by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 12.
In a way, this episode reminded me of the aftermath of the prison being overrun back in season 4. Everyone ran in various directions, splitting up into different groups. Yet what made this episode different was that their enemies were still out to get them. Whisperers still roamed the area, as did their Guardians, so there was no respite for the survivors of Hilltop. Rosita, Daryl, and Eugene desperately led a group of civilians to safety, only to find that the children were missing. Alden, Baby Adam, and Kelly fled with Mary in their wake, while Carol and Eugene accompanied Yumiko and Magna away from the chaos. Aaron was left with a wounded Luke, while Ezekiel was left behind at the scene altogether.
If it wasn’t clear at the end of last episode, the battle for Hilltop had already been lost before this week’s show began. The defenders of Hilltop quickly became the defenders of its citizens, holding back the walker horde (and a few Whisperers) long enough for everyone to flee in panic. Ezekiel held true to his agreement with Daryl, taking the children and getting them out of the house. Yet when he realized that Judith was missing, he went back for her, and got lost in the chaos. It’s possible, especially given his advanced cancer, that Ezekiel became disoriented breathing in so much smoke. Fortunately, Earl found Judith, and they took the children together.
Unfortunately for Earl, he had been bitten. Story-wise, this makes sense. As a character, he had come to the end of his arc. He had lost his son and his wife, and had also lost his apprentice. He had trained Alden in the arts of blacksmithing, and had created catapults, significantly helping in Hilltop’s defense. When those defenses failed, he had little to do in terms of plot development. Still, Earl was a representation of the thriving community that Hilltop became, and with its demise, it was fitting that Earl died as well. His sacrifice was tough to watch, yet he was brave enough to do what he thought was right to protect the children.
Of course, Earl’s death was not without price. Judith had been begging to fight, but this is the first time that she has truly experienced this kind of trauma. Judith has only fought walkers, which is very different from killing real humans, or from seeing those you know and love die. As stalwart as she is, Judith is still very young. It is completely understandable that she hesitated to kill a Whisperer, and that she was distraught at having had to kill Earl, even though he had already turned. Fortunately, she has Daryl to help her through it. I especially liked the way she held Earl’s hand, to comfort him.
Alden finally turned a corner this week. It certainly took him long enough, but I will give him credit for finally seeing that Mary was a person, and that there could be ‘good’ people who got swept up on the other side, just as he had done with the Saviors. Although he was reluctant to give Mary the baby, when Alden saw how they interacted, he realized that Mary was a person, and that she did have legitimate emotions for Adam. When Mary sacrificed herself to save Alden, Kelly and Adam, he went after her, then killed her walker-self, preventing Beta from fully enacting his revenge. While her story has been cut short, I was glad to see Gamma come to a satisfying conclusion to her character arc.
Beta also faced tribulations this week. He was tasked with finding Lydia, which he failed to do, and when he found Gamma, she fought back, tearing his mask. His new Phantom-of-the-Opera look was apparently just enough for another Whisperer to recognize him. This wasn’t really explained in the episode, and I am wondering if perhaps Beta was some kind of minor celebrity? After all, the (now-dead) Whisperer said that Beta’s voice had been familiar. Clearly, Beta does not want this aspect of his past to come to light, and did what he had to do to ensure the Whisperer’s silence.
Yet Beta will not be silent when he learns what has become of Alpha. Negan’s assassination of the Whisperer leader was another moment that Walking Dead comics readers had been eagerly anticipating, and the scene did not disappoint. Negan did his best to talk Alpha out of killing Lydia, but in the end, she refused. Negan had no choice but to kill Alpha to protect Lydia. Yet it seems that there was more to it than that. In the comics, Negan brings Alpha’s head to Rick, however in the television show, Negan brought the head to Carol. Her reaction, ‘It’s about time.’ suggests that Carol was the one who let Negan out of his cell in Alexandria and tasked him with bringing down the Whisperers.
Only moments before, Carol had been despondent, recognizing that for all of the harm her actions had caused, she still had nothing to show for it. A punch in the face from Yumiko was the least she deserved for that. Yet now, it appears that Carol’s ploy worked, although it still does not excuse her reckless behavior of the past few episodes. Still, hopefully with Alpha gone, Carol can return to her more levelheaded self.
There is still hope. The children have been safely recovered, and Eugene is on his way to meet Stephanie, in the company of Yumiko and Magna. Alexandria still survives, and while Magna lost Connie in the cave, she did not see her die. The Hilltoppers will regroup, likely with the Alexandrians, and get ready to face off against the Whisperers, now led by Beta. The threat has not been eliminated; it has only re-formed.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, this week’s Walking Dead: No Man’s Land season mission has Aaron, Eugene and Rosita scavenging for radio parts in the ruins of Hilltop after the battle.
Do you watch The Walking Dead? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!