Things go from bad to worse in the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead’s tenth season.
Sunday night’s episode of The Walking Dead was another strong one, building off of the mostly very good episode we got a week ago.
In last week’s episode, Negan killed Whisperer head honcho, Alpha, and we learned just how Carol and he came up with the plan.
That followed what ended up being a truly atrocious final episode for Michonne that made little to no sense and did a huge disservice to one of the show’s most beloved characters, proving once again that The Walking Dead, however much improved, remains wildly uneven in terms of quality.
This week we pick back up where Beta left off, wearing a new mask made from Alpha’s skin (and there wasn’t any time to properly dry it so that’s gross) and leading a horde of zombies toward Alexandria.
The Alexandrians have already fled the town, meeting up with the Hilltop refugees at an abandoned hospital they’re calling The Dark Tower. Er, no, just The Tower. I’m not sure exactly where it is, but I guess not too far away from Alexandria.
Oddly enough, we don’t see the survivors make good their escape or move into their new base. They’re just there already when the episode starts. When Beta and his lieutenants look around Alexandria and the horde below, they see nothing.
Alden and Aaron are spying on them from above, and continue to follow and spy on the Whisperers as they make the long march to Oceanside. “March” may not be the right word for it—hordes don’t really march and zombies certainly don’t.
In any case, Beta is proving to be just as frightening as ever and even more so now that he has Alpha in his head. He talks to her, asking for advice. I guess this is something he and Carol have in common—not the advice part, but the whole “batshit crazy” visions of Alpha part.
Alden and Aaron follow the horde on its shambling pilgrimage and realize too late that the walkers are turning around. They try to radio Gabriel but it isn’t working and when they turn to make their escape, Whisperers surround them. One of them has a gun and Aaron seems surprised to see whoever it is. We don’t see them and I’m not sure if that’s because it’s a big surprise for the season finale or just incidental.
‘The Walking Dead’ introduces a new character, Princess, to the show in a not-quite season finale.
We’re introduced to the first new character in quite some time in tonight’s episode. Juanita “Princess” Sanchez (Paola Lazaro) is a fantastic new addition to the cast.
We actually met her last week at the very, very end of the episode. Ezekiel, Eugene and Yumiko have just discovered all the weird zombies costumed and set up in grotesque poses—an undead menagerie of twisted manikins—when we hear someone say “Oh hey!” and spot a woman in a fluffy pink jacket carrying a machine gun.
That’s where things kick off tonight. Our heroes are visibly startled—and understandably so—by this colorful, and heavily armed, newcomer.
Yumiko likes her the least and immediately gets off on the wrong foot. Ezekiel tries to calm tensions and we learn that Princess hasn’t seen another human being in an entire year, which may account somewhat for her off-kilter behavior.
Still, she’s friendly enough. She might be a little off her rocker but she doesn’t seem bad or devious. She even tries to help when some walkers stroll up by shooting them to smithereens with her LMG. Unfortunately, it spooks the horses and they run off with presumably a good deal of our group’s supplies, not to mention transportation method.
She tells them she can get them wheels, lead them to a whole warehouse full of rides. Yumiko wants nothing to do with her, but Eugene and Ezekiel (who each have three “E’s” in their names, oddly enough) out-vote her. Yumiko demands that Princess hands over her gun.
She waffles. She’s not sure she trusts them either and besides, there’s three of them to one of her. Princess thinks outloud. Even if she could take both Yumiko and Ezekiel, she’s pretty sure that Eugene would be able to kill her. It’s pretty funny.
Princess is funny. I like her.
Princess and the gang walk into a minefield.
She kind of reminds me a little bit of Stephen the Irishman from Braveheart. Granted, she’s a woman and Latina rather than Irish, but she has a bit of that same wildness in her eyes and speech. She’s not psychotic but she operates on a slightly different level from the rest of them.
Which is probably why she walks them directly into a minefield, loses track of where she was going, and forgets how to navigate the way out to the other side. And when she does make it, Eugene notices that they’re at a street they crossed a while earlier, and they could have just taken it the entire time, avoiding said minefield altogether.
Everyone is upset but it turns out she really just didn’t want to let them know she’d screwed up. She didn’t want to be cast out, abandoned. Princess, like so many of us, has self-confidence issues. This frank and honest revelation has a powerful effect on Eugene, who relates to her plight. But he has to ask—are there really vehicles somewhere or not?
It turns out there are. Bicycles. Dozens of bicycles in a garage. Not exactly what they had in mind, but still much faster than walking. A little harder to lug around weapons and gear, but maybe they’ll find baskets or a baby trailer or something. Yumiko warms to Princess at last and invites her along with them on their quest.
Princess is ecstatic, though she does immediately ask if this means she can have her gun back. Too bad she wasn’t around with that gun sooner. It would have made short work of Alpha’s clan.
Lydia and Negan
Lydia and Negan
Elsewhere, Negan tries to connect with Lydia. He’s sorry he had to kill her mom, he tells her. He liked her, even. Or at least things about her.
Lydia is brusque and petty. We all wished you’d both died, she snaps at him.
Later she tells him that all he cares about is himself, though we know this isn’t true. The only reason he was imprisoned again was for saving her life a little too forcefully and killing one of her assailants.
But it’s understandable that she’s bitter and messed up. I can’t imagine having a mom like that. I can’t imagine the mixed feelings you’d have knowing she was finally dead, brutally murdered, after being subjected to her psychotic nonsense for so long. She’s still your mom.
Negan wants her to stop bottling it up. She needs to grieve, he says, putting on his therapist hat. Otherwise she’s going to implode.
“Hit me,” he tells her. “It’ll feel good.” First she refuses and then she gets angry and then she’s screaming in his face and beating his chest with her fists and then bawling into his chest as he wraps her in an embrace. I like this Negan a lot more than I ever thought possible. I never believed they could make him one of the best characters on the show—and he still says some stupid crap—but he’s real now. He’s smart and even, dare I say it, emotionally intelligent.
It’s a nice change.
Daryl and Judith
Judith and Daryl
Finally we come to Judith and Daryl. Daryl is out scouting the perimeter of the new Tower base, looking for signs of trouble. He comes across Judith, alone, killing walkers.
I’m just not sure that they should let such a young child go out alone. This bugs me to no end. As a father of two children, I cannot stomach this. Then again, I think in a situation like a zombie apocalypse, the Buddy System should apply to pretty much everyone regardless of age, and that includes Daryl.
Speaking of which, is Dog still around? Did he die and I just forget? Or are they just skimping on us like Game of Thrones did with Ghost?
In any case, Judith doesn’t want to go back because she doesn’t like the Tower (I wish the Whisperers also had a Tower then this episode could be called The Two Towers). Daryl insists. Because he’s an adult and she’s just a pipsqueak. She gives him some lip but he prevails in the end.
They come across a Whisperer and a small group of “guardians” (What do you call a horde of Whisperers in space? Guardians of the Galaxy. Ba-doom). Daryl shoots the Whisperer in the chest and she runs off. They make short work of the zombies and trail her.
She begs for her life and Daryl asks for information. She doesn’t have much to give so he kills her. This upsets Judith and it upsets her even more when they just leave her there. Daryl tries to get to the bottom of it and she reveals that she spoke with Michonne and that she’s worried she won’t come back because she’s off “helping some people.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Daryl asks.
“Because I was worried you’d leave, too,” she tells him. So she kept Michonne’s plans to herself, worried she’d experience more loss. This irks me, not because of Judith, but because the writers of this show had the audacity to make Michonne leave without so much as a goodbye or even a discussion with the adults who are now stuck raising her children. Her friends and compatriots, left in the lurch, the only person who knows the truth a tiny girl.
Right after her and Daryl’s heart-to-heart Gabriel radios over, garbled, warning Daryl not to come back to the Tower. Beta and his horde have arrived.
All told, a very entertaining episode. I love the wackiness of Princess, the horrorshow that Beta has become, the promise of a big, brutal final showdown, the Holy Quest that Eugene and his crew are on, promising to widen the scope and depth of this world for next season.
Overall, I have very few complaints. It is weird, though, to end on this episode and have the finale delayed indefinitely. Then again, in the age of coronavirus / COVID-19 everything is weird. Everything is delayed or closed or canceled.
It’s interesting, actually. When we think about these pandemics, in film and TV at least, we think about the breaking point. That moment when society collapses and everything goes to hell. Fear The Walking Dead, for instance, was supposed to give us an in-depth look at the start of the zombie apocalypse, but it really rushed things.
It would be interesting to watch a zombie show that really took it slow at the beginning. Rumors at first. The president calling the whole thing a “Democratic hoax.” Denial. Watching the news reports overseas of this unfathomable thing wreaking havoc in Italy or South Korea. But not here, not yet, not ever, right?
Then the shutdowns, the troops rolling in, the deep fear falling like a dark shawl over everybody and everything. The economy’s brittle implosion. All that before a single zombie shows up onscreen.
Have I been thinking too much about COVID-19? Well, let’s just say that The Walking Dead and all these other shows almost convinced me to start a bunker, to stock up on things like toilet paper and batteries and bullets and such. Almost, but not in time. Man I wish I could have said “I told you so” right about now.