the Walking Dead didn’t just come back Sunday with the premiere of the second of its three final-season arcs, it came roaring back with an episode that was action-packed, brutal, emotional and, more than once, downright shocking. Read on, and we’ll go over the highlights.
‘OVER HERE, S—TD—K’ | As “No Other Way” began, the Reapers’ hwacha was exploding walkers right and left like they were overfilled water balloons. Nonetheless, Maggie, Negan and Elijah were able to sneak inside, do a Supermarket Sweep of the infirmary to tend to Elijah’s injury and hide from Carver in a secret room. (What? Don’t all infirmaries have those?) The following morning, as Gabriel lurked outside, Daryl tackled Austin before he could get off a shot at the preacher, killed the Reaper and eluded Leah by hiding behind a blackboard in a preschool classroom . (What? Don’t all preschool classrooms have… Oh. Wait. They actually do. Moving on… ) Making his way to the Reapers’ chapel, Gabriel was challenged by the bad guys’ priest to join him in taking the first step down the path of peace. “No one,” he said, “is above saving.” Well, except for everybody that the Reapers had already slaughtered. That being the case, Gabriel replied, “I don’t believe that” and stabbed him in cold blood.
Meanwhile, Carver chased Maggie down a dead end. “Oops,” he taunted. “Wrong turn.” Oh, but it was — for him. Elijah emerged and said basically, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die,” only it was his sister Josephine who’d been slain. Suddenly, Negan revealed himself as well. You’d have thought that Carver was well and truly f—ked at that point, but he fought with the strength of a madman. Were it not for Negan getting an assist from Elijah, a handful of sand (chalk?) and a bell (WTH?), Carver might actually have beaten all three of ’em. Just before Maggie could off him for Elijah’s sake, Daryl showed up and convinced the group to use Carver as a hostage in order to score them some food and a way out of Meridian alive. Unfortunately, at their rendezvous with Leah and two Reapers, she double-crossed her ex by stationing sniper Jensen near enough to take out any of ’em at a second’s notice. Little did she suspect that there was a double-double cross afoot!
‘NOPE, NO JENSEN HERE’ | After Daryl & Co. were forced to untie Carver, Elijah hobbled toward him, weapon raised, crying, “For Josephine”… only to collapse in a heap. Unmoved, his intended victim went to kick Elijah and — whoa! — got shot in the leg. Only when Leah radioed Jensen to ask WTF did we learn that Gabriel had killed him and taken his place. (Is any Gabriel better than frosty badass Gabriel?) Suddenly, Leah was like, “On second thought, you can have anything you want, Daryl, just let us leave.” Rather than risk any of his own people being killed before the smoke cleared, Daryl agreed. Oh, but Carver couldn’t go with them, Maggie noted. “Whatevs, no big,” Leah might as well have said. Never mind that he was her favorite, she and her henchmen were already making tracks down the road. At which point — holy crap! — Maggie stalked after them and shot them one right after the other in the back! She then returned to Carver and, out of bullets, planted Elijah’s weapon in the villain’s chest!
Chasing after Leah, who’d only been winged by Maggie, Daryl scolded her for blowing the second chance they both could have had. He didn’t finish her off, though, he told her to “go before I change my mind.” Later, as the group packed up to return to Alexandria with a cornucopia of goodies, the dog was suddenly back among them. (Where had he been? Who knows? We may just have to consider ourselves lucky that Leah never threatened him to get at Daryl.) Maggie would catch up with her crew, she said. Before she could, she wanted to go retrieve Alden from the abandoned church at which she’d… aw. In a particularly heart-shredding moment, she discovered that he’d died and turned (apparently a victim of the other zombie that’d been lumbering around). After she buried him, Negan approached, ominous music cues suggesting that he meant her harm. His dialogue hinted at murder on his mind, too. He knew that her promise not to kill him meant squat, especially after seeing her gun down the Reapers post-deal. “So I ain’t gonna give you a chance to do that [to me].” Not by killing her, however; he was going to go his own way. (Perhaps a precursor to the Negan spinoff Jeffrey Dean Morgan told TVLine he’d be happy to do? Read all about it here.)
‘YOU WOULD’VE DONE THE SAME FOR ME’ | Back in Alexandria, chaos reigned as the storm raged on. While the windmill burned and wall breaches multiplied like rabbits, Judith and Gracie were beset by the worst kind of walkers—wet, what with having broken into the flooded cellar. Finally, Aaron heard his daughter’s emergency whistle, crashed through a window and used his metal arm to smash some gross, soggy heads. Then, after he’d gotten the kids to safety, Lydia discovered that he’d been left in dire straits and got him to safety. Somehow, despite the breaches and the fire, all of Alexandria lived to watch the walker bonfire that greeted Daryl, Maggie, Gabriel and Elijah upon their return. Seeing a back-from-the-dead Connie, Daryl signed, “Happy to see you.” (OK, so maybe they’re not being positioned as some great romance. Or he just doesn’t know how to sign, “S—t, you’re alive! I’m sorry I never told you I loved you before you went missing! I’m an idiot!”)
For a hot minute, everything was hunky dory. But then the hot minute cooled, and Jerry, keeping watch, had to be all like, “Erm… guys… ” Something big was coming, the music cues warned us. Something bad. And, in fact, the sight of the Commonwealth’s stormtroopers approaching What pretty ominous… until Eugene ran to the front of the pack to say, “We’re all friends. They’re here to help.” From there, he explained the outcome of his mission to
get laid find hope and introduced Lance, who made an offer that sounded too good to be true to help rebuild Alexandria. But, he added, he had “another, more interesting choice to offer” as well. Even from afar, Dog had to have smelled a rat! From there, we cut to six months later and found Maggie and Elijah back in the ruins of Hilltop. At the gate, stormtroopers demanding to be let in. “It doesn’t have to be this way,” she called out. At that, one of the stormtroopers removed his helmet: It was Daryl! “Yeah, it does,” he replied.
It does? Why? What is “this way”? And what did you think of the Season 11B premiere? I’d give it a B+, maybe even an A- (though I have to admit I had forgotten all about poor Alden and could only care so much about Elijah’s late sister who we never met). Grade “No Other Way” in the poll below, then click here to see what showrunner Angela Kang has to say about it.