Previously on The Walking Dead: Michonne and Siddiq escorted Magna and her crew to the Hilltop, in the hope that they could find a home there. Carol reunited with Daryl and brought Henry with her, in the hopes that he could get some additional training and guidance from him. And Rosita is able to escape the clutches of the Walkers and the Whisperers, leaving the injured Eugene to take refuge in a barn and Daryl, Jesus, and Aaron to team up and go find him.
THE STORY SO FAR: Michonne and Siddiq arrive at the Hilltop with Magna and her crew, and the reception that Michonne and only Michonne receives from many of the people there, including Tara and Carol, is chilly enough to make a polar bear go shopping for a winter coat. Henry, after reuniting with Enid (yay!) and then finding out she has a boyfriend (boo-urns!) decides to hang out with a group of teenagers for some fun-filled drinking and playing Ring Toss with a Walker in a pit that was probably once designed by Leslie Knope, only to realize that none of what they’re doing strikes him as fun or even responsible. Jesus, Daryl, and Aaron realize that the herd of Walkers they’ve been crossing paths with and avoiding is like no other herd of Walkers they’ve ever dealt with, especially since they seem to ignore any and all distractions in order to stay going after them specifically. Once they locate Eugene at the barn, they confront the herd of Walkers at a nearby cemetery, only for one of the “Walkers” to defeat Jesus in combat by stabbing him in the back and then whispering to him, “You are where you do not belong.” Michonne, Daryl, Magna, and the rest of the crew arrive to help out, only for them to realize that the Walkers that they’re fighting aren’t Walkers at all. They appear to be regular humans wearing the skin of Walkers as a mask, almost as if to disguise themselves from both human and Walker.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE?: Daryl setting off the firecrackers to distract the Walkers, only to see fear and worry creep into him as he realizes that they have no intention of falling for it. Carol introducing herself to Connie with American Sign Language. Henry showing the kind of maturity that Ezekiel and Carol taught him as he refuses to use a Walker as a toy for his amusement like Carl once did back in Season 2, followed by his conversation with Earl as to why he got drunk and behaved irresponsibly. Michonne’s conversation with Carol, and the increasing amount of hints as to why there is so much tension between the communities and what exactly happened to cause it in the first place. The entire scene of Jesus and Aaron fighting the Whisperers side by side in the increasingly foggy graveyard. And the chilling moment in which a Whisperer reveals himself to Jesus in his dying moments.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE?: Jesus being killed off, and being killed off without ever reaching his full potential as a character, gave some viewers reason to be very upset, as it came off as yet another example of the Bury Your Gays trope, a trope that is not new at all to The Walking Dead. And showrunner Angela Kang stating that there will be additional LGBTQ representation on the show to make up for Jesus’s death kinda/sorta comes off just as perplexing as the show’s previous trope of one Black character being killed off and then being replaced by another, as if having two or more Black characters onscreen was just too damn much to ask for.
IS NEGAN IN THIS EPISODE?: He is, and due to Father Gabriel being worried about Rosita and pissed off at Negan for repeatedly pushing his buttons, he ends up leaving his cell door unlocked accidentally. And once Negan realizes that he is no longer in captivity, he smiles and immediately makes his exit.
MICHONNE?: Yes, and apparently, something major happened during the time-jump that occurred after Rick and Jadis/Anne’s disappearance, leading to members of the Hilltop no longer liking or trusting her (the fact that Michonne is forced to disarm herself of her katana before entering says more than enough) and the communities no longer working or living together in harmony. Despite Carol’s attempts at friendly conversation, Michonne tells her that Alexandria and the Hilltop coming together for the upcoming fair can’t and won’t happen, as she feels that the communities must only look out for themselves. Which judging from her later conversation with Siddiq, is one of several hard decisions that she’s not pleased about having to make.
CARL?: Nope. Still dead.
RICK?: Nope. Whereabouts still remain unknown.
JADIS/ANNE?: Same status as Rick’s.
CAROL?: Yes, and other than not looking entirely happy to see Michonne and telling Henry how proud she is of him, we don’t get much of her this episode.
IS DARYL STILL ALIVE? BECAUSE IF NOT, THEN WE’LL
PROBABLY RIOT IF WE HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO DO: He is, and the several attempts that he makes to distract the “Walkers” and send them in another direction far away from him, Jesus, Aaron, and his dog-named-Dog end up being unsuccessful and causing him to worry about what the hell they’re all dealing with.
ANY SIGN OF THE WHISPERERS IN THIS EPISODE?: The Whisperers finally make their presence felt in this episode, as they continue going after Eugene, Daryl, Jesus, and Aaron. And despite Jesus using many of the moves in his repertoire to kill them and get away to safety, he ends up getting ambushed by a fast-moving Whisperer who he naturally assumed to be another slow-as-molasses Walker and ends up dead because of it. (And judging from his exit interview in which he expressed how unsatisfied he was with the writers not using him or his character to their full potential, Tom Payne doesn’t seem all that upset about having to look for work elsewhere.)
ANY SIGN OF THE BLACK HELICOPTER THAT TOOK RICK AND JADIS/ANNE AWAY?: No.
DID YOU SEE CREED 2 THIS WEEKEND?: Yes, I did.
MICHAEL B. JORDAN’S BACK MUSCLES: ….Yes, they are quite impressive. Why are you bringing them up?
OH, I DON’T NEED A REASON TO TALK ABOUT THEM. THEY’RE JUST SO BEAUTIFUL TO LOOK AT: Uh…huh! Well, I couldn’t disagree with that or with your admiration of his physique even if I wanted to. And judging from a few of the vocal reactions I heard from audience members when I saw Creed 2 and MBJ’s shirtlessness was on full display for all to enjoy, you’re certainly not alone in your sentiment.
TO SUM IT ALL UP: This was definitely one of the best mid-season finales in the show’s history, and the fact that it leaned so strongly into its horror elements more than it usually does only added to that, even if it did involve losing another one of the show’s best actors, though I certainly don’t blame Tom Payne for being creatively frustrated about how he and his character were being treated. It was a very strong ending for this first half of the season , which has done a terrific job so far of sustaining its momentum. And now that Negan is on the loose, Jesus is dead (most likely leaving Tara to take over as leader of the Hilltop), and the Whisperers planning to make life even more unpleasant for everyone on the show, we’re all now left wondering what the hell is going to happen next. And actually giving a damn about what’s going to happen next. And it’s nice to actually feel that way about storytelling decisions being made on The Walking Dead.
This episode of The Walking Dead had been brought to you by “Whisper To A Scream” by SoHo:
And by “Wait (The Whisper Song)” by The Ying Yang Twins (and because Pajiba is a family-friendly site, I included the clean version of the song):