A clunky episode partly redeemed by Negan’s clever one-two punch of using Dwight to help him set traps for Simon and Rick before springing a trap on Dwight himself. He may be the zombie apocalypse’s answer to Fonzie but he ain’t stupid.
Explain to me why Dwight ratted out Simon, though. He wants to “end Negan,” as he wrote on the map he sent to the Hilltop, for reasons both strategic and personal. Simon handed him the best opportunity he’ll ever have. Dwight could have even done the honors himself. Instead he betrayed Simon because … why, exactly? If the answer is that he thought it’d be easier for Rick’s gang to defeat the Saviors with Negan leading them instead of Simon, tell me why that’s true. If Negan had been assassinated, there’d be a schism inside the Sanctuary; some Saviors loyal to Negan might leave, turn on the ones loyal to Simon, even defect to the Hilltop. Dwight anticipated that when Simon, under arrest, asked him why he betrayed him. Because Negan’s loyalists would have won, Dwight suggests. Probably, but that implies that there would indeed have been a civil war, weakening the group. That’s what Dwight wants, isn’t it? A depleted Sanctuary would be easy pickings for the Grimes gang.
If the answer is that Dwight feared Simon would be a tougher opponent for Team Rick, explain that too. Simon might have been more ruthless than Negan but there’s no reason to think he’d be more effective on the battlefield. He led the last Savior raid on the Hilltop, remember, and it didn’t go so well. If Dwight had helped Simon eliminate Negan, Simon’s trust in him would have been absolute. He would have been Simon’s second-in-command under no suspicions of treachery, a perfect position from which to orchestrate a surprise attack by the Grimes gang on the Sanctuary. But he passed. I can’t figure why. The only explanation that halfway makes sense is that Dwight feared that Simon, as new leader, would change Negan’s plans for a siege on the Hilltop. Dwight ended up tipping off Rick to those plans, a critical advantage insofar as it would allow the Hilltoppers to ambush the Saviors.
Just one problem: Dwight hadn’t *yet* tipped Rick off when he revealed Simon’s betrayal to Negan. It’d be one thing if he had shipped off a copy of the battle plans to the Hilltop and then concluded that he had to protect Negan in order to make sure that those plans were followed. But he didn’t send Gregory to the Hilltop with them until after he snitched on Simon, during the (embarrassing) Negan/Simon fight to the death.
The obvious answer for why Dwight betrayed Simon is that Negan’s the main villain and the main villain has to die in the season finale at the hand of the main hero. Logically, Dwight siding with Negan over Simon makes no sense. Dramatically, per the stale rules of this conventionally dopey show, we need a Rick/Negan showdown in the last episode. And so a somewhat interesting look at how and why coups hatch within authoritarian groups ended dismally and unrealistically — although I did like the shot of zombie Simon chained to the fence. It doesn’t happen often but now and then, as with Shane, Sophia, or Merle, the show will give a core character the full walker treatment (briefly). It’s always effective too, even when that character was a villain like Merle or Simon. The audience is so inured to zombie shtick by now that the walkers have long since stopped fully registering as the reanimated remains of people. They’re snarling animals, usually so easily overcome that they almost count as … scenery. Sticking undead Simon on the fence and letting him snarl for a bit brought a sense of tragedy back to zombification that the show usually lacks. Even a greasy dirtbag like him deserved more dignity than that.
Highlights from the rest of the episode: Er … Eugene throwing up on Rosita, I guess? That’s the only reason I can come up with for why they would have written a mini-arc of her and Daryl kidnapping him only to have him escape and be back at work 10 minutes later. (How the hell did a husky yutz like Eugene elude a super-soldier like Daryl anyway?) As for next week’s finale, I’m going all-in with my prediction that Rick will *not*, in fact, kill Negan. The rest of the Saviors will be liquidated in battle, the Oceansiders will play deus ex machina in battle for Team Rick despite having no good reason to do so, and Negan will be duly subdued. But Rick, given the opportunity to finish him off, will choose to take him prisoner instead because That’s How Carl Would Have Wanted It™. That way, the writers can be done with this interminable Rick/Negan storyline (the introduction of Georgie a few weeks ago points towards a new plot arc next season) while also keeping Negan around for more Fonzie-ish hijinks. What odds can I get on that in Vegas?