“A Certain Doom” snips off the dangling threads of the Whisperer War and sets the stage for the final season with a solid episode full of big set-pieces and effective character moments.
This recap of The Walking Dead season 10, episode 16, “A Certain Doom”, contains minor spoilers only. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode before The Walking Dead Season 10 finale by clicking these words.
How long does it take a show to die, anyway? The Walking Dead has always been about death and has looked on the verge of it itself several times. But somehow, in a way quite unlike any show perhaps in all of history, this one just refuses to gasp its last breath. At its worst, at its most necrotic, The Walking Dead has always risen and, against all odds, somehow been better for its near-death experience. But that might all be about to change.
Of course, nothing’s entirely clear. “A Certain Doom”, the final episode of the show’s tenth season, was pushed back several months by the Coronavirus pandemic and slated to air alongside the debut of another in-universe spin-off, The Walking Dead: World Beyond. Both will officially debut this Sunday, October 4, but both are also available now to subscribers of AMC+. With that in mind, my recaps of both will be spoiler-free, just to keep things fair for those who’re waiting to watch them with the rest of the world.
But apparently “A Certain Doom”, despite being billed as the finale, won’t even be the last episode of Season 10. There are another six of those apparently due for 2021, and then the 24-episode eleventh season will be the show’s final one. Only it won’t, will it, since there’s still the execrable Fear the Walking Dead, which is back soon, and there’ll be another season of World Beyond, a planned Daryl and Carol spin-off, and whatever plans Gimple and co. have for Rick Grimes in feature-films. The Walking Dead might not be planned to exist in perpetuity anymore, but it can hardly be said to be going anywhere – at least not anytime soon.
Nevertheless, it’s my job to roll with the punches and review these things as they arrive, and thus I’m tasked with reviewing The Walking Dead Season 10 finale several months after having forgotten what happened in the penultimate episode. Luckily, “A Certain Doom” has a simple setup, and its job is basically to tie up the loose ends of the Whisperer War and make room for a new conflict that’ll carry the show into its, ahem, “final” season. And at that task, it succeeds admirably.
So, basically, Beta, still wearing part of Alpha’s face and very much out for revenge after Negan put her out to pasture, has assembled a scary-looking Walker herd and the last remnants of the Whisperer forces and has led them to the gates of Alexandria for what feels like the final showdown that it is. Our heroes from the various populations of Alexandria, Hilltop, Oceanside and the Kingdom are holed up in an abandoned hospital and preparing defences that will inevitably fall, while the characters split off into smaller groups to try and stave off the threat of Beta, lead the herd away, and protect the most vulnerable inside the building. Greg Nicotero, director of “A Certain Doom”, does a grand old job of making this feel suitably epic and terrifying by taking in the herd from a bird’s-eye view and emphasising its massiveness before setting up a centrepiece that puts the gang right in the middle of it – though not in the way you’re probably expecting.
Again, no spoilers here, but I loved all this stuff once it became clear what was happening, and the whole set-piece feels like the kind of thing that the show would only come up with under Angela Kang’s leadership, since it’s just a bit cleverer and more restrained than the chest-puffing macho nonsense that used to keep happening under Gimple. It’s genuinely tense and interesting, it makes a degree of actual sense as a counter-strategy, and allows for generous helpings of gore and practical effects work without having to strain the budget to breaking point with a giant-scale battle.
Admittedly, and rather wonderfully, it builds to a really wacky payoff, but the reason that payoff and a couple of other big moments work is that they’re also intertwined with affecting character moments. There’s a huge slapstick-y bit that doubles as a bonding session for Carol and Lydia that totally works, and a major moment shared between Daryl and Negan that’s a bro-tastic bit of business, even if it’s a surprisingly low-key send-off for a major figure.
Here’s something I can spoil, since the marketing already did it for me: Lauren Cohan is back as Maggie, somehow looking younger than when she left. This is good news, and she arrives in the nick of time in The Walking Dead Season 10 finale, even if her appearance still qualifies as more of a cameo than anything else. Either way, it’s good to have her back, and one assumes that an explanation for her absence and why she decided to come back now will be provided in the add-on episodes next year.
Anyone who has read my coverage of this show for a while will know that I despise Eugene and can’t wait for the day when he’s killed and eaten, but while I can say that doesn’t occur in “A Certain Doom”, we also get much less of him than you might expect. He and his little gang – which at the moment comprises Yumiko, Princess, and Ezekiel, who I forgot was technically dying – are a necessary evil at this point since they’re the most direct connection the show has to the threat that’ll define what remains of its future, but this finale is so tightly-paced at a lean 45 minutes that the deviations are brief and tolerable. The rest of the runtime is devoted to the big climactic set-pieces and the strong character moments that punctuate them, and as stated all that stuff really does work well.
Speculating over where this show is headed next is absolutely pointless at this stage, so I won’t bother. What matters is that The Walking Dead Season 10 finale, even after the long wait, proves that the show can still be surprising and genuinely pulse-pounding when it puts its mind to it. This wasn’t any kind of all-time-great episode or anything, but it was a very skilful one that delivered exactly what it needed to. Far from having no future at all, The Walking Dead’s looks brighter than ever.
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