case there’s a chance this could be something positive. I love Michonne’s willingness to believe, even after all they’ve experienced and everything through which they’ve suffered.
Rick spots the Saviors on their way. He takes a vehicle down after Negan, smashing into his car, chasing him through some alleyways and separating him from the rest of his caravan. This sends Simon into a panic. He tries to keep everyone together, so as not to divide the remainder of the Saviors.
But Rick’s already rammed Negan off the road and smashed him up good. He fires on the overturned vehicle, sending Negan out running scared. They both run into an apartment building. When Rick runs out of ammo, it’s hatchet v. baseball bat. He gets the upper hand soon, as the Saviors’ leader hangs in a precarious position. But Negan – instead of getting a hand lopped off – takes a dive through the floor of the shitty building down below.
On the road, Maggie and Michonne go to meet the person who requested “food and music” for an exchange. Her name is Georgie (Jayne Atkinson). She presents herself well, as if she has something major to offer. She’s got “knowledge to trade.” Knowledge of what, exactly? Is it worth trading over food? Maggie’s sceptical, naturally. She wants to take these people back to Hilltop, not ready to trust them even an inch.
In that rotting building, Negan taunts Rick from the darkness, about all his choices and where that’s led him, plus the people who’ve believed in him. Negan tries offering him one last chance to be saved. This is when he finds out, via Rick, that Simon actually killed all of Jadis’s (Pollyanna McIntosh) people, which is a surprise even to this human monster. Things get even wilder once Mr. Grimes finds Lucille laying around.
Dwight and Simon search for their leader, as the latter pontificates on the future of their world, and their place in it. He imagines himself doing much better than Negan if he were the one leading the Saviors. There’s obviously an unspoken bond between these two. Problem being, when a cult has developed, it’s not always as easy as just saying ‘Cut off the head.’
At Hilltop, Maggie and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) are bent on taking what Georgie and her people have in their van. Whereas Michonne wants to keep on trying to be positive, assuming the best of people. Everyone’s disillusioned and jaded, though a few cling to themselves despite the horror of their circumstances. Michonne, mainly, feels that giving up on themselves in that way is refusing to honour Carl’s memory, and who Carl wanted their group to be as a community.
With his hands on Lucille, Rick has decided to burn the only thing Negan cares about. Not just that he’s let a few zombies in to play, and wields a flaming Lucille like a sword. The two men become surrounded by the undead, including some that have caught on fire. This puts them in a labyrinth of walkers, each fighting their way free to survival. They make it outside, barely. And then Negan is in the wind all over again.
Georgie makes a “good faith” gesture: she offers food instead of taking any. She takes her records, then gives over “plans for windmills … silos,” and all sorts of other “medieval human achievement” dedicated to securing a future for human beings. That’s genuinely impressive. If anybody wants to legitimately start society again, they’ll need plans like that in lieu of actual engineers, et cetera. A worthy trade, seeing as how the future’s on everyone’s minds.
When Dwight and Simon go back to the Saviors, they still haven’t found their leader. Simon asks who they are, prompting those familiar chants, and he reassures them: “We are still Negan.” He wants to rally the Saviors into more severe action, particularly seeing as how the survivors have tried killing Negan. He wants to go full genocide. And that does not sit well in Dwight’s mind.
In the meantime, where’s Negan, anyway? Oh, he’s been picked up; by none other than Ms. Jadis, who’s got a gun, and she is pissed.
Fantastic! Loved this ending, and now we’re finally starting to see more of Negan in precarious situations, as the many revenges bear down upon him. Nice to see because I’m getting sick of so much back and forth without new developments. Hopefully this takes Season 8 into new directions over the course of these last handful of episodes. “Do Not Send Us Astray” is next. Prepare for much carnage.