WARNING: Heavy spoilers will be found below.
A space crash is not something I’d ever anticipated seeing on The Walking Dead, and I’ll be the first to admit that when the cold-open featured a Soviet-era satellite flying through space that maybe the series had jumped the shark in its tenth season. Alas, that satellite did exactly what a satellite that’s at least 30 years old might do: It fell through the atmosphere and crashed into the forest of Virginia and into The Whisperers’ territory but close enough to Oceanside to endanger that community unless the Alexandrians et. al, came together to snuff out the fire.
It’s a weirdly brilliant plot contrivance — big, fiery, but believable — because debris falling from space is enough to draw the attention of those in both the Oceanside and Alexandria, which allows Angela Kang — who wrote the episode — to focus on the different communities in the hours before the satellite crashes. Over in the Oceanside, Michonne, Aaron, and Daryl are leading a training exercise out on the beach using live zombies slipping out of a boat as targets. It’s a genuinely cool sequence even if it’s all for show, if only because we get to see a massive action sequence set on the beach. There’s lots of blood, zombie guts, and cool weaponry, and we get to see our major fighters working together. Also, Michonne slices off a zombie’s face, foreshadowing the war to come with The Whisperers.
The kicker, however, is that as the kids are playing in the sand, they come across a Whisperer mask, which sets everyone on edge. It’s been months since the 9th season finale, and the Alexandrian alliance has not encountered any of The Whisperers, as they apparently travel elsewhere for the winter. The calm, however, ends as soon as they see the Whisperer mask. Everyone goes on high alert. Michonne takes a crew out into the woods to see if there’s anymore evidence of Whisperers, and they find another skin.
Meanwhile, back in Alexandria, life continues apace. Eugene runs point on taking care of Rosita’s baby, transforming parenting into a science; Rosita is boxing and getting back in shape; Siddiq is kind of enjoying fatherhood, but he’s also suffering from PTSD after having witnessed Alpha and The Whisperers murder several of his friends. Siddiq also introduces us to a new character, Dante, who is another doctor in Alexandria, and true to his comics character, he is equally charming and obnoxious (in the comics, he’s also Maggie’s love interest, though that can’t happen until Lauren Cohan returns in season 11).
Gabriel, meanwhile, is stressing about The Whisperers, as well as Negan, who is on some sort of work-release program, tending to the garden. Negan bonds with Alexandria’s other outcast, Lydia, while also giving Gabriel a very Negan-like speech about “sh*tting pants.” Negan advised Gabriel to lie to the Alexandrians about the return of The Whisperers, because it’s important to lie to keep everyone safe. Gabriel seems amenable to Negan’s advice.
In the episode’s most enjoyable pairing, however, we see Carol return from a long trip away on a boat. Ezekiel is awaiting her when she gets off the boat, but Carol is awkwardly disinterested in talking with him — the death of Henry is still too fresh. She is, however, excited to see Daryl, and the two run out to the forest and playfully give each other sh*t while also reiterating their platonic friendship for one another (the Connie/Daryl ship, however, is in full swing). The two also daydream about ditching Alexandria and driving west, which may be another nod to the future Commonwealth storyline.
Everybody’s day, however, is eventually interrupted when the satellite falls out of the sky, which leads to an intense sequence in which everyone turns into a firefighter though the night, which is terrifying because they’re doing so in Whisperer territory afraid that they could be attacked at any minute. In fact, when a horde of zombies approaches them, their biggest worry is not tens of zombies flanking them in the midst of a fire, but the fear that they may be Whisperers.
Eventually, however, the fire is put out, and no Whisperers arrive to disembowel anyone. Daryl, meanwhile, asks Carol not to get back on the boat — he needs a friend right now. In the last scene of the episode, Carol looks out over a cliff and everyone’s worst suspicions are confirmed: Alpha is back, and she makes menacing eyes at Carol, who returns the look.
It is on.
— There were a lot of fun little moments in the episode, though none is better than the raised eyebrows that Kelly gives Connie after Daryl waves at her.
— Another great moment is when Connie tells Daryl that he signs with a Southern accent. Also, the fact that Daryl has an ASL book in his back pocket seems to prove that he is crushing hard on Connie.
— Kelly, it seems, is also losing her hearing, and she’s worried that she won’t be able to translate for her sister anymore.
— Another fun moment: When Daryl makes Carol a friendship bracelet. These are the kinds of spectacular scenes we didn’t get before Angela Kang began running the show.
— That exchange between Ezekiel and Carol may have been the most amusingly awkward moment in ten seasons of The Walking Dead. “Hey.” “Hey.” “Good to see you.” “Yeah, you too.” Ooof.
— I don’t know what he got off the satellite, but Eugene manages to salvage something.
— Dante is either a character that fans will love or hate. Or maybe both simultaneously.
— Did you catch the nod toward the ending of Robert Kirkman’s comics and the Rick-centric addition to the title credits?
— Next week’s episode looks as though we’ll get to know The Whisperers better, including Gamma, played by Thora Birch.