“The Key” is something of a rarity when it comes to The Walking Dead: an episode where no one dies. This is an especially impressive feat given that much of the episode is dedicated to Rick trying to kill Negan in a building full of hungry walkers who, at one point, are on fire. Audiences may have been expecting a bloodbath after Negan revealed his plan to attack Hilltop with walker blood-infected weapons but, as is often the case with The Walking Dead, it takes a while to get there, and there’s an interruption along the way – specifically, an interruption in the form of Rick ramming his car into Negan’s.
Back at Hilltop, Maggie’s leadership faces a new challenge in the form of a bartering offer from a group of strangers, who promise “the key to the future” in exchange for crates of food and music records. Georgie, along with her two sidekicks Hilda and Midge, says that she has knowledge to share, but won’t specify what it is. Maggie, who is naturally suspicious (and probably a bit annoyed by the vagueness of what’s on offer) instead decides to bring Georgie and her goons back to Hilltop at gunpoint – but no one gets shot, and Maggie ultimately decides to let Georgie and co. go. This decision brings great rewards: knowledge of how to build essential structures like windmills and watermills, as well as a much-needed stockpile of food.
Unfortunately, that food may not help Hilltop much when the Saviors come knocking next week. Negan had given strict instructions for the Saviors to only wound the survivors at Hilltop, not kill them straight away, so that they could instead slowly succumb to infection. However, Simon has grown impatient with Negan’s way of doing things, and uses his boss’ disappearance to issue a new order: the Saviors will ride to Hilltop, and they will “expunge” and “redact” the people there. So, the lack of deaths this week may simply be the calm before the storm.
While no living people died this week, there was one possible casualty during Rick and Negan’s epic battle. At one point Rick came across a door marked “EATERS” and, driven by the power of his hate for Negan, set Lucille on fire and used her to bash his way through the door. Negan, horrified at the thought of losing his precious bat, chased Rick down and the two of them fought fiercely, though not fatally. Negan eventually got Lucille back, but she was on fire for a long time. Even if she’s not completely ruined, she may be too burned up to survive much longer as a bashing weapon.
Also during the fight with a fiery Lucille, Rick set a few walkers on fire and whacked some more with his axe. It’s safe to assume that a few of them stopped moving after that.