Spoilers for the Season 8 finale of "The Walking Dead" follow below.

The long-awaited Season 8 finale of “The Walking Dead” aired Sunday night (April 15), feeling, like most finales, like both the conclusion and beginning of something. In a season fraught with wheeling and dealing, it only seems appropriate that this episode should focus on the final decisions of the characters, which are met with different reactions and ominous foreshadowing. Rick, Maggie, and Morgan may have defeated Negan, but there is still a long road ahead to the peace they want for their groups.

The truth comes out

In the opening scenes of Episode 16, “Wrath,” Rick finally learns how Carl died.

Siddiq tells him Carl went after the walkers in the woods in order to honor his mother, whom Siddiq said thought their souls were trapped in the animated corpses. In the moment, it’s difficult to tell how Rick takes the news; on one hand, would it be easier to accept his son’s death, if he had been forced to fight the walker to defend himself and his new friend? On the other hand, Carl made a choice, a decision to stand up for something Siddiq believed in, and which he saw beauty in, making his death more meaningful than a simple freak attack.

In a following scene, Rick and Morgan talk before heading out to face the Saviors, with Rick suggesting Morgan stay behind. Morgan tells Rick, “We are worse than we were,” referencing their betrayal of Savior allies in Episode 14, “Still Gotta Mean Something.” Rick and Morgan, more than any other character duo in the show, have been on this journey together, having both lost close to everything - wives, sons - and suffered in such ways that going back to the start seems impossible.

As this is, presumably, the last episode of “The Walking Dead” to feature Rick and Morgan together, it’s poetic that they should realize a reset of themselves isn’t as unattainable as they might think (but we’ll get to that).

The final showdown

After Eugene’s sabotage of the Saviors’ weapons, they have no choice but to surrender, leaving Negan and Rick left to face each other. When it seems Negan has the upper hand, Rick pleads with him to envision a world where they work together, for Carl’s sake. As Negan contemplates this, Rick slashes his throat, in a move long anticipated by comic book fans. With what he surely thought would be his last breaths, Negan says, “Carl didn’t know a damn thing.”

Rick has finally defeated Negan, after two and a half seasons of attempts, but it isn’t right. It’s too much like what he did to the Saviors he gave his word to, it’s too much like ignoring Carl’s wishes, and it’s too much like giving up - giving up on a world where a man can walk with his son, delighting him with visits to cows.

Rick tells Siddiq to save Negan, not simply to honor Carl, but to show himself and the groups watching that there is a better way. They aren’t too far gone to reset, to fight the dead and work together, creating for themselves a life worth living.

What comes next?

Rick’s decision to spare Negan and make him live out the rest of his life in a cell is met with seemingly negative consequences, particularly from Maggie and Daryl. It seems after a season of All Out War, we’re heading to at least a couple episode arcs of a civil war between the Hilltop and Alexandria. Will Rick fight Maggie in order to keep Negan alive and in misery? Or can they come to an understanding that allows her the retribution she desires?

The finale also offered closure for Dwight, whom we can hope will find his wife and live happily ever after away from the drama of “The Walking Dead” plots. And Jadis, now Anne, will join Rick’s group, which pretty much kills a few theories about her role [VIDEO] in the series. Could she still be a key figure in Season 9, or are her loyalties murky after her interaction with Negan [VIDEO]?

And, of course, Morgan said good-bye to the groups to live alone, transitioning from rabid killer to peaceful loner once more. Not for long, though; tomorrow, check out my take on Morgan’s first episode on “Fear the Walking Dead” as the second part of my analysis of Survival Sunday. In the meantime, you can check out all my other posts from this season here.

As for “The Walking Dead,” I will return to my no doubt thought provoking articles on our favorite characters this October, but have no fear; I will be following “Fear the Walking Dead” throughout Season 4, offering my final thoughts each Monday after an episode airs. Stay tuned.