UK TV review: The Walking Dead: Season 10, Episode 16 (Finale)
Neil Brazier | On 05, Oct 2020
This is a spoiler-free review. Come back after the TV broadcast for additional, spoilery notes.
It has been a long wait for The Walking Dead Season 10 finale. The anticipation, the adrenaline, the expectation have all reached boiling point and now, finally, we have the last pages of this chapter of the zombie series. And it does feel like the closing of a chapter. The unintentional interruption stutters the flow to this crescendo so to get the full experience you might be best going back and watching the last few episodes as there are many threads fluttering about. The finale delivers in weaving those loose ends into a larger tapestry that might seem familiar but is still able to keep you glued to the screen.
We left our survivors scattered, some trapped in a tower surrounded by thousands of the undead. This is Beta’s (Ryan Hurst) final assault, determined to get revenge for his Alpha by throwing absolutely everything he has at them. His methodical and creepy ascent upon the tower is fuelled by the torment he has felt since adding to his flesh mask. The walkers around him appear to twist and bend to his will, speaking directly to him as if they were alive. This is disturbing enough but the quantities of walkers all cramming into the frame, surrounding the tower, is a true spectacle to behold; the odds appear insurmountable.
Those trapped in the tower have the same knowledge that their enemy do – they know how to blend in with the dead. This should reduce the tension on screen. It doesn’t, even when both Lydia (Cassady McClincy) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) agree that with the skills they learnt being part of the Whisperers they could easily escape the predicament. Yet only a few of our favourite (and not so favourite) faces decide to walk into the danger to perform the old Pied Piper routine and lead the dead away. It is in this plan where The Walking Dead feels like it is repeating itself, but we just can’t get away from the sheer number of monsters surrounding them. Not knowing if the one groaning in their ears or shuffling slightly sideways is actually dead or alive brings an overwhelming sense of fear to the episode. There is an unbelievably tense scene reminiscent of Willy Wonka’s impossible corridor and a macabre game of Where’s Wally? (or Where’s the Whisperer?) – the episode might feel familiar, but it is still as frightening as anything we’ve seen before.
The horde of undead bodies alone is enough to cause anyone claustrophobia; and their continual growl provides a sinister soundtrack to the episode. There is, of course, bloodshed and cold heartlessness on display – this is still a horror drama, after all. The brutality of this pack of monsters desperate for fresh blood is still as beautiful as it is horrific. Greg Nicotero, once again in the director’s chair, still delivers instances of pure horror, and some not-so-subtle references to the genre. The conclusion provides more of a subdued end, but the final swings will cause eruptions of absolute emotion on your sofa.
The episode opens with Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) talking about togetherness and strength. The end of this ordeal has the survivors more together than they probably ever have been, given everything they have been through and those they’ve lost along the way. This is what gives the episode the satisfying conclusion that feels like the closing of the book – but there is still more to come. During the hiatus, it was revealed that The Walking Dead will conclude with an extra-long Season 11, and there will be six more Season 10 episodes to come in the new year. The finale teases what might lie ahead for our survivors as The Walking Dead, a series that was said and felt like it could last forever, carves its way toward its final destination.
The Walking Dead Season 10 finale premieres on FOX UK at 9pm on Monday 5th October. Don’t have pay-TV? You can also stream it live and on-demand on NOW, for £9.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial. Seasons 1 to 9 plus Season 10 are available on Sky Box Sets and NOW until 31st October 2020.
Innards and entrails (spoilers)
Away from the tower, there isn’t a lot going on for Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and his friends. He’s had an accident and his bike is ruined. He has lost faith they’re going to make their rendezvous with his radio pal Stephanie on time so is given a little pep talk by King Ezekiel (Khary Payton). This feels superfluous given that it was Eugene that had to give the exact same speech before to the King. It is this group who set up the semi-cliffhanger ending. Not having found Stephanie, despite a wonderful introduction when they arrived, the group decide they’re going to keep looking anyway. They are suddenly descended upon by a group of stormtroopers. Is this Stephanie’s group or someone else?
We also learn that Connie (Lauren Ridloff) has survived, but she’s looking awfully worse for wear. She wakes up in the wood and manages to stumble a few feet before collapsing again as a horse trots up to her. Riding the horse is a returning Virgil (Kevin Caroll). No reason is given yet for his return or how Connie survived, but if she makes it back to the group, will her return cause any riff between Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride)? They finally seem to be back on track with one another; their relationship is love, but it’s not a romantic one and hopefully it’ll stay that way.
Carol also makes peace with Lydia, apologising for ordering the hit on her mother. Lydia doesn’t mind so much anymore – that woman gave up being her mother to become Alpha – but she also doesn’t want Carol to think she can become her mother figure either. These two have great chemistry and it is shown later when the only way to destroy the horde is for someone to lead them over a cliff. Carol decides it will be her to plummet to her death with the walkers but Lydia performs a save at the last second and the two embrace as the dead go for a drop.
With the news that Carol and Daryl are to get their own spin off, going into the episode it felt both of them were safe and would survive. As the episode went on there was a realisation that this is The Walking Dead and no one is allowed to be happy. Thanks to Lydia, Carol will still be around for the final season.
As teased in the trailers and sneak peaks, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) does indeed make her long awaited return in this episode. Much like Captain Marvel in Avengers: Endgame, it feels like her return was hyped up far more than the impact she makes. Other than the opening clip, Maggie is in one other scene in the finale, and much like Captain Marvel, the timing of her big return is extraordinarily convenient. It is most welcome to have an old familiar back in the Walking Dead family, especially without Rick or Michonne. But without those characters, with whom she has such a history, how is she going to construct the same feeling and passion with what’s left on the playing field, which includes a reformed Negan – the man who brutally killed her husband? The pair did have a resolution of sorts, but Maggie probably still expects him behind bars.
The extra Season 10 episodes are supposedly to focus on what Maggie has been up to while she has been away so we may find out more about who the mystery group that surrounds Eugene are, should they be the same.
The final showdown between Beta and Daryl is far too short-lived. The pair had an epic confrontation before, which ended with Beta thrown down an elevator shaft and we had hoped for more of the same. That being said, the distraction from Negan and the dual knives to the eyes is so fantastic it’s hard to think of how they could have topped it. Plus, Beta isn’t himself anymore. He is a Beta/Alpha hybrid, confused and hurt. When he is taken down he is eaten by the zombies around him and he enjoys it; he gives himself to them to be one of them, to be with his Alpha again. It’s so brilliantly bizarre.
As he goes, his mask comes off and Negan instantly recognises Beta. It has long been teased that he is some country music legend but he has never taken his mask off. Now we finally see his face, which shocks and surprises Negan – but Daryl calls him a “nobody” and, in many ways, Beta should have remained anonymous. The mystery to him was fun and Daryl is right, it doesn’t matter who he was – that world is long gone and now, so is Beta.
The season ends as a new day dawns. Relationships are made, the Whisperers are gone and Maggie has returned, with a new friend – the knife wielding Tin Man. There has been a lot of talk and rumour about who this person, but they still haven’t removed their mask. If it was some old friend, like Maggie, during the final hugs and relief, would they not have removed their mask? His outfit doesn’t look like those the stormtroopers were wearing at the train yard which raises more questions about how many groups there are out there and whether they will be friend or foe.