Hotdamn, that was a great episode of The Walking Dead! The Season 10 "finale" (an extra six episodes are coming early next year) was a tense, thrilling, and emotional hour that gave us everything we want from The Walking Dead. The Whisperers were vanquished, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) returned, and the next chapter of the story got set up, with each event happening as satisfyingly as possible.
The episode began with the survivors prepping their defense against what remained of the Whisperers, led by Beta (Ryan Hurst), and his horde of walkers. The plan was to stealthily move through the Whisperer-infested horde toward a wagon on the other side of the horde, which they would load up with a loudspeaker to draw the walkers away from the hospital they were barricaded in and over the edge of a cliff, where they would be swept away by the river below. The mission led to some exciting moments like Dianne (Kerry Cahill) saving people from close calls by sniping Whisperers from the windows of the hospital with her arrows, and Lydia (Cassady McClincy) getting Carol (Melissa McBride) out of a jam by putting on her late mother Alpha's (Samantha Morton) mask and slipping through the horde undetected to retrieve a bag of important equipment Oceansider Beatrice (Briana Venskus) dropped when she got eaten by walkers. Director Greg Nicotero, editor Alan Cody, and composers Bear McCreary and Sam Ewing did an exceptional job of building tension through this sequence.
They got the Pied Piper wagon going, blasting the Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House," an ironically jaunty music cue, and for a moment it seemed like the plan was going to work, but then a Whisperer counterattack disabled the wagon and forced the survivors to retreat. Daryl (Norman Reedus) then proposed a new plan: go back into the horde and pick the Whisperers off one by one. Lydia said that she knew how to draw the horde away, so she would do that. Hopefully that would be enough to earn the trust of the other survivors, who still didn't trust her or Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), because Lydia had been a Whisperer and Negan had helped the Whisperers attack Hilltop while working undercover to get close to and kill Alpha on Carol's orders.
Meanwhile, Whisperers were storming the hospital, and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) stayed behind to try to hold off the attackers so Judith (Cailey Fleming) and the others could escape. In the comics, Father Gabriel died during Beta's final assault, so this really seemed like the end for the priest. As the Whisperers attacked him, I was already saying goodbye to one of the longest-tenured characters left on the show, when suddenly Maggie and a mysterious martial artist in an iron mask arrived and saved him. Like showrunner Angela Kang promised, Maggie arrived in the nick of time. She's back, and she brought a friend! We have absolutely no idea who the man in the iron mask is yet, other than he came with Maggie from wherever she was after she got Carol's letter asking her to come back, but know he's good with bladed weapons. He hasn't been formally introduced, or even spoken a word yet.
Back in the horde, Daryl and the rest were hunting Whisperers when Beta spotted Lydia -- and Alpha's mask. As he went after her, someone shouted "Hey sh--head!" Beta turned around, and Negan engaged him. Beta knocked Negan to the ground, and as he raised his knife up to deliver a killing blow, Daryl swooped in with his own two knives and stabbed Beta in both eyes. Beta then PULLED THE KNIVES OUT OF HIS OWN FACE, AND YOU COULD SEE THEM COME ALL THE WAY OUT THROUGH HIS SOFT PALATE. It was awesome. Beta, who basically already thought of himself as dead, embraced death, and as walkers swarmed him, he held his arms out and welcomed them, as he flashed back to highlights of his life with his Alpha. He was free.
The walkers pulled his mask off, revealing his face. Negan immediately recognized him as country singer Half Moon, who had been a big star before the world ended. "Sh--, you know who that asshole was?" Negan said.
"Yeah," Daryl growled. "Nobody."
Lydia led the herd through the night toward the cliff, and in the morning, she reached the edge. Carol then stopped her and said she would finish it. Carol walked up to the edge, ready to take the last step off to end her own pain and suffering forever. She was wearing a trench coat with the hood up, and she looked like a blood-spattered monk. As she was about to step, Lydia pulled her back.
"I told you to go," Carol said.
"You told me to find my own way," said Lydia. Lydia has chosen. She wants to be part of the community, and live for other people. She threw her mother's mask off the cliff, where it fell toward the river along with the rest of the horde.
The survivors reconvened, celebrating their victory and moment of safety. Maggie saw Judith for the first time in years. Father Gabriel took care of Rosita (Christian Serratos) and baby Coco. And most importantly, Carol and Daryl talked about the future again.
"New Mexico is still out there," Daryl said, referring back to a conversation they had in the season premiere.
The episode then ended with two cliffhangers.
The first found a filthy and bloodied Connie (Lauren Ridloff), who had been missing since a cave collapsed on her in Episode 9, stumbling through the woods, where she was found by Virgil (Kevin Carroll), who was on horseback and looking much more put together than he was the last time we saw him in Michonne's (Danai Gurira) final episode. Is he going to help her? What's he doing? He's probably coming to tell Daryl and Judith where Michonne went.
The second caught up with the party going to meet Stephanie (Margot Bingham) in West Virginia, which consisted of Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), and Princess (Paola Lazaro), the straggler they picked up along the way. They arrived at the rail yard where Eugene had scheduled his rendezvous, and Stephanie was nowhere to be found. They had assumed they were too late, and it looked like it was true. Still, Eugene vowed to keep searching, for Stephanie or for others, because they had come on this journey to find other people to help and be helped by, and they couldn't stop now.
"Damn, you're one really horny dude," Princess said.
Suddenly, floodlights came on, and they were surrounded by soldiers in head-to-toe, white-and-red armor that made them look like samurai stormtroopers. Their uniforms lacked the telltale three-ring symbol that would mean they were CRM, so they are different than the people who took Rick Grimes. In fact, their armor is identical to the suits worn by the Commonwealth, an advanced community from the comics. So that's who they are. I have a feeling everything's going to be fine, but for now, it looks like Eugene led the group right into a trap, and the last shot of The Walking Dead in 2020 was Eugene's scared and bewildered face as he stood with his hands up.
"A Certain Doom" was supposed to air back in April but got postponed because of the pandemic, but it was well worth the wait. As the show enters its final stretch, it's in very good shape. I can't wait to see what the last 30 episodes have in store.
The Walking Dead will return for six more Season 10 episodes in early 2021. Fear the Walking Dead premieres Sunday, Oct. 11 at 9/8c on AMC, and The Walking Dead: World Beyond airs Sundays at 10/9c on AMC.