The Walking Dead (pseudo) season finale recap: All hail Princess!
Thanks to the coronavirus, The Walking Dead season 10 penultimate episode is now the season 10 finale. As previously reported, post-production on the 15th episode could not be completed because of the current self-isolation environment in which we live, so the planned season finale will air at a later time as a Walking Dead special. And while this week's run clearly wasn't meant to cap the Whisperer War, at least we have Princess.
Actress Paola Lazaro made her debut as comic book character Juanita Sanchez, a.k.a. Princess, in the final minutes of last week's "Look at the Flowers." In "The Tower," we actually get to spend time with her, and like the splashes of pink (from her jacket) and purple (from her hair), Princess herself is a delightful pop of color to these dark times in the zombie apocalypse. Believe her when she tells Ezekiel, Yumiko, and Eugene, "I'm great! You'll see."
The aforementioned trio cut through the city on their way to meet Stephanie when they came across Princess. Just like in the comics, she doesn't like to be called Queen because she doesn't want to "sound old and pretentious." She and her machine gun have been living by themselves in the city for more than a year, and she's clearly a bit loopy from it. But that leads to a surprise touch of comedy as she has full conversations with herself in front of the others, trying to figure out whether these three newcomers are actually real people or just hallucinations she conjured from being alone all this time. "Talking to possibly real people again is making me freak out," she rambles.
The comedy masks a tragic backstory, as we learn in the events that transpire after Princess tries to be helpful by shooting down walkers, only to spook the horses and leave Eugene's crew stranded in the city. She promises to lead them to a garage full of "wheels," which turn out to be bicycles. The group find that out only after Princess takes them through an actual minefield, which they could've avoided entirely by just walking down a side street. Yumiko could have put an arrow through Princess's head, but her story sways the archer to maybe liking her. Princess has been so lonely that she only led them through the minefield to keep the fun going. She was hoping that, by showing them the garage, they would want to be her friend. "Someone said to me, 'You're hard to love,'" she let slip. "Maybe they're right." There's more to that part of the story.
In the comics, Juanita's mother remarried and her new stepfather and step-brother would take turns physically beating her. They would tie her up in a closet and leave her there — alone — for hours at a time. She doesn't delve into this part of her life any deeper in "The Tower," but Eugene feels for her, having similarly once lied to people out of fear that he'd be left alone. When she finally brings them to the garage, Yumiko invites her to join their group.
All of this, it would seem, is meant to set up the introduction of the Commonwealth, the advanced community from the comics we keep seeing hints of on the show in various capacities. Princess, on the page, is a stepping stone for Eugene's group on their way to meeting Stephanie. That part still tracks on the show. The rest of the episode is meant to tee things up for a face-off with Beta and his horde.
Beta has legit gone nuts at this point, now that he wears a mask that is half of Alpha's face. He hears voices, some of which seem to be coming from his own head and others seemingly coming from the walkers themselves. When Whisperers call him "the new Alpha," he tends to slit their throats. He leads the horde to Alexandria, which has been nearly completely abandoned and he doesn't know why. So, he asks the voices, which tell him to be patient and to, in a Dory-like manner, just keep walking. Turns out, the community is abandoned because, as Daryl mentions, they "have a plan." They all relocated to a "tower," hence the title of the episode, inside a hospital. (It's not clear by the images alone, but could this be the same spot where Alpha and Lydia first met Beta years ago?) The only two who find themselves trapped in Alexandria with the horde are Alden and Aaron. They're hiding in a windmill as Beta surveys the scene. It's a moment that also feels transposed from the comics, wherein Beta surrounds a tower with his horde not knowing that Gabriel is hiding up top. When the good Father goes to escape, he gets caught on the ladder and ends up dying at the hands of walkers. The same fate does not behalf either Alden or Aaron, at least not in this episode. Instead, they quietly stalk the movements of Beta and the horde, who are on their way to Oceanside, and radio back to Gabriel what they learn.
Meanwhile, Carol and Kelly go on an errand for Luke to find radio parts for whatever plan they've got cooking. Carol apologizes for putting Kelly in that situation back at the cave, but Kelly understands why she did what she did and the two make peace. Then there's Negan, who tries apologizing to Lydia for killing her mother and urges her to say what she wants to say, even to hit him. It leads to a blowout where Lydia grapples with her feelings of hatred for her mother while still mourning her loss. It ends with a touching moment as Negan holds a crying Lydia in his arms.
Judith deals with a different set of feelings towards her own mother. She fears her family will never be reunited and goes off into the woods by herself to kill walkers. Daryl, who's been out patrolling, finds her and agrees to teach how to become a hunter like him. "A hunter doesn't move, everything else moves around him," he says. He teaches her to be mindful of what may be out of place in her environment and what that might tell her. She notices a piece of walker flesh stuck to a tree, which means more might be nearby. Daryl ends up putting an arrow through a Whisperer. They find her bleeding out in a ditch and question her. She doesn't seem to know anything beyond the fact that Beta is crazy, so Daryl puts an arrow in her head. This plays to Judith's fears of her family members being left behind alone. Although she doesn't tell Daryl about Michonne's mission to find Rick, she says her mom had to go help people she encountered and worries that Daryl might leave, too, some day. He can't promise he'll never leave some day, because who knows what might happen, but he promises that she has a larger family than she thinks.
Speaking of that family, Beta's psychotic fits actually lead him to the Alexandrians' new location. He notices a cat slinking along in the woods and he follows it to the hospital. Aaron and Alden can't warn the group in time because the radio signal is faulty and they end up getting captured. Gabriel radios for Daryl to come back, but by that point the horde is already on their doorstep.
So, now what? We don't know how long we'll have to wait to watch the 16th episode of season 10, but we know some things.
Eugene is so close to potentially bringing the Commonwealth into the fold, and with certain teases from the producers, that may also include the return of Lauren Cohan, who's been M.I.A. from The Walking Dead to pursue other projects. With her show, ABC’s Whiskey Cavalier, canceled, Maggie will now return to the story after going off to help Georgie, that mysterious newcomer who showed up near Hilltop one day before the time jump. “We may see her at some other point this season," showrunner Angela Kang once told EW during the airing of season 10, "but I don’t want to say too much about anything.” Might our theories be correct in that Georgie — and consequently Maggie — are members of the Commonwealth?
UPDATE: Well, Maggie will 100 percent return this season.
After the airing of "The Tower," a sneak peek screened of the next episode that revealed her character's comeback. With the tower under siege, Maggie goes to the spot where she has been regularly receiving letters from Hilltop. She usually gets them from Jesus. The camera doesn't reveal who penned this latest one, but Carol seems to be the author. The letter urges Maggie to make a trip home in light of the deaths of Jesus, Tara, Enid, and the writer's "son." Given the timeline of when Enid and Tara died, and the letter's mention of The Whisperers, it would seem the "son" is Henry.
Another clue comes in episode 16's title, "A Certain Doom," which takes its name from Vol. 28 in the comics. Potential spoiler warning: Consisting of six issues, that volume sees Beta unleash the dead on the group in the aftermath of Alpha's death, which so far jives with the show. Riders are sent to lead the herd elsewhere but it causes Andrea to be bitten and eventually die. Obviously, in the context of AMC's The Walking Dead, Andrea has already been dead for some time. But could there be someone else from the surviving members to meet this same fate?
There are lots of questions and, sadly, no answers. At least, not for an undetermined amount of time.
AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.