'The Walking Dead' Season 10 Finale Is Here, And It's Not What You Expected (RECAP)
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10 episode 16, “A Certain Doom.”]
After six months of waiting, it’s finally here — the Season 10 finale.
“A Certain Doom” was put on hold after the COVID-19 outbreak shut everything down last spring, leaving AMC unable to complete VFX work on the episode. At last, it hit our screens... though perhaps the episode was not what you were clamoring for, if you were looking forward to a big fight, a la past showdowns between our heroes and Terminus, or our group and the Saviors.
With that said, this is by no means a bad episode of The Walking Dead. It ties up the season’s beats in a meaningful way and sets up the show’s future (which we now know is limited) in the exciting final few minutes that point toward the last arc from the source material. If anything, “A Certain Doom” is a victim of the real-world events that unfolded around it, which were unforeseeable and shouldn’t be held against these thoroughly decent 44 minutes of storytelling.
Here’s how it all goes down.
The Best-Laid Plans
As the episode opens, the group hastily preps for war with the remaining Whisperers, who’ve surrounded the hospital. (If you watched the clips AMC released, this would’ve looked quite familiar.) Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) make it back inside, Team Eugene (Josh McDermitt) continues their trek to meet Stephanie, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) makes it back and gets a Season 9B/Season 10 recap via a letter from Carol and Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Alden (Caleb McAuliffe) are saved by a mask-wearing, axe-wielding dude.
The plan, courtesy of Luke (Dan Fogler), is to lead the walkers away—and over a cliff—with a boombox attached to a wagon. Of course, that means he has to get to the wagon to plug everything in… which means a group has to go out there, in the sea of walkers, covered in guts and carrying the materials. Four groups of two end up taking the job; Daryl goes with Kelly (Angel Theory), Carol goes with Beatrice (Briana Venskus). Magna (Nadia Hilker) goes with Jerry (Cooper Andrews) and Luke goes with his lady love, Jules (Alex Sgambati).
Like most plans on The Walking Dead, it goes sideways. Beatrice gets stabbed by a Whisperer and dies, placing Carol in grave danger, but she manages to escape unscathed and with the supplies for the wagon. The group, minus poor Beatrice, continues on with a working radio wagon.
Maggie to the Rescue!
Meanwhile, inside the hospital, the Whisperers make their way through the door and up the stairs. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Lydia (Cassady McClincy) share a sweet moment where he advises her to run and gives her her mother’s walker mask, and she tells him he could be a hero if he wanted to be. He heads down an elevator shaft, and Lydia leaves to join the party leading the Whisperers away. When night falls, the Whisperers get to Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and nearly kill him, but he’s saved just in the nick of time by Maggie, who’s brought along her mask-wearing and incredibly deadly friend, as well as Aaron and Alden.
Unfortunately, the radio group doesn’t face smooth sailing from there on out. At night, the Whisperers start attacking, and they break the wagon. Daryl and friends are forced to take cover in the woods, where they come up with a terrifying Plan B—they enter the horde themselves and eliminate the Whisperers inside. From there, someone has to take on the suicide mission of leading the walkers over the cliff. Lydia volunteers for the job, but Daryl’s not having it. “We can deal with this later,” he says.
They infiltrate the horde and start taking down Whisperers, which whittles away at whatever remains of Beta’s (Ryan Hurst) clinging-by-a-thread mental state. Then, suddenly, a voice sounds: “Hey, shithead.” It’s Negan! He’s headed out with the horde, too, and he makes it his mission to take down the Whisperers’ co-leader. He can’t quite get it done alone, though, so Daryl helps him out, and together, they silence that Whisperer... for good. (In a cool nod to the comics, Negan realizes Beta was a celebrity, when, as he's dying, the walkers rip off his skin mask.)
Finding Their Own Way
That just leaves the “leading the walkers over a cliff” part of things, which Lydia is still determined to do. But Carol approaches her and tells her to leave. “Go,” she says. “This is my choice.” She makes it to the cliff’s edge and closes her eyes—and then someone pulls her back. Daryl? No, Lydia! She tugs Carol to safety behind a rock, and she, referencing a conversation earlier in the episode, reminds Carol that she didn’t tell her to leave—she told her to “find her own way.” They hug and cry together, and then, when it’s safe, they head back to the others.
The hospital group and walker-mission groups come back together in the woods, which leads to a string of happy reunions; Maggie hugs Judith (Cailey Fleming), Lydia hugs Negan, and Daryl and Carol have a chat. He asks her if she got what she wanted now that it’s over, and she says she’ll never have what she wants. “You’ve still got me,” he says, and they hug. He adds, “And New Mexico is still out there.” For now, Carol says they have things to take care of where they are; but this seems like a pretty pointed nod to that upcoming Daryl-Carol spinoff AMC announced.
Oh, and Connie (Lauren Ridloff)’s alive; she made it out of the cave, but she doesn’t make it back to the group. Instead she crosses paths with Virgil (Kevin Carroll), who’s back in the picture for reasons that are, as of yet, unknown.
Come On, Commonwealth!
Team Eugene faces a major setback when his bike breaks and it seems they won’t be able to make the rendezvous. He’s heartbroken and convinced there’s no way they can go on, but Ezekiel (Khary Payton) talks some sense into him. They continue their trek and make it to the point where he’s meant to meet Stephanie… and at first it seems there’s no one there.
Eugene boldly declares that they should go find her and her group anyway, and then, suddenly, they’re surrounded by soldiers in white armor and blinded by powerful lights. Commonwealth, here we come!
- Had this aired in April as originally intended, I think it would’ve been a perfectly fine and satisfying finale. Since it didn’t, I’m wondering whether the audience will be disappointed with it; after all, there really wasn’t a big showdown between the Whisperers and Team Family the way there was between the main group and the Saviors. Even the Negan, Daryl and Beta fight wasn’t all that lengthy or harrowing. Delaying the episode for this long turned it into more of an “event” than it was ever intended to be, and while it was a good finale, it didn’t quite live up to all the hype.
- I’d been wanting Lydia and Carol to be friends pretty much since Daryl became her father figure, and man, this episode delivered on that front. Cassady McClincy and Melissa McBride are spectacular together, and that scene of the two of them on the cliff just might be one of my favorites from the whole show. Finally, it seems like Carol has closure—she no longer wants to die, actively or passively—and, with Lydia and Daryl, it seems like she has hope for the future.
- Negan greeting Beta in the middle of the horde by saying, “Hey, shithead!” was laugh-out-loud funny. I hope there’s a place for Negan in AMC’s slate of spinoff shows and/or movies, because losing his character would just be tragic.
- Speaking of the spinoffs, I’m now almost certain Daryl and Carol will be heading for New Mexico. That’s three times the destination has come up between them, so clearly, the writers want the audience to remember it. There’s got to be a reason for that.
- I’m now thinking Maggie has something to do with the Commonwealth or CRM, and that axe-wielding guy is Mercer. The mask, I’m guessing, is because they hadn’t actually cast him yet, similarly to how Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) face was obscured by her hood in the Season 2 finale.
- Princess (Paola Lazaro) is wonderful and brings some much-needed light to a show that can oft be pretty gloomy. Her calling Eugene “one horny dude” was the other time I laughed out loud during this episode.
- I don’t trust the episode titles on this show anymore, at least as they tie to character fates. “A Certain Doom” meant very little in terms of major character deaths (well, aside from Beta), whereas in the comics it signals the end for one of the series’ biggest heroes. “The Tower” did not usher in Father Gabriel’s end, as it did in the source material. From now on, I think I’ll be approaching episode titles with a healthy skepticism.
The Walking Dead, Returns 2021, AMC