The Walking Dead
Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Some of the year's biggest blockbuster movies have been pulled, New York's Broadway theaters are shut down, pretty much every major pop culture event you can think of within the next couple months are delayed or axed entirely. What isn't is the current television schedule. While the real world offers up never-ending dread and anxiety, The Walking Dead delivers another high piece of entertainment. Make no mistake, it still feels weird to glimpse a world ravaged by zombies in the time of the 2020 pandemic. At least this week's episode offers thrills, emotional heartstrings, and some surprises that will have intense ripple effects throughout the on-going war against the Whisperers.

In "Walk With Us," the 12th episode of season 10, we return to Hilltop, which has fallen into chaos.

The mansion burns, the walls topple, Earl and Alden are loading catapults with literally whatever objects they can get their hands on, Carol loses arrows from her post on the watch, and everyone else fights to survive the night. Aaron, a morning star gauntlet for a left hand and a sword clutched in his right, hacks away at the dead, who have breached the walls. Each walker that is slain piles lifelessly on top of the previous ones that fell, until their corpses rise so high that they form a barrier around the snarling horde. It evokes hints of both the "Battle of the Bastards" (with the piles of dead bodies) and "The Long Night" (with the dead invading home base) from Game of Thrones. It's also an echo of season 2 of The Walking Dead: the image of a burning barn overrun by the dead.

Amid the chaos, Yumiko spots Magna. She somehow made it out of the cave and has been walking with the horde, covered in entrails to mask her smell. Ezekiel gathers the children to flee their crumbling home, but Judith is missing. She joined the battle against Daryl's wishes and managed to subdue a Whisperer. With his mask now off, her enemy pleads to be spared. Judith pauses, but she cut too deep and now must watch as the realization that she took a human life settles in. Earl makes it to her and both escape to safety.

And then the action stops. It's morning, and Hilltop has fallen.

Our heroes have dispersed. As smoke wafts over the remains of Hilltop, Daryl, Carol, Rosita, and the others weave through the woods in small, separate groups, heading for a pre-planned rendezvous point. We first see Aaron. He's dragging along an unconscious Luke when he spots a masked Negan, who was tasked with gathering up more "guardians" to help rebuild the horde when he spied Lydia hobbling through the trees and gave chase. He found Aaron instead. Negan tries to tell Aaron it's not what it looks like, but he's too overwhelmed with rage. Aaron would've fought him but walkers began to approach and he chose to protect Luke instead, allowing Negan leeway to go and capture Lydia.

Kelly, Alden (with baby Adam), and Mary are another group. Alden is finally warming up to Mary, but then walkers overwhelm them. The babe's cries draw more to their location as they race across crinkling leaves and dried branches until they spot a vacant van. Mary closes the door with Kelly, Alden, and the baby safe instead and leads the dead away. She disposes of them by a stream and, believing to be in the clear, takes a moment to feel the sunlight on her face. It's something her sister once did in the field before she was killed. Sure enough, it proves to be a bad omen. Beta erupts out of nowhere and stabs Mary, savoring the blade's impact as she beats helplessly at his frame. Before she takes her last breath she's able to claw off a piece of Beta's mask. Another Whisperer nearby sees his true face and recognizes him. This man wasn't sure who Beta was before, though he knew his voice. Before the Whisperer can say his name, Beta cuts him down as well. Hmmm…

There was a theory going around online back during the last season of Fear the Walking Dead. Daniel and Grace were out walking when he drops a crate of old records. The singer shown on one of them looked an awful lot like actor Ryan Hurst, who plays Beta on The Walking Dead. It felt far fetched at the time, but perhaps Beta was a bit of a celebrity before he went all stir crazy. He wouldn't be the first celebrity to get wrangled into a nefarious cult.

Beta waits for Mary to come back as a walker, but Alden shoots an arrow through her head instead of letting her become a part of the horde. Beta runs off.

Carol, Eugene, Yumiko, and Magna are off in another group and we learn a bit of what happened to Connie. Magna tells Yumiko they fought their way through the cave looking for an exit when they found themselves faced with the horde. They got separated and Magna couldn't find Connie. Magna needs a moment to rest, Yumiko comes for Carol when it looks like she'll leave Magna behind, Magna and Yumiko decide it's better to break up (drama!), Carol tells Eugene to go meet this women (that they still don't fully know about) if it's important, and Carol kills a walker and then freaks out when she finds a Hilltop staff near its body.

Daryl, Rosita, and Jerry lead another group to the rendezvous point where they hope to find Ezekiel and the children. All they find is a single walker that stumbles out the front door, leading them to believe they might've been attacked. Instead, Earl led Judith and the other kids to a different cabin. Daryl and Jerry circle back to Hilltop and find Ezekiel had been knocked unconscious underneath a piece of falling sheet metal. He tells them Earl has the kids and they go to find them. When they arrive, it's a bleak scene. The kids are alright, but Judith sits in silence, leaning against a wall in the backroom, next to Earl's dead body. He was bit during the battle and went in the back to kill himself. Judith was the only one who knew. But he didn't hit his brain so he rose again as a walker, forcing Judith to cut him down. Daryl sits with her in silence.

In a different cabin in some unknown location, Lydia comes to. She's tied to a chair and thrashes about frantically. She knows her mother is on her way and will kill her when she arrives. But, when she gets free and rushes out the door, just when it seems like Negan is leading Alpha to her, she opens the door to an empty field. It was a trick of the camera. Yes, Negan was leading Alpha to a cabin, just not the cabin. When Alpha turns around upon finding an empty room, she gasps as Negan slits her throat. Yes, Alpha is dead. And that's not all.

Negan carries her decapitated, growling walker head in a burlap pouch through the woods. He rolls it on the ground before the person who tasked him with assassinating Alpha. It's the same person that loosed him from his jail cell at Alexandria way back when. It's Carol. "Took you long enough," she says. It's slightly different than the comics, but only slightly. On the page, Negan does decapitate Alpha, but it's Brandon, an Alexandrian resident with beef against Rick, who lets him out and it's Rick and Andrew who are presented with Alpha's head. If the comics are any indication, this war is not over though. There's still Beta to contend with. But without their Alpha, the Whisperers are left without their commander.

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The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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