NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Walking Dead”, including multiple major character deaths, are present in this review
It’s been a long six months since The Walking Dead’s tenth season stopped a week shy of its planned season finale, due to production complications resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With post-production unable to be completed on the season’s then-final episode, Season Ten of The Walking Dead was thus left to dangle on a massive cliffhanger for half a year, as the Whisperer War reaches its climax, and the survivor communities band together to try and take down what remains of the Whisperers, now rallying under Beta. At the same time, Eugene’s splinter group continues to race to the meeting point with Stephanie, now having added Princess to their ranks, thus setting up the next major threat to the survivor communities as we know them. Yes, if you’re a fan of the source comics, it’s exactly the threat you think it is.
In a way, I can’t entirely blame, “A Certain Doom” for feeling like a bit of an anti-climactic conclusion to the Whisperer War, even if it’s evidently no longer the conclusion to Season Ten of The Walking Dead as a whole. AMC has tried to keep hype surrounding their televised Walking Dead universe relatively high by chatting up this episode in particular, which has excessively foreshadowed most of what we have to look forward to in advance. Not only that, but the Whisperer War could have only realistically ended one way anyhow, especially now that AMC has officially signaled the end for the flagship Walking Dead series with its upcoming eleventh season, which will be a super-sized offering split across both 2021 and 2022. A lot of us knew that The Walking Dead was running out of runway as it stands, but now that we know for sure, we can confirm that there’s only really one major threat from the comics that the mainline TV series has yet to explore.
That threat, of course, is the Commonwealth. Eugene’s group is predictably headed straight for them as well, which any fan of the comics could have easily anticipated in advance. The introduction to Princess during this season’s previous episode, which aired all the way back in April, at least made the jaunt towards the Commonwealth feel a bit fun and unpredictable, but disappointingly, this episode suddenly makes that journey disappointingly tedious and unfulfilling in comparison. After Eugene crashes his bicycle (somehow?), he’s immediately ready to give up on the journey to Stephanie (for some reason), only for his allies to urge him on. When Eugene’s group then eventually arrives at the meeting place, right when this episode is almost out of runtime, they find it empty, seemingly suggesting that they didn’t arrive in time. Of course, in reality, they’ve walked into a trap set by the unmistakable white armour-clad Commonwealth soldiers, of which Stephanie appears to be a part of. This will be an interesting cliffhanger for pure TV fans, but for people who originally got familiar with the Walking Dead universe through the comics, it’s an inevitable and trite way to end this episode, leaving Eugene’s journey to conclude on a bit of a whimper.
On the bright side, the journey through the massive herd of walkers brought by Beta and the Whisperers makes for a much better story device in this episode, especially for Lydia. After Gabriel formulates a plan that sees a band of survivors, including Daryl, Carol, Luke, Beatrice and Kelly, trying to smuggle a stereo system to a wagon in order to lead the herd away, the Whisperers end up attacking through the herd, creating what’s admittedly a pretty tense final battle, at least to start. Beatrice also ends up being killed during this walk through the herd, but seeing that Oceanside’s denizens haven’t gotten much meaningful development on this show at this point, it’s hard to care that much about Carol initially leaving Beatrice to die in vain, after Beatrice tries to hand her the valuable audio equipment, only for Carol to slink away. Fortunately, Lydia nonetheless salvages the valuable audio gear using her mother’s skin mask, urged on by both Carol and Negan to find her own path, and as a result, she ends up becoming the saviour of the communities, allowing Luke to rig up some loud tunes that lead the walkers away from Gabriel’s building.
What follows next is the Whisperers finally striking from the herd by night, in another fairly cool final battle scenario. Negan even comes out of the woodwork to bail Daryl out of certain death at the hands of Beta, but as cool as this is in concept, it also leads to a different problem; We now know that Daryl and Carol are headlining an upcoming spin-off series set later in AMC’s Walking Dead TV universe, so there’s never any tension with these two characters anymore. They obviously can’t be in true danger, nor die, so it’s impossible to fully invest in any of their future storylines on this show. That’s frustrating, especially when Negan and Daryl both team up to take down Beta by stabbing him through the eyes, leaving Beta to be devoured by walkers in delight, before Negan recognizes him as… Whoever this big country star he was supposed to be was. Yeah, why didn’t the show provide more insight into Beta’s true identity, especially when the Walking Dead’s TV canon made such a big display about changing the backstory of Beta’s pre-apocalypse fame from the source comics?
A similar problem occurs when Carol attempts to lead the Whisperers’ herd off a cliff, as planned, only for Lydia to pull her away at the last second, before the herd tumbles anyway? Yeah, this entire sequence was just dumb. Compounding that problem even more is that, again, Carol obviously can’t die at this point, because she’s getting a spin-off with Daryl. Maybe AMC should have waited to announce that. Similarly, Maggie’s long-awaited return has been hyped up by AMC to such a massive degree leading up to this episode that it also unwittingly falls flat, especially when Maggie somehow shows up to conveniently bail Gabriel out of his own supposed last stand, while revealing that she’s with a mysterious companion wielding dual blades, and sporting an iron mask. I guess this mystery character is going to be fleshed out during Season Ten’s handful of additional episodes that are now set to air in early 2021. Either way, I’m glad that Maggie is back, even if the Whisperers invading Gabriel’s stronghold is more or less a pointless effort, leaving the entire Whisperer faction to be defeated in a disappointingly straightforward manner in the end, with Beatrice as the only casualty. No offense to Beatrice, but who cares about Beatrice, really?
Lydia casting away her mother’s old mask, while a dirty and disoriented Connie is found by Virgil, at least make for better conclusions in this episode, if you weren’t surprised by the inevitable coming of the Commonwealth. There are also a handful of genuinely cool moments throughout this final struggle against Beta and the Whisperers, especially the herd navigation sequence, and the resulting nighttime scrap between Daryl’s party, and the Whisperers’ final agents. Considering the six entire months we had to wait for this episode especially however (practically to the day!), “A Certain Doom” delivers an uneven, disappointing ending to the Whisperer War. It doesn’t help that the melodramatic writing sometimes descends into pure cheese to boot, whether it’s Beta talking to fellow Whisperers about his own death that may or may not be real, or Carol trying to walk off a cliff when there was obviously no reason to do this. These dramatic annoyances seem all the more stupid after the long wait for AMC to finally complete Season Ten’s initial order, especially after the Whisperers never quite recaptured the same appeal following Alpha’s death.
Fortunately, Season Ten of The Walking Dead is no longer ending on this offering, so there’s time to right the ship before the show’s climactic story arc with the Commonwealth begins in earnest. Here’s hoping that next extended wait is a little more worth it.
- Intense journey through the Whisperers' herd
- Cool, dramatic final battle against Beta
- Lydia finally casting off the legacy of Alpha
- Maggie's return loses its lustre after the wait
- Too much undercooked, pointless drama
- Eugene subplot is tedious and predictable