The Walking Dead's Season 10 midseason finale didn't end on a game-changing moment. The half-season's big moment came last week, when undercover Whisperer Dante (Juan Javier Cardenas) murdered Siddiq (Avi Nash). This episode, "The World Before," was mostly about the fallout from that, focusing on how Siddiq's death and the revelation that a Whisperer had successfully infiltrated Alexandria affected the community. But like every other episode in the first half of Season 10, it was a well-balanced hour that found time for shocking violence and great character work that gave the story forward momentum. After two and a half interminable seasons of Saviors, it's looking like the Whisperer War may be done by the end of the next eight episodes. This show's got zip!
The episode opened with a great flashback to just after last season's massacre, with Alpha (Samantha Morton) giving Dante his assignment to infiltrate Alexandria, and then following how he got inside and showing the things he did to sow discord. He painted the "Silence the Whispers" graffiti, making the community seem more divided than it actually was. The sequence also tied up the seeming plot hole about Lydia (Cassady McClincy) not recognizing him by explaining that he joined the group after Alpha's daughter left. He wasn't a Whisperer for very long, but Alpha was going to make him an important member of the community when he returned after Alexandria fell.
But that wasn't to be, because Rosita (Christian Serratos) found him right after he killed Siddiq and was suspicious of his sketchy behavior. He attacked her, trying to keep her tied up while just-turned Siddiq came to eat baby Coco. Rosita managed to fight him off and incapacitate him by stabbing him in the shoulder, then put Siddiq down before he reached the baby. It was a pretty devastating scene, Rosita putting down the father of her child to stop his unexpectedly zombified form from killing their baby. Are there any therapists in Alexandria? This stuff is traumatic.
During interrogation, Dante explained that killing Siddiq wasn't part of his plan to encourage Alexandria's paranoia about the Whisperers, but since he figured out who he was he had to die. Dante was imprisoned, and Siddiq was buried. Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) gave him a very Christian funeral even though Siddiq was Muslim, but Gabe was doing the best he could with limited spiritual resources. Gabriel was taking Siddiq's death as hard as Rosita, who was still a little bit in love with Siddiq, it seems. After almost getting killed by walkers at Alexandria's gate and being saved by Eugene (Josh McDermitt), who isn't as emotionally available to her as he once was, Rosita opened up about her newfound fear of death to her boyfriend Gabriel. She used to be ready to die, but now she has to stay alive for her daughter. But Gabriel wasn't listening; he was distracted, thinking about his failure to protect Alexandria. "Maybe Dante was right about us," he said. "We're not as strong as we think we are." Then he went to the jail cell and stabbed Dante to death. Dante may be dead, but he won, at least against Father Gabriel. He got him to abandon his principles of civilization and justice by carrying out this extrajudicial killing.
Elsewhere, Michonne (Danai Gurira) made her return after four episodes away, meeting a man who may end up playing a very significant role in her story (Kevin Carroll). On her journey to Oceanside to help out with a walker problem, Michonne and her companions stopped at a library to get some new books for Judith (Cailey Fleming). Inside the library, Luke (Dan Fogler) got tangled up with some walkers and was saved by a man who ran away before anyone could talk to him. They met him again at Oceanside, when he got caught trying to steal a boat. He said he was just trying to get home to his family, but wouldn't tell anything else about who he was or where he came from. Eventually Michonne got him to open up after she had an emotional reaction to him saying "Mercy's in short supply these days," which reminded her of "My mercy prevails over my wrath," a line first said by Siddiq and then adopted by Rick (Andrew Lincoln) when he decided not to kill Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). She was persuaded that this mysterious man was a good dude, and they made a deal: She would help him get home to the former naval base where he lived, and in exchange she would get to take some weapons from the base powerful enough to destroy the Whisperers' giant walker horde. He told her his name was Virgil. Michonne said goodbye to Judith for probably the last time and set sail for Virgil's home on the excellently named Bloodsworth Island.
Those were the big developments in the episode, but the best scene was a small one between Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus), whose friendship has become the emotional core of the season. All of their scenes together have been intimate and dialogue heavy, and this was an extra-moving one. Carol almost stepped in a bear trap while they were out in the woods looking for runaway Lydia, and rather than have a normal reaction to a close call with dismemberment, Carol was like, "Great, that means Alpha's close."
"You want her dead so bad you don't even care what happens to you," Daryl said. He said that ever since she came back from her time at sea she's been preoccupied and distant. "I'm doing the best I can," she said, quietly, like she was trying to convince herself, too.
"I'm the one you tell," Daryl said. Everyone needs one person they can be completely honest with about whatever is going on in their head, and Carol and Daryl are that person to each other.
"I don't know how," Carol said, starting to cry.
"You gotta try, all right?" Daryl answered, as gently as he could. With Daryl, all love is tough love, even when it's tender. He hugged her and said, "She's not worth it... She's a dead woman anyway. We have a future. Don't let her take that too." Norman Reedus has been given his best material in years this season, and his performance has risen to meet it.
The last scene of the half-season wasn't exactly a cliffhanger, because it was underground. Carol, Daryl, and the rest of the search party chased Alpha into a cave, where they came face to face with the horde. Alpha had led them into a trap, so now they have to figure out a way to escape without getting eaten. I think The Walking Dead might be paying tribute to The Descent a little bit.
This half-season of The Walking Dead has been consistent and pleasurable to watch. The best thing about it was how it rejuvenated some characters that had fallen by the wayside, like Negan, Siddiq, and Aaron (Ross Marquand). Hopefully the second half will keep that momentum going while spreading the love to Rosita and Father Gabriel and Connie (Lauren Ridloff) and anyone else who deserves some more time. And I have faith that Michonne's sendoff will be exciting and emotionally resonant, whenever it comes.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, Feb. 23 at 9/8c on AMC.