What just happened?
“The Walking Dead” aired one of its best Season 8 episodes, “The Key,” on Sunday, but there’s one lingering question — and I’m not even talking about that mysterious new group that showed up.
Uh, did the show just kill Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)?
In the episode, the Saviors ― led, of course, by Negan ― drive over to Hilltop to stage an attack against their rivals with zombie-blood-tainted weapons. The idea is that even a nick will cause victims to fall ill with the zombie virus. In fact, a good bit of time is dedicated to showing us that Negan has undeniably covered his barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat, Lucille, with zombie blood.
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) has other plans.
He sniffs out the specific vehicle with Negan onboard and rams into him, leading to a car chase. In the process, Rick causes Negan’s car to wreck, and the two end up pursuing each other on foot through an abandoned building with walkers inside.
That’s pretty baller. But this is where it gets weird.
Rick ends up procuring Lucille, and while struggling with Negan, pretty clearly hits him in the arm with the bat. Sure, Negan is wearing a leather jacket, so the barbs would’ve had to penetrate the sturdy material ― and Rick did light the bat on fire before he hit him.
But that bat had been sitting in a bucket of zombie blood, basically just marinating, prior to the fight.
I’m not familiar with the rules of sterilizing a zombie blood-infused baseball bat, but even if it was lit afire, I’d advise against getting slammed in the arm with one.
The show moves past this moment pretty quickly, though.
We’d probably ignore the hit entirely if not for the death of Carl (Chandler Riggs) earlier in Season 8. Carl died as a result of a zombie bite obtained in Episode 6, “The King, the Widow, and Rick.” Fans didn’t even notice the bite had occurred until a couple episodes later.
Back to Sunday’s episode: Negan eventually escapes Rick and wakes up in a car, having been kidnapped by Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), former leader of the Scavengers. She soon knocks him out, but why was he unconscious in the first place? Could he have perhaps been feeling the effects of the zombie virus?
Listen, anything is possible. After all, in “The Walking Dead” comics, Negan and Carl had a lot of storyline that wasn’t included in the show.
Following Carl’s death, Negan actor Morgan posted a tribute to Riggs, citing the Carl-and-Negan dynamic as a big reason he joined the show, adding that he’ll “forever be disappointed” that the two couldn’t play out that relationship more.
Now that there’s no Carl, could Negan be a goner, too?
A new villain may have already replaced him. After Negan didn’t return to the Saviors, Simon (Steven Ogg), one of Negan’s top guys, stepped up and told the group to basically eliminate the Hilltop. Negan originally just wanted to hurt some of the rivals, turning them into zombies to scare others into submission.
Simon is an even more malevolent presence than Negan right now.
Beyond all this, a new group showed up and gave Maggie (Lauren Cohan) food and infrastructure information in exchange for music records. (They could be a teaser for the Commonwealth, an elitist group in the “Walking Dead” comics.)
Oh, there was also a naked zombie. Who cares, though? If the show kills off Negan this soon, what the crap is even going on?
In all likelihood, Negan will live. Why wouldn’t he live? But if you asked me before Season 8, I’d probably have said the same thing about Carl.
What a trip. Carl, seriously, why’d you have to trip?