(Spoilers from the current The Walking Dead season will be found below.)
In this week’s pseudo-finale of The Walking Dead (the actual season 10 finale has been delayed), Beta has made his way toward the Alexandrians’ hiding spot (strangely, a hospital that was set in Atlanta in season 5), while Aaron and Alden are being held at gunpoint by a mysterious, bad-ass person in a mask.
Those two storylines, however, were mostly table-setting, prepping the series for the big showdown in the season finale, whenever it eventually airs. However, there were three other storylines in this week’s episode, “Tower,” that provided some emotional closure — or something akin to it — for several characters. Foremost among them are Lydia and Negan, who had begun to bond in the earlier half in the season before Carol released Negan from jail in order to kill Lydia’s mother, Alpha. Recall, however, that it was Negan who saved Lydia’s life after she was attacked by Margo, Gage, and Alfred (note: Two of the three of those characters are now dead, because karma is real).
Lydia and Negan’s relationship, however, was clearly going to suffer after Negan kidnapped Lydia and locked her in a shack while he cut off her mother’s head. That’s just common sense: If you decapitate someone’s mother, her daughter is going to be upset with you. Nevertheless, there are layers at play here. Alpha was an abusive mother, and Lydia hated her. However, she was the only mother Lydia had ever known. Negan — who has been the abuser in other relationships — understands the dynamic, and in one of the most powerful scenes of the last several seasons, Negan invites Lydia to hit him, to take out her anger and sadness on him.
She acquiesces, but the punches and the “I hate yous” eventually turn into an embrace, as Negan comforts a crying Lydia while crying himself. Yes, Negan: The swaggering villain who beat Glen and Abraham to death with a baseball bat is now the comforting, father-figure that The Walking Dead needs now that Rick and Hershel and Morgan are gone. After bonding with Daryl last week and coming to an uneasy truce with Carol, Negan appears to have wormed his way inside of the Alexandrians’ inner cycle, especially since he is already well-liked by Judith Grimes. The redemption arc is complete. Negan is fully transformed.
Speaking of Judith, she also had a big heartfelt scene with Daryl this week. The two embarked on a scouting mission in the hopes of isolating a Whisperer and gaining some information. The mission largely failed — Daryl ending up killing a Whisperer — but it brought Daryl and Judith closer together. With Michonne now out in search of Rick, and with Rick gone, Judith is feeling sad about being orphaned by her parents. She understands it, but she feels alone. Daryl, however, provides her with some comfort, delivering more lines in one speech than he has basically all season long. While Daryl could not promise Judith that he wouldn’t die and leave her, he could promise her that “there are a whole bunch of people back there who would do anything for her … you got a whole lot of family.”
Twelve-year-old Cailey Fleming gives an excellent, tearful performance, the kind that warrants her high per episode fee.
Meanwhile, Carol gets forgiveness for Connie’s situation and a pep talk from an unlikely source: Connie’s sister, Kelly. First off, Kelly believes that Connie — who is missing, but who will probably return in the season finale — is still alive and out there, though she is apparently the only one who believes that. “She’s not dead,” Kelly says. “She’s not. She can survive anything.”
In either respect, Kelly tells Carol that she understands why she behaved the way she did in trying to take out Alpha. Kelly then gives Carol a pep talk. “I heard the stories about you from the old days. We all have. You just go off. You do the thing that only you can do. That’s your superpower. You can’t give up everything about yourself because bad things happen. I gotta believe that.” Carol, it seems, will be able to move past this, as well, especially if Connie returns in the finale.
In addition to the three big emotional scenes between Negan/Lydia, Daryl/Judith, and Kelly/Carol, we also learned a lot more about Princess, who — it has to be said — is a much better character on the television series than in the comics. On the series, she’s just as obnoxious and over-the-top as in the comics, but here she also shows some vulnerability and heart, so much so that (despite all of her massive screw-ups in the episode) she gains the affection of Yumiko, who invites Princess to travel along with them to meet Stephanie in Charleston. Princess (who hasn’t seen anyone in over a year) is a little off-kilter because of the isolation, but she is good people and will make a great addition to The Walking Dead cast. I love her.
Unexpectedly, after the episode, we did see a promo for the season finale, which still doesn’t have a release date. That promo, however, ended up giving a few key points away. For instance, we see that Alden and Aaron escape from The Whisperers with the apparent help of the masked person. We also see that Maggie does indeed return, in what looks like is probably a brief scene in which she receives a letter from Alexandria updating her on how they’re doing and asking for help. (Related: Negan may have fully transformed, but he’s going to have to convince Maggie of that next season). For some reason, Virgil also returns. Gabriel also tantalizingly teases “the others.” This promo, in fact, looks less like a teaser for the finale, and more like the promised cliffhanger for the end of the finale, which will tease other communities we may meet in season 11.