The season finale of The Walking Dead did not deliver any final verdicts on this season’s main plot point, the battle against the bad guys known as the Saviors.

However, the finale raised enough questions that if you’re at all curious about this dystopian world and its characters, then you’re sure to come back for more when the series returns in October.

As for the rest of us – and it’s a good number of people, judging by the plummeting ratings – there is less interest in bloviating dialog then there is in walkers attacking and doing horrible things to the surviving humans. That spells trouble ahead for a series entering its eighth year.

The Walking Dead is no longer about finding a way to deal with the wandering undead or the sheer horror of what the world has become. Instead, the human monsters are now the focus. While that may make for interesting reading in the comics, it is not compelling television. Unless the writers can find a new purpose for the show’s characters, the series seems destined to be reduced to even more of a soap opera than it already has become.

Then again, “As the World Turns” and “Days of Our Lives” were TV staples for decades. Maybe that’s the plan and we fail to grasp the bigger picture.

The season finale recap:

*** Sasha is the fulcrum for this week’s story. As we saw, she is in possession of some poison slipped to her by Eugene. She has a choice – join Negan and betray her friends, or die. We see her in close-up in what we later learn is a coffin. She has given Negan the impression that she will be the Judas he desires, so she’s being transported to Alexandria in the coffin for a reveal that presumably will crush the Alexandria spirits and get them to surrender without a fight.

*** As they travel, Sasha is listening to music via headphones and has a dream sequence with Abraham, her former lover who was taken out by Negan’s Lucille in the first grisly episode of this season. In the sequence, both seem to understand that their meeting is a dream, as Abraham tries to tell her that it is important to stand up for her people, and she tiptoes around the story of how he died. The sequence is woven in and out of the real-time story, making it akin to an inner dialog that Sasha is presumably having over her next move.

*** Along the way, we check in at Hilltop and Alexandria. There, preparations for the coming battle are being made, with training underway at both locations. But we learn in an aside that Hilltop’s former leader, Gregory, has left the compound for parts unknown. Speculation is that he has gone to Negan and revealed plans for the coming attack, stealing the element of surprise. Nonetheless, everyone is committed to ending things, once and for all.

*** Back at Alexandria, Negan lieutenant Dwight has convinced Rick, Daryl and the rest that he means to help them beat his boss. He proposes a ruse – when Negan arrives with his men, they are ambushed. Then Dwight will radio back that all is well. That will presumably lower the guard back at the Sanctuary, and the allied forces can swoop in and take out the rest of the Saviors. Then, they can enlist the worker drones there and wipe out the remaining Saviors outposts. “I want it stopped,” says Dwight. Everyone is skeptical of his intentions. But as Rick notes, “If he’s lying, this is already over.”

*** Negan plans to take over Alexandria and kill one of the townies as punishment. Originally, he wanted three lives, but Sasha convinces him to take only one. Negan is skeptical. “Punishment is how we built everything we have,” he tells her. But she is convincing, and Negan realizes he needs her. So he acquiesces.

*** At Alexandria, the Scavengers are in the house, and along with Rick’s team, begin fortifying their defenses. Finally, the Negan convoy arrives. Eugene gets on a bullhorn and attempts to talk everyone into surrendering. Rick refuses, and gives the signal for a load of Semtex next to Negan’s trucks to be ignited. But wait – the bombs don’t go off. Worse, the Scavengers pull guns on Rick and the crew. Turns out, they were approached by Negan and offered a better deal than Rick’s. Now, the good guys are held at gun point.

*** Negan uses this grand stage as the opportunity for more theatre. He has Sasha’s coffin brought forward and stood upright on a flatbed.  He starts making demands. All of the remaining guns, lemonade, a person to face Lucille, getting Daryl back, and the pool table shall be immediately delivered. “I want it now, or Sasha dies,” he bellows. Rick asks to see her first. Strangely, Negan complies, but – surprise! – Sasha comes snarling out of the coffin as a walker, knocking Negan down and off-balance. It turns out she took the Eugene poison during the trip and turned on the way to Alexandria. Team Rick uses the distraction to start shooting everyone, and all hell breaks loose in the compound.

*** Sadly, the Alexandrians are outgunned, and soon Negan and his men have the upper hand. Rick is shot by Jadis, the Scavenger leader, for failing to kneel when she demands it. He’s led, hobbled, to a center ring of Negan’s men. There waits Carl on his knees. Negan informs Rick that he will kill Carl, then “take” Rick’s hands. While this is going on, Michonne is in a life-and-death struggle with a Scavenger in a nearby tower. They hear a scream, and a body comes tumbling down from the high elevation. Presumably, it’s Michonne.

*** But in this most desperate hour, Rick is still defiant. He tells Negan that his promise to kill him lives, and that he’s already dead. Negan grins, knocks off Carl’s hat, and rears back with Lucille. It looks like curtains for Carl…until….

*** The cavalry arrives!  Shiva the tiger comes bounding up and knocks Negan down, heralding the arrival of the Kingdom!  And next, the Hilltop team led by Maggie comes blasting onto the scene. All is chaos, and suddenly, the Saviors and Scavengers are scrambling. After some smoke bombs are set off, the Saviors and Scavengers manage to get away. But you know they will be back, and our last view of Negan shows him telling his troops, “Prepare for war!”

*** Back at Alexandria, the aftermath: Michonne is a bloody mess, has probably lost an eye, but still manages to tell Rick that they are the ones that survive. The walker version of Sasha is found and dispatched by a sad Maggie, and all that’s left to do is a solemn memorial. Maggie reminds the assembled that Glenn really started it all, back when he rescued Rick from the tank in Atlanta. Now, they’re all really following his lead of compassion.  One last bit of intrigue marks this season end, though – Daryl finds a toy soldier that has “Didn’t know” scratched on it. Was this from Dwight?  Or is it something from his former wife?

Next season:  Negan suspects that Sasha didn’t die from a lack of oxygen in the coffin, as Eugene posits. The fires of suspicion are lit.  What’s next for the Kingdom/Hilltop/Alexandria coalition, now that the element of surprise is lost?  Where will they all make their stand in the coming war?  Whatever happened to the Wolves?  Can a coalition of the Saviors and Scavengers be beaten?

 We’ll see you in October to find out. In the meantime, if you crave more of this world in a different location, Fear the Walking Dead returns in June.

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