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The Walking Dead 10.11 Review – ‘Morning Star’

March 9, 2020 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
The Walking Dead - Morning Star
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The Walking Dead 10.11 Review – ‘Morning Star’  

This week on The Walking Dead, Hilltop prepares for Alpha and the Whisperers’ horde to attack, leading to some reconciliations, some hard truths, and some reasons both for hope and despair, and a welcome return to some of what makes this show great.

The plot! First the Alexandrians and then Daryl and Lydia arrive at Hilltop, the latter with the news that the horde is on its way. While they first decide to try and run, Negan has given Alpha his playbook, and she’s blocked all roads out as he once did to the Alexandrians. So it’s time to prepare for a hard battle in which they will be outnumbered by far. As they build up barricades and other defenses, a number of personal conversations happen. Carol and Ezekiel reconcile somewhat and take comfort in one another, and she learns more or less about his cancer. Carol and Lydia have a moment as well, as do Daryl and Ezekiel, who agree to make sure the kids get out safely if things go bad. Judith wants to fight, but Daryl won’t let her, but they still have a good moment and she gives him back his vest with a repaired wing painted on it. Meanwhile, Eugene and Stephanie, the woman on the radio, finally come around to agreeing to meet in one week at a rail yard in West Virginia after realizing they’re at most a few hundred miles from one another. And Rosita and Eugene fake us all out with a kiss that doesn’t happen to boot! When the horde finally does arrive, the well-trained militia does a good job of fighting and taking them down efficiently, but as the barricade starts to fall under the strain, the Whisperers launch first gasoline water balloons and then flaming arrows at them, trapping the fighters between the horde and the gates. And Negan, now sporting his own skin mask, had suggested to Alpha that it would be even better to break the Hilltoppers and get them to join the Whisperers, but learns that she intends to do so by making their corpses part of her horde.

After two disappointing weeks, this was a welcome return to the things that make TWD great. Personal moments and connections that don’t feel forced, a unique ‘fight of our lives’ set piece, and an uncertain looking future for many beloved characters. Striking that balance of hope and despair is something this show usually does well, and in this episode it really shows. The Hilltoppers are as prepared as they can be, with all the training they’ve been doing, and they have the weapons and walls on their side. But they’re hopelessly outnumbered not only by walkers but by ruthless Whisperers who, psychologically, are extremely low on humanity. The battle at the end is short, but it still stands out as unique. From the electric wires in the fields to the barricades and finally seeing the shield wall militia in action, to how the Whisperers, with the help of Negan, twist the knife in an unexpected way by setting fire to not just the horde and barricade, but to the gates and the area in front of them as well, effectively locking the fighters out. As with the blocked roads, they had a window to escape and just missed it, and now they’re, well…out of the frying pain and into the fire!

As cool as I found the battle to be, however, what elevated this one were all the personal moments we got. I’m glad that Ezekiel came to bring Carol back to the community, just like he did years ago, and that they reconnected and she knows about the cancer now. It was a strangely hopeful moment for them, and nice to see them laughing together again, even if this time it was tempered by their losses and everything that’s changed between them. I liked seeing Ezekiel give Henry’s old armor to Lydia. I loved the conversation between Carol and Lydia, loved how it was without pretense but also without malice or even resentment. These two understand each other in a way I don’t think anyone else can. I don’t know that it would ever make them close, assuming they both survive, but it’s notable. Daryl and Ezekiel’s moment was also nice to see since, as Daryl points out, they’ve never had much to say to one another before, but nonetheless they respect what they’ve both been through and what they do for those around them. And finally, rounding out this group, the moment between Daryl and Judith. We’ve always known this girl is brave and capable, and it’s nice that Daryl doesn’t for a second doubt her willingness to fight or even her ability to do so. But he still acknowledges that she’s just a little girl, and there are things she shouldn’t have to see or do. The way she talks around her fears feels spot on for this character, too, and I love that he also doesn’t patronize, belittle, or lie to her about those fears or their circumstances. And her repainting of the wing on his vest is fantastic. It looks great, certainly, and since Daryl’s missing his signature crossbow, it’s good to see him back in another signature piece!

Elsewhere we’ve got Rosita, Eugene, and Stephanie. The banter and flirting between Eugene and Stephanie is cute, I like how genuine and natural it feels, and of course it makes for a different sort of ray of hope for the good guys, that there’s something and someone else out there beyond this horrible conflict they’re currently mired in. As well, it provided us with a really choice song for that preparation montage (“When the Wild Wind Blows” by Iron Maiden) — also, Eugene’s got a nice voice! It lead to a good capping off of Eugene’s unrequited crush on Rosita, too. I was worried with that almost-kiss showing up in the previews, because it didn’t feel right for either of them or where their relationship arc had seemed to be going. I’m glad to see it was indeed a fake out, but also one that works: Rosita is making a point to him that yes, he really does like Stephanie, so yes, he should do whatever he can to get to see her! I, too, hope that Stephanie and Rosita get to meet–if everyone lives that long! Oh, and Eugene had my favorite line tonight for, “Let’s get this over with. I’ve got a date!”

Finally, we’ve got Negan and Alpha’s relationship, still feeling very occluded. She accurately calls out that he jokes to hide his fear, and I think we, the audience, have known that for a while now. But while Negan is helping her corner and take down Hilltop, and wearing his own skin mask now, he’s also made suggestions about trying to break them and make them Whisperers to her. Sure, his old philosophy is that people are a resource and not to waste or kill them needlessly, but I’m just still not convinced that he’s truly a Whisperer. Not to mention he is clearly uncomfortable with the whole whipping one another with the switch thing, in stark contrast to when Alpha has had Beta do this to her. Overall, I seriously cannot wait to finally see the true story of how Negan escaped Alexandria and I feel like we’ll get that in the next episode or two.

Also, that last shot from behind of Daryl in his new vest facing the flames looked fantastic.

But now, how will the Hilltop fair? Who will survive and how? What will happen to Hilltop itself, and is Alexandria next? I foresee some scattering of whoever survives as they escape in chaos, and maybe some regrouping at Alexandria. Also, will we find out what happened to Connie and Magna anytime soon? There are people eager to find them, or whatever’s left, but everyone is also pretty damn busy right now and for the foreseeable future! If you’ve got theories, let’s hear them, because there’s a lot going on right now.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
This episode was a much-welcome and much-needed return to what makes TWD great. The personal moments that felt natural, were well-written, well-acted, and many of which also moved the plot and action forward. It was good to see Carol break out of her funk and reconnect with people, even if she still has much to make up for, and good to see other connections happening, too. From Eugene and Rosita to Daryl and Judith; heck, even seeing Earl get some moments of being a fierce, protective father to his adopted son and his home. The battle set piece was good, too. Seeing the militia in action as well as the surprising resourcefulness of the Whisperers made it really stand out among the many battles we've seen on the show already. It's possible I'm feeling a little generous with my score after the last two episodes, but all-in-all, I truly did find this to be a very good episode.