Although The Walking Dead‘s tenth season debuted all the way back in 2019, it’s still kicking here in 2021. While part of that is obviously due to the pandemic temporarily shutting down production, the show also decided to extend Season 10 by six episodes, the first of which aired on AMC this evening.
In case you don’t remember what happened during The Walking Dead‘s most recent episode before this one (which aired back in October), here’s a quick refresher:
- Gabriel and the tower defense crew defeated Beta and his horde, thanks in no small part to the return of Maggie along with a mysterious/badass masked stranger.
- Beta got eaten.
- Lydia and Carol hugged and made up.
- Lydia and Negan hugged and made up.
- Carol and Daryl hugged and made up.
- Connie somehow survived an underground explosion and collapsed in front of Virgil.
- Eugene, Ezekiel, Princess, and Yumiko tried to meet up with Stephanie, but ended up being surrounded by soldiers from the Commonwealth, instead.
As always, this review will contain plenty of spoilers.
The episode opens with Maggie and Judith on a zombie clearing stroll through the woods together. After discussing how much they miss the most important people in their lives, they arrive at a caravan packing up supplies. This wouldn’t normally be a momentous occasion, but Negan happens to be there helping out.
As you might imagine, this makes things all types of tense/awkward.
Negan bashfully explains that he didn’t escape his cell and he’s here of his own volition. Maggie glares at him for a moment before storming off, causing the former Saviors leader to show a rare moment of unqualified humility.
Later, Maggie meets up with Daryl and Carol in the woods as they continue to coordinate mop up duty from the tower fight. She introduces Cole and Elijah (the one in the mask) and asks if it would be possible to return with them to her former home.
Daryl and Carol take them to the ruins of Hilltop, where Carol also admits that Negan was working undercover with the Whisperers when they destroyed it. Learning that one of the OG Walking Dead crew let her husband’s killer out of his cell does not sit well with Maggie, but she also appreciates that Carol told her. As if things needed to be even more awkward, Cole helpfully points out that changing course to Alexandria would mean Negan and Maggie will have to live in the same place together.
After Maggie walks away, Daryl tells Carol that she shouldn’t have said anything about her part in giving Negan his freedom. Carol counters that Maggie deserved to know.
Later, the group is joined by Kelly as they make their trek back to the camp with the rest of Maggie’s people and her son Hershel (Carol decides to go straight to Alexandria). Despite the sun setting, Maggie refuses to stop until they are nearly out of daylight. Thankfully, they just happen to find a parking lot filled with storage units and zombies, which provides both shelter for the night and a chance to show how badass everyone is as they clear the place out. Maggie receives a nasty cut in the process, but otherwise everyone is fine.
That night, Maggie tells Daryl about how she’d spent the last few years trying to help Georgie recruit other people to build communities.
*Side Note: Georgie (pictured below) was the woman we saw back in Season 8 who gave Maggie/Hilltop a bunch of food and engineering plans in exchange for records.*
They were often able to get various infrastructures set up, but had little success maintaining the communities they started. The last time Maggie saw her, Georgie had gone out west to investigate a new city and hadn’t been heard form since. In the meantime, the last community Maggie was a part of “fell,” forcing her, Hershel, and her traveling companions to flee. Daryl asks her to elaborate on what happened, but she’s responds that she’s not ready to talk about it yet.
Maggie then tells him about a stretch of time she and Hershel spent at a beachside home her nana used to own. Things were wonderful until the day he asked how his father died and if the man who killed him got what he deserved. Even though Maggie left Hilltop because Negan was taking up so much space in her head, she couldn’t escape the devastating impact he’d had on her life. The next day, Maggie and Hershel met a new group of people that needed help…and once again things didn’t go well.
Daryl encourages Maggie to come back to Hilltop while also telling her that things with Negan aren’t decided yet. She seems unsure, but also admits that she understands why Carol made the decision that she did.
Searching for Signs
The next morning, the group is about to leave when they realize that Kelly (who was supposed to be on watch) is missing. Turns out she decided to go into the woods by herself and look for her sister Connie, which seems super safe/smart.
Just as she’s about to climb into an abandoned truck to get a jacket that was left on top of it (?), Maggie grabs Kelly’s ankle and chides her for leaving her post. When Daryl explains that Kelly lost her sister and is looking for her, Elijah scampers up to the top of the truck like Legolas taking down an oliphaunt and gets the jacket for her. Maggie then reveals that Elijah lost his sister, as well.
When the jacket unsurprisingly doesn’t offer any clues to Connie’s fate, the group leaves. Later, Daryl admits that he also tried looking for Connie before, but never found her. Maggie says that Kelly won’t be able to begin grieving/healing properly until she accepts that her sister is gone.
Just as the group is closing in on their destination, Maggie sees a fire burning and begins sprinting toward it. They arrive to find the camp burned, two of Maggie’s people dead, and Hershel gone. Cole says that the “Reapers” must have tracked them down. He tries to give Kelly and Daryl a much needed explanation of who these new antagonists are, but Maggie dramatically interrupts him by yelling “ENOUGH!” before demanding that they focus on finding their people and her son.
As the group begins tracking the footprints of Hershel and the Reapers, Daryl interrupts Maggie’s partial explanation of who the Reapers are by promising that they’ll find them.
*Side Note: Oh c’mon!
The group eventually splits up into two teams to cover more ground–Daryl and Maggie in one and Cole, Elijah, and Kelly in the other. Elijah gives Daryl and Carol a lingering stare as they depart, which might mean something significant or just be a chance to show off his cool looking mask.
But I digress…Cole’s group hears something in the woods and takes cover. When Cole gives them the signal to get moving again, Elijah freezes and refuses to go. Kelly asks him to pull up his mask, which he does. As he trembles with fear, she gives this badass warrior (who we’ve seen take down both walkers and Whisperers with ease) a pep talk to help him get going again.
*Side Note: Yes, it’s exactly as contrived and cheesy as it sounds.
Meanwhile, Daryl nearly kills one of Maggie’s people until she tells him to stand down. After gathering the rest of the survivors together, they explain that their camp was set on fire and the Reapers have been hunting them in the woods ever since (which we basically knew already). One of the survivors also reveals that they haven’t seen the woman who was watching/protecting Hershel in hours.
A moment later, one of the survivors is shot in the neck and killed by an unseen person.
Reaping the Whirlwind
Maggie, Daryl, and the two other survivors (who might as well be wearing red Star Trek uniforms) flee. One of them gets shot in the stomach and the other is shot in the chest when she goes to help her. As the shooter takes aim the surviving main characters, Maggie attempts to flank him only to find an abandoned sniper rifle.
The Reaper (wearing a ghillie suit) pops out from his hiding place and attacks Maggie. She manages to jab a knife into this soldier, but he simply pulls it out before backing her into a hidden rope snare. Just as he’s about to reach her, Daryl hits him with a crossbow arrow in the leg. He somehow shrugs it off before grabbing Daryl as he charges and throwing him against a tree.
The Reaper then takes off his ghillie suit and begins closing in on Maggie, but is shot again with an arrow from Kelly–this time in the chest, which stops him. As Kelly, Cole, and Daryl surround the man, Maggie demands that he tell him who he is and why the Reapers attacked her people. He responds by declaring “Pope marked you” before blowing himself up with a grenade.
Yeah…I have no idea, either.
Later, Maggie and Daryl find Hershel hiding in a tree and looking no worse for wear.
That night (at another conveniently located shelter), Maggie thanks Kelly for helping Elijah. She then asks Kelly about Connie, who explains that her older sister always looked after her. She also reveals that she can tell Maggie was an older sister once by the way she leads people.
Rather than telling Kelly to begin grieving, Maggie says that she hopes to meet Connie some day, which Kelly says she will. Maggie also tells Daryl that she’s decided to bring Hershel, Cole, and Elijah to live in Alexandria.
The next day, the group (plus a few random extras) arrive in Alexandria to discover that a large portion of it was demolished or burned by the Whisperers before they were defeated.
Negan eyes Maggie warily as she takes Hershel’s hand and leads her son through their new home.
Yes, it was great to see Maggie again. Unfortunately, the main conflict we all wanted (her confronting Negan) was relegated to being a pair of quick bookends in an otherwise unremarkable episode.
I’ll admit to being somewhat interested in the Reapers, although the parade of weirdo antagonists The Walking Dead has been giving us over the last several seasons is starting to feel pretty stale.
Also, there were a ton of individual moments that didn’t make a lot of sense. Elijah wearing a mask because he’s scared could have been interesting, but it doesn’t line up AT ALL with anything we’ve previously seen from him. It’s a bit hard to believe he was blubbering with fear the entire time he was slicing through Whisperers and zombies like a knife through butter.
Maggie’s revelations about her past also could have been handled much better, especially the passing mention about Georgie. Most folks probably still had to run to Google to look her up like I did. I don’t expect the show to give us a giant exposition dump or flashbacks, but Maggie’s constant and bizarre failures establishing new communities deserved more explanation than what we got. It could be coming later, but for now it makes the narrative feel unmoored.
And don’t even get me started on the perfectly timed interruptions whenever someone tried to explain who the Reapers were.
As normally happens with subpar episodes of The Walking Dead, this one was saved by some great individual performances. We all knew Norman Reedus (Daryl) and Lauren Cohan (Maggie) would be great, but Angel Theory used her extra screen time to make Kelly far more interesting and likable than we’ve ever seen (aside from that weird jacket incident).
Let’s hope the next time this plot thread is picked up it gives us a couple great individual performances from Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan). I can live with us never fully understanding Maggie’s time away if we just get to see that.
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