By Nick Romano
November 10, 2019 at 10:07 PM EST
Jace Downs/AMC

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In another page straight out of The Walking Dead comics — albeit with a few tweaks — The Walking Dead TV series is finally introducing the Commonwealth.

The civilization’s inclusion in the AMC zombie drama has long been foreseen, especially after the introduction of Georgie (Jayne Atkinson) in season 8 and the reveal that Maggie (Lauren Cohan) went off to work with this mysterious figure during the season 9 time-jump. But now, in this week’s episode, “Bonds,” the first recognizable narrative kernel from the Commonwealth’s storyline in the comics has made its way to the screen.

To offer a recap within this recap (an inception recap!), the Commonwealth is a community based in Ohio. (The wooden “Toledo” sign at the bridge construction site in season 9 was another clue that the show would tackle these characters.) They are a highly advanced society with a network of connected towns, establishments like coffee shops and concert venues, armed guards, a class structure, and a governing body. Given Georgie’s vast knowledge of agriculture and construction, her vinyl collection, generally polished blazer look, and perspective on building a future, she seemed like a clear conduit for the Commonwealth when she showed up at Maggie’s doorstep at Hilltop.

On “Bonds,” Eugene (Josh McDermitt) has finally upgraded his radio equipment with help from Nabila and the parts he secured from the Russian satellite. Sitting alone in his workspace, he turns up the frequency to see who, if anyone, will be able to hear his call and respond to it. After multiple failed attempts, someone eventually does. It’s a woman’s voice and she’s just as excited to be hearing someone on the other end as he is. Like Eugene, she’s been trying for some time and was about to give up hope that anyone would be able to hear her.

In the comics, this voice belongs to a woman named Stephanie, who’s been working as a radio operator at the Commonwealth. On the show, this woman doesn’t reveal her named but hits a lot of the same character beats. She’s not comfortable sharing any specifics about her group, so she and Eugene agree to talk about their lives before the outbreak. As they become more comfortable with each other, they make an agreement: they will keep conversing in secret in order to build trust. Eugene will be the only one allowed to speak with this woman and, if she hears anyone else’s voice on the other end, she will cut off communications entirely.

We know Cohan will be returning to The Walking Dead to play Maggie. Showrunner Angela Kang even told EW that “we may see her at some other point this season. Coupled with Eugene’s radio chat, the Commonwealth appears to be the convergence of all these moving parts.” On the voice heard on the radio, Kang said, “This will definitely be a part of the season. It’s part of the fun mystery of the season, and it will come into play in hopefully interesting ways that turn the story. I can’t tip too much about it, but I think there’s some fun to be had there.”

The presence of this story arc could also mean bad news for another character on the show. A stomach “bug” has been running through Alexandria. It infected seven people at the beginning of “Bonds,” and by the end of the episode, the infirmary becomes packed with patients who only seem to be getting worse. This is no doubt a result of Alpha’s (Samantha Morton) plot to contaminate the water supply with walker entrails.

Comic book spoilers ensue in this paragraph: One of the infected patients is Rosita. On the show, she and Saddiq have a baby, Coco, together, but she’s Eugene’s wife in the comics, where she was also one of the victims Alpha decapitated and placed on spikes. Rosita’s death was one of the subjects that bonded Eugene and Stephanie over the radio. I can’t help but wonder if the sickness will claim Rosita’s life on the show and serve as a similar catalyst for Eugene’s development.

Elsewhere, Daryl (Norman Reedus) notices Carol (Melissa McBride) sneaking off by herself from Alexandria, so he decides to catch up. She claims she’s going to scout for Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), but her real plan slowly becomes clear. She wants to find the location of Alpha’s horde and destroy it so they can then fight The Whisperers without that looming threat. Carol has been tracking the Whisperer and walker herds and determined they all tend to converge at one spot. She hopes to hide out and follow the Whisperers to the horde. At least, that’s what she tells Daryl.

Carol asks Daryl about Connie and if there’s something there. He says he doesn’t have romantic feelings for her but won’t disclose why. We have a guess or two. Those feelings become even more complicated as he realizes Carol isn’t being entirely honest with him. As night approaches, they plot to cross over to the Whisperers’ territory to get a closer look at their movements. Things go wrong, as they tend to do. Walkers and Whisperers are drawn to a noise (the sound of Carol stepping on a branch, no less) and Daryl is forced to split off. By the time they rendezvous on their side of the border, he sees she’s kidnapped one of the Whisperers with plans to interrogate him at Alexandria.

They forgot completely about Negan, who’s off being Negan. He won’t stop talking, which automatically makes him a nuisance to Beta (Ryan Hurst), but he’s determined to undergo Alpha’s tests to prove himself worthy of walking with the Whisperers. He helps hunt boar, dig a fire pit, and skin the dead, but Beta decides to take matters into his own hands. Alpha doesn’t want to kill him just yet, but he does, so he takes him out walking with a herd in the night and then leaves him there to fend off the dead himself. The next morning, to Beta’s surprise, Negan returns covered in blood and carrying a large branch he tapped as his new Lucille. He kneels before Alpha and promises to offer everything he knows about her enemies. Perhaps he’s being genuine. Perhaps he’s doing it to destroy the Whisperers from the inside for the sake of Alexandria. Either way, it promises to be one heck of a wild ride.

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