Monday, December 11, 2017

"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.


  1. Here's what my game plan would be going forward :

    Take all your weapons and heavy hitters - roll up on the Scavengers. Disarm them - every. single. weapon. Once that's done, take Jadis hostage and piss off.

    From there send a small-ish contingent of mid level fighters back to Alexandria. The place will be functionally abandoned, but a few fighters based out of the sewers can scavenge for any supplies that survived the onslaught and keep it from getting too walker filled. This will be helpful when the war is over.

    After that, the main group swing by the Hilltop. Staff that thing with hyper deadly fighters. Not too many to overstress Hilltop's food supply, but enough to really make a difference in a siege scenario. Throw Jadis in the yard with the Saviors. Dwight stay there as well and start to negotiate with the POWs.

    From there, the remainder return to the Kingdom. Resupply the Kingdommers with the weapons from the Junkyard. Then jointly take out the Saviors occupying the Kingdom. Once it's re-occupied by Allied forces, the majority of the Alexandria non-combatants can stay here for the remainder of the war.

    For Oceanside, honestly they'll need to be written off for the immediate future. Things are complicated there and it's more dangerous rolling in constantly to try and negotiate a new allyship than to just leave them be for a while. After the war, send spare supplies from Alexandria & the Sanctuary the way of Oceanside. It will take a long time but eventually we could ease into a trading relationship.

    From there, wait for Negan / Simon to inevitably try to siege Hilltop. Trip them up on traps and defensive structures. Once Negan's rolled in, take the Kingdom-Alexandria force and trap Negan's men in the middle. And / or just direct a herd towards Negan.

    Hell, if the Hilltop had enough supplies it might even make more sense for them to create their own walker siege. Would be a nice extra defense from the Saviors. Once again would only work if they expected to survive in there for quite some time.

    1. I like the way you think. Given how the Scavengers live in a junkyard it might not be possible to get Every Single Gun, but snagging one gun for each of them (since all of them are packing when they go to the Sanctuary) and taking Jadis as a hostage too makes sense.

      Good idea to have Dwight recruit a force from among the POWs. They'll need to get rid of that long-haired SOB sooner rather than later (if I were Maggie I'd have shot him first), but perhaps he'll make a stink and Dwight can shoot him.

      Will the Saviors leave an occupation force at Alexandria you think? Even with all the gratuitous property damage there might be good stuff to loot. If they're there, the sewer system can be used as a base for guerrilla warfare.