This review contains spoilers.
Apologises for no review last week, as I mentioned in the previous breakdown, I was taking a much needed holiday. But we are back again and rather than following one or two story threads, we follow three different groups, which was a welcome change! So let’s get straight into the review (because a lot happened and there is so much to dissect!)
In what, immediately, felt like a dream sequence, Aaron and Gracie are walking through the forest, at night, before encountering various ‘enemies of the past and present’ we had everything, from Whisperers and Saviors to Wolves (with Jesse C. Boyd reprising his role) and Walkers! I loved the red colour palette here and this whole sequence was visually stunning throughout. Gracie disappears and soon, Aaron is overcome and stabbed multiple times before waking up. Aaron awakes from one nightmare straight into another, as one side of the wall is breached, allowing Walkers to filter in. We see a few dead Alexandrians, as the rest of the group try to re-secure the wall. Through some quick teamwork, they manage to get the fallen panel upright and secured without any further casualties. Cut to credits.
This was a solid opening and just highlights how quickly things can go wrong and that peace and tranquillity can be shattered and lives lost in the blink of an eye. With Aaron featuring so much in this opening act, I’m hoping that he’ll take some focus of the episode – as if you are a regular reader of these reviews, you know I’m on #TeamAaron! As for what’s next? They need tools, so Aaron, Carol, Lydia and Jerry decide to head to the charred ruins of Hilltop to see if anything survived the fire. Upon arrival, they find former Hilltop residents, now turned into Walkers – including Troy. Still no Kal, so as far as I’m concerned, he’s alive and well somewhere. Damn. I miss Kal. They take out the Walkers, before proceeding further into Hilltop in search of the tools. After a fruitless search, they notice a small group of Walkers, walking in a constant circle, which they recognise as being herded. Aaron charges straight into battle and subdues a lone-Whisperer, who Lydia informs the group that she knows – his name is Keith. They decide to take him to the cellar where they meet even more Whisperers hiding out down there. Despite Lydia trying to put a case forward that they are scared and not a threat, Jerry finds Nabila’s scarf, indicating that they were at Alexandria. Keith cuts Aaron, allowing his fellow former-Whisperers to escape, before Aaron grounds Keith telling him that it’s now his turn. After some inventive torture, Carol talks Aaron down and stops him from making the same mistake she did, after Henry was killed. It was an incredibly tense scene. Thankfully, Aaron backs down, sparing Keith’s life and in return learns that Connie was spotted near Alpha’s herd cave, giving the group a new mission!
Away from Alexandria, we pick up with Yumiko and Co as they are forced to watch a welcome video featuring Lance Hornsby, who is the Director of Operations of the Commonwealth. We also learn the name of the leader, Governor Pamela Milton and find out that there are over fifty thousand members of the Commonwealth. This whole scene was just a clever way of introducing the audience to this new faction, and for those of us who are familiar with the comics, it gives us an insight into what direction they might take it in regards to the story. They are all assigned housing and job roles, based on previous experience – all except Yumiko who has been given a special invitation. With Yumiko taking over from Michonne, in terms of the comics, I fully expect Yumiko to be bumped up to main character status for this final season. As the mission remains to get help from the Commonwealth, they decide to split up and work multiple angles to try and obtain it. Yumiko is lead to a bakery where she is reunited with her brother Tomi, who comedically drops a freshly baked tier-cake in the process! Eugene arrives at an ice cream van with ‘Stephanie’ and we meet an un-naked woman taking an order of ice creams to Governor Milton – said woman is Margot Bingham who WAS Stephanie in Season 10. With the look she gave Eugene, this just confirms that this is a ploy of some kind and not a real-world re-cast. With so much red-tape to get through, Stephanie agrees to help Eugene reach the communication tower. Personally? This all just feels like a trap. Despite Eugene making brief contact with Rosita at Alexandria, they lose the signal and Mercer arrests Eugene, Princess and Ezekiel. The group are charged and to be sent before a judge, but before this happens, Lance Hornsby arrives with ‘Stephanie’ telling the administrator to let them go.
Out on the road, Negan and Maggie continue to work their way towards the outpost. There is still so much tension and friction between the pair, and it all boils over when they reach the finally outpost. Luckily Gabriel and Elijah arrive, which instantly defuses the situation. Maggie informs them about Duncan, Agatha and Cole as well as Alden’s situation in the church. They agree to wait, to see if anyone else makes it.
Other notable scenes included Judith giving sword fighting lessons to the other kids then teaching a different group of idiot bully-trope kids a hard lesson. She put up a good front, but clearly missing her family. This sequence lead to a lovely interaction between Judith and Rosita which was sensational. Both actors crushed this scene, with the music taking it to the next level.
There was a lot to take in this episode, but I feel they did it in an enjoyable and coherent way. There has been major story progression on all fronts and we are left wondering what is going to happen at the Commonwealth, with Maggie’s group and now with the revelation (about time!) that Connie has been sighted, it just feels like everything is really starting to come together.