|The Walking Dead episode|
|Directed by||Greg Nicotero|
|Original air date||March 18, 2018|
|Running time||46 minutes|
"The Key" is the twelfth episode of the eighth season of the post-apocalyptic horror television series The Walking Dead, which aired on AMC on March 18, 2018. It was written by Corey Reed and Channing Powell, and directed by Greg Nicotero.
At the Sanctuary, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) organizes the Saviors to cover their weapons in the blood and viscera of the walkers prior to an attack on the Hilltop community. Dwight (Austin Amelio) struggles with hiding his loyalty to Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his allies from Negan and his other lieutenants, particularly Simon (Steven Ogg) as the Saviors start to convoy towards Hilltop.
Meanwhile, Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) return to the Hilltop to regroup. Daryl (Norman Reedus) apologizes to Rick for enabling the Saviors to clear out Sanctuary, resulting in the attacks on the various communities, but Rick admits he also didn't want anyone to die. The two decide to continue scouting around Hilltop, leaving Maggie (Lauren Cohan) in charge. While waiting, Maggie spots empty crates outside of Hilltop, and on retrieving them, finds a note requesting supplies and vinyl records in exchange for the promise of "the key" to help them. Though Maggie is cautious, she, Michonne, Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) decide to comply to see who might be willing to help. At the planned meeting point, the four meet Georgie (Jayne Atkinson) with her aides, Hilda (Kim Ormiston) and Midge (Misty Ormiston), who offers them knowledge in exchange for the supplies they were to bring. Maggie decides to hold them at Hilltop until they can figure out what they can do. As Maggie and Michonne discuss what to do, Enid suggests they should just turn Georgie away. Michonne talks her down, and Maggie realizes that the better option would be to fulfill Georgie's wishes. Georgie, in return, offers them some of their food, and a book of plans for constructing rudimentary structures like windmills, hoping that Maggie can turn Hilltop into a thriving community the next time she visits. As Georgie drives off, Enid admits to Michonne she killed the leader of Oceanside, Natanya, and is unsure of how she can know what the right thing is to do.
Outside the walls of the Hilltop, Rick spots the Saviors' convoy, and proceeds to chase them down, ramming Negan's car out of the convoy. Rick chases Negan through a desolate town, eventually tipping his car over. Negan flees into an abandoned building; Rick follows him upstairs with walkers following after them. Rick tries to kill Negan with a hatchet. Negan dives for cover but falls into the building's basement after crashing through some of the rotten wood. Rick follows Negan into the basement, finding his bat "Lucille". As the two play cat-and-mouse in the dark basement, Negan offers Rick to forgo their hostilities with a reduced Savior take as long as he cooperates. Rick rebukes him, knowing that the Scavengers had been wiped out which he believes were by Negan's orders; Negan, who had Simon go make "his standard deal" with the Scavengers, realizes Simon disobeyed him by killing the Scavengers. To lure Negan out, Rick sets fire to Lucille and uses it to bash through a door that he heard walkers behind. The two fight as walkers swarm them; Negan manages to recover Lucille and get away before Rick can safely escape.
In the midst of events, Simon orders the other Saviors to surround the area while he and Dwight go to find Negan. While looking, Simon talks to Dwight, suggesting that they consider Negan may be dead so they can take control of the Saviors and make the group stronger. They find Negan's upturned car, but instead of searching for Negan, Dwight sets fire to it, and they return to rest of their men. Simon takes control, stating that Negan may be dead, and he now plans to "expunge" the other communities. Elsewhere, Negan wakes up to find that he was taken captive by Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), holding him at gunpoint.
"The Key" received very positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an 83% average rating of 7.77 out of 10, based on 24 reviews. The site's consensus reads: ""The Key" injects interesting new characters and action into TWD season 8's ongoing arc of betrayal, though the series sorely needs to break some predictable patterns."
The episode received a total viewership of 6.66 million with a 2.8 rating in adults aged 18-49. This was a slight increase from the previous week, which had 6.60 million viewers.
- "The Key". Rotten Tomatoes. https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/the_walking_dead/s08/e12. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
- Porter, Rick (March 20, 2018). "Sunday cable ratings: 'The Walking Dead' levels off". TV by the Numbers. http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/daily-ratings/sunday-cable-ratings-march-18-2018/. Retrieved March 20, 2018.