By Kenny Garner
*WARNING: This article includes spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.*
AMC’s “The Walking Dead” decided to depart from its established style of storytelling with a story unlike anything we’ve seen on this show before. Paying homage to horror classic “The People Under The Stairs,” this episode focuses on two of our characters as they explore a strange mansion with a hidden purpose.
Before I get into that though, I want to discuss the B-plot, which directly ties into one of the main storylines for the first part of this final season. The writers here, I feel, do a great job of telling this separate story without disparaging the tension built by our main plot. Long story short, Daryl is forced to torture an ally to fish out information about Maggie and her group’s hideout. This is successful and a group of Reapers, plus Daryl, set out to find Maggie. In the end, this works out in Maggie and Daryl’s favor. Daryl helps Maggie’s group with some clever strategies, not only helping them escape but also revealing information to Maggie without blowing his cover.
The A-plot is the standout here, taking the Walking Dead into a world of horror never before seen in the apocalyptic universe. We’re greeted to Connie and Virgil fleeing from something offscreen before encountering a herd of walkers. In a desperate attempt to find shelter, they situate in a nearby abandoned mansion. Considering they didn’t explore the possibility of the dead piling up at the door and trapping them inside, we can only assume that whatever they were running from was horrific.
As revealed in the side plot when Kelly finds Connie’s backpack in the wilderness, it appears the duo abandoned their campsite because they felt they were being watched by someone. At the mansion, Connie, who’s been sleep deprived after being trapped in the cave with Alpha’s herd, shoots down Virgil’s suggestion to rest. She surveys the house to make sure it’s empty and safe, before making her way to the bathroom. Her eye wanders to a razor disposal opening in the medicine cabinet, and out of nowhere, a yellow eye emerges from the darkness in a fantastic jump scare.
Terrified, she runs back to Virgil who suggests she’s hallucinating. Connie is, in fact, suffering from PTSD from the cave; the writers do a wonderful job making you question whether the eye was real or not. The two go to investigate, and Virgil finds nothing. He suggests staying for the night, which Connie rejects. She rushes to the mansion’s entrance with Virgil following her, but a hidden door slides between them in the main hallway, separating the two.
The audio goes mute. We enter Connie’s world. This is a brilliant way to build tension. In the corner of the screen, we see something crawling behind her. It’s a deranged man, walking on all fours. He chases Connie to the basement, where she seeks safety only to find human skeletons. Terrified, she flees to a vent opening. It’s there that she finds a hidden hallway and a small opening observing the bathroom.
The eye was, in fact, real. She bangs on the wall to catch the attention of Virgil, who has locked himself inside the bathroom to avoid danger. As Virgil walks to the hole, a feral man slowly crawls from behind him in one of the best scenes of the season. They get in a fight and Virgil stabs the man, successfully neutralizing the threat. He doesn’t realize Connie is the one in the wall because Connie can’t communicate without sign language, so Virgil starts stabbing the wall in hopes of killing who he thinks is another one of the feral cannibals. Thankfully, the holes in the wall allow Connie to stick her arm out to signal that it’s her. A relieved Virgil helps her out and offers to sacrifice himself to save Connie.
This scene is rather emotional and portrays an image of Virgil we haven’t really seen; a selfless man willing to risk his own life to save somebody he’s known only for a short period of time, a departure from the hostile Virgil we saw in Michonne’s final episode last season. Connie refuses to accept this offer and proclaims they’ll work together to exit the house alive. They prepare their weapons and open the bathroom door, with sights on the entrance where a hungry herd of walkers wait outside. The feral cannibals spring into action, chasing after them on the way. Virgil manages to kill two of them before falling victim to another with a knife. Connie makes the save and, sticking to the plan, drags an injured Virgil over to a corner near the door.
She improvises, cutting open a corpse on the floor and covering herself with blood. She blocks Virgil in the corner and opens the door, granting access to the hungry herd of walkers. The walkers start brutally tearing the cannibals apart as the duo reluctantly looks on. They escape, and the only survivors of the feral group jolt out behind, only to be wiped out by Kelly and a group of Alexandrians set out in search for Connie. The two sisters have an emotional reunion which ends a stellar and terrifying adventure.
The episode ultimately ends at Meridian with Pope revealing Frost’s zombified corpse. With a sinister smile spelled across his face, Pope reveals to Daryl that he got all of the information he needed from Frost. Uh oh. What does Pope mean by that? Did Frost blow Daryl’s cover? We’ll have to wait and see. Overall, this episode was one of the more unique experiences in “The Walking Dead’s” lengthy history. The imagery, writing, concept, and acting are all on-point, easily making this the best episode of the season and possibly one of the best in the show’s history.