NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Walking Dead”, including multiple major character deaths, are present in this review
Last week may have ended on a bit of a frustrating note, considering that the proper ‘Whisperer War’ had freshly kicked off for a few minutes, only to demand that viewers tune in next week for the rest of the fight. Fortunately though, “Walk with Us” ends up being well worth the wait, since it’s a strong, character-driven episode that sees the survivors separated in the wake of the siege on Hilltop. Before that however, we get a strong dose of continued action at Hilltop itself, when the initial wave of Alpha’s walkers close in on Hilltop’s citizens, forcing their finest fighters to desperately try and repel the undead advance. Inevitably though, there will be losses.
Like many of The Walking Dead’s strongest episodes however, these losses are unexpected and often brutal. The tide of the Whisperer War already ends up taking an enormous turn in the end to boot, with a fantastic ending twist here that fans of the Walking Dead comic books may be able to somewhat anticipate, but the franchise’s pure TV enthusiasts are bound to be completely blown away by it. This twist is very well-earned with a great selection of character subplots as well, as the displaced Hilltop survivors try to make it to a rendezvous, while dodging the prying eyes of the Whisperers, as well as the inevitable hazard of more walkers in the area.
The surprises begin early as well, with Magna stumbling into a broken wall at Hilltop during the opening fight, dirtied, bloodied, and seemingly undetectable to the walkers. Connie is still missing for the time being, no doubt because this whole separation plot was probably the show’s excuse to temporarily relieve Lauren Ridloff, so she could go film her role for Marvel Studios’ Eternals, but regardless, Magna does get a nice moment of reconciliation with Yumiko once they make it to safety. Kelly, meanwhile, ends up with Alden and Mary, who have to try and keep a crying Adam quiet, and inevitably fail to avoid drawing walkers in the process. Making matters even worse is that Beta ends up cornering this group as well, with Mary ultimately making the decision to lock Alden and Kelly away with Adam, while she fights off oncoming walkers, and soon after, Beta.
The intriguing mystery of Beta’s character developed even more interesting dimensions after this battle, even if it came at the expense of Mary inevitably failing to kill Alpha’s right-hand enforcer. Mary is officially out of second chances with the Whisperers as well, with Beta killing Mary and waiting for her to re-animate after their duel, seemingly to join the Whisperers’ walker horde. Even more shocking however is the point following Mary tearing off some of Beta’s walker mask during their brief fight, whereupon another Whisperer appears to recognize who Beta actually is. Beta is clearly a person of some importance, possibly a celebrity from the pre-apocalyptic world (potentially mimicking Beta’s true identity from the source comics), and Beta even goes as far as to kill the inquisitive Whisperer to keep his identity concealed. This interesting turn with Beta becomes even more crucial towards the end of this episode as well, but I’ll get to that.
Where this episode sometimes faltered a bit more is with Carol’s character, yet again, who happens to be wandering with Magna, Eugene and Yumiko. Carol’s pity party is really getting old at this point, and it’s just becoming a contrived excuse to cause more cheap drama. The end of this episode does somewhat make up for this, but the show really needs to do something else with Carol by this point. Likewise, an otherwise strong twist with Earl is somewhat ruined by more cheap drama, after Earl manages to get Hilltop’s children, including Judith, to safety in Ezekiel’s stead. Earl, however, has been bitten, and Judith ultimately discovers the fatal injury, ultimately leaving Earl to kill himself via a wooden stake to his skull. Inevitably though, this is a stupid plan, stakes don’t work that way, and Judith is forced to put Earl down as a walker anyway, nearly dying herself in the process, and making Earl’s overblown demand to stay away and let him kill himself even more stupid and frustrating. Fortunately, Ezekiel is at least found in Hilltop’s rubble by Daryl and Jerry, and all of the kids make it back safely to the grown-ups in the end.
Like I said though, it was the final resolution of this episode that will have viewers on the edge of their seats, in the best, most shocking way. This surprising conclusion is first teased when Aaron encounters Negan wearing his skin mask in the woods, with Negan insisting that he’s not an enemy, before walkers allow him to get away from a furious Aaron. This storyline gets even more intriguing after Negan captures and successfully ties up Lydia in a cabin as well, eventually leading Alpha to her location, while Alpha insists that her daughter has to die. Once Alpha approaches the cabin however, she finds it empty, with Lydia being stashed somewhere else entirely. Negan then slits Alpha’s throat, successfully killing her, and eventually rolling Alpha’s severed, re-animated head over to Carol! This is a similar manner through which Alpha met her demise in the source comics, which is why I mentioned that comic book fans may nonetheless see this big twist coming in advance. Outside of that crowd though, this was a brilliantly executed and unexpected end for Alpha, one that gives Carol back at least some credibility, since she was apparently working with Negan to eliminate Alpha the whole time.
Mind you, Carol’s melodrama still needs to be firmly put to rest, and I hope the fact that Alpha’s now dead will finally allow her to do that. Outside of more tired Carol drama, and that weirdly-executed Earl death however, “Walk with Us” definitely stands as one of the strongest and most shocking episodes of The Walking Dead’s current season. This episode definitely ended up being a bit of a bloodbath, but not in the way that viewers might expect. Alpha’s unpredictable demise will certainly not be anticipated by people who haven’t read the source comics at least, and while Earl’s death was a bit dumb, Mary’s equally unexpected loss at the hands of Beta definitely ended up stinging a bit, after she’d just proven her loyalty to the distrustful Alden. Speaking of Beta, I guess he’s now going to step in as the show’s big bad for the duration of the Whisperer War. We still have four episodes left for the Whisperers to make a final stand, before The Walking Dead presumably moves on to new villains next season, and hopefully the show can now capitalize on Beta now being more interesting, and more dangerous, than he’s ever been!
- Intense opening Hilltop battle
- Mary sacrificing herself to save Alden and her nephew
- Negan successfully and shockingly killing Alpha
- Some character frustrations with Carol and Earl