This week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “The World Before,” is a very good episode. As a midseason finale, however, it is anticlimactic. There is no Negan in the episode, so we are not witness to how he’s doing inside The Whisperers; there’s no Beta, either; we don’t get anymore answers regarding Eugene and his radio conversations with someone outside of the Alexandrian communities; and the story doesn’t return to Lydia, who ran away in last week’s episode. It was underwhelming, but only in the sense that we expected more from a midseason finale.
With that said, it does appear that Angela Kang may be adopting the Game of Thrones storytelling structure. Recall in GoT that often the biggest episode of each season (“Battle of the Bastard,” “The Rains of Castamere”) was the second-to-last episode, while the series used the last episode to set up the next season. Kang pulled that off in the ninth season, as well, featuring the Whisperer massacre in the season’s second-to-last episode and using the finale to cover the fall of The Kingdom and set up the tenth season. Likewise, last week’s episode tracked the gut-punching death of Siddiq and Lydia running away, while the midseason finale closes the Siddiq storyline and sets up the back half of the season, specifically the Whisperer War and (presumably) the exit of Michonne.
The episode did close the book on Dante, who didn’t even bother to try and disguise Siddiq’s death as a suicide. We get the backstory on Dante’s infiltration of Alexandria — he is the one who spray-painted ‘Silence the Whisperers,’ messed with the water supply, and even killed the old lady with the stomach bug. Rosita pays a visit to Siddiq and quickly realizes that something is amiss. To Dante’s credit, he lets Rosita put the baby down before he attacks her with a knife. Rosita’s training and fighting skills, however, pay off, and she manages to subdue Dante with the help of Zombie Siddiq. Rosita’s protective instincts kick in big time.
Dante is imprisoned, and he thinks he’s going to be able to have a public trial and create even more dissension and paranoia within Alexandria, but not on Gabriel’s watch. It’s funny: Gabriel dealt with Negan’s smart-ass comments for years and never lost his patience. But with Dante? Gabriel loses it within minutes and goes savage, rage-killing Dante because Dante killed Siddiq, because Dante tried to kill Rosita, and because Dante nearly came between him and Rosita. Gabriel doesn’t always show his affection toward Rosita, but 15 violent stabs to the body of Dante spoke a lot of words. It’s a shame, though, because Dante was a compelling character on the series. I hate to lose him, even if he sort of was Negan 2.0.
Meanwhile, there may be some question about who got played, and who played who, but in the end, Alpha lured Carol, Daryl, Jerry, Aaron, Kelly, and Magna out into a cave, where they appear to be trapped with several hundred walkers. One the one hand, that’s bad. On the other hand, it may present an opportunity to wipe out The Whisperers’ entire horde at once. Note also that Connie doesn’t appear to be down in the cave with the rest of them, although Connie most definitely was with the group before they started chasing Alpha. It was not Carol’s smartest movie, chasing a clever enemy in her own territory, but Carol has been making a lot of mistakes this season. Grief will do that to a person.
Finally, we meet Virgil, a character that Luke, Michonne, and Judith encounter on the way to Oceanside. The episode goes through with the sort of obligatory, “Should we trust him?” business, but eventually, Michonne tearfully remembers the words of Rick (“my mercy prevails over my wrath“) and decides to help Virgil get back home to his island, a naval base with access to a lot of weapons Michonne can use to “take out Alpha once and for all.”
Clearly, this is part of Michonne’s end game. I suspect she’ll find something on that naval base which will lead her to believe that Rick is still alive, and via those walkie talkies with Judith, let her daughter know that she’s going to search for Grimes. I do hope that she gets the weapons back to Oceanside before she leaves. I’m not sure how many episodes Michonne has left (rumor is, there’s only one), but Angela Kang has promised us a meaty exit for Michonne, so I expect her next episode in 2020 will be a major one.
— Carol and Ezekiel share a few words, but Ezekiel still cannot bring himself to tell Carol that he’s dying of cancer.
— Eugene and Rosita rekindle their friendship, although I think that Rosita might be developing some romantic feelings for Eugene, too. Maybe? It’s hard to tell, but Rosita again illustrates her strong protective instinct in taking out zombies with helmets. With Siddiq dead, Rosita cannot abide the thought of dying and leaving baby Coco without a parent. I have a sad, sinking feeling that Rosita is not long for this world, anyway, so developing Eugene as a surrogate father is all the more important. It’s too bad, too, because Rosita is really just starting to break out as a fully dimensional character rather than a mere love interest to Abraham or Eugene or Gabriel.
— I’m not sure what that very sweet scene between Aaron and his adorable daughter, Gracie, was about, nor the callback to his license plate collection. He is among those in the cave, however, and I have an unsettling feeling that this is one of those sweet moments the show gives characters before killing them off. We’ll see.
— Good luck in your future endeavors, Juan Javier Cardenas. He hasn’t gotten as much praise as he should be getting for a very effective portrayal of Dante, and for tricking most of us into believing he was a good guy for most of the season.
— The Carol and Daryl exchange is another reminder of how good these two are together, although Carol goes and completely ignores Daryl’s advice the next morning when she runs off after Alpha.
— There’s a nice moment between Rosita and Gabriel as they burn the body of Dante, which is a reminder that Alexandria still buries their own, and burns the enemy.
— Finally, during the episode, AMC unveiled a new teaser for the spin-off series, The Walking Dead: World Beyond. It looks great, and it specifically links the spin-off to The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, and the Rick Grimes movies. I am sure we will be speculating on that for the next couple of months ahead of the return of The Walking Dead.