UK TV review: The Walking Dead: Season 10, Episode 12 (Walk with Us)
Neil Brazier | On 16, Mar 2020
Picking up directly where the last episode ended, Walk With Us finds us knee-deep in the middle of a war upon Hilltop. The setup teased a potential Game of Thrones Battle-of-Winterfell-style episode – one full hour of raw, visceral, bloody battles. Despite starting strongly, with the survivors being overwhelmed by walkers as Hilltop blazes around them, the fight is over far too soon – before the opening credits roll. While that feels regrettable, the rest of the episode once again delivers plenty of season finale-like moments. The war itself is so intense and brutal, if it had run for any longer, we wouldn’t have any nerve or breath left.
Every episode in this half of the season has come with that big episode feeling. From the close combat, slow-motion blood splattering over the camera to the explosions and special effects work, the pacing, the ability to fear for the characters again to just Daryl (Norman Reedus) swinging a mace (he gets all the cool weapons). Ever since Angela Kang took over as show runner, even if the ratings don’t tend to agree, The Walking Dead has been full of brains with episodes at the best they’ve ever been.
Despite Hilltop in ruins and the survivors fleeing, victory doesn’t seem to sit well with Alpha (Samantha Morton), and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is quick to figure out why. Alpha still yearns for Lydia (Cassady McClincy) to come home – it is her destiny. Beta (Ryan Hurst) promised he will bring Lydia back but, like children in the playground, Negan and Beta tussle for Alpha’s interest. Jeffrey Dean Morgan continues to shine in his new role behind a mask. He has always been able to provide comic relief to a show so desperately in need of something other than doom and gloom. When he was leading the Saviours, the jokes were a little crass with the same punchline. Now, Negan has matured and it doesn’t matter if he’s out herding walkers or unleashing his soul to Alpha, he is captivating to watch and makes you chuckle too.
As much as things have turned around for The Walking Dead, the sky will always be blue and characters that find redemption will often be met with tragedy quickly after. The devastation at Hilltop leaves very little room for hope to be found but the survivors scratch away to find something, anything they can. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) scrambles to find a way to proceed with Stephanie, Mary (Thora Birch) hopes to be able to reconnect with her nephew and Judith (Cailey Fleming), despite being a “lil ass-kicker” when it comes to zombies, tries to be strong when faced with those behind the masks. It’s an over-used trope in a show that can often make things become predictable but, fortunately, there are still plenty of surprises in Walk With Us that you can’t see coming.
There remains four episodes left of this season and the question becomes, can The Walking Dead keep up this level of high-calibre chapters? There may have been a slight dip in form during the previous episode, yet it ended with such an forceful fight. Again, Walk With Us delivers huge moments, monumental in fact; while we expect a slower-than-normal episode to follow, judging by the writing and direction on display so far this era, it will undoubtedly contain some brilliant moments. The zombies may be rotten and decaying, but just like Hilltop, The Walking Dead is on fire.
The Walking Dead Season 10 premieres on FOX UK at 9pm on Mondays. Don’t have pay-TV? You can also stream it live and on-demand on NOW TV, for £8.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial. (An Entertainment Pass auto-renews at £8.99 a month until 1st September 2020, £9.99 thereafter unless cancelled.) Seasons 1 to 10 are available on Sky Box Sets and NOW TV until 31st October 2020.
Innards and entrails (spoilers)
Judith wants to fight and to help her community, but when she comes face to face with a Whisperer who pleads for their life, she can’t bring herself to execute them. This is good in that Judith still retains elements of her humanity despite growing up in a zombie apocalypse – however, she could have put herself in more danger by hesitating. She is only young and shouldn’t be living this life, especially with her parents both missing in action. Maybe her old friend Negan can lend her a hand when it comes to that killer instinct?
Judith again shows her compassion when it is revealed that Earl (John Finn) has been bitten. He has taken the children to a shelter – not the agreed rendezvous location – which causes mild panic, as Daryl leads the parents there, but he cannot keep them in danger any longer. Earl attempts to kill himself but does a pretty poor job of it, returning as a zombie for a jump-scare when Judith checks on him. She is able to put him down but when rescue arrives, she can’t move, broken by losing another of her own. In war there are always casualties and the episode needs some to make the fight feel authentic and add to the drama, but Earl’s death comes as a surprise. He didn’t have a lot left for himself, having lost his wife to Alpha’s fence and with Mary returning to see her nephew, he might well have lost him too, but Earl had served the show well and he will be missed.
Mary herself finds her redemption on the road with Alden (Callan McAuliffe), Kelly (Angel Theory) and her nephew. She is able to pacify the crying baby and gets to hold him and show her love for him – just before a herd of walkers appear. Satisfied her nephew is in good hands, Mary locks him away with Alden and Kelly in an old car and runs away screaming to take the walkers with her. She is able to fight them all off, but as she savours her victory, Beta sneaks up and stabs her. Mary is able to rip off half his mask in the tussle but, ultimately, she falls to his blade. This is another death we didn’t expect. Thora Birch has been a welcome addition to the series and she could have been a very handy addition to the survivors who are already short on numbers. But, as we say time and time again, when you find happiness on this show, death finds you.
Now partially unmasked, Beta, or Frowny McTwoKnives, is recognised by one of his fellow Whisperers. This plays to the slight crossover between The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead. On Fear, one character drops some records on the floor and the cover art of one of them features Ryan Hurst – the actor who plays Beta. This, along with the Alpha/Beta origin story, seems to put Beta as a celebrity musician before the apocalypse. Revealed, Beta slays his fellow Whisperer as, like Batman, he must keep his true identity secret. What other sordid details of his past is he hiding? This could make for an interesting movie spin-off if AMC are still looking for ideas.
As Beta watches Mary turn, he waits for her to approach him. More great special effects and make-up on Mary here; it’s good that we’ve seen two freshly turned zombies in this episode when most of them are gaunt and weathered. From the distance, an arrow goes through Mary’s head, shot by Alden. Beta runs and escapes, but why on earth didn’t Alden hit Beta first? Rookie mistake from the rookie carpenter.
Magna (Nadia Hilker) returns to Hilltop during the assault. At first it is impossible to tell if she is alive or dead but incredibly, she is alive. Reunited with Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) she explains that they kept searching and digging in the cave for a way out until they met the horde. They were able to blend in with them but eventually it got too much and they were separated. This could be leading up to a loving or heart-breaking Daryl and Connie reunion. Not much else is yet made of Magna’s return other than her official break-up with Yumiko but seeing her, covered in blood, walking with the zombies is a good spectacle.
Finally, the episode ends with one of the iconic moments from the comic book. After an incredible speech from Negan about his strength and his former wife who he lost, he leads Alpha to a deserted cabin which he claims holds Lydia. There is a walker roaming outside wearing Negan’s face mask and Lydia’s jacket, which at first makes you think Negan has killed Lydia, but Alpha is quick to spot the cabin and heads for it after expressing her utmost pleasure at Negan for delivering to her once again.
Interspersed with scenes of Lydia tied to a chair in a cabin, the drama grows as Alpha approaches the door and opens, as Lydia frees herself from her bonds and opens her cabin too. Only, they are at different cabins. Lydia is free somewhere and Alpha is staring at an empty room. When she turns to Negan, with a quick flip of his wrist he slits Alpha’s throat and she falls into his arms. Negan kisses her as she bleeds out from a wound not too dissimilar to the one Negan himself suffered at the hands of Rick Grimes – it is not easy to tell if this is intentional or not.
It is a shocking scene that comic book readers might have been expecting, but not so soon. There are still four episodes left in this season and now the main antagonist is dead. Despite that, there will be plenty more to tell as the episode ends with Negan delivering the zombified head of Alpha to the feet of the one person we thought would want to kill her herself: Carol (Melissa McBride). She tells Negan it took him long enough, meaning that the two have been in cahoots this whole time. It may have been Alpha who put the idea of using a mole into Carol’s head in the first place and, if it was, it backfired on her tremendously.
Full marks must go to Samantha Morton who has been an incredible villain in this Whisperer War story. She has been the first main female antagonist (we’re not counting Jadis) in the series and brought with her not just herself and the Whisperers to fear, but the zombies have been able to find themselves back into the main spotlight. The Whisperer War will still rage on as Beta looks for vengeance, but it will be missing an iconic character who had real power and intimidation. Alpha will be missed, so let’s have a moment of silence to remember her. Shhhhh.
Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC