"Walking Dead" Season 8 Predictions Fulfilled (or not)
When Season 7 of The Walking Dead ended back in April, I made some predictions based on my own knowledge of military strategy about what would happen during Season 8. Now that Season 8 is halfway over, here's how things shook out. Spoilers ahead, obviously.
*For starters, although it would have been a good idea for the less-numerous forces of Alexandria, the Kingdom, and Hilltop to use the dead as weapons, I figured they'd use them mostly against the outposts rather than the Savior headquarters. This they did in one battle, laying siege to a Savior outpost and not pressing the attack until the dead Saviors began rising again and attacking their former comrades. That's not quite the same as doing what the Wolves did and using guys with air horns to herd massive numbers of zombies onto a target, but the principle is the same.
That said, I didn't anticipate Rick and company would have the sheer ruthlessness necessary to lead a horde of zombies into the Sanctuary. Granted, they (the troika of Rick, Maggie, and Ezekiel) didn't use the Walkers to destroy the Sanctuary completely like how Arcturus Mengsk used the Zerg to destroy the Confederate capital world of Tarsonis in the original Starcraft, instead using them to trap the Savior leadership cadre and the bulk of their forces while they picked off the Saviors' outposts. That's still taking a pretty big risk with one of the remaining centers of civilization and, based on the comments about "the workers," one of the few remaining manufacturing centers. And if the Saviors hadn't been able to hold the stairs when Daryl and his renegades smash a path for the zombies into the Sanctuary interior, the Saviors and the civilians under their thumb would have been annihilated.
*I vaguely knew the Kingdom would take major military losses (they do in the "All-Out War" arc in the comics), but I didn't anticipate the majority of Ezekiel's army getting machine-gunned. Seriously, it's just him and his sidekick Jerry returning to the Kingdom, with Ezekiel a broken mess. I'd thought the Kingdom powerful enough to fight the Saviors on its own earlier, with Ezekiel's caution after the losses they'd taken clearing out the dead staying their hand, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
*It seems Rick was able to bring the Scavengers (the "Junkyard Gang") on-side. Were I in his position I would have made their extinction top priority, but Rick erred on the side of mercy and diplomacy rather than making examples of people and it worked. At first. Perhaps the show-writers read the article claiming that The Walking Dead was a fascist show because it promoted group survival at the expense of others and morality as naivete, or perhaps The Week was always overstating its case to start with. After all, the closest thing to a fascist tyrant on the show is Negan, one of the villains.
Of course, the Scavengers are unreliable as always, and bug out as soon as they see that the Sanctuary is no longer besieged by the dead. Rick's lucky that Carol and friends just happened to be there. I think some reprisals against the Scavengers might be in order, but that'll have to be for later given the state of Rick and company's alliance at the end of the episode.
*As far as Negan's battle plan is concerned, he does seem to focus on defeating his enemies with a minimum of death--for the rank-and-file at least. Rick's former friend Morales, who had joined the Saviors at some point, tells Rick that he, Ezekiel ("the king"), and Maggie ("the widow") were to be taken alive is possible, with Negan later revealing he intended to kill "the best" people in "the worst" way to intimidate the rest. My strategy would have been to take out Rick, Maggie, etc. and restore the status-quo ante as quickly as possible, letting Ezekiel save face by claiming he'd been misled by them or something. Of course, that was based on my notion the Kingdom was much more powerful than it ended up being.
*When the Saviors launch their offensive, he goes straight for Alexandria in a coup de main against the enemy high command, particularly Rick. That was one of my possible Negan strategies, and it seemed to have worked. With the majority of Alexandria's troops apparently elsewhere, he's able to take the town with minimal effort. Were I in his position, however, I wouldn't have trashed the place. As he himself observes, the town has got plenty of useful assets like solar panels, and he knows from his spaghetti-making visit that the place still has electricity, running water, etc. His minion Gavin tells the residents of the Kingdom the Saviors intend to occupy the Kingdom as their new base of operations and one article about Season 7 said that it made no sense for Negan to not leave occupying forces in the towns that pay him tribute or move into a much nicer house in Alexandria.
Were I in his position, I'd have wanted the physical assets of the town as intact as possible rather than wasting resources in an attempt to terrorize people. Making it my new headquarters and putting one of my lieutenants in charge of the Sanctuary would be a bad idea given how the new commander of the Sanctuary could challenge me for control and/or misgovern it to the point they lose control (see the squabbling middle management and rebellious workers before Negan appears alive again in "The Big Scary U"), but claiming a house for my own and occasionally visiting and holding court there is doable.
*The episode reveals a critical weakness in the Saviors' military--Negan delegates a lot to his subordinates and doesn't seem to be in regular communication with them when on the offensive. Gavin doesn't seem to ever report back to Negan that he's taken the Kingdom but Ezekiel is nowhere to be found, while Simon captures Maggie and the Hilltop convoy, disarms them, and sends them home completely on his own. He never reports back to the boss that he's captured one of the top three priority targets alive. Given what he said about how Hilltop is needed to farm, Simon might have been given more latitude in that particular case, but he might also be going off the reservation due to his beef with Gregory. In any event, the Hilltop's force is largely intact and, though disarmed, might have a reserve of guns back home they can reequip with. Maggie herself remains in charge and is declaring that it might be them making a "last stand," so Simon's actions might end up requiring the Saviors to fight an unnecessary battle.
So if I were Negan and I found out about this, I'd first give Simon a hiding (if not remove him from power entirely--the man is unstable and entirely too nasty) and then make improving communications a priority. Given how Negan has his own radio network (last season our heroes pick up broadcasts from him), it shouldn't be that hard for his minions to keep in touch using CB radio or surviving cellular infrastructure.