‘The Walking Dead’: Princess’s Psyche Unravels and a Traumatic Past Revealed (RECAP)
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 20, “Splinter.”]
When fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead first met the eccentric Juanita Sanchez, aka “Princess” (Paola Lázaro), the situation was dire for a lovelorn Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and the fellow survivors that joined him on his journey to meet the woman he had been speaking with on the radio. With an extremely tight window to rendezvous with the mysterious Stephanie and her people, Eugene, Ezekiel (Khary Payton), and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) didn’t need the kooky, whimsical, walker-decorating Princess to distract them, nor were they appreciative when her antics scared off their horses.
The King to the Rescue?
But trusting them is hard when their interrogation methods are horrifically brutal. Princess is eventually brought before a small group and asked questions about her friends: where they were from, what their names are, their ages, etc. She refuses to answer, and for her insolence, she receives a punch to her jaw… just as her stepfather had once done. Thankfully, things start looking up when a familiar face breaks into her train car. It’s Ezekiel!
The King encourages Princess to run first, try to save their friends later. “We don’t know these people, and we can’t trust what we don’t know,” he says. Princess tries to talk him out of it, and they decide they need a better plan. Well, a better plan — literally — walks in, holding an apple and a donut. It’s a Commonwealth soldier, and Ezekiel is determined to use the guy to get the information they need. He restrains the man and points his own weapon at him, demanding he tell him where their friends are, all while Princess protests.
The soldier gives a much-needed info-dump about the Commonwealth, dropping their mantra, “for the benefit of all, and for all who seek solace at our gates,” implying they have trained doctors since that’s who Yumiko is probably with and saying the Commonwealth has valuable resources. He says their treatment is a basic protocol for the mission, but he can’t tell them exactly where Yumiko is because he doesn’t know. That’s not good enough for Ezekiel, who starts beating the crap out of the guy. Princess tries to pull him back, and then…
Surprise! Ezekiel evaporates. The bloodstains on Ezekiel’s forehead from beating the soldier match Princess’s own face. She has been Ezekiel all along.
Answering the Questions
Princess stops punching the soldier and leaves him in the train car. She tries to escape, but she thinks better of it and turns back. She helps the soldier she hurt, who says he’s going to get in big trouble for what happened. Princess maintains there has to be a way they can help each other, and she offers to answer the soldiers’ questions.
Except she doesn’t know much of anything about her new friends except their names, which she offers freely, along with where she’s from (Pittsburgh). That works for the soldier, who gets his rifle back from her and then leads her out of the train car… where she sees her friends with black bags over their heads, just before having one shoved over her own. Uh-oh!
- Now this is my favorite bonus episode of Season 10 so far. It gets better on re-watch, too — for example, did you catch Zeke and Princess were sitting in the exact same way during their chat about love and family?
- Kudos to Payton for playing Ezekiel in a way where it was apparent something was off, but not that that something was “he’s part of Princess’s imagination.” I’d been chalking his erratic behavior up to his cancer diagnosis and heartbreak about his family, but I was relieved that wasn’t actually him!
- I suspect Princess is going to be as polarizing a character on TV as she was in the comics, but I think her character is a breath of fresh air for the show, given how cheery and upbeat she is despite her mental health struggles and trauma.
- I’m also a fan of that random Commonwealth soldier who was just trying to do his job and worried about getting fired. He seems like an OK guy, which worries me. Please don’t die horribly when this storyline continues, random Commonwealth soldier!
- I’m confused by some of the promotional photos for this episode, which show more Eugene than we got. Some scenes of his must’ve been left on the cutting room floor.
- Fingers crossed the finale, “Here’s Negan,” is also a deep dive that fleshes out a character without feeling forced.
The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC