2018’s final episode of The Walking Dead delivered an early Christmas present to its fan base. Yes, it is finally time. The Whisperers have arrived. It’s only fitting that the most heralded opposing force within the Walking Dead mythos showed their face as the estranged old gang came together once again. Timing is everything, and allowing the narrative bombshell to linger and ruminate for months before the show’s return in February kept an eventful season moving in the right direction.
Michonne’s long trek to deliver the newbies to Hilltop comes to an end. After an initial meeting with the business end of an arrow, the group is allowed in after relinquishing their weapons. The mood grows more tense when Tara fills Michonne in about the intermingling between members of the communities, specifically Jesus and Aaron. Tara allows them to stay the night and will let Jesus decide the fate of the newbies when he returns from rescuing Eugene.
Back in Alexandria, Gabriel continues his attempts to rehabilitate Negan through mindfulness exercises. Negan remains flippant. A discouraged Gabriel leaves to find Hilltop’s messengers, learning of Rosita’s injury. He’s forced to stay in Alexandria to care for the prisoner. His frustration grows as Negan continues prodding him, bubbling over in a tirade about his responsibility. Gabriel storms out. It appears that Gabriel’s anger got the better of him. Later, Negan discovers that his cell door remained unlocked. Chaos returns as he simply walks out the door and out of imprisonment.
Things remain strained back in Hilltop. Carol tries to convince Michonne to participate in the Kingdom’s fair, but Michonne refuses again. Michonne’s attitude has clearly taken on an “Alexandria First” motif. Saddiq tries to convince her that now would be a good time to reconnect fully with the other communities, but Michonne doesn’t budge. All concern shifts to Rosita when she wakes up. She stresses that everyone needs to find the rescue party because they don’t understand what their going up against.
The New Herd
Daryl, Aaron and Jesus are discovering that fact slowly before their eyes. New behaviors and a heightened ability to follow the living baffle the trio. They even show an enhanced ability to follow voices as Aaron pushes Jesus to realize his purpose as the leader of Hilltop. The rescuers accomplish their mission when they find Eugene hiding in an abandoned shack. He’s still noticeably spooked as he explains that the herd came by multiple times looking for him. The others balk at his claims that he heard the walkers speak as the herd shambles toward them.
Eugene posits that the dead are evolving as the herd continues to follow them. He tells them to leave him behind as his injury is slowing them down. They decide to split up instead, with Daryl taking off on his own to cause a distraction. He does so with a string of firecrackers. Unfortunately, the audible lure does little to pull the herd off its desired path.
The New Kid
It’s time for Henry to start his blacksmith training at the Hilltop, but that also means the beginning of his first experience on his own. Hilltop stands as a surrogate high school for Henry. He eats alone. His first crush is dashed quickly. Luckily, the other Hilltop teens take interest in him, inviting him up to their hangout balcony. The bonding continues when the foursome sneak out to a fun house in the woods that night. After pumping themselves full of subpar moonshine, the Hilltoppers reveal their favorite cure for boredom: taunting a trapped walker. Henry is disgusted by the sight and kills the walker.
Henry finds himself in a jail cell for the crime of being drunk and disorderly. Earl confronts his new apprentice about his actions. Henry refuses to discuss what happened, prompting Earl to call off his apprenticeship. Henry pleads to stay, expressing that the enormity of the situation, his commitment and the emotional goodbye with Carol were all hard to handle. Earl shows mercy on the boy, saying he’ll talk to Jesus and will let him know his decision when his two day prison sentence ends.
Not Where You Belong
The herd continues its pursuit of Aaron, Jesus and Eugene. The trio is chased into a cemetery as a dense fog descends.They find an exit gate, but are unable to unlock it. The group is forced to fight the oncoming walkers, taking out a number of them before the herd seemingly retreats. Michonne, Magna, and Yumiko arrive and get the gate open, allowing Eugene and Aaron to escape while Jesus holds off the remaining walkers. Jesus’s attempt to take out another walker as he makes his way to gate goes horribly awry. The walker ducks his blow and buries a blade into Jesus’s side, killing him.
More armed walkers rush in to fight as Daryl drops in, killing Jesus’s murderer. The walker isn’t what it appears to be upon further inspection. A mask made from walker skin is removed to reveal an uninfected human. Whispered threats fill the air as the group is surrounded by this new enemy. The Whisperers are here.
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