SEASON 10; EPISODE 12
Last week's episode was 45 minutes or so of pure build up to what we assumed was going to be an epic siege battle with dragons and Dothraki and...oh yeah, wrong show. But still, the amount of groundwork that was laid indicated that a) we'd get a barnstorming action-packed romp of an episode and b) we'd probably say goodbye to a few characters in the process.
Except it didn't really turn out that way. We did indeed lose a clutch of characters but all of these came after the Battle of Hilltop, which flattered to deceive a little bit. It's a difficult job directing prolonged battle scenes, especially ones played out after dark. Things get chaotic, it's hard to tell who is who and all that, sure. What we saw of the battle wasn't badly done per se, it's just that it all ended rather abruptly. One minute the horde were descending on Hilltop, Daryl was killing people with that ball and chain and Eugene was desperately trying to save a radio (you risked your life...for a sandwich?!). And then...it just sort of stopped and we were shown the aftermath of the battle. Maybe it was a budgetary decision (those fight scenes can't be cheap) but it meant that the growing sense of anticipation that the previous episode had created, felt a little unnecessary.
The results of the battle itself were pretty clear. Hilltop was no more and the horde had achieved their goal. But who had survived the onslaught? No one of any note actually perished during the fighting and so it was a case of waiting and seeing who had ended up where. Eugene and Carol survived and after a nice little scene, Carol persuaded Eugene to leave the group and try and find his potential soul mate. We don't really get to see these two interact very often so it was cool to see that exchange. Daryl had managed to escape with Jerry and a few others and they headed to meet Ezekiel at a predetermined rendezvous point where all the children had been taken to. Of course, when Daryl and the gang arrive, there is no sign of the King or any little ones. They needn't have worried though because the kids were safe and sound in...an abandoned shack with...a very ill looking Earl. Yep, it didn't take a detective to work out that he had been bitten and after telling Judith to keep the other kids safe, he proceeded to stop himself turning via a rather horrible method involving an upturned table and a metal spike. Unfortunately, this didn't go quite according to plan and little Judith had to finish him off after he eventually turned. Earlier in the episode, Judith had killed a whisperer and despite her apparent 'kickassery', I'm not sure she's ever killed a human or one of her friends after they have turned. It's going to affect her for sure.
Elsewhere Gamma, Alden and Kelly had the unenviable task of trying to escape with a baby, which is never an easy task. After they are surrounded by a bunch of walkers, Gamma (or Mary as she is also know) helps the others into an abandoned car before distracting the walkers and then dispatching them. Gamma has always felt like a character living on borrowed time though and it was no great surprise to see her meet her end at the hands of her former commander. Beta is a pretty mean looking bastard and has always felt like a potentially scarier baddie than his boss, Alpha. Before she died, Gamma managed to tear away part of his mask. Moments later, a whisperer shuffled up to him and 'recognised' him as someone else now that his face was partially visible. Beta wasted no time in ending that guy right there and then, obviously. So who is he?! I mean, he's got to be someone who was famous in the pre-apocalyptic world I'm guessing. Imagine that – discovering that the bad ass second-in-command of a terrifying cult was Jeff Bridges or Robbie Coltrane or something. How cool would that be?!
The most important development in episode 12 however, came right at the death. Earlier on, Negan had managed to apprehend Lydia (after narrowly avoiding a confrontation with Aaron). He has been playing his way into Alpha's good books for a little while now and we assumed that when he was leading her to a wooden hut in the middle of the woods, that Lydia would be inside. However, it was a ruse. When Alpha opened the door and realised Lydia wasn't in there, she barely had time to turn around before Negan had cut her throat wide open. I'm not sure if the shock factor was quite as high as the writers would have wanted. It was clear that Negan was playing her. But I must say it was only as she was being led up to the wooden hut that I suddenly realised she was going to perish. Her death was rather a bit too quick for my liking though. I'd have rather seen Carol go to town on her but hey, when Negan presented her with Alpha's head at the end like a football, she seemed quite happy. Carol was the one who released Negan all along – and with instructions to kill Alpha. That's kinda cool. But it does make her reckless pursuit of Alpha over the last few weeks seem a little pointless. Expect next week for Beta to assume the mantle of the big (famous) bad...