The Walking Dead ably met its OMG quota in Sunday’s season 8 fall finale—fireball explosions, the best Rick-vs.-Negan encounter to date, a surprising reveal in the final scene—but my big takeaway was definitely Simon.

I don’t mean Negan’s grinning henchman Simon (Steven Ogg), though he’s always a dastardly delight and had a few great scenes in the episode. My Simon takeaway was how much the episode made me think about the Milton Bradley memory game Simon I played as a kid.

The multi-player game has colored buttons that light up in sequences that start out short—red, then red-blue, then red-blue-yellow, etc.—and get progressively longer and more difficult to remember. You eventually mess up, and then you mess up again, and then your sister makes a comment about it, and then you throw the stupid thing across the room, and then you go to timeout. (Your family may have had different rules.)

The hit AMC series initially started with Deputy Rick Grimes in a world overrun with zombies and has followed a group of survivors from farmhouse to abandoned prison to train depot and through assorted communities along the way. There have been villains and antagonist groups along the way, but Rick & Co. was the core of the show through the first six seasons.

And then in the seventh season, the writers’ room just kept hitting buttons. They added Gregory and the Hilltop Colony. They added Negan and the Sanctuary. They added Natanya and Oceanside. They added Ezekiel and the Kingdom. They added Jadis and the Scavengers. New characters and communities piled on like the fast-food order in Dude, Where’s My Car?

In seasons seven and eight, The Walking Dead has been more like a story-by-spreadsheet than a linear narrative about a group of survivors. An episode like season 7’s “Say Yes,” which focused largely on Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira), means hitting pause on the dozen-plus other characters. Fan-favorite Daryl (Norman Reedus) disappears for weeks at a time. Villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) drives the story as much off-screen as on-screen.

There are plenty of narrative reasons (widening the world, evolving the storytelling) and practical reasons (expensive special effects, expensive stars, sticking to the comics) for The Walking Dead to sprawl over time, but the show has stretched itself far too thin these last two seasons. There are signs in the trailer for the back half of the season, and in Sunday night’s Talking Dead after-show, that Rick & Co., the Kingdom, the Hilltop and Oceanside would be consolidating into a single stronghold.

The only major kill in Sunday’s midseason finale was Carl (Chandler Riggs). That was a surprising choice and may reflect a recent plot rejigerring, given Riggs’ father commenting that the 18-year-old actor was fired even after showrunner Scott M. Gimple had previously ensured him he’d be around for three more years. And more exits abound: Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) is bitten and likely leaving in the next few episodes; Morgan (Lennie James) will get killed or make some other exit by the end of the season to join Fear the Walking Dead, which occurs earlier in time than The Walking Dead.

This suggests that the writers’ room is making efforts to right the ship, but the show’s team shouldn’t stop there. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) are peripheral characters who could be gone by season’s end. Ezekiel (Khary Payton) doesn’t look long for this world, and doesn’t survive much beyond this point in the comics. Negan and the cast of Saviors will exit stage left at some point.

Apologies to those fans still mourning Carl, but when the The Walking Dead returns in February, what the show needs more than anything is an epic bloodbath to thin the ranks down to a new core group for the next adventure.