The Walking Dead’s Carol was kidding when in the middle of Sunday’s fraught episode she asked, “Wait, we’re gonna die tonight?” But by the end of the hour, which included the arrival of Alpha’s horde at Hilltop, Negan applying for a new job as the Whisperers’ chief strategy consultant, a musical interlude courtesy of Eugene, and, I kid you not, weaponized tree sap, Carol’s question wasn’t sounding quite so rhetorical. Read on, and I’ll explain in even gorier detail why.
‘DOES THIS MEAN I GRADUATED TO THE NEXT LEVEL OF KINKY WHISPERER S—?’ | As “Morning Star” began, while the Whisperers collected sap, which I’ll admit left me thinking for a moment that they’d figured out how to make pancakes, Alpha had Negan lash her arm, then she lashed his. “Does this mean we’re bonded for life?” he asked. “Depends,” she replied in that enigmatic way of hers. Still, it was obvious that he had completely usurped Beta’s spot as Alpha’s go-to guy. Not only did Negan now have his own grody walker-skin mask, he had the boss lady’s ear, which he bent to suggest that, instead of massacre the Hilltoppers and Alexandrians, she should instead force them to join the Whisperers. “Explain,” she said, apparently intrigued.
Meanwhile, at Hilltop, in hopes of turning radio-girlfriend Stephanie into a real, in-person girlfriend, Eugene admitted to her that he was in Virginia and, since their ability to spot the same falling satellite had indicated that they were near one another, asked if she’d be up for, in essence, a blind date. She was into the idea, she said. She just had to get the OK from her very-cautious people. Outside, Earl and Alden, who were fast becoming the grumpy Statler and Waldorf of Hilltop, began grumbling the second they saw stranger Mary approaching with Aaron, Rosita and the entourage from Alexandria. When Aaron explained that Mary was Adam’s aunt and hoped to see the baby, the buddies took turns hitting a roof that wasn’t over their heads since they were outdoors.
‘WE DIE FIGHTING FOR A PLACE THAT MEANS SOMETHING’ | In the woods, Ezekiel found Carol at Daryl’s old campsite and asked her to return to Hilltop with him. “Or,” he said, “I’ll just sit here with you, and we’ll get eaten by mosquitoes together.” Since the guest list for Carol’s pity party was her, herself and she, she chose option No. 1. Back at Hilltop, Rosita looked for Eugene in the radio room and, as anyone would, said hello upon hearing Stephanie on the line. When Eugene subsequently walked in, he freaked over the turn of events — he’d promised Stephanie that their conversations would be kept on the DL, and now, argh, curses, dagnabbit, etc. Outside, Connie and Magna’s loved ones were about to set off in hopes of excavating them from Alpha’s cave when Daryl and Lydia arrived with dire news that would rock-block them: Alpha was on her way with the horde.
Since Hilltop was low on fighters and Alpha was high on “guardians,” Daryl decided that the good guys would hightail it to the relative safety of Oceanside to plot their next move. But they’d scarcely left the gates when they discovered a downed tree blocking the road. “It’s Negan,” Daryl knew in an instant. “He’s with her now.” Since that meant that all of the roads away from Hilltop would be similarly blocked — classic Saviors strategy — the Hilltoppers were f—ed; they’d missed their window of opportunity to get out. As folks started to fret over their chances of surviving, Earl rallied them in the familiar manner of characters who are bound to be killed any second. (Spoiler alert: As far as I could tell, he somehow made it through the episode without joining Tammy Rose in the hereafter.) While everyone prepared for what Earl called “the fight of our lives,” Carol visited Ezekiel’s room and learned that he had cancer. One thing (a kiss) led to another (royal nookie), and ultimately, he was left wondering, “Would this have happened… if we didn’t think we were gonna die tonight?” In response, his ex cracked, “Wait, we’re gonna die tonight?” (Oh, Carol, since you’re the last original character from Robert Kirkman’s comic books still standing on the show, you’re safe, and we all know it!)
‘THAT’S WHAT WE’LL PUT ON YOUR GRAVESTONE: LOSER WITH A FORLORN HEART’ | Seeking out Eugene as he fiddled with electronics in the field, Rosita tried to apologize for messing things up with his radio-girlfriend by offering to let him kiss her. Though he started to pucker up, he found that he couldn’t do it. “It’s a special kinda peculiar,” he marveled, “to hanker for a kiss from someone you haven’t met.” Back at Hilltop, Carol and Lydia had no sooner gotten done sharing a moment than rats came scurrying out of the woods as if being drawn to the Mind Flayer. The horde was approaching! Before everyone marched into battle, Eugene did what Stephanie had long wanted him to and sang “When the Wild Wind Blows” by Iron Maiden over the radio. He was pretty good, too. At last, Stephanie responded — by singing a verse herself and arranging for her and Eugene to meet in Charleston in a week’s time. “Let’s get this over with!” he cheered afterwards. “I got a date!” At Barrington House, Ezekiel revealed to Daryl that he has cancer. After the two of them acknowledged that, uh, they hadn’t really had a whole lotta, you know, scenes together, they agreed that if one of them went down in the fight, the other would get the kids to safety.
Speaking of the youngsters, Judith was eager to enter the fray but had to settle for giving Daryl a vest that she’d made him for luck. Before hitting the battlefield, Daryl paid a visit to Henry’s (?) grave and assured Carol that he was never gonna hate her. As the horde crossed the field, the first row of them was zapped by an electric wire (ah, that was what Eugene had been working on in the field). The next row was held back by a small blockade while our heroes battered them with clubs, swords, arrows, slingshots, everything but a frying pan. Just as the blockade was about to give way, Beta and Whisperers pelted the good guys with the equivalent of water balloons full of sap, which — the more you know — is highly flammable. “I thought you wanted them to join us,” Negan told Alpha. “They will,” she replied, “as part of my horde.” Duly impressed, he remarked, “Holy s—, you are a badass.” And she was only getting warmed up. As Hilltoppers started catching fire, they retreated to their community… just in time to see its walls go up in flames!
So, what did you think of “Morning Star”? Carol and Ezekiel’s reunion? Earl and Alden’s Grumpy Old Men routine? Eugene and Rosita’s near-kiss? You have to admit, at least, sap bombs were pretty clever, right?