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What’s Real And What’s Illusion In This Week’s ‘The Walking Dead’?

This week’s Season 10 bonus episode of The Walking Dead — filmed under COVID protocols — takes place almost entirely in a railroad box car. It also takes place almost entirely in the mind of the character, Princess.

Princess, played by Paola Lázaro, is the newest series regular on The Walking Dead, and in the original Season 10 finale, she was taken captive by Commonwealth soldiers along with Yumiko, Eugene, and Ezekiel. In “Splinter,” the action picks up from that episode, and it’s told from the POV of Princess, who witnesses the soldiers hit Yumiko before throwing Princess into a railroad car. The thing about Princess, however, is that, by her own admission, she suffers from ADHD, anxiety, PTSD, depression, crushing loneliness, and that small dark place do things to her head.

It’s clearly what happened in “Splinter,” because it was often difficult to tell what was real and what was not in the episode. “There are stories you tell yourself,” an obvious fantasy version of Ezekiel told Princess, “and there is the truth.”

The “truth” is, everything from the moment Princess got a splinter in her thumb until the moment it came out was a delusion in this episode. Her conversations with Eugene, Yumiko, and Ezekiel were not real. Not even the interrogation scene was real (the lights behind the interrogator were clearly the slats from the railroad car). From the moment the splinter went into her thumb until it came out — when Princess was releasing the cuffs from the Commonwealth soldier — was one of the “stories” that Princess told herself.

That’s not to say that Princess didn’t beat up the soldier who brought her food and temporarily took away his rifle, but Ezekiel had nothing to do with it. That’s not to say she wasn’t interrogated, either. It just didn’t happen like we saw it. Princess’s reality literally “splintered” the moment she got the splinter in her finger and Yumiko began speaking. That splinter also triggered (in her mind) an incident from Princess’s own childhood involving a splinter and her abusive step-father and the mother who failed to protect her. The splinter coming out is essentially what allowed Princess to snap back into reality, at which point she gave the soldier back his rifle and answered his questions. In exchange, the soldier put a bag over her head so that she could join her friends, who also had bags over their heads.

Was that real? Absolutely! What were the bags for? That’s unclear, but my guess is that the Commonwealth soldiers — having interrogated Eugene, Yumiko, Princess, and Ezekiel — found their answers satisfactory enough to take them to their community, but to ensure that they couldn’t identify the route to get there, the soldiers placed bags over their heads.

We should find out much, much more about those soldiers in the final season of The Walking Dead.

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