And, as the penultimate Season 10 episode all but promised with its set up, “A Certain Doom” delivered a dozen minutes or so of intense thrills. It also, sadly, failed to follow through on other crucial elements, so the end result, at the end of the Whisperer War, was a modest exhibit of “schmedium” bravado.
Firstly, before we dig any further into the goings-on of “A Certain Doom,” it must be said that Daryl, Carol, and their entire Pied Piper caravan was a freakin’ blast. The series provides us so few moments of genuine levity – especially anything this absurd – that to hear Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” blaring out into the wasteland on repeat, as Beta’s entire plan to swarm our heroes with a herd came unraveled, was legitimately funny. Previously, it had only been Negan who was able to undercut the Whisperers’ doleful, morbid seriousness. Here, it was the delight of David Byrne and one banger of an ’80s song. It was a very fun moment.
The Walking Dead: “A Certain Doom” Gallery
Now that we know the news of The Walking Dead’s official ending — after six more “Season 10” episodes early next year and then a supersized final season, split into two parts — “A Certain Doom” makes more sense. Because the show’s end is near(ish), this finale hardly changed the board at all. It wrapped up the Whisperer arc with precious few losses on the heroes’ side. Sure, it teased a sacrificial death by Carol, but the news of the Carol/Daryl spinoff inadvertently robbed the moment of much of its tension. In the end, Oceanside’s Beatrice was the only notable face to fall and the writers even let viewers off the hook with that one by having her be utterly s***ty to Lydia just minutes earlier.
Everyone else scraped by, and a ton of things that could have felt cool and meaningful — like Maggie’s big return, Aaron and Aiden being surrounded by the Whisperers in the previous episode, and Negan and Daryl’s inevitable team up to kill Beta — felt short-sheeted. There were seeds of great things here but the episode didn’t water them. It didn’t push things far enough.
That being said, the episode’s middle moments, during our heroes’ guts-covered trek through the herd, where actual Whisperers were also waiting to kill them, and an archer on standby in the window above, felt appropriately tense and dangerous. “A Certain Doom” felt big, and possibly contained more walkers than we’ve ever seen, but it lacked the smaller moments many fans look for in a show that’s been on for a decade. We’ve seen zombie action in all shapes and forms so it’s really the story elements that keep a show alive when it’s this long in the tooth. And this finale was light on big story beats.
The Walking Dead: Best Daryl and Carol Moments
Yes, it was big on redemption, and getting characters up off the bench — like Negan and Lydia, who were still the two outcasts of the bunch — but even here it didn’t exactly catch fire. Negan’s big move was to distract Beta and then almost immediately get killed by him. Maggie, who fans were excited to see return, didn’t really do much except return (though she came with a really cool Snake Eyes-style ninja warrior carrying giant boline blades). And then, when it seemed like Negan was about to say who Beta was, as a former Before Times celebrity singer, the show let it drop. Understandably, you want to play it cool sometimes and not spell everything out for viewers. Other times though, it’s actually more satisfying to address a thing head-on. This was a moment where the series should have just said who he was.
The Eugene leg of the journey ended with the full arrival of Commonwealth soldiers, whose very sci-fi “look” is a welcome jolt to the series. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how the Commonwealth angle unfolds on the series given that the Three Rings operation, which is also a network of cooperating advanced communities, is supposedly a separate entity operating within the same regions. I guess you can chalk them both existing up to the sheer vastness of the wasteland, and the rampant communication challenges, but it’s still odd to slowly introduce a new group to the show, over the past two years, that might undermine the awe factor of the Commonwealth.Oh, and Virgil, from Michonne’s final episode “What We Become,” has meandered out of his hermit state and joined the ranks of our heroes. With him folding into the group, more people will learn about the Rick clues and the Three Rings and all that. What the series will do with that, and whether or not the Three Rings will ever circle back into this series, is anyone’s guess. At the very least, Daryl will probably find out Michonne is doing more than “helping some people.”
One more thing: Connie’s still alive, returned to us after having been gone since Season 10’s midseason finale. And of course, it’s only been a couple days since then in show time, even though it sure feels like longer. That’s a mildly odd element of Season 10, that it sort of all took place over a week. A work week, even.