At long last, we’re finally able to see the delayed conclusion to The Walking Dead‘s tenth season. It does feel a bit disingenuous to call it a “finale” since the season will have extra episodes added next year, but it still serves as the definitive end to the “Whisperer War” story arc.
In case you’ve forgotten what happened since the penultimate episode aired back in April, here’s where we stand:
- After having a complete breakdown following Alpha’s death, Beta has led a massive horde to the hospital where our heroes are bunkering down.
- Princess has been invited by Eugene, Ezekiel, and Yumiko to come back to Hilltop with them. Before that, however, they have to try and make their rendezvous with Eugene’s ham radio girlfriend, Stephanie.
- Alden and Aaron got captured.
We also know a couple things thanks to the Season 10 finale preview that’s been floating around for a while.
- Maggie is officially back.
- Some badass looking person in an iron mask is going to show up and help Alden and Aaron.
All set? Then let’s dive in.
The episode opens with Gabriel frantically running through the tower and making preparations for Beta’s horde. He stops to assure two scared children that the combined strength of their communities will keep them safe. He also includes the people who are not there, which leads to a montage of the show’s various other characters and their subplots…which oddly includes Virgil (from way back in the season’s 13th episode) arriving at Oceanside.
Back outside the Tower, the fully insane Beta hears his horde tell him that they’re ready to attack. He responds by smiling and ordering them forward.
Tired and Wary
Elsewhere, the group heading to meet with Stephanie is stopped when Eugene has a minor bike accident. Yumiko and Princess are sure they can fix it, but Eugene says that the setback makes it impossible to get there anywhere close to on time. In a world without cell phones to text “I’m running late,” that likely means the rendezvous is off.
When Eugene suggests they give up and go home, Ezekiel refuses. He then gives a season finale speech about how his journey is theirs and that they won’t give up until it’s complete…even if it means carrying him over his shoulder.
Despite being properly inspired, Eugene is remains skeptical that Stephanie will still be around by the time they get there. Princess points out that you should never assume things before they’re proven to be true. She never thought she’d see people again, yet here she is.
Daryl laments to Carol how he doesn’t think they’ll ever see Michonne again while the pair lay traps around the tower. Carol reminds him that she’s still here for him.
Back upstairs, Gabriel goes over their battle/evacuation plan, which involves a remote stereo sound system Luke set up to lead the horde over a nearby cliff. Unfortunately, connecting the system involves getting to the other side of the horde first. Gabriel divides everyone into four groups of two–one carries cargo and the other protects them. Daryl points out that not all of them will make it, but it still has to happen.
As Carol begins preparing to head out, Lydia asks her not to avoid her anymore. She doesn’t hate her for killing Alpha/her mother, especially when it freed her to be with the good guys, instead. When Lydia asks if they can try talking to each other, Carol coldly responds that she needs to try finding her own way, instead. Lydia counters that she’s not looking for another mom–just a friend.
As the four groups smear walker guts on each other, Negan attempts to back out. He claims it’s because his status as Alpha’s killer will draw too much attention from Beta and the other Whisperers in the horde, but Daryl calls him on his BS and tells him to put his life on the line like everyone else. This apparently has no effect since Negan still doesn’t go out with them–or maybe he just noticed that they already had eight people and his potential inclusion was only for dramatic effect.
But I digress…Jerry opens one of the downstairs doors and allows a stream of walkers into an enclosed area. They walk right past the group of zombie-gut smeared humans, allowing them to shuffle safely out the door. As they carefully make their way through the horde, archers in the tower spot and take out any Whisperers who get near them (which has the added benefit of distracting a lot of the zombies with an unexpected snack).
Beta sees what’s happening and instructs one of his Whisperer lieutenants to tighten the herd, thus blocking the archer’s line of sight. Things get even worse when a Whisperer trips one of Daryl’s traps inside the Tower. It takes him out in gruesomely awesome fashion, but also allows the ones behind him to proceed unscathed.
While the others busy themselves barricading the doors, Negan tells Lydia that they could and should both leave, especially since no one from the group will ever trust them. He then gives her Alpha’s old mask and departs.
Back outside, all the groups make it except for Carol and some Oceanside extra named Beatrice who might as well be wearing a red Star Trek uniform. Sure enough, a Whisperer shanks her, which results in them both being eaten. She also drops her audio equipment, but it’s picked up by a masked Lydia, who makes meaningful eye contact with Carol before they both meet up with the others.
The group successfully hooks up the audio equipment and hitches it to a cart being pulled by world’s most calm and well-behaved horses as it blasts Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House”. The horde turns and follows the awesome 80’s tune, leaving Beta confused and angry.
Luke must have had a killer house remix of the song, because it’s still playing hours later when night falls. Unfortunately, this gives the Whisperers time to catch up and attack the group. After killing an extra I didn’t recognize (and who I swear wasn’t in the original group), the Whisperers manage to disable the cart, forcing our heroes to flee while the impromptu Talking Heads performance is shut down.
Daryl gets everyone to hide/regroup in the woods before radioing Gabriel to warn him that the walkers have turned back around toward the tower. He then tells everyone else his plan: Sneak back into the horde and kill all the Whisperers who are guiding it.
Lydia also says she knows how to lead the horde back to the cliff via a method her mother taught her, but doesn’t explain it (likely for dramatic purposes).
Over at the tower, Whisperers have nearly breached the last wall standing between them and the people inside. Gabriel gives Judith a message for Rosita before telling everyone to finish evacuating while he stays behind to guard the rope they’re using to climb down the elevator shaft.
*Side Note: As you can probably tell, I’m not exactly thrilled with this episode. That being said, I do like the dichotomy of this moment compared to the way he originally sacrificed his congregation to save himself.*
Gabriel puts up a valiant fight, but is quickly overrun by Whisperers. Just as they are about to kill him, however, Maggie, Aaron, Alden, and the bad ass mask dude show up and save him.
Back outside, Daryl’s plan to kill all the Whisperers is going surprisingly well. Beta notices Lydia wearing Alpha’s mask and follows her, but is stopped by Negan (*massive eye roll*). The two spar for a bit, but Beta gets the upper hand. He’s just about to kill Negan when Daryl shows up and jabs two knives through his head.
Beta smiles as walkers surround him, thankful to finally join the horde. Negan is shocked to see that their adversary was also the major recording artist known as Half Moon, but Daryl points out that now he’s nobody.
At the Edge
The next day, Lydia uses her special walker herding talents (which looks a lot like shuffling in one direction) to lead the horde toward the cliff. Just as she’s about to reach it, Carol shows up and insists she let her do it. Lydia initially does so, but pulls Carol back from the cliff seconds later. When Carol asked why she did that, Lydia says it was because she told her to “find her own way.” Carol thanks her and the two hold each other in a tearful embrace
In case that wasn’t cheesy enough for you, Lydia also throws Alpha’s mask over the cliff along with all the other walkers.
The next day, everyone who made it is happy and grateful to have survived the attack. Maggie and Judith see each other and embrace, which would mean much more if we knew about their shared history during a time when Judith wasn’t an infant.
Lydia asks Negan if he’s sticking around. He responds “for now” before pulling her in for a hug. Meanwhile, Carol admits to Daryl that she never got the revenge or atonement she’d been looking for. Daryl responds by telling her “you still got me,” leading to yet another hug.
Elsewhere, Connie picked this exact day to wake up and somehow end up above ground. Covered in dirt and story contrivances, she staggers out of the woods before falling in front of Virgil on horseback and passing out again.
That night, Eugene and his group get to the rendezvous point and discover that, as he predicted, Stephanie is not there. Despite being all types of disappointed, Eugene gives a speech about how they are going to keep going and discover who this new group of people are anyway.
That answer comes much more quickly than expected when a bunch of heavily armed dudes in white body armor surround them.
When you combine the almost six month wait with how the strong the rest of the season has been, this episode was a huge letdown.
About the only thing that excited me was the very end, but mostly because I recognized it as the start of one of my favorite storylines from the comic. For non-comic readers, it must have looked like the group was being swarmed by an extraterrestrial paintball team.
As far the main story is concerned, “A Certain Doom” was packed with more cliché moments than we usually get in a full season of The Walking Dead. The worst offenders by far were:
- Maggie and mystery mask dude showing up just in time to save Gabriel.
- Negan reconsidering and showing up at the last minute to save Lydia.
- Lydia rescuing Carol from yet another bad decision.
- Daryl once again reminding a broken Carol that he’s there for her.
There were also a ton of tiny story errors that added up into one big distraction, such as:
- Why would Negan be expected to slather zombie guts on himself if he wasn’t even part of the team heading outside?
- Why did it take the Whisperers until nightfall to figure out who was blasting “Burning Down the House” from a nearby sound system?
- Where did they get those horses to pull the cart?
- What was Lydia’s special method to get all the walkers to follow her?
And don’t even get me started on the things we don’t know yet. I’m cool with the soldiers at the end being a mystery, but it would be nice to know something about how Connie escaped the cave in. I expect we’ll learn more about Maggie’s return (and why she left), later, but it’s a bit odd not to have any clues/hints dropped about about the mystery mask guy who saved Gabriel’s life.
Also, I can’t be the only one who is not happy to see Virgil again.
On the positive side of things, this episode did have some really cool sequences, especially the walk through the horde. The attack on the cart was also pretty thrilling, although my admitted bias towards 80s music may have influenced my opinion there somewhat.
The moment between Negan and Lydia was sweet, although it still felt a little forced. Hopefully that pairing will pay off down the road along with other aspects of this episode that managed to be interesting. Until then, we’re left with a very unsatisfying end to an otherwise excellent season of The Walking Dead.