Last week, Gamma/Mary officially switched sides, Lydia returned to the Alexandrians, and Alpha swore to annihilate anyone not crazy enough to wear a skin mask and pledge their loyalty to her.
This week, we get to see how that all plays while also checking in on the Negan/Alpha (Nalpha?) relationship…or whatever it is.
The episode opens with Beta collecting sap from trees around the Whisperer camp, which at least seems like a productive way to blow off steam after failing a mission.
Meanwhile, Alpha has Negan whip her arm with a switch, allowing us a rare opportunity to watch him appear uncomfortable and embarrassed. Afterward, she does the same to him.
Following that heaping helping of weirdness, we see Alpha leading the horde and her Whisperers (including a skin-masked Negan) through the woods while chanting “We are the end of the world…we take them all…”
Back at the Hilltop, Eugene has continued to grow closer to Stephanie, the woman he speaks with via a rogue radio signal. She attempts to cajole him into singing a song for her, which Eugene bashfully refuses before shifting the conversation to their running count of falling stars and satellites. After learning that they both saw the same falling satellite recently, the pair quickly deduce that the’re only a few hundred miles from each other.
Eugene proposes that he and Stephanie finally meet face-to-face, offering to show up at a neutral site and give her a chance to scout him out from a distance before deciding if she wants to go through with it. Stephanie seems apprehensive at first, but this arrangement still sounds preferable to most online dating scenarios. Either way, she agrees to check with her people and see if they will allow her to do it.
Meanwhile, Aaron and Rosita bring Mary into town to see her nephew Adam. Unfortunately, Adam’s adopted father Earl has no intention of letting a former Whisperer see his son. After things between Earl and Aaron get a bit heated, Alden pulls Earl away, assuring him that he’ll make sure Mary doesn’t get near his son.
Elsewhere, Ezekiel finds Carol wallowing in self pity at one of Daryl’s campsites. After unsuccessfully attempting to get Carol to come back to Hilltop with him, he decides to simply sit and be with her, instead.
Back in Hilltop proper, Kelly, Yumiko, Luke, and Jerry prepare to go back to the cave to retrieve Magna and Connie. Before they can leave, however, Daryl rides up with Lydia, who tells them that they can’t go–Alpha and her horde are already coming to them.
Love is a Battlefield
Of all the places Rosita could have visited after arriving at Hilltop, she happens to wander into Eugene’s radio room at the exact moment Stephanie is hailing him. Eugene comes in just as Rosita is picking up the call and attempting to establish contact. As you might imagine, he is none too pleased that his former crush has just caused him to break his promise to Stephanie to keep their chats secret–and that Stephanie appears to have cut off their communication.
Over at Hilltop headquarters, Lydia and Daryl convince the community’s leadership that they need to evacuate to Oceanside, much to Earl’s chagrin. After loading up and making their way for a few miles, they find the horse path is blocked by a fallen tree–and that one of the Hilltop guards has been hung from a tree. Instead of continuing on foot, this completely insurmountable obstacle forces everyone to turn back. Daryl also decides that only Negan could come up with such a brilliant strategy as “cut down a tree and let it fall across the road” and declares that he likely did the same to every horse path leading out of town
Luke suggests they call Alexandria or Oceanside for help, but gets shut down. Apparently no one can get there, meaning they will have to make a stand with who they’ve got.
After a rousing speech from Earl, everyone gets to work making preparation for battle. Part of these preparations include Carol walking into Ezekiels room and discovering the cancerous lump on his neck. The two share a moment together which leads to them becoming intimate with each other. Afterward, the former couple jokes around a bit before admitting how much each of them lost when they lost each other.
Meanwhile, Mary tries to see Adam, but is cut off by Alden. Aaron tries to convince him to let Mary see her nephew, but he refuses. Instead, Alden gives a genuinely stirring rant about what a good father Earl is and how someone who was part of the group coming to destroy them has no right to see the child they abandoned.
Elsewhere, Negan attempts to convince Alpha she should force Hilltop and Alexandria to surrender instead of annihilating them. Alpha seems skeptical of this plan, but agrees to hear him out.
Rosita finds Eugene and tries make amends for violating his privacy and potentially ruining what he had with Stephanie…at least it seemed like that’s what she was doing initially. Instead, she ends up making fun of Eugene for not having any game before offering him a chance to kiss her to test if he really likes Stephanie. When he doesn’t, Rosita tells Eugene that he shouldn’t give up on Stephanie if she likes him anywhere near as much and he clearly likes her.
Meanwhile, Carol finds Lydia alone in a corner where she and Henry‘s names are still scratched inside of a heart on the side of a building. Carol sits down, lights up a cigarette, and declares that Lydia should hate her. Lydia responds by saying that it’s hard to do that when Carol seems to hate herself so much. When Carol replies that she is going to kill Alpha, Lydia counters by declaring that killing her mother won’t save them, which Carol says it will still feel good.
Despite the harsh words exchanged between them, the two appear to bond over the fact that they can actually be honest with each other about how angry and lonely they are.
Elsewhere, Kelly and Yumiko share a touching pre-battle moment together that’s rudely interrupted by a stampede of rats emerging from the woods.
The horde is almost to Hilltop.
When the Wind Blows
Eugene gets on the radio and attempts to hail Stephanie by serenading her with some Iron Maiden. The song is linked below, but sounds quite a bit different being performed solo by the mulleted-one. As Eugene continues to belt his heart out, we’re treated to a montage of everyone at Hilltop preparing to fight for their lives
In a particularly poignant moment, Ezekiel gives Lydia Henry’s old paintball armor. Aaron also gives Mary a spear, showing that he genuinely trusts and accepts her as someone who’s on their side.
As far as Eugene is concerned, his heart’s prayers are answered when Stephanie picks up the radio and joins in. She then asks who the woman was she heard on their radio signal. Eugene tells her it was Rosita, his best friend and someone he would like her to meet one day. Stephanie responds by saying she would like that, too–and giving him a location in West Virginia where they can meet in one week.
If you thought Eugene was going to fight hard before, Alpha’s horde has no idea what’s going to hit them now.
Meanwhile, Ezekiel and Daryl finally meet face-to-face. Instead of fighting for Carol’s love, however, Ezekiel admits that he is dying of cancer. Daryl expresses his sympathy along with his respect for how strong a man Ezekiel is despite how little they know each other. The two then pledge to make sure the children are protected if the other goes down in battle.
After Ezekiel departs, Daryl turns around to find Judith sitting nearby. When he tells her that she should be with the other children, Judith refuses, instead insisting that she wants to fight. After both admit that they are more scared of losing their loved ones than dying in battle, Judith presents Daryl with a new biker vest she made him. Clearly touched by the gift, Daryl makes Judith promise that if Ezekiel comes looking for her, she will take RJ and leave with him no matter what–even if she doesn’t know where her Uncle Daryl is.
After hugging Judith goodbye, Daryl goes outside to visit some of his friends’ graves. Carol soon joins him and painfully requests that he not hate her. Daryl replies that he could never do that before walking away.
That night, the horde arrives at Hilltop.
After struggling for a few seconds with Eugene’s electrified fence, they power their way through and head toward the fence, splitting into two groups. Aaron follows suit by splitting Hilltop’s ground forces while the archers begin firing from the back.
Meanwhile, Beta has the Whisperers load up the balls of tree sap he’d been gathering and sling shot them into the Hilltop front lines. Once the fighters are covered in sticky/flammable liquid, he orders the Whisperer archers to fire their flaming arrows.
Negan asks how the Hilltoppers are supposed to join them if they’re dead. Alpha responds that they will join her, but as part of the horde–much to Negan’s apparent delight. As the fence begins to break, the frontline Hilltoppers begin to fall back toward the main city gates, which are made of wood. Beta orders the archers–including Negan–to fire again, this time lighting the gate on fire and trapping a surprisingly large number of main characters between a wall of walkers and a raging inferno.
I’ve given this series a hard time for a while, especially the last couple episodes. This one, however, was actually very good.
Yes, there were still some ridiculous moments (like the blocked horse path incident), but not nearly as many as we’ve seen lately on a per episode basis. Also, the characterization was fantastic. I never thought I’d by moved by a moment featuring Alden exhibiting stubborn/righteous anger, yet here we are.
I also particularly loved Carol’s scenes with Ezekiel and Lydia. While I still hate how her character got to the point she is, these two scenes still managed to feel extremely raw and poignant in a way that was also completely believable for someone who’s been through what she has.
Even the stuff between Eugene and Stephanie is pretty moving, although it’s nearly ruined by Rosita’s odd (and out-of-character) head games, which felt weird, mean, and a little gross. Thankfully, it looks like the Stephanie/Eugene narrative will continue into something that’s not only good for both of them, but the story as a whole (link takes you to a big spoiler for the comic series).
And then you have the scene between Judith and Carol. If that didn’t tug at your heart strings a little, then you might be an unfeeling walker yourself.
Yes, the stuff with Negan is still weird (and not in a good way). Yes, the reasons for Hilltop not evacuating and/or calling for help are a bit absurd–especially after we learn that Rosita purposely didn’t call Gabriel because she didn’t want him to freak out.
But it was nice to finally see an episode again that featured consistently good characterization and a big battle with real stakes. The final fight might have taken a bit too long to get to, but at least there’s a decent chance that it’ll pay off next week with the first truly exciting episode we’ve had in a while.
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