This The Walking Dead article contains spoilers for episode 16.
Rarely has there been more pressure on a Walking Dead finale than season 10’s final hour, “A Certain Doom.” Due to the coronavirus pandemic, editing wasn’t able to be finished in time for the episode to air as originally scheduled on April 11, 2020. So fans had to wait, and wait, and wait, and wait some more.
Now “A Certain Doom” has finally had its say and The Walking Dead’s penultimate season was able to conclude as originally intended. And “A Certain Doom” was worth that wait for the most part. This episode successfully wraps up the season and a half long Whisperers arc and sets up what’s to come for the show in its final 30 episodes.
Before those final episodes air, however, it’s going to be another long wait. With that in mind, let’s break down the ending of season 10 and analyze everything that it could mean for the franchise at large.
How Are the Whisperers Defeated?
No disrespect to The Governor and Woodbury or Negan and the Saviors, but Alpha and the Whisperers are certainly the best villains that The Walking Dead has conjured up over its ten-season run. These animalistic creeps who walked among the dead were some of the spookiest and most threatening baddies that Rick, Daryl, Carol, and company have ever had to deal with.
How then were our heroes able to defeat such an imposing threat? With the power of music, of course! The survivors plan to outlast the Whisperer threat and end their imposing horde of walkers once and for all was a relatively simple one. While holed up in their defensive tower, Luke led an effort to cobble together a stereo system rigged to play The Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” at loud volume. Since walkers are naturally attracted to loud noises, this would lead the herd away from the tower and all the communities housed there, and take the walkers over a cliff. The important thing to remember here is that the Whisperers are relatively small in number and have no “home base” as it were. Their real danger lies in the undead company they keep, and to neutralize the Whisperers one just needs to kill the herd of zombies they walk among.
It’s a simple enough plan indeed but not so simple in execution. To get from the tower to the path to lead the zombies away Daryl, Carol, Beatrice, Luke, Jerry, and Magna have to somehow get through the horde. They do so by deploying the tried and true method of zombie camouflage: covering themselves in guts. This slow shuffle to safety makes up the tensest moments of the episode as our heroes have to avoid walkers and the Whisperers among them. Unfortunately, Oceanside resident Beatrice draws the “finale death” short straw and doesn’t make it through.
Once cleared, the gang is able to draw the walkers very far away from the tower but not all the way to the cliff due to Whisperer treachery. Thankfully, Lydia uses her knowledge of herding to draw the walkers the rest of the way where the immense army amassed by Alpha and Beta fall harmlessly to the valley beyond.
Speaking of Beta…he’s dead! We’re sad to see the big lug go but at least he died doing what he loves: having knives driven into his eye sockets while not having sex with Alpha. When it becomes clear that the gang’s only shot at getting the zombies over the cliff is to trust Lydia, Daryl proposes a new strategy to the rest of the group. They are to head back into the horde and pick off the remaining Whisperers one by one.
It’s pretty remarkable at this point in the show that A. there are few enough Whisperers that they can be picked off one by one and B. Team Daryl has grown familiar enough with the dead to identify and take out Whisperers among them. But that’s exactly what the crew is able to achieve, partially thanks to a last minute intervention from Negan. Though Negan surely would have loved to deliver the killing blow to Beta, it’s Daryl who does the honor with his knife-based ocular assault. After one last hallucination, Beta finally dies and is overtaken by the dead, who remove Beta’s mask in the process.
“Shit, you know who that asshole is?” Negan asks Daryl upon seeing Beta’s face.
Negan is referring to the fact that Beta is actually a famous country singer in the world of The Walking Dead.
But Daryl, despite likely being a country fan, is nonplussed by Beta’s identity and replies “nobody.”
It’s a helpful reminder of just how much this world has gone through and how little someone’s identity pre-apocalypse means.
Daryl, Negan, and company aren’t able to defeat every Whisperer, however, as some have remained back at the tower to attack the remaining survivors inside. Though the Whisperers are small in number and operate most efficiently in shambling herds of zombies, they are able to assault this edifice containing Gabriel, Lydia, and the communities’ non-combatants quite effectively.
Things in fact look pretty bleak for the team as an IED tears apart a room full of soldiers and the Whisperers begin to pore in. Gabriel puts up a decent fight but looks to be a goner….before Maggie comes back! This reveal would have hit quite a bit harder if The Walking Dead hadn’t already released a trailer teasing Lauren Cohan’s return as Hilltop leader and all-around badass Maggie Rhee. But it’s nice to have her back all the same. Not only that, but it’s revealed that Maggie is collaborating with the mysterious individual wearing an iron mask who previously saved Aaron and Alden from a certain doom (hey, that’s the name of the episode!).
In real life, Cohan gets to return to the show after her ambitious, but low-rated spy dramedy Whisky Cavalier wasn’t renewed for a second season at ABC. In the reality of the show, Maggie returns for a very simple, very Maggie reason: her friends needed her. Previously Maggie had been off with a group of traveling society-builders led by Georgie (Jayne Atkinson). We find out early in this episode that the survivors leave little newsletter drops for Maggie to keep up with. The latest news that Maggie received was quite grim: Jesus is dead, Tara is dead, and the communities are threatened yet again. So Maggie returned to save the day.
The Return of Virgil and Connie
Amid all the walker and Whisperer chaos, The Walking Dead finale makes time to check in with one long-lost character. Kelly’s sister Connie wakes up in the woods, covered in soot (from the cave-in and dynamite blast in episode 9 that left her presumed dead). She stumbles onto the dirt road and her path crosses with none other than Virgil.
This is an interesting connection between two characters who have never met before. Connie was originally part of Magna’s group that arrived in Alexandria, and Virgil was a part of his own “community” (re: people he imprisoned) on Bloodsworth Island, Maryland. Virgil was last seen feeding Michonne hallucinogens and resigning himself to die alone on his island. Something, however, encouraged him to take off in search of other people. And it looks like he finally found someone.
This encounter calls into question quite a bit of the timeframe of the back half of season 10. It’s been days if not weeks since the explosion at the mining cave. Connie really couldn’t have been unconscious all this time as that’s quite bad for the brain, you see. So perhaps Virgil’s sojourn with Michonne happened a lot quicker than previously realized.
What’s to Come
A crucial part of any Walking Dead finale is setting up what’s to come in the next season. Given that The Walking Dead season 11 will be the final one for the show, this season 10 finale shoulders an extra burden in that regard. Thankfully it rises to the occasion with an enigmatic final scene featuring Eugene’s West Virginia travel group.
Eugene, Yumiko, Ezekiel, and Princess make it to the trainyard that is set to serve as the meeting point for Eugene and his radio friend Stephanie’s community. Eugene and company are late and Stephanie is not there. But the newly hopeful Eugene decides to look on the brighter side of things and assures himself that she’ll turn up again sometime soon.
Right at that moment floodlights kick on and a group of highly organized soldiers in pristine white armor surround the group and command that they drop their weapons. Are these people part of Stephanie’s community? The short answer is almost certainly yes. And if you’d like to know more about them we’d recommend checking out this article on The Commonwealth.
But for now, trust that with only one season to go, The Walking Dead has now officially introduced a big portion of the original comics endgame. These final 30 episodes should be a wild ride.