This review contains spoilers for The Walking Dead season 10, episode 12, “Walk with Us.”
We knew after last week’s table-setting that The Walking Dead would be bringing a full course meal of walker guts and mortal terror, and that’s exactly what it delivered, though not for as long as I expected. Maybe it was last week’s parallels to Game of Thrones‘ own final season calm-before-the-storm episodes that had me thinking this week would be nonstop chaos, but it wasn’t, and given most of what came after, I think that’s actually fine.
After the dust cleared from the horde’s shambling assault on Hilltop, the community was left similarly disheveled — as in it’s totally toast. Hilltop has been a staple of the show for half a decade now, so it’s a seismic shift to see it burnt to the ground. I was surprised to see Alpha relent after the initial wave, but if her mission was merely to be reunited with Lydia, it explains why she halted her army, as Lydia wasn’t among the wreckage.
I was even more surprised to see nearly every named character survived the attack. I don’t think the direction of the battle scenes sold that outcome well given how dire the heroes’ straits were, but assuming the rest of the series more or less goes the way of the comics, we don’t have many new folks to meet, so I guess we can’t expect to see a bunch die with two and a half years left to play out. Then again, that’s sort of a meta-analysis of the show, and in the moment, it’s often more satisfying to just see some jaw-dropping moments.
But in that category, Earl’s death scene somewhat covered the spread. After tucking in the surviving children from Hilltop, Judith included, he patiently but drivenly set up his own suicide as he revealed a bite on his arm. It was heroic of him to try and off himself by slamming his head through a stake that he’d pinned to a table, but it was also pretty obvious he would miss and have to be sent back to dead by Judith. The show still doesn’t seem to know what to do with her, the last remaining Grimes family member, but she keeps wearing that hat, so my guess is she’ll have her signature moment before the series’s end.
One of my favorite scenes from this week’s The Walking Dead was between Carol and Eugene, who reminded me as they were talking how few scenes they’ve shared together one on one. Carol remains one of the brightest spots of the cast all these years later, and Eugene’s arc, while confounding in seasons past, is most interesting now, so it was rewarding to hear them talk about the unnamed special people they find in their lives. As the viewer, we’re to imagine Carol is talking about Daryl, but I wonder if she’s still holding onto something for Ezekiel too, who miraculously continues to survive cancer and zombies each week.
The biggest talking point from “Walk with Us” will surely be its final moments. Negan lured Alpha into a trap that was way too obvious for anyone (especially comics readers) but Alpha, right down to the intended fake-out of Alpha entering a different shack than the one Lydia was tied down inside of. Like Earl’s false death, this camera trick has been seen too many times before for it to work. Still, the scene’s impact was salvaged tremendously by what followed. Negan delivered the head of Alpha, still grinding her teeth, to Carol, who remarked, “Took you long enough.”
For Carol to be in on Negan’s long con is a base-level twist The Walking Dead has loved to execute for years, but it’s amplified when you consider the ramifications. It implies she conspired to free Negan, that she was comfortable with suffering the Hilltop attack, and that she let Lydia get captured and briefly terrified, all to serve as a means to her end: trading Alpha’s head for her departed son Henry’s. That paints her actions in very different and honestly uncomfortable colors, but it’s the kind of morally gray space I’ve come to expect and appreciate from one of the series’s longest tenured characters.
Overall, The Walking Dead is in a good place right now.