This The Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 10 Episode 16
The Walking Dead has, occasionally, taken some heat for its special effects. For some, the problem is the practical effects, because they look a little too good for the comfort of some. For others, the issue is the CGI effects, because they have looked a little less than stellar at times. Remember the CGI deer? If not, don’t worry, no one will let you forget it. Special effects take money, time, and expertise to pull off well, and, as it turns out, the coronavirus delay was a positive for The Walking Dead‘s special effects crew.
There’s an immediate sense of tension to the characters from the very beginning of the episode. We’ve seen them running around, being nervous, preparing for a big battle before, but there’s an edge to them that we haven’t seen thus far. As it turns out, there’s a good reason for that. After a nice little moment with Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and Judith (Cailey Fleming) and a montage of everyone coming to help, we see the situation at hand. The hospital the survivors have holed up inside is surrounded with the largest horde the show has ever shown, with thousands of zombies clustered around it, and who knows how many Whisperers hiding in their midst. It’s an immediate jaw-dropper of a visual; we’ve seen these kind of situations before, but this is bigger in scope than anything the show has tried to show before, and it pays off dividends immediately.
One thing you can say about Greg Nicotero as a director, he knows exactly how he wants his special effects to look, and he shoots them in their full glory. Throughout the episode, the kills are brutal and bloody, with no expense spared to make them look as effective as possible. As the characters sneak through the zombie field surrounding their hide-away hospital, any little slip-up can be fatal. One stab wound, enough to fill the air with the smell of fresh blood, and the walkers fall on the person immediately, tearing them to bits in shockingly graphic fashion. Day of the Dead had the brilliant set-piece of Captain Rhodes’ death, and somehow, “A Certain Doom” has three or four of them in fairly short order. Every person torn apart by zombies is worse than the last, with Beatrice (Briana Venskus) having the worst death of all, getting torn apart while Carol watches in silent horror. She can’t scream, or she’ll give herself away, and her mission is one of life or death for the people she cares about.
However, an underrated bit about Nicotero is how well he guides the actors on the program. I’m pretty sure at this point they don’t need a ton of pointers, by and large, to get the performances their director might want, but for someone who one would think focuses on how things look, he does a great job with how performers respond to the gory tableau he paints from the director’s chair. It’s an attention to detail that not everyone seems to have; the scene in which Carol (Melissa McBride) watches her friend die in front of her, silently, eyes horrified but stock still, is stunning to watch. Beta’s (Ryan Hurst) reaction as, one by one, his army dies around him; even beneath the mask, his confusion is obvious in his body language and in the look in his eyes. The lovely little insert shot of Luke (Dan Fogler) and Jules (Alex Sgambati) shuffling side by side through the crushing horde of zombies, wordlessly holding hands with one another for support in a terrifying situation.
It’s a little subtle emotional moment in an episode littered with little spaces for characters to talk to one another and breathe. Carol and Lydia get a few lovely little moments, and McBride—who once again proves herself as capable of carrying the show with her strong performance—and Cassady McClinchy do a great job of making their companionship feel natural, despite both characters insisting they’re not falling into a mother/daughter relationship when it’s clear to everyone else that they are. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and McClinchy also get a few effective moments together, which is nice because those two permanent outsiders would naturally bond with one another thanks to the inability of the rest of the community to accept their radical change in lifestyle.
However, one of the strongest character moments is the little talk Gabriel gives to Judith and RJ when Judith comes to Gabriel to express her fear about their predicament. In a script full of nice little character moments (Corey Reed gets the credit for the teleplay, with story credit shared with Jim Barnes and Eli Jorne), this one sticks out because it shows Gabriel has taken over as a leader, capable of inspiring people at their level, in a very meaningful way. Gabriel, with his religious background, gives a great youth minister presentation for his audience of two, with a touching parable about their disparate communities—Alexandria, Kingdom, Hilltop, Oceanside, and the ones who aren’t here like the returning Maggie Greene—serves both as a good example of why he’s become a leader and a good foreshadowing for all of the random people who end up showing up and showing out at the end of the episode. Couple that with a great inspirational speech from Ezekiel to Eugene when Eugene is ready to throw in the towel on his journey to meet up with Stephanie and the leaders on the show do a great job of showing why they’re leaders.
This might be the end of the Whisperer War, but it’s not the end of this season. One problem is taken care of, but there’s plenty of aftermath and the next and final phase of the ongoing television series is set up pretty neatly by the events at the train yard with Eugene and company. It’s a solid teaser for the future episodes to come, and it will be interesting to see just how, or if, this all ties in with the pending Rick Grimes movies, the spin-off series with Carol and Daryl, and the many other things coming from The Walking Dead‘s creative team in the future.