‘Walking Dead’ Universe: The 10 Best Episodes of 2020
This was a strange year for the Walking Dead franchise. Not only was there a healthy dose of irony in the Season 10 finale being delayed due to a worldwide pandemic (you know, the exact thing cited in early seasons as the cause of the zombie virus), but the typical release calendar for Fear the Walking Dead was disrupted when it was only able to air eight of its 16 episodes, and teen-centric spinoff World Beyond was pushed to October after being slotted to premiere in March.
Oh, and we got the news that the main show will end after an extended Season 11, but Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) will continue on in an as-yet-untitled spinoff that seems destined to head to New Mexico. Ride With Daryl Dixon, anyone?
But even with so many disruptions to its schedule, the TWD franchise aired some excellent hours of TV this year. Here are the 10 we enjoyed most.
1. The End Is the Beginning
“The End Is the Beginning” is worth inclusion solely for the unique character of Emile (Demitrius Grosse), a decapitation-happy bounty hunter who makes life tough for a gravely injured Morgan (Lennie James). But even without Emile, this episode proved Fear had thrown off its doldrums: It did away with the grayish filter and stilted dialogue, it gave Morgan a purpose beyond “saving everyone,” and it told a unique story that made its hourlong runtime feel short.
2. What We Become
Farewell, Michonne (Danai Gurira). While it wasn’t quite the cinematic goodbye given to Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), the katana-wielding badass’s exit was just as powerful. Thanks to Virgil’s (Kevin Carroll) hallucinogenic tea, we got to see an alternate-reality version of the character join the Saviors and then die by Rick’s hand. But we also saw the real Michonne’s mercy prevail over her wrath and a hint that the love of her life is still out there. Plus, the door was left wide open for a return—perhaps in the Rick movies?
3. Welcome to the Club
The old Strand (Colman Domingo) came back, and not a moment too soon. In Fear‘s “Welcome to the Club,” the former conman proved he still knows how to manipulate and scheme to keep himself and those he cares about safe—even when said companions might not approve of his choices. It was exciting to see him back to playing the game of survival, even if it put him at odds with his closest friend, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey).
4. Bury Her Next to Jasper’s Leg
Some decent character development for Fear‘s June (Jenna Elfman) was way overdue—and it arrived in spades in “Bury Her Next to Jasper’s Leg.” June’s initial unwillingness to save Virginia (Colby Minifie) presented her in a new light: “Do no harm,” it seemed, only went so far when it came to a woman who’d engineered the loss of so many innocent lives. Eventually, though, June relented and cut off Ginny’s bitten hand—a decision that, by episode’s end, had spiraled to present one of the season’s biggest cliffhangers.
5. The Tower
There was plenty of good ol’ Walking Dead season finale coolness here, from Beta’s (Ryan Hurst) grisly end, to Maggie’s (Lauren Cohan) return, to the reveal that Connie (Lauren Ridloff) survived the cave. But “The Tower” also had emotional beats that resonated, like Lydia (Cassady McClincy) stepping in to keep Carol (Melissa McBride) from sacrificing herself and “Aunt Maggie” reuniting with Judith.
6. Look at the Flowers
And at last, after seasons of being on the fence about staying alive, Carol decisively chose to stick around. “Look at the Flowers” finds Carol meeting up with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)…then wandering off on her own, as she is wont to do. Except she wasn’t really alone, because she had hallucinations of Alpha (Samantha Morton) to keep her company. Eventually, after an extremely close brush with death, Carol realized she didn’t want to be a lone wolf again and headed home to Alexandria, where Daryl opened the gate.
7. The Key
In a much-improved season for Fear The Walking Dead, this episode stands out above the rest. “The Key” follows lawman-sharpshooter John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) as he investigates a mysterious death in Lawton, but things take an unavoidable tragic turn that leaves him questioning his morals and, indeed, whether or not he’s still a good man. Dillahunt gives an excellent performance, as does Colby Minifie as the villainous Virginia.
Picking up right where Season 10’s midseason finale left off, TWD‘s “Squeeze” was an hour of television that had us catching our breath at commercial breaks. There were plenty of close calls for Carol, Daryl, and the rest of their friends as they worked their way through a walker-infested cave, and unfortunately, not everyone made it out that day…but as we now know, everyone did, eventually. Connie and Magna (Nadia Hilker) are just fine.
9. Walk With Us
Though there was plenty to appreciate in this episode—like the tragic deaths of Earl Sutton (John Finn) and Gamma/Mary (Thora Birch)—the big moment in “Walk With Us” was Negan living up to his comics counterpart and slitting Alpha’s throat, thus saving Lydia from a mother who was willing to kill her to remain “strong” in the eyes of her people. With great performances all-around, this episode proved TWD has outgrown its “big deaths only at midseason and season finales” formula.
10. Morning Star
This was The Walking Dead’s “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” and it—much like that iconic installment of Game of Thrones—was plenty powerful. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) sang “When the Wild Wind Blows” to Stephanie, Carol had an honest conversation with Lydia and a brief-yet-heartwarming moment with Daryl, and Negan showed his true antihero colors by trying, and unfortunately, failing, to get Alpha to try a diplomatic solution to the conflict. It all culminated in a visually stunning battle, with a fiery cliffhanger ending.
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