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The Walking Dead Season 11 Episode 8 Ending Explained

The Season 11A finale of "The Walking Dead" was a straightforward and intense episode that left many of the show's central characters in mortal peril.

Last week's episode ended with Maggie (Lauren Cohan) taking a cue from the Whisperers and leading a massive horde of walkers straight to Meridian. At the beginning of "For Blood," her crew has reached the walls of the settlement, but they are far from being in the clear. The Reapers have a perimeter of landmines that makes quick work of the walker horde and puts the masked humans at risk of being exposed — or worse. Thankfully, the Alexandrians have a huge advantage in the form of Daryl (Norman Reedus), who is still undercover with the Reapers. He begins to work behind-the-scenes to try and give Maggie's group a fighting chance.

While Maggie and the Reapers duke it out in Meridian, a massive storm is quickly laying bare the extent of Alexandria's infrastructure issues. The walls come down all over the settlement and a fire at the windmill begins to attract packs of walkers from the surrounding area. When the grown ups split off to attempt emergency repairs, Judith (Cassady McClincy) and the rest of the community's children face one of the most intense nights of their young lives.

Here's how things played out on the Season 11A finale of "The Walking Dead."

Judith gets some words of encouragement from Virgil

As the storm bears down on Alexandria, Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Virgil (Kevin Carroll) — who is still recovering from the stab wounds he received while escaping from the house of horrors with Connie (Lauren Ridloff) in "On the Inside" — agree to stay behind and help protect the community's children. This gives Virgil a chance to catch up with Judith. While we wondered if Virgil having been with Michonne when she discovered evidence that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) could still be alive might result in him spilling the beans to the rest of the Alexandrians that their former leader isn't dead after all, it sounds like that might not be the case. When Judith asks him if he knows where Michonne went, Virgil merely replies, "I don't, sorry."

With the storm raging outside, Judith allows herself a moment of vulnerability. She tells Virgil about how much she wishes Michonne was there with her. Virgil, for his part, knows just the right thing to say. He tells Judith that Michonne is indeed with them. "I see her in the way you hold your sword," he says, "The way you're ready to run into the storm ... your mamma's still with you, and you can bet that wherever she is, you're with her."

Learning to process the grief of not having her parents in her life anymore has been a big theme of Judith's story this season. Thankfully, in both Rosita and Virgil, she is getting the advice and encouragement she needs to honor her sadness while not letting it consume her.

Maggie makes it into Meridian

While Maggie deserves considerable credit for the tenacity and determination that kept the mission to Meridian from collapsing under the weight of calamity, Daryl has also earned a special shout-out for his behind-the-scenes efforts. Getting himself kidnapped and then going deep-cover in the Reapers camp wasn't part of the original game plan. However, he has worked the situation to the Alexandrians' advantage and has been putting his life on the line to help out Maggie's group in whatever way he can. In "For Blood," he continues by sabotaging the Reapers' efforts to repel Maggie's walker attack.

After stabbing a Reaper on look-out duty, Daryl helps direct Maggie and Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) into Meridian. Once inside, the pair split up, with Gabriel getting comfortable in a sniper's nest and Maggie hotwiring a car that she then uses to smash open one of the gates to the city. Walkers (including Negan and Elijah) begin streaming into the settlement and chaos breaks out.

Although her group has been whittled down to just five people, it looks as though Maggie may just retake Meridian after all. She is a testament to perseverance, as a person with less nerve likely would have turned around and gone home long ago, as many other characters tried to convince her to do. If Maggie's group does manage to get the much-needed food supplies from Meridian, it will be a big feather in her cap.

That is still a big "if," though. While the Alexandrians make impressive headway into Meridian, the Reapers still have one more explosive trick in store.

Pope takes things too far

In the last episode, Daryl appeared to make some big strides in getting Leah (Lynn Collins) to work with him against Pope (Ritchie Coster) and the rest of the Reapers. This week he finds out that she is amenable to collaborating but that doesn't mean they are on the same side.

When the Reapers reveal a massive missile launcher loaded with explosive arrows and aim it toward the horde of walkers (and the Alexandrians hiding among them), Daryl knows he has to do something drastic. He pulls Leah aside and tells her everything. He begs her to not set off the missile launcher and appeals to Leah's sense of community, something she actually has in common with Maggie. "They're good people," he says. "They have families ... please, you can't let them die like this."

Leah is understandably very upset that Daryl lied to her. However, when Pope arrives, the situation becomes significantly more complicated. Pope wants the missiles launched immediately and when Leah asks him to first give the Reapers who are on the ground time to get out of the way, he refuses. "The Lord speaks through me! You don't question the Lord, you don't question me!" he yells.

Throughout the season, we've seen Leah grapple with Pope's leadership, specifically with the way he so brazenly sends the people he calls his family to their deaths (or kills them himself). She has broken ranks with him on this issue before but now she takes things to another level.

Daryl, unable to stand by any longer, pulls out his knives to attack Pope, but it's Leah who ends up stabbing him in the neck. After a season of terror, Pope's reign as leader of the Reapers has come to an end.

Leah seizes control

After Leah kills her former leader, Daryl takes it as a sign that she has officially switched sides. However, for Leah, taking out Pope had little to do with her feelings for Daryl. The move was one to preserve the Reapers themselves. As soon as Pope is dead, Leah gets on the radio and announces: "Pope is dead. Dixon murdered him. He's with the enemy."

Using Daryl's unmasking as a cover to take out Pope was an opportunistic move on Leah's part. It allowed her to eliminate a man who had become delusional, dictatorial, and dangerous without having to worry about any tensions that might arise with the rest of the Reapers once the deed was done. In Daryl, she has the perfect scapegoat and can now feel all the more secure with the people whose side she has been on since we met her all the way back in Season 10C: the Reapers, who she views as her family.

Leah's feelings for Daryl are no doubt complex, but it seems clear now that she was never going to choose him over the Reapers. She does allow him a chance to escape, though, which is perhaps out of respect for the romantic feelings they share for one another. Or maybe it's because she is still planning on obliterating Maggie and the rest of the Alexandrians and she knows he won't pose a significant danger.

At the very end of the episode, Maggie and Negan look up from the ground-level battlefield they are on and see Leah, now the de facto leader of the Reapers, standing next to the missile launcher. The episode cuts to its end as they begin to fire one by one. How — or if — they survive is a mystery that won't be solved until Season 11B.

Gracie takes some of Judith's advice

While Maggie's group faces fiery extermination, things are looking equally dire in water-logged Alexandria. Walkers have flooded into the community thanks to the fallen walls and the wind from the storm has broken the windows and blown open the door of the house the children are hiding in.

Earlier in the episode, we saw Judith give Gracie (Anabelle Holloway) a pep talk after Gracie expressed admiration for the fact that Judith never gets afraid. Judith explained that she does get scared, she has just learned how to use her fear, rather than let it control her. "Just like how you can run faster when you're scared, you can fight better, too," she tells her friend. "It makes you stronger."

Gracie takes this lesson to heart later in the episode. When walkers break into the house, she disappears, leading Judith to track her down in the basement. Gracie reveals that she came down to find a weapon she can use to fight back against the invaders. The other children of Alexandria have always seemed a little less gung-ho than Judith, but now that walkers are quite literally at the door, even they realize they must fight or die. This moment is both empowering and sad. Seeing Gracie defend herself is encouraging, but considering how much of this season has been about the anxiety that the adults in Alexandria are experiencing because they can't provide a secure community for their children, it's heartbreaking to see things reach this point.

When Judith and Gracie try to leave the flooding basement, they find that walkers have now fully taken over the house. We end this portion of the story with the young pair stuck between floodwaters and the walking dead.

Unlike Season 11A, this storm isn't over yet.