This review contains spoilers.
After last week’s episode, I was a little worried about how they would follow it up this week. Last week was outstanding, it was one of the greatest episodes The Walking Dead has produced! When it was made obvious that this was going to be a setup episode, my concerns came to the surface. Blame the show’s more recent weaker seasons for this fear, its hard to shake off. But I should know by now that the show is a different beast these days, the old format and pitfalls have gone, and it really showed, as this was a different kind of setup episode than we are used to. This was an episode that managed to balance the character and story progression perfectly, while at the same time keeping it exciting with really solid pacing.
In the past, this type of filler episode would have caused a lot of frustration, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. It had a purpose and served to progress multiple elements in preparation for next week, which I think is going to be a monumental episode in terms of the story and direction going forwards.
But it’s we are not there yet, we need to look at how we get there first. So onto the review for Episode 11!
Alpha and Negan Whipping In a Tree…
We start the episode with Beta and some red shirt Whisperers tapping trees for sap. That’s strange, right? There’s no way this scene will come back into play later… wrong! But before we head there, lets talk about our new favourite Whisperers power couple!
The… interesting ‘relationship’ that is forming between Alpha and Negan got very kinky this week! Alpha wanted some much needed branch time, and got Negan to whip her on the arm. Not wanting Negan to miss out on all the ‘fun’, she informed him that it was his turn. He took it like the champ he is. What would Beta think of all this? We’d soon get a subtle hint at his thoughts when Alpha leads the group and her herd through the woods. We finally get to see ‘Whisperer Negan’, who now has his own mask, he looks very good! But from the venomous side-eye that Beta gives Negan, who is walking up near Alpha, it’s very obvious that Beta is feeling a lot of anger towards Alpha’s new play thing. For me, the best part of this entire Whisperers segment was when they started whispering “We are the end of the World”. This chant was chilling, you felt the anticipation.
The Alpha and Negan romance is fine, but my only concern is that they are having to run with it at a very quick pace. There isn’t really a natural feel to it and Negan’s intentions are very transparent to the audience, so surely they must be to Alpha as well? Unlike the comic they don’t have enough time to replicate that relationship, but hopefully there are still a few surprises in store to keep it interesting.
Tales From Hilltop
There was a lot going on at Hilltop this week and it was very much the main focus of the episode. While Daryl was the character to have the most interactions with other people, it blended in nicely with all the other sub-plots. The story that seemed to a get a lot of focus was Eugene and Stephanie. This remains an important story thread, as it is obviously where the show will be heading towards in the final two seasons. The pair continue to interact, but she is still wary of meeting, despite Eugene’s eagerness. Things get worse for Eugene as Rosita overhears Stephanie trying to contact Eugene. Eugene does not react well and I was worried about how far he would take this. Thankfully his temperature cooled and they managed to talk it out. Rosita even offered up a chance for Eugene to kiss her, which he bailed out on. It was nice moment for their friendship and hopefully puts the final nail in the coffin of Eugene’s obsession with Rosita. Time to move on!
With Mary now at Hilltop, she is eager to see her nephew. Aaron takes the lead and brings Earl up to speed with the situation. Earl, unsurprisingly, is not having any of it. Its understandable, you get the mistrust and reluctance, even though Mary is clearly no threat now. She has a second attempt later on in the episode, but is this time thwarted by Alden (long time no see!). Again, he puts across a completely valid argument, and Aaron knows it. But as usual, good guy Aaron is just trying to make everyone happy, but it doesn’t look like it will happen this week!
After Carol’s actions in the cave, she is very much distant the entire episode. She learns of Ezekiel’s illness and the pair even hook up, for what definitely will be the final time. I think they both needed to get it out of their system for different reasons. Carol then bumps into Lydia, despite their differences, they have a lot in common, and I think going forwards there can be a reconciliation. The same can be said for Carol and Daryl, as their one conversation in the entire episode ends with Daryl stating that he will never hate her. We new this was coming and the pair will never truly be apart, but it was by no means forgiveness, its going to take some time. A very realistic reaction and story thread that will continue throughout the season I feel.
As for Daryl, he was doing the rounds, having conversations with as many characters as possible. The biggest of which came with Ezekiel. The pair have always had a Carol shaped barrier between them, so it’s never been the easiest of relationships. But it was made very clear, in Daryl’s minimal words way, that the two have always been on the same side and there is a deep respect underneath. They both agree that if one of them falls, in the impending attack, that the other will get the kids out. I enjoyed this moment, it was long overdue! A character making their peace with everyone before an up-coming event is usually a sign that we are losing said character. This won’t be the case with Daryl, but in his place I think it will be Ezekiel. He will be used as a top tier character death in next week’s episode, of that I am very certain. It make sense, he’s got nowhere left to go now, so its an easy option for the show to pull the trigger on. The most touching Daryl moment had to be with Judith, who has given his waistcoat a colourful lick of paint. On a final note, we see Carol stood in front of some paintings of the people we’ve lost. It gave me chills and I teared up a bit for my boy Glenn!
With the attack imminent, the Hilltop force moves into the battlefield, holding their ranks and formation, a nice throwback to the first episode of the season, when they were practicing on the beach! The Walkers begin to emerge, the size of the herd immeasurable. With the tension building I thought for certain that this was going to be the end of the episode. I was wrong! I genuinely did not expect to see any engagement this week, but I’m glad we got some because it just felt like the cherry on top of the episode! Eugene’s electrified defences did the job, keeping the mass horde at bay. This allowed the shield wall to move up and start to take out the Walkers. Everything going to plan right? Wrong! Remember that sap? We cut to the Whisperers who have set up sling-shots in the treeline. They fire off a volley, covering the Hilltop force in flammable liquid. Then the flaming arrows appear… to quote Jurassic Park, “clever girl!” As the electrified fence battery blows and with the trap sprung, Daryl sounds the retreat. As they near the gate the arrows set fire to the wall and gate, trapping them outside the wall, with the encroaching herd closing in on their position. With that horrible realisation, the episode ends!
Wow. What a cliffhanger! The episode did a great job with everything that came before the battle. There were plenty of character interactions, development and sub-plot resolutions. To have a short action sequence tagged onto the end of the episode just elevated it even further. Next week feels like a landmark episode, I feel we are going to be losing some familiar faces. Of those faces I think we’ll see Ezekiel, Jerry, Dianne, Alden and Earl fall. I even have the slightest feeling that we could be losing a member of Magna’s group. The show is now hard to predict, and that is a good thing! We now have an agonising wait to see what happens, and I for one am already counting down the days!
With the battle of Hilltop now underway, who do you think we will lose next week? Let us know your death picks and thoughts about the episode in the comments.