The Walking Dead finale recap: A flicker of hope predicts big things ahead
The storm is here. The Kingdom is barren as snow begins to fall on the once thriving settlement. The fair is over, but the promised trade didn’t bring what many hoped. Their pipes still burst, the rot still spread, and this home, this beacon for so many who sought shelter from the cold apocalyptic wasteland, became untenable. So now, the King and Queen, still carrying the grief of losing their son, must now carry their people to Hilltop as a harsh blizzard descends upon them and the Whisperers still lurk in their periphery. But, once the storm passes and their friends on the hill open up their gates, it all seems like a blip on the timeline. We’re left with both hope and a promise of much bigger things to come.
In the final moments before the credits roll, that radio Eugene, Rosita, and Gabriel have been tinkering with since the time jump, their initial mission that first put everyone on the warpath with the Whisperers, finally fulfilled its purpose. When the blizzard came, the power went out and the radio went silent. When the weather clears, Ezekiel, at Hilltop, speaks with Judith at Alexandria over the comms. They sign off and as the King leaves his seat for a moment, a voice emerges through the static. It’s garbled, nearly undecipherable, but the voice can be heard asking, “Is anybody out there?”
It’s a moment loosely lifted from the comics in which Eugene is the one on the line instead of Ezekiel. Rosita and Gabriel have also dealt with their love triangle situation with Siddiq as they worked on setting up the radio channels as another deviation from the source material. But, the voice on the other line sounds female which alludes to the comics, which sees Eugene making contact with a woman named Stephanie.
Stephanie, for those who don’t mind delving into potential spoilers from the page, is a member of the Commonwealth, part of a vast network of communities based in Ohio for which the producers of The Walking Dead have already been laying the groundwork. (The name was etched into one of the wooden signs at the bridge construction site.) As a refresher, the Commonwealth is an advanced civilization comprised of approximately 50,000 survivors. They retain advanced equipment and weaponry, as well as a class system that yields things like cafes, tailors, butchers, and… record players? A prevalent theory is that Georgie, the music-loving stranger who arrived at Hilltop’s doorstep, is a member of the Commonwealth. That would mean the radio connection could lead to a reunion with Maggie, who stepped down as leader of Hilltop to live with Georgie. Per current events on the AMC series, Michonne, Gabriel, and the others still haven’t had any contact from their friend. We also still don’t know what happened to Rick after Anne left with him in a helicopter to go off and star in some Walking Dead movies. When Eugene was first seen working on the radio, some theorized this could lead to a reconnection with Rick on the show. Per usual, the one thing we do know is that the world of The Walking Dead continues to expand.
The radio, which can bring more people into the fold, ties in with the episode’s theme of connectivity. As Michonne says earlier to Ezekiel at The Sanctuary, where the group redirects after the storm becomes too volatile, Alpha was able to walk amongst them at the fair because they didn’t know each other. She refuses to let that happen again, but it’s not without a transition period.
Lydia still feels like an outcast. People project onto her after Alpha’s beheadings. Alden’s rage over the death of Enid flares on the road to Hilltop and Carol can’t help but see her son when she looks at Lydia. Carol finds Lydia off in the woods alone about to take her own life by feeding herself to a frozen walker. The cold only exacerbates the tension as they are all forced to remain close together to stay warm, causing further friction between Daryl and Ezekiel as the King wants the arrow-slinger gone so he and Carol can focus on their relationship.
The same goes for the Alexandrians. They are forced to bring Negan out of the jail cell so he doesn’t freeze to death, placing him in close corners with Gabriel, Rosita, Eugene, Saddiq, and Judith. When their fireplace threatens to burn them all alive, due to the toxic buildup that’s been allowed to fester in the chimney, they move to the next home with a working hearth, trudging blindly through the white-out in a single file line, everyone clutching a single piece of rope. Judith, however, has lost track of Dog. When she hears a bark in the distance, she lets go of the rope and heads into the storm. Negan follows suit. Though injured by the debris swirling about, he finds both Judith and Dog and leads them back to the warmth of Aaron’s house.
Michonne and Ezekiel’s group face their own complications. The Sanctuary doesn’t have many supplies and if they don’t move the Kingdom’s people to the next way station, they will all die. With Rick’s bridge still demolished, their only course is to cut through Alpha’s territory and walk across the frozen river. They find themselves on metaphorical thin ice: if a single Whisperer spots them and informs the leader, they risk war with Alpha and larger casualties. What they find instead is walkers, some flash frozen by the subzero temperature.
What the group doesn’t acknowledge, however, is their footprint. Before crossing over Alpha’s border, an aerial shot highlights the footprints in the snow left behind by a herd of walkers. Later, as Michonne cuts her way through the dead, she leaves footprints in the snow, as well as decapitated walkers in her wake, both of which could easily tip off Alpha. When they reach the river, they leave a bloody scene as walkers rise out of the snow. They are harder to kill as the ice forming on their decaying flesh forms an armored layer, but they too fall as the group makes their way across the frozen water. Aaron warns if they move too fast or if too many cross the water at the same time, they risk falling through the ice. But they don’t.
Everyone makes it through Alpha’s territory with zero casualties, Carol makes peace with Lydia, and the group reaches Hilltop. But things are different now. Taking Ezekiel’s ring off her finger, Carol decides to go with Michonne, Daryl, Aaron, and Lydia back to Alexandria and there’s a glimpse of what their lives could look like. Judith and RJ get into a snowball fight with the group, and Michonne goes to thank Negan for saving her daughter from the cold. They survived the cold by sticking together, and their best chance of surviving the Whisperers is to do the same.
Alpha, who remains absent for most of the hour, reemerges once the cold winds have died down. “I’ll need to be stronger for what comes next,” she says. And she’ll do that the same way she tried for her daughter. She peels the leaves from a vine and hands it to Beta, who whips it repeatedly across her arms, leaving behind the same lash marks Daryl once found on Lydia. As the strikes continue, Alpha may wince, she may strain, but she remains quiet, pensive, determined.