Usually The Walking Dead tends to spin its wheels for a few episodes in the middle of its half-seasons, but not this time. "Walk With Us," the midpoint of Season 10B, was one on the most exciting and consequential episodes of the season, with two major deaths, including one that changes everything. It felt like a season finale, and there are still four more episodes to go, including Michonne's (Danai Gurira) farewell and the end of the Whisperer war. I don't know how Angela Kang & co. are going to top Episode 12, but I look forward to seeing how they try.
The episode began by picking up where Episode 11 left off, with Hilltop under siege by the Whisperers, who were attacking with fire and a giant horde of walkers. In the chaos of battle, Judith (Cailey Fleming) fatally stabbed a Whisperer she didn't realize was a living person. At the ripe old age of 10, Rick Grimes' daughter has killed her first human, and she's going to be traumatized by it, and by what happened to her later in the episode. Poor kid. Earl (John Finn) saw what happened, and hurried her and Hilltop's other children out of the burning colony and to safety in an abandoned building in the woods after Ezekiel (Khary Payton) got indisposed.
The next morning, Hilltop had burned to the ground, and the survivors had splintered off into small groups hiding out in the woods, and we would check in with them throughout the episode.
First, though, we checked in with the Whisperers. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) was claiming victory for the Whisperers. But Alpha (Samantha Morton) wouldn't claim victory until she had everything she wanted, meaning her daughter Lydia (Cassady McClincy). Beta (Ryan Hurst) went off to look for Lydia, and assigned Negan to walker-gathering detail. While Negan was out cracking walker skulls with Lucille instead of doing what he was supposed to, he saw Lydia limping through the woods and followed after her. While wearing his mask, he ran into Aaron (Ross Marquand), who drew his sword. "I can explain," Negan said, and tried to tell Aaron that his Whisperer situation wasn't what it looked like. But Aaron was getting flocked by walkers and had to deal with them, allowing Negan to escape. He caught up to Lydia and took her prisoner.
Elsewhere, Al (Callan McAuliffe), Kelly (Angel Theory), and Mary (Thora Birch), formerly known as the Whisperer Gamma, had fled Hilltop with Adam, Mary's infant nephew who Alpha had forced her sister to abandon at Hilltop. The whole reason Mary had defected was to see the baby again, and she finally got to hold him when he wouldn't stop crying in Al's arms. Her moment of happiness was short-lived, though, as she heard a group of walkers approaching. Al, Kelly, and Adam took refuge in an abandoned minivan while Mary drew the herd away. She had saved the baby, and she kind of zoned out and looked up at the sky and felt the sun on her face, like her sister used to like to do. And then Beta stabbed her.
"You will walk with us," the ghoulish brute growled.
"Never!" she cried, clawing at his face and tearing his mask. He dragged her weakening body to the base of a tree and propped her there as she died to wait for her to turn. Another Whisperer saw him with most of his face exposed. "It's you," the Whisperer said. Beta shushed him. "Your voice sounded familiar," he said, but--" Beta slashed his throat. Beta's secret is that before the end of the world, he was a famous country singer. Daniel Salazar (Ruben Blades) even had one of his records on Fear the Walking Dead. His celebrity backstory had been hinted at, but this finally confirmed it. (In the comics, he had been a basketball player. Ryan Hurst is a big guy, but he's not that big.)
When Mary finally turned, Al put her down with an arrow to the head, thwarting Beta, who ran off into the woods.
Another group of survivors consisted of Carol (Melissa McBride), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), and Magna (Nadia Hilker), who had survived Carol's cave collapse with Connie (Lauren Ridloff), but had gotten separated from her on the road back to Hilltop. Carol was avoiding Magna because she felt so guilty, and Yumiko punched her in the face because she wouldn't apologize. Magna didn't want her to do that. It was the latest in a long line of things Yumiko and Magna just weren't on the same page about. So Magna and Yumiko broke up. How about that? Magna's near-death experience gave her clarity that she didn't want to be in a relationship with Yumiko anymore.
Carol and Eugene then had, to my memory, the first conversation they've ever had on the show. The Walking Dead has a huge cast that mostly gets put together in discrete groupings that rarely overlap. You almost never see Daryl (Norman Reedus) talk to Rosita (Christian Serratos), either. Eugene was depressed because his radio equipment burned in the fire and he would probably never get to see Stephanie (Margot Bingham), his crush with whom he had a scheduled date in a West Virginia rail yard.
"Do you know what it feels like to want something so bad and to go after it with everything that you have, piss off everyone, like literally everyone, maybe get people killed, and still have nothing to show for it?" Eugene asked Carol.
"I do," she answered. If only he knew! Since they don't usually talk, I guess he didn't know about Carol's deranged, destructive vendetta against Alpha. He told her about his scheduled meeting, and she advised him to just go. Hopefully she goes with him when he does. I think they could be part of a fun group on the road toward the Commonwealth, the location where the show will turn toward as the Whisperer war ends. And what's Carol going to stay in Alexandria for? I think a change of scenery in service of a worthy cause would be good for her.
In the house where Earl was protecting the children, he got them all settled in and comforted them, but he looked terrible. He had been bitten, and was dying. He was pounding a railroad spike through a table to make a suicide device when Judith came in and found out the truth of the situation."You're so strong, you're so brave," the blacksmith told her. "But now I need to keep those kids safe from me, please... Don't come near me again." She went out, and he impaled himself on the spike. He had lost his biological son in an accident, his wife Tammy (Brett Butler) in the Whisperer heads-on-pikes massacre, and had been separated from his adopted son Adam when he got bit. What a sad life this guy had.
Ezekiel, Daryl, and Jerry (Cooper Andrews) found the house where the kids were hiding, and Daryl found Judith curled up in a seated fetal position in the back room with Earl's body. She had put him down when he turned. Judith had been protected enough from the cruelty of this world that she had been able to retain some childlike optimism. That's probably gone now.
Then it was time for the episode's main event. Negan told Alpha he found the thing she was looking for. Cut to Lydia tied to a chair in a cabin somewhere. Alpha revealed that she was going to keep Lydia with her by killing her and having her dead form walk with her forever. Negan responded by telling Alpha about his wife Lucille, who he named his baseball bat after. She had pancreatic cancer, and the way she fought made her more beautiful to him than ever, "even when she lost her hair," he said, pointedly looking at Alpha's bald head.
"Be grateful," Alpha said. "Death set her free."
"The thing is," Negan continued, "when she was gone, I didn't feel much of anything anymore. I didn't feel scared. I didn't feel happy. I didn't feel anything. I was just here. And that is my strength. Me? I am dead to this world. But you? See, you are pretending. You think that it makes you strong to say that emotions aren't real, that we are animals. That is bullsh-- and you know it. And now claim that you have to kill your own daughter, your own flesh and blood." Negan is kind of like Tony Soprano in that he has strong sociopathic tendencies, but he cares about children.
"It is her destiny," Alpha whispered, with tears in her eyes. She had to kill her daughter because it was what nature intended, just like nature took Lucille. Alpha had to do it, because she loved her daughter so much. Alpha is crazier than a bag of angel dust, man.
In the cabin, Lydia freed herself from her bonds.
Alpha kissed Negan, and thanked him. Then she approached the cabin, with Negan a few paces behind her. She opened the door and found the room empty. Lydia was in a different cabin. Alpha turned to Negan, confused, and he slashed her throat with his knife.
As she gurgled and choked on the blood filling her airway, Negan held the back of her bald head and cradled her body. He kissed her, and gently laid her down on the ground as she died. He seemed to have genuinely grown fond of Alpha, but in the end he did what he had been sent there to do.
He walked through the woods carrying Alpha's severed head in a bag, and rolled it like a bowling ball to someone's feet. The camera panned up to reveal Carol. "Took you long enough," she said. Carol was the one who freed Negan from his cell, with the directive to infiltrate the Whisperers and kill Alpha. We'll find out what she promised Negan in exchange for this assassination soon enough, but for now, let's just savor the moment.
How cool was that? What a shocking, satisfying end for a great villain. Alpha met a similar end in the comics, so it wasn't a huge surprise if you knew it was coming, but as is always the case, the show did it a little differently, especially with that Carol reveal. I'll miss Samantha Morton's frightening presence, but I have to give her a round of applause for her dialed-in, fully committed performance in the season-and-a-half she was on the show. It's too bad she won't get a proper send-off on Talking Dead, which like everything else has been put on hold. Damn you, coronavirus!
And there's a lot more story to go before the war is over. Beta is still out there, and he's not going to take the loss of his Alpha well.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.