After “Fear the Walking Dead” cleaned house and essentially changed its writing staff for season 4, there has been speculation about the fate of “The Walking Dead.” While the show still occupies the public imagination, it has faced a ratings decline over the last two seasons, as the All Out War arc has gone on too long. Season 8’s finale, “Wrath,” marked the conclusion of that arc. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors were at long last defeated by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and company. Based on some of the dialogue from the season finale, it is possible that the show may see a soft reboot in season 9, and hopefully one that focuses less on a villain like Negan and more on the characters trying to rebuild civilization and retain their humanity, while fending off zombies. Zombies! Remember those?
As far as season finales go, “Wrath” was not that bad. It had far less action sequences and gunfire fights than the first half of season 8. None of the violence was gratuitous, unlike the season 7 premiere when Negan had his full introduction by using his beloved barbed wire baseball bat Lucille to bludgeon the heads of fan favorites Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). Additionally, the finale successfully concluded a tiresome arc, while opening up some intriguing possibilities for the show moving forward. At the center of “Wrath” was the idea that Rick and his crew are moving on from the past. After slicing Negan’s throat and nearly killing him, he talks to his people and the Saviors about how it’s time to rebuild civilization, that the days of one group opposed to another group are over. In one of the last scenes, Rick and Michonne (Dania Gurira) tell Negan that they let him live so he can “rot” in a jail cell and serve as an example of a rebuilt civilization where peace and justice rule. This follows his comic fate post-All Out War.
Maggie (Lauren Cohan), meanwhile, asserts herself in another scene by telling Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Jesus (Tom Payne) that Rick and Michonne need to pay for allowing Negan to live. This dynamic should return the show to character arcs and development. It opens up the potential for a good story-line heading into season 9. There is also the unknown story-line of Negan and what purpose he will serve moving forward. In the comic, post-All Out War, he has an important story-line that deals with Carl, but since Carl (Chandler Riggs) has been killed off on the show,, that will allow the TV writers to take a different path with Negan, which again opens new possibilities.
Recently, former show-runner Scott Gimple has said that the season 8 finale serves a conclusion to the first eight season and the writers plan to do something different moving forward. That idea was at the center of “Wrath.” Rick’s speech can be seen as a metaphor for the show up until this point and the need to move on from what was. Additionally, the show opened and concluded with an image/flashback of Rick and a young Carl walking on a quiet countryside road, so maybe Carl’s vision for a peaceful future will start to come to fruition and the surviving groups can focus on rebuilding. Perhaps the main conflict will be the inner workings of this new world, including Maggie versus Rick’s dueling visions. That would move the show away from the stale formula of a bad guy v. Rick and company.
Based on this week’s “Fear the Walking Dead” season 4 premiere, it is evident that you can give a show a soft reboot and reinvigorate it by hiring new writers. Recently, “The Walking Dead” hired a new show-runner, Angela Kang. Hiring a new show-runner is a positive step forward, since “The Walking Dead’s” decline came under Scott Gimple’s run. The season 8 finale opened the door to some potential interesting story-lines. In the hands of the right writers, the show may find its footing again.