Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers about “The Walking Dead” midseason finale on Nov. 24.
“The Walking Dead” has ambled through recent years like a punch-drunk zombie, which has turned the 10th season into something of a bounce-back campaign. That wasn’t entirely true of Sunday’s midseason finale, but it did feature a few arresting moments, before ending with the requisite cliffhanger to lure viewers back in 2020.
The ongoing conflict between the core players and the creepy contingent known as the Whisperers has dragged on and on, with no immediate end in sight. Still, the recent twists have carried more of a wallop, breathing some life into the show, if not bringing it back to its peak.
Specifically, the arc this season involving Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and his escape and solo adventures, has been a considerable highlight, including his interaction with what amounted to a Negan fanboy, forcing him to confront his own ruthless past.
Similarly, the tragic arc for Saddiq (Avi Nash) – culminating with his brutal murder, in a scene that in some ways paralleled a moment in “Saving Private Ryan” – marked a sobering loss of a regular character, in a way that the show’s occasional casualties haven’t in quite a while.
That sequence paid off powerfully – if somewhat predictably, given the taunts about the community being too collectively soft – in the latest episode, which saw Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) exact revenge against the killer, after the jarring image of seeing Saddiq’s body rise as a walker.
Meanwhile, Rosita (Christian Serratos) was forced to question her own mortality by Saddiq’s death, realizing that her baby has changed the way she looks at things – a quiet exchange, but a resonant one.
On unrelated notes, the episode featured another solid moment between Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride), who remain among the strongest ties to the show’s heyday, and best reasons to keep watching; and another for Michonne (Danai Gurira), quoting the since-departed Rick when she said, “My mercy prevails over my wrath.”
Michonne’s mission, at the end of the episode, offers the prospect of finding a way to finish the war with the Whisperers, although it also could become the instrument that leads to Gurira’s planned exit from the series, which will be another body blow. Losing cast members has been an ongoing aspect of the series that has contributed to its endurance, but that doesn’t mean all the players are equally valuable.
The episode closed with Daryl and his group in another perilous situation, having seemingly been led into it by Alpha (Samantha Morton), the Whisperers’ leader, whose honeyed voice belies her evil intent.
Through the first half of the 10th season, the series has regained a degree of momentum, thanks to the way the writers have showcased key characters. That has fueled a slightly higher level of enthusiasm heading into the second half, with the disclaimer that AMC appears determined to keep “The Walking Dead” alive until there’s almost nobody that the audience has much reason to care about left to lose.