The Walking Dead's battle between Rick's group and Negan's Saviors has been going on for a while now, with plenty of casualties on both sides. One thing that has been consistent throughout it all, however, is the feeling that the Hilltop and Alexandria survivors are significantly outnumbered and outgunned by the Saviors - a state of affairs that has persisted despite literally hundreds of Saviors being killed. Negan is fond of saying that people are a resource, but he apparently has enough people that he can casually sacrifice them in battle after battle. So, how many Saviors does he actually have?
Last week's episode gave us some idea of how many fighters Negan has ready to go. In "Worth," Negan formulated a plan (admittedly one that later turned out to be fake) which involved eleven groups of eleven Saviors, Negan included, surrounding Hilltop in order to prevent them from leaving. Discounting Negan himself and Dwight, who was exposed as a traitor to the Saviors, that means Negan has at least 119 Saviors who are ready to go out and fight. He would also presumably want to leave some people behind to defend the Sanctuary, and there are other Saviors at various outposts - including Eugene's bullet workshop. As a rough estimate, it seems like there are around 150-200 Saviors left, not including non-combatants like the workers.
That's a lot of people, especially considering how many Saviors Rick and co. have already killed. Since Daryl obliterated the biker gang way back in season 6, the survivors have been systematically wiping out Saviors in large numbers - starting with an entire satellite outpost slaughtered in their sleep. Since season 6 more than 200 Saviors have been killed, meaning that Negan probably started out with around 400 fighters. All told, he's lost at least half of his original army. No wonder he's so annoyed.
The sheer number of fighters and general workers that Negan has under his command raises the question of how exactly he's been sustaining that many people, given that the Sanctuary doesn't have much in the way of farming and has so far been relying on taxation of food and supplies from communities that are substantially smaller, like the Kingdom and Hilltop. The seemingly infinite supply of Saviors, and their deep resources, has attracted criticism from fans over the bad guys' apparent plot armor - especially after Simon took a group of Saviors to Hilltop and they survived a three-wave attack with few visible casualties.
The good news is that the Saviors' numbers have been whittled down enough that Rick and co. could feasibly wipe them all out with one big push - though given that Hilltop has been set up for an ambush, things probably won't go their way. From a storytelling standpoint, the Saviors probably won't be defeated until Negan himself is dead. After all, if he built up an army once using pure charisma and manipulation, he could do it again.
Another possibility is that The Walking Dead season 8 will end with either Rick, Negan, or both having a change of heart and deciding to do what Carl asked of them in his final letters: make peace, and work together to build a better world. However, the show isn't exactly known for portraying best case scenarios, so we wouldn't bet on this season having a happy ending.
The Walking Dead season 8 finale airs tonight at 9pm on AMC.
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