Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead left us with a trio of cliffhangers:
- Eugene’s group (minus Yumiko) were arrested by Commonwealth authorities for attempting to contact Alexandria. Before things could get out of hand, Deputy Governor Lance Hornsby granted them clemency. Unfortunately, Stephanie (i.e. “Stephanie”) explained that his mercy would most certainly come with a price.
- Maggie and Negan were about to throw hands until Gabriel and Elijah arrived at the outpost. Much to Negan’s chagrin, the group decided to continue with Maggie’s suicide mission to raid Meridian for supplies.
- Aaron almost killed a Whisperer, but instead learned that Connie is still alive.
As always, the recap portion of this review will contain plenty of spoilers. The sequence of events has also been streamlined for the sake of clarity.
The episode opens with Connie and Virgil (who found her near the end of last season) running through the woods at night. We don’t see what they’re running from, but it’s enough to make them flee through a pack of walkers and break down the door to an abandoned house. One of the walkers gets inside, but Connie is able to kill it and close the door on the rest of them. She desperately tries to keep it closed as more walkers close in.
The next day, Connie takes a break from watching zombies to notice that the house they’re in looks a bit like the cabin from Evil Dead. Following that horrifying revelation, she takes out a map and begins looking it over.
Meanwhile, Virgil stalks through the house checking for walkers that weren’t hungry enough to make noise and/or eat them the night before. After determining the building is clear, he goes back downstairs to find Connie still anxiously staring at her map. Virgil reminds her that she hasn’t slept in three days and needs to rest. Instead, she has a PTSD-induced flashback of getting trapped in Alpha’s cave and goes to check the house again.
While cautiously wandering a hallway, Connie notices that it’s filled with portraits that have had their eyes scratched out. This seems like something both she and Virgil would/should have noticed on the first pass, but whatever.
She eventually finds a bathroom and looks inside the medicine cabinet. When her eyes wander to an opening for razor blade disposal, a yellowed eye pops up and stares back at her. It’s the most obvious jump scare set up imaginable, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t nearly make me piss myself.
Connie runs downstairs and attempts to tell Virgil what’s wrong, but he’s unable to understand her frantic signing. She then tries to write it down, but her pencil breaks (of course). This leads to her taking Virgil’s knife and carving ‘NOT ALONE’ into one of the nearby paintings.
Virgil goes upstairs to check the medicine cabinet. In true horror movie fashion (and without a trace of self awareness), he doesn’t see anything and thinks Connie may be hallucinating due to her lack of sleep. When he suggest they simply do another sweep of the house, Connie responds that she won’t stay in the house any longer and walks out. Virgil tries to follow her through the hallway, but the pair are separated when a random door slides closed between them.
A few agonizing moments later, Connie is attacked by a living person who has clearly gone feral. Thankfully, she’s able to outrun him and get behind the basement door before he can reach her.
Tracking on a Prayer
Over in Alexandria, Carol and Aaron argue about the best way to search for Connie. Rosita interjects with a pretty good plan, but gets interrupted when Magna asks if any of them have seen Kelly. Turns out Connie’s sister took one of the horses that wasn’t turned into jerky to search on her own.
After riding around for a bit, she somehow ends up finding Connie’s knapsack in the woods next to a dead horse. The journal/writing pad inside conveniently indicates she was with a man who knew Michonne (Virgil) and that they were being followed, which makes Kelly even more desperate to find her sister.
Despite being on horseback and heading out without any clear direction, Kelly is found by Carol, Magna, and Rosita. After showing them Connie’s journal, the group brilliantly deduces that she’s in trouble and decide to look for her together.
Fingering the Traitor
Over in Meridian, Frost is being tortured by one of the Reapers (Carver) for information about his people. Pope tells Daryl to take over, which makes Carver feel grumpy and unappreciated. Daryl, on the other hand, goes full method and begins working Frost over. When he refuses to break, Pope instructs his new recruit to start cutting pieces off of him.
Despite his impending agony, Frost still manages to slyly warn Daryl that Carver has drawn his gun in anticipation of him refusing Pope’s order. As if that weren’t impressive enough, both men remain in character even after Daryl cuts off Frost’s finger. Unfortunately, pain finally proves to be too much, forcing Frost to reveal the location of the Outpost where Maggie & Co. are holed up.
Pope sends Carver, Daryl, Leah, and three other Reapers to scout the location. Despite being highly trained military operatives, they move to enter the house while leaving Daryl alone, allowing him to get a signal to Maggie.
After searching the empty house, Carver assumes that Frost gave them a false location. Daryl realizes that Frost simply told them the wrong address and suggests they keep searching the (wrong) house they’re in. His gambit fails when Leah decides they should sweep the surrounding houses, as well.
The Reapers eventually locate and enter the Meridian outpost, which they quickly identify after finding wet rags on one of the tables. Daryl notices one of the rugs is disturbed, indicating that Maggie & Co. are hiding in a compartment beneath them. He manages to straighten and cover the area moments before Leah can tell anything is off.
In a further effort to sabotage their search, Daryl suggests that their targets must have fled and offers to track them. Carver responds by calling Daryl out for being so eager to leave after wanting to stay at the first house.
Leah tells the two men to stop arguing like toddlers and orders a perimeter search, sparing Maggie & Co. from being found (and Carver from getting a well deserved ass whooping). She then tells Daryl to stop pissing off Carver, which really isn’t fair since he’s instigated every disagreement between them.
Predictably, the two men resume arguing when Daryl makes another suggestion again that they leave (which he also uses as a brilliant way to provide his friends with some intel about the Reapers).
Leah tries to diffuse things, but Carver refuses to back down, accusing Daryl of being a traitor in their midst while assuring his teammate that he’s looking out for her. Leah righteously counters that Carver wasn’t exactly “looking out for her” when he knew she was going to get locked in a burning shed and let it happen
Daryl pours it on even more by admitting that he doesn’t care about the Reapers, but does care about Leah. He also admits that Pope totally scares the hell out of him, but he’s willing to trust the man if Leah says so. None of that is enough to sway Carver’s opinion, especially when he notices something off about the rug Daryl’s standing on and pulls it up to reveal a trap door. After opening it, however, there’s no one there.
Unbeknownst to him, Maggie & Co. somehow found a way out of the house and escaped from the trained military squad doing perimeter sweeps.
After the feral man gives up trying to break down the basement door, Connie walks downstairs to find the floor littered with human bones. Her terror is interrupted and amplified when a group of ferals break in and start heading in her direction. She manages to escape through an air duct, which also triggers a bad episode of PTSD from the cave in.
Meanwhile, Virgil escapes from another group of ferals and barricades himself inside a room. Unbeknownst to him, Connie just happens to be walking around on the other side of the wall. She sees Virgil through a small crack and frantically begins pounding her hands in an attempt to get his attention.
Unfortunately, he assumes the sound is another feral and begins stalking toward her with a knife. Things get exponentially worse when an actual feral begins crawling towards him from behind like the girl from The Ring. Connie tries to warn him by beating on the wall even harder, but to no avail.
*Side Note: This is BY FAR the scariest ‘The Walking Dead’ has been in years.
The feral jumps and pulls Virgil to the ground, choking him and growling the word “hungry.” When he appears to pass out, the feral lets his guard down, allowing Virgil to grab his knife and stab him in the chest.
Connie’s elation at his survival quickly turns to horror when Virgil gets up and begins stabbing through to the other side of the wall. She manages to tear away enough of it just in time to let him see its her and keep from getting killed.
That evening, Virgil reflects on how the ferals who were chasing them the day before had purposefully herded them into the house.
*Side Note: The fact that he does this while Connie isn’t even looking at him to read his lips shows an impressive lack of awareness.
He then gives Connie his knife and tells her to run while he sacrifices himself so she can escape. Connie refuses, but Virgil insists, explaining that it’s what he wants to do with second chance Michonne gave him.
After some more arguing, she gets him to agree that they’ll try to escape together, which they do…at first. But after making it through a few rooms, one of the ferals gets the jump on Virgil and stabs him in the back. Connie manages to drag him into the house’s main entryway as more ferals begin to close in.
Just as they’re about to be completely surrounded, she notices a nearby walker and spreads its guts on herself before opening the front door. Walkers pour into the house, causing what is arguably the most bizarre fight scene of the entire series and allowing Connie and Virgil to escape. A pair of ferals manage to follow them, but they’re stopped by a pair of shots from Kelly’s slingshot.
As Rosita, Magna, and Carol finishing clearing the area, we’re treated to a truly beautiful reunion between the sisters.
Made and Marked
The Reapers return to find Frost dead/zombified and tied to a post. They’re also shocked to see Pope in a jovial mood despite not finding/eliminating the targets he sent them after.
Pope explains that after they left, he continued to torture Frost and got all the intel he needed from him. He then gives Daryl a telling look and departs, exchanging friendly whispers/laughs with Carver along the way.
As the pair disappear into a nearby building, Leah begins to put things together and does not look pleased.
I know I’ve complained about The Walking Dead using a new psycho group every couple seasons, but these feral people were fantastic. The fact that we didn’t have to listen to them espouse a new variation on the same twisted world views certainly helped. But the way they moved and stalked their prey was what really got to me.
That alone would have been enough to make their part of the episode interesting, but the times when we switched to Connie’s POV without any sound made it downright terrifying. Lauren Ridloff also did an excellent job portraying Connie as genuinely scared, but not at all helpless. She’s still the badass survivor we left in that cave two seasons ago (and who we all know should end up with Daryl instead of Leah).
Heck, even Virgil was tolerable for the most part. What I did not expect to be so moved by was Connie and Kelly’s reunion. I’ve never been a big Kelly fan, but Angel Theory’s acting in that scene was incredible.
Yes, it was all types of stupid how we got to that point (randomly finding the camp site, Carol & Co. randomly tracking down Kelly in the woods, etc), but the end result was worth it.
Along those same lines, the Reaper portion of the episode was was bookended by some exceptionally intense scenes. Unfortunately, the middle section dragged things down a bit, especially Daryl and Carver’s by-the-numbers bickering. Add in the fact that a patrolling military squad couldn’t find Maggie & Co. when they escaped, and I’m starting to wonder how much of a threat the Reapers truly are.
That being said, watching Daryl and Frost stay in character through the latter’s interrogation was riveting. It also went to a place I did not expect, including Frost finally breaking to give slightly inaccurate (yet still actionable) intel.
I just hope Daryl’s turn as The Walking Dead‘s double agent doesn’t get dragged out in an ambiguous fog now. His feelings for Leah and his fear of Pope made for a compelling storyline (aside from Carver’s constant chirping, of course). Part of me wants Daryl back with the Alexandria group, but it feels like we just began to scratch the surface on what being with the Reapers would do to him.
At the very least it was going to be a lot more interesting than the time Eugene joined the Saviors while listening to Easy Street on repeat.
But even if The Walking Dead decides to burn this plotline, it finally appears to be headed towards an enjoyable final season. “On the Inside” was easily its best episode so far and was the first time in forever that the show actually scared me. If any of the remaining episodes are like this one, I may even ask my editors to let me review the Daryl/Carol spinoff next year…
…okay, probably not. But the fact that I even considered it for a moment is a sign The Walking Dead might finally be getting its groove back.
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