The Walking Dead recap: Maggie arrives… and so does [SPOILER]
Lauren Cohan returns to TWD for season 10's non-finale, while a long-teased comic presence finally makes an introduction.
It's been a while since we last touched base with The Walking Dead. Six months, in fact. But, despite the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, showrunner Angela Kang and the producers behind the AMC zombie drama finally finished the long-sought season 10 finale, which is now no longer billed as a finale as AMC tacked on an additional six episodes to season 10 to air sometime next year.
But first, a reminder of where we left things.
The community abandoned Alexandria for a large building complex in the wake of another horde attack after Hilltop was decimated. Carol and Kelly went on a mission to retrieve radio parts for Luke, while Aaron and Alden were trapped in a tower at Alexandria without the ability to warn Gabriel and the others. Daryl went out into the woods after Judith, who's still dealing with the absence of her mother. That's when Beta, in the midst of a total mental breakdown while wearing a mask made up of half-Alpha, susses out where the Alexandrians are hiding and leads the horde to their new doorstep. Meanwhile, Eugene is leading Ezekiel, Yumiko, and their new friend Princess to the rendezvous point to meet Stephanie, the woman from a different community (we know which one by now) he's been radioing with for weeks.
Now, here's what happened next.
It is pure chaos within the walls of the group's new hideout. Everyone is scrambling to get battle-ready. Daryl helps defend Carol and Kelly as they regroup at home base, while Aaron and Alden are still fighting their way through Whisperers in the woods. The latter are seemingly accosted by a Man in the Iron Mask-looking warrior wielding two scythes. Turns out, this guy is with Maggie, the first of three big arrivals in the hour. Lauren Cohan's character, who's been absent since the fifth episode of season 9, is on her way to aid her former group after reading a dire message left for her by Carol — which is good because one of the first things we see is Eugene crashing his bike and fearing that they won't make it to the contact point before Stephanie leaves.
Back at the building complex, the group is formulating a plan. Luke needs to reach a wagon that's resting on the outskirts of the walker horde, which is now surrounding the building on all sides. He needs to hook up the radio and speakers, which they can then use to lure the horde away and over a cliff. They just, of course, need to make it through the horde.
A small squadron — including Daryl, Carol, Magna, Jerry, and a couple Oceansiders (who refuse to work with Lydia in the field) — is tasked with leading Luke through the dead by pulling the old "cover yourself in walker guts" trick. They still have to worry about "the Skins" (i.e., the Whisperers), but there's a plan for that, too. Gabriel assembles archers to keep watch on the group's progress, and Lydia points out which in the horde are Whisperers. They then unleash hell and watch as the dead turn on their guardians.
Beta soon realizes his enemies are among the horde and commands his forces to "tighten the herd," meaning the dead are corralled so close together that it becomes difficult for the archers to distinguish their friends from their adversaries. Gabriel is then warned of the arrival of a second troupe of Whisperers trying to break into the building when one of them trips Daryl's explosive trap on the stairwell. Now, it becomes about evacuating the women and children, while Gabriel and the others defend the stairwell. In the commotion, Negan and Lydia make their own plans; Negan hands Lydia a Whisperer mask (what appears to be her mother's old mask) and slips off down the elevator shaft.
Most of Luke's group manages to make it into the woods. There are just a few stragglers left, including Carol. She's with Beatrice, a member of Oceanside, who's carrying one of the backpacks filled with the radio equipment. Without the archers, they don't have many options when a knife-wielding Whisperer approaches in the field. Carol is able to stab her, but the attacker also knifes Beatrice when she goes down. As the dead swarm on both, Carol walks away, trying to ignore their screams. She then turns to see what happened to the backpack and finds that Lydia, who snuck into the horde with her mask, picked it up.
It's not long before they have the wagon radio up and running and the horde completely changes direction — following the melody of "Burning Down the House," no less. But defending the wagon is more difficult than it looks, especially when night falls. They're able to stop a few of the charging Whisperers, but one throws a trap across the road, which takes out the front wheels. Daryl and the others are forced to abandon it.
Here comes the Hail Mary. (No, not Maggie just yet.) Daryl concludes they must blend in with the horde once more to kill the Whisperers. Lydia says her mom taught her how to wrangle walkers and without worrying about other attacks from Beta's forces would be able to lead them away. At this point, they don't know yet that Maggie has arrived. Gabriel is the last one left in the building and is easily overwhelmed by the Whisperers once they break through. He's held down as one of them raises their weapon to deliver a fatal blow, but Maggie's two-bladed bodyguard comes spiraling in with a ferocious attack.
Outside, Daryl and the others are making good on their promise. Beta's eyes dart in every direction as the screams of his followers pierce the air. Then, a softer sound distracts him. A whisper. "Hey, s—head." It's Negan, come to face the brute in combat. And he gets his ass kicked at first. But it gives Daryl the opportunity to plunge his blades into Beta's eyes. The hulking Beta is then embraced by his own (i.e., he's devoured by the dead).
There's one last callout to Beta's pre-apocalypse celebrity identity when his mask slips off and Negan exclaims, "Oh s—! You know who that is?"
"Yeah, nobody," Daryl responds.
Lydia is able to finish the job by leading the horde to a cliff to meet a watery demise. But Carol tries to take over. She seems ready to die with the horde for her past sins as she edges closer and closer to the edge. Lydia grabs her arm at the last second and pulls her back. The two embrace near a ditch as they watch the walkers fall into the waves below.
The survivors of the day regroup in the woods. Maggie finally gets to see the kid ass-kicker Judith grew up to be and Daryl asks Carol about New Mexico, a destination they fantasized about heading toward in the season 10 premiere. She says, "Maybe someday," but "we still have things to do here." As it happens, AMC greenlit a Daryl-Carol spin-off series, so perhaps "someday" isn't as far off as we might think.
But, yes, they do have things to do. Connie is one of them. She's been MIA since the Whisperer caves collapsed, but she comes in as the second big arrival of the hour. Connie is covered in mud, perhaps as a way to mask her from the dead. She's visibly exhausted, stumbling through the trees until she collapses again on a dirt road. Someone on horseback stops beside her. She looks up and sees Virgil, the man Michonne escorted to his island once upon a time.
And now for the third big arrival. Eugene & Co. finally make it to the rendezvous point (an abandoned train yard) to meet Stephanie, but she's not there. Fearing they missed her, Eugene takes Ezekiel and Yumiko's pep talk to heart and vows to continue searching for her. That's when the area lights flash on and heavily armed soldiers surround them. Their armor is white with various stripes layering their chest pieces. These are comic book-accurate designs for the Commonwealth, the advanced community that has long been teased for the show. They are finally here.
There are only 31 episodes left on The Walking Dead before the show concludes: six bonus season 10 episodes for next year and 24 episodes for season 11. The Commonwealth, it would appear, is a part of that endgame plan.