Warning! Major spoilers below for the latest episode of The Walking Dead, titled "Walk With Us."
As enjoyable as Season 10 has been on the whole – minus the usual absurdities – The Walking Dead ramped things up to hyper-speed in Episode 12, which was chock full of deadly surprises and intriguing twists, as well as some unanswered questions. The first battle of the Whisperers War may have ended in the destruction of Hilltop, but after everything that happened in "Walk With Us," the worst is likely still yet to come for Daryl, Carol and the rest of the protagonists.
Join us below to dig into all the biggest moments that The Walking Dead bludgeoned viewers with, but not before we give a round of applause to the hardest working baseball bat in the industry, Lucille. [Applause.]
Alpha Is Dead
The Walking Dead came full circle with its comic book source material by way of Alpha and Negan's final moments together. Much of what preceded tonight's episode was a deep extension of the two villains' story on the page – particularly the sexy bits – but showrunner Angela Kang and her creative team ultimately honored Robert Kirkman's storytelling by having Negan slit Alpha's throat in a moment of complete vulnerability.
After hearing Negan's emotionally on-point memories of his late wife Lucille, Alpha was ready to kill her daughter Lydia, but instead became the victim of a brutal decapitation. (For better or worse, that part happened off-screen.) Perhaps if Alpha had showed the tiniest bit of mercy for Lydia, Negan might have kept his charade going for even longer, since he did seem to have some twisted empathy for just how far over the edge Alpha had gone with the Whisperers. Alas, Alpha is dead, and Beta is going to go absolutely apeshit when he finds out.
Negan And Carol Were Working Together The Whole Time
I imagine quite a few Walking Dead fans were screaming "I knew it!" at their TV screens during the episode's final seconds, as Negan rolled Alpha's zombified head over to Carol, who asks him what took so long. That moment was the smoking-gun proof that it was Carol who let Negan escape from his cell in Alexandria, such was her depthless motivation to take Alpha down for beheading Henry and all the other survivors.
Having Carol engage with Negan was a nice twist on the comic story, in which Negan killed Alpha as a way to violently prove he was redeemed and now loyal to Rick & Co. That said, this narrative change keeps Negan's loyalty in question, since he did little to physically stop the Whisperers from completely destroying Hilltop, and also used Lucille to brain-bash a resident who hadn't escaped. One can also hope that Carol quickly started grilling Negan about why he didn't do more to provoke such a large-scale attack.
Things Are Getting Crappy For Carol Again
Though the episode ended with Carol's so-called victory over Alpha, it came with great costs for the character. The obsession with avenging Henry's death completely took her over, to the point where she repeatedly put others in harm's way on the off-chance that it might help bring Alpha down. Following Magna's return (discussed below), Yumiko gave Carol a piece of both her mind and her fist for not being apologetic over the cave debacle. Carol's one port in the storm used to be Daryl, but even he's stonewalling her now.
Now imagine what will happen when everyone else in the fractured communities gets wind that Carol is the one who set Negan free. Sure, some of them will appreciate the anything-goes approach to taking Alpha out of the equation, but what happens when Carol soon realizes that Beta's vengeful attitude is every bit as strong and all-encompassing as hers was? Her apologies alone won't be able to erase blood or bury bodies. Might she one day go the route of her comic book counterpart by committing suicide?
Magna's Back, But Where's Connie?
It almost seemed like a hallucination when Yumiko saw Magna among the walkers ascending on the burning Hilltop, but sure enough, she found her way back to the group. Unfortunately, she was alone. She told Yumiko that she and Connie were walking together while moving among the horde of walkers, but they inevitably got separated, and Magna lost track of her friend, whose deafness is obviously a disadvantage in a dark cave full of zombies.
There's always the chance that Connie might come walking out of the woods similarly as unscathed as Magna, but I can't help but feel like this is going to be another Beth situation where a fan-friendly character gets killed in an avoidable situation, and then Daryl cries about it a lot. After all, actress Lauren Ridloff is portraying the superhero Makkari in Marvel's upcoming The Eternals, which will possibly springboard her career to a point where she wouldn't have time for The Walking Dead. (See: Danai Gurira, Corey Hawkins.)
Thora Birch, we hardly knew ye. The character Gamma didn't seem long for this world, considering her fractured feelings about being a Whisperer after murdering her sister. Her semi-transition into her former identity, Mary, only slightly raised the odds of her survival, but it wasn't meant to be.
With her last act of benevolence allowing Alden, Kelly and baby Adam to hide from walkers in an abandoned van, Gamma took out a few walkers and then got stabbed by Beta. When she again refused to "walk with" the Whisperers, he sliced her all the way up her torso. It seemed like Beta was setting Gamma up to take her back to Alpha, and possibly harvest the skin from her face, but Alden ruined that plan by putting an arrow through her skull. Not that Alpha would have been around to hear the news.
Beta Got Recognized
One of the strangest in-show mysteries has been Beta's true identity, which ties back to the comic book, where the homicidal villain was posthumously revealed to be a famous basketball player within the fictional universe. The producers found a clever way to hat-tip the comics in Fear the Walking Dead, where an album cover hinted that Ryan Hurst's heavily bearded character was a country musician in the pre-apocalypse.
In "Walk With Us," it all came full circle. In their tussle, Gamma ripped off half of Beta's skin mask (which was already very personal to him), and exposed part of his face. It definitely wasn't enough to spark any eyewitness accounts, and yet somehow, another Whisperer randomly came out of the woodwork and recognized him. Not that he lived long enough to tell anyone else, since his fanboy instincts overrode Beta's warnings for him to shut the hell up. Will this be the last time Beta's former identity comes up?
Even though The Walking Dead TV show's Earl was vastly different from the blacksmith in the comic book that bonded with Carl Grimes, John Finn's Hilltop resident became his own character by the time the latest episode hit. Hardened and torn by losing his family, Earl became the vocal backbone of Hilltop, always keeping one eye on avenging his wife's death. During Hilltop's burning, he bravely took charge with the kids when Ezekiel wasn't around to do it. Unfortunately, at some point during the walker-infused hubbub, Earl was bitten on the arm, and knew he didn't have a whole lot of time left.
And so, instead of cowardly fleeing, Earl made sure the kids were all in a safe place together...and then committed suicide by slamming his head down on a wooden stake he'd driven through a table. His intentions were sound (I guess?), but the stake didn't quite do the trick. So not only did a horrified Judith walk in on his bloodied corpse, but she also had to put him down when he rose again as a walker. And all after she'd killed her first Whisperer earlier in the episode. Not your finest hour, Earl, but a fine one nonetheless.
Is everybody ready for Michonne's grand return, even though it just means she'll be leaving again right afterward? Check out the awesome prank the Walking Dead crew played on Danai Gurira for her final days of filming, and don't forget to tune into AMC on Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET to see where things are going next in Season 10.