'The Walking Dead' Winter Finale Recap: Do the Saviors Get Revenge on the Communities?
'The Walking Dead' Winter Finale Recap: Do the Saviors Get Revenge on the Communities?
Robin Lempel
Robin Lempel
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
The Walking Dead promised that the season 8 winter finale, titled "How It's Gotta Be," would be shocking. And the tension-filled episode does not disappoint. With Rick's meticulously thought-out plan blown to pieces, Alexandria, the Kingdom and the Hilltop quickly find themselves surrounded. But we all knew the war wouldn't be so easy, right?

The Flashback

"How It's Gotta Be" features a couple of flashbacks of Carl talking to Rick and basically telling his dad they need to be better people. Honestly, having Carl be a moral compass is a huge red flag that something terrible is going to happen to him.

Carl says they should have helped the stranger they met in the gas station, Siddiq. They need hope, and there has to be something once the fight's over.

Carl says they have to be fighting for something more than just killing other people. But Rick says this war doesn't end with them picking strawberries with Negan. Carl argues that they can't kill all the Saviors, though. They need to find a way to move forward. "That's how it's gotta be," Carl says.

Rick's Plan Falls Apart

Back in the present, a devastated Rick looks out at what looks like an empty Sanctuary. He, Jadis and the Scavengers then check out the Sanctuary. Suddenly, somebody starts shooting at them. Luckily, Carol and Jerry pull up right in time to save Rick and drive away.

But someone slams into their car on their way back!

Negan Arrives at Alexandria

Meanwhile, at Alexandria, Daryl, who doesn't know the Saviors escaped the Sanctuary, comes back and tells Michonne that his plan worked. Tara also tells Rosita that the plan worked. Things are pretty awkward between them, but they make a plan for their next phase.

Carl, meanwhile, is inside writing a note to his dad and looking very upset, which is very worrisome. He also has Enid's motto, "Just survive somehow," written on a piece of paper.

Later, Michonne catches Carl sneaking around trying to get in the sewer, so he admits that he's helping a traveler. They can't talk about it, though, because suddenly Negan shows up and calls out to them on a loudspeaker and says they've lost. They have three minutes to show up, let the Saviors in and apologize or they'll kill everyone. So now everyone knows that Daryl and Tara's plan didn't work and they got out of the Sanctuary!

Carl comes up with a plan to get out of Alexandria so they can live to fight another day, even if they lose Alexandria. This is his show and he's running it.

Negan continues threatening Rick over the loudspeaker, but Carl shows up to tell him that Rick's not actually there. He pleads with Negan and says there are kids and families in Alexandria, but Negan says that life's not fair and that there were kids in the Sanctuary and a baby in the outpost. Carl says they can stop this, but Negan says there has to be a punishment, so Carl tells Negan to kill him. That stops Negan right in his tracks. Carl doesn't want to die, but he will to stop all this. He asks Negan if this was his plan and if this was who he wanted to be.

Carl was just playing Negan, though. While Carl's talking to Negan, Daryl leads a bunch of trucks out of the back of Alexandria. Feeling betrayed, Negan orders the Saviors to attack Alexandria, and the whole place goes up in smoke. Carl retreats back into Alexandria and sets off a bunch of grenades and smoke. He even puts his hat back on, but he seems really disoriented and is in a lot of pain.

Eventually, Negan and the Saviors bust their way into Alexandria. Negan knows that Carl has to still be inside and orders his people to find him. Carl winds up hiding in the sewer.

Dwight's Jig is Up

Tara, Daryl, Rosita and Michonne, meanwhile, all talk about whether or not they're to blame for what happened. They're hiding in some bushes while Dwight and the Saviors approach. Dwight's leading them right into Daryl and the others' ambush. He ducks for cover while the Alexandrians shoot them all. Then he starts shooting the Saviors too. Unfortunately, one of the lieutenants, Laura, shoots him in the arm.

Daryl eventually calls out that it's over. He, Tara, Rosita and the others all surround Dwight. Dwight says he's the one who led the Saviors to the trap and that he can't go back to Negan because one of the Saviors got away. Daryl asks how the Saviors got out of the Sanctuary, and Dwight says Eugene did it. He swears he can still help them and he wants Negan to die. Michonne says thy need to get back, so they all leave, but then Rosita helps Dwight up. Dwight apologizes to Michonne as they all head down into the sewers, but she refuses to go with them.

Will Ezekiel Rise to the Occasion?

Ezekiel is still struggling back at the Kingdom until he hears shooting outside. Suddenly, a bunch of Saviors come into his throne room, so he has to hide.

The Savior Gavin addresses the Kingdom and says they and everything they produce all belong to Negan now. All men and women will go to fix the Sanctuary, and the Saviors will be staying in the Kingdom.

Gavin just needs one more thing: Ezekiel. But the people won't give him up. Gavin begs them not to make things worse, especially because there are kids in the community, but nobody says anything. He gives them five minutes to turn Ezekiel over before it's "Negan's way." Ezekiel, meanwhile, is sneaking around in the background.

Ezekiel pours gasoline on the ground and sets it on fire. Everyone notices the explosion, and Gavin sends the Saviors to check it out. Ezekiel then pulls up in a school bus, and all the Kingdomers fight back. Gavin reminds his people that they need Ezekiel alive as they chase everyone down. That's when Carol shows up to help. Ezekiel locks her out of the Kingdom, though, and tells Carol to save his people. Then he faces Gavin and the Saviors alone. Gavin knocks him out.

Gavin starts yelling at Ezekiel and says his people will see him dead. It looks like things are hopeless. But not all hope is lost! Morgan makes an appearance! He's sneaking around outside the gate. Can he save Ezekiel?

Maggie and Jesus Get Ambushed

Maggie, Jesus and the Hilltoppers make their way in a bunch of cars to the Sanctuary because they're supposed to meet up with Rick and the others, but Maggie sees a tree down in the road and just knows that something went wrong. That's when Simon and the Saviors show up. They have Jerry! And they drag out a coffin, which is horrifying.

Simon says they all need to hand over their guns and tells his fellow Savior to shoot Jerry if they don't comply, so everyone in the line of cars hands over their guns.

Simon tells Maggie that the Saviors are taking over the Kingdom and Alexandria. The Hilltop, however, gets to keep producing. Simon doesn't want to work with Gregory anymore, so he hopes Maggie will make things right. Suddenly, some music comes on. It's Eugene! Simon reveals that he's the one who helped them get out of the Sanctuary, and now he's leading the herd of Walkers away. Then he gives Maggie two choices. He can kill Jerry, put her in the box he had and kill her in front of everyone, and lead the Walkers to the Hilltop. Or Maggie and the Hilltoppers can turn around, go home and cooperate after they kill one of her people. Then he shoots a Hilltopper named Neal to prove that he means it. Before Simon keeps going, Maggie says she'll cooperate and asks Simon for the box to bury Neal in.

So they all go back to the Hilltop. Maggie goes to the pen of Saviors and takes out the Savior that was always causing trouble and shoots him in retaliation for one of theirs being killed. Then she tells Jesus that they're not giving up and they have to get ready for the Hilltop to take the last stand since the other communities are under attack. She almost breaks down as she walks away, though.

Maggie and the others bury Neal. Then she puts the dead Savior in the box and writes that they have 38 more so Simon and the other Saviors know.

Can Eugene Redeem Himself?

The Walking Dead flashes back to Eugene unable to sleep, drinking and looking very conflicted and emotional. Can he actually redeem himself?.

Later, Eugene goes to the infirmary and checks on Gabriel and Dr. Carson. He tips Gabriel off that he got a guard sick and that Gabriel can escape with Dr. Carson, though Gabriel doesn't look good. Gabriel says the group will take Eugene back, but Eugene just drops some keys to a car and leaves. 

Will Oceanside Join the Cause?

Enid and Aaron are driving to Oceanside to get their help in the war, and Enid's worried that the people won't talk to them after coming all this way. Aaron's lost in his own world, though, because he and Eric used to take road trips like that. Aaron has to be sure that Eric died for a reason. But he and Enid wind up bonding, and Enid even gets to drive. She randomly makes a wrong turn at a distillery because she doesn't want to show up to Oceanside empty-handed, and they can't give them any guns.

Enid and Aaron then camp out for the night by Oceanside, but Aaron notices someone lurking in the shadows. It's the leader of Oceanside, Natania. She attacks Aaron, so Enid shoots her, and she and Aaron are quickly surrounded. That didn't go as planned.

Rick Comes Home

Rick finally comes back to Alexandria to see all the destruction. He goes home looking for Carl, Judith and Michonne. Instead, he finds Negan, who beats him up. Negan tells Rick that Carl volunteered to die and that he likes Carl and wants Carl to be one of his top guys in a few years. They get into a huge fight, but Rick manages to escape out a window.

Michonne, meanwhile, also makes her way back to Alexandria. A Savior grabs her, but she kills him. That's when she and Rick finally reunite. They head down into the sewer, where all the Alexandrians are hiding, including Siddiq. Carl's there! He tells Rick that he brought Siddiq there. But then he reveals he was bitten! It's pretty obvious but still incredibly devastating. This is one of the saddest Walking Dead deaths ever. And it just proves that nobody is ever safe on The Walking Dead.

Did you see Carl's impending death coming? Will Oceanside join the fight? Will Morgan save Ezekiel? Can Eugene redeem himself? And will the Hilltop fight back? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

The Walking Dead season 8 returns in 2018 on AMC. Want more news? Like our Walking Dead Facebook page.

(Image courtesy of AMC)