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The Walking Dead - The World Before - Review - "Recap Ready for Season 10B"

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The Walking Dead returns this Sunday for part B of season 10, so I thought this was the perfect time for a recap and review of the final episode of part A of the season: “The World Before” was written by Julia Ruchman and was directed by John Dahl, whose other credits include Billions, Ray Donavan, and Justified to name just a few. Ruchman joins the writers’ room with credits from The Son and Covert Affairs. The episode is notable for laying the ground work for Danai Gurira’s (Michonne) exit and ending with a pretty major cliffhanger (pretty much literally).

Like any good mid-season finale, it begins with some of our characters in serious peril. It begins with a flashback showing Alpha (Samantha Morton) “asking” Dante (Juan Javaier Cardenas) to be her spy in Alexandria. Re-watching after my own hiatus, I was truly struck by Morton’s wonderful performance. The way she wiggles and makes herself small and talks quietly, making herself seem non-threatening and like a cross between a puppy and a snake. The soft voice means that people must listen closely and get physically close to her as she weaves her spell over them. She sends Dante because of his past and because Lydia (Cassaday McClincy) doesn’t know him. His medical background makes him almost guaranteed to be taken in.

Dante is walking with the dead until he spots a group and then pulls off his mask, crying for help. They take him in, and he then joins them as Alexandria takes in the group. We see his first encounter with Siddiq (Avi Nash) and leaving notes in the forest for Alpha. We see him painting the ‘Silence the Whisperer’ graffiti and poisoning the water. We see him killing Cheryl (Rebecca Koon) – in case there was any doubt. Alpha promises Dante a special place when he returns. Cardenas is also terrific in this scene as we see how much he is under Alpha’s sway and how much he is affected by her words. All of this flashes through his mind as he sits over Siddiq’s dead body. He’s screwed the plan and he knows it.

He closes Siddiq’s eyes and is about to prevent him from turning when Rosita (Christian Serratos) walks in with the baby! I thought they were about to kill her AND the baby… Dante comes out of the room and greets Rosita with a creepy “Ola.” The two converse in Spanish before Rosita switches back to English and then back to Spanish – I thought this was a nice touch to show that the two have something else in common. Did Dante remind Siddiq of Rosita because of their shared heritage – maybe he conflated his trust of her to Dante? Rosita has dropped by with the baby because she saw the light on and she’d been talking to Siddiq about how he hadn’t been sleeping. Dante tells her Siddiq got called out because of a sick kid after creepily saying that he and Siddiq are having a hot romance.

As Dante asks Rosita if he can help her with anything, it’s clear that she doesn’t believe him, and as he steps out with the knife still in his hand, we see Siddiq reanimate – as if his death wasn’t horrific enough! Rosita quickly and carefully put the baby down in the bathtub – which is weirdly inside the door – as Dante closes the gap and then attacks. She knocks the knife out of his hand, but he’s on her, pinning her to the ground and cutting off her air as Siddiq approaches the crying baby. Once again with the creepiest line – possibly ever – Dante assures her that it’s ok because with some animals, the parents eat their young! But Rosita isn’t some weak female. She gets Dante off her, stabs him, kills Siddiq, returns to knee Dante into submission and then beat him before going back to grab and soothe the baby!

It looks like Gamma (Thora Birch) is now the spy for Alexandria within Alpha’s camp. Showing her Lydia seems to have had the desired effect. She meets with Aaron (Ross Marquand) and the first thing she wants to know is about the baby – her nephew. He tells her he’s alive and his name is Adam. Gamma wants to see him, but Aaron points out that her people left him to die. She tells him that they can trade. She has information, but Aaron says that he can’t promise anything. Aaron is now playing hardball. Was his seeming sympathy for her just an act? She tells him that the baby is the only family she has left. He insists that she take her mask off, which she does. She also tells him that her name was Mary.

Dante is in the infirmary, and Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carol (Melissa McBride), Rosita and Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) are interrogating him. Daryl punches him, but he doesn’t seem to care. He tells them that none of it matters and that sets you free. Gabriel doesn’t understand why he’d put Siddiq through the Hell in the barn just to kill him – he’s looking for an ideology – and missing the nihilism that drives the Whisperers. Rosita insists that Dante liked Siddiq, and Dante says it wasn’t part of the plan – but it’s clear that she’s right. Dante says it wasn’t part of the plan, but Siddiq found out who he was. Carol wants to know about the plan, and Dante just spills it – to encourage their paranoia about the Whisperers and push them into bad decisions.

Dante insists that places like Alexandria will crumble at the slightest nick, and he’s looking forward to them ripping themselves apart over him – just like Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Gabriel asks if that’s what Dante wants – a public reckoning. He knows that they’ll do it – because it’s “right.” Rosita says that they helped him – and he counters that they got something out of him too – another doctor. Dante insists that no one is actually kind – “we are selfish. We are brutal.” Rosita finally loses it when Dante questions that even seeing the heads on spikes didn’t teach them what people are – and Aaron walks in at that moment – as Rosita storms out.

Aaron is shocked that Dante has been there four months and he didn’t know. Daryl points out that he fooled everyone. Aaron is appalled that he treated Gracie – and Carol immediately tells him that he can’t do that to himself. Aaron changes the subject to tell Daryl and Carol that Mary told him where Alpha is keeping the herd. Carol wants to leave right after the funeral, but Daryl is wary about trusting a Whisperer. Daryl points out that Lydia is gone and they don’t know how that will play out, but Aaron points out that with Dante out of the equation, Alpha might never find out. Daryl points out it could be an ambush. Aaron tells them about the baby being Mary’s nephew and that he doesn’t think she’s lying. Daryl is willing to buy that and tells Aaron to get help from Hilltop.

Daryl wants to go after Lydia, and Carol agrees to help him look. She tells him that showing that Lydia was alive was good for them – they can push on the Whisperer’s wounds too. Daryl counters that having Lydia there protected them. Carol asks if he’s planning on locking her up again and tells him that she doesn’t think that Lydia wants to be found. Daryl then asks if Carol is talking about Lydia or herself. Does Carol not want to be found either?

Meanwhile, on the way to Oceanside, Scott (Kenric Green) sees fresh prints in the road. It could be a Whisperer scout. Michonne decides that if it’s just one, she likes their chances, but they have to be as quiet as possible. Luke (Dan Fogler) in the backseat knows the comment is meant for him and he takes much longer than he should to be actually quiet. Luke is definitely one of my favorite new characters – really, they have to throw him in more scenes with Eugene (Josh McDermitt)!

He’s really just agreeing to stop whistling. Judith (Cailey Fleming) wants to know what he was whistling and he tells her Rachmaninoff – one of the greatest pieces of music and his favorite, but he can only hear it in his head these days. He asks what Judith is writing, and she tells him their story – she’s writing down everything that happens to them. Luke says that if she really wants to write well, she needs to read for inspiration. He points out that they’ll be driving right through a town with a library, and Judith convinces Michonne to stop. Judith tells her that she’s read almost every book in Alexandria.

The first thing Judith picks up is a present for Eugene – a dictionary – or is it so that she can understand what he’s talking about? Luke heads off to check out the music section, and Scott looks more generally for anything worth taking. Michonne finds a book that she’s always wanted to read and suggests that she and Judith can read it together – and then she gets a call about what happened in Alexandria.

Luke finds Rachmaninoff sheet music just as a walker grabs him from under the stacks. He’s then also attacked from behind. He cries for help – and it’s Virgil (Kevin Carroll) – a mysterious stranger at this point – who kills the walker behind him before fleeing without telling Luke who he is. Luke can’t go after him because he still has to take care of the walker at his feet. Michonne, Scott, and Judith show up and Scott goes after him. Michonne picks up his pack – and the book he was taking, a good one according to Luke. Michonne tells Luke about Siddiq – and there’s a great shot of Judith’s stricken face. Michonne tells them they have to get to Oceanside and home as quickly as possible.

Gabriel officiates over Siddiq’s funeral. Naturally, the entire community it there. And of course, they are now without a doctor again. Rosita is left alone sitting at the grave as the others leave. Carol stops to say hello to Ezekiel (Khary Payton), who now has no one who can help him. She tells him that it’s good to see him. Ezekiel says he can’t believe that Siddiq is gone. He hesitates before Carol encourages him to add that Siddiq was one of those people he thought would live forever. And so did I! It really makes Carl’s death even more pointless.

Ezekiel remarks that everything is changing – you can say that again! Carol asks how long he’s staying and he says a few days. She wished they had more time – and omg. Carol, you have wasted SO much time! Ezekiel offers to go with her to find the herd and she turns him down. She sees that something is wrong, but when she asks if everything else is ok, he just tells her good luck.

Rosita decides on some walker therapy to help her deal with her grief. She takes out two with her brass knuckles, but is then attacked by one with a helmet stuck to his head and is distracted by visions of the baby and Siddiq. Eugene suddenly flies in to save her, knocking down the walker and holding him while Rosita peels off its helmet – and most of its scalp! – and stabs it in the head. She thanks Eugene, who says no thanks necessary he was just glad to be passing through on his way ho… to his domicile. Rosita points out that he almost said home. He denies it at first and then agrees. He offers his condolences for Siddiq. He tells her he wishes there was more he could do – and then tells her to travel safe before realizing that he’s the one travelling.

Gabriel tortures himself by watching Dante’s entrance interview – something they still do! Rosita comes in bloody, and Gabriel asks what happened. She spins it as helping Eugene at the gates with some walkers. She asks about the baby – who is fast asleep. Rosita realizes that she should tell the truth and tells Gabriel what really happened. She’s disturbed that she even got into trouble. She used to be able to handle walkers like that.

Gabriel brushes it off as a rough day, but she says it’s more than that – and of course, it is. She suddenly realizes that she could die and she’s no longer zen about it. She can’t die now because it would make Coco an orphan. She’s afraid of dying and afraid that she will freeze again. Gabriel tells her she can’t predict the future – and she doesn’t think he’s listening to her. In fact, he’s trying to figure out how he couldn’t predict the future and beating himself up about it. He doesn’t know how he missed what Dante really was.

Gabriel has a lot on his plate, and Rosita thinks he’s not listening. He tells her that she thinks she’s going to keep needing help to kill walkers because she did today, and he tells her that the feeling will pass. Rosita doesn’t believe him, but sees that he was listening. However, Dante has gotten into her head and she comments that maybe he was right. Maybe they aren’t as strong as they think they are.

We get a fantastic scene with Aaron and Gracie (Anabelle Holloway), who is another great addition to the cast. I really hope that we get more interaction between her and Judith. Aaron and Gracie are sitting on the floor by the license plates that Aaron and Eric collected. He drilling her on state capitals – and the two have wonderful chemistry. In exchange for getting the capitals right, she gets a story from Aaron. She asks for one about California. He tells her about hiking outside of Eureka with a man he was in love with. They found the ruins of an old village and stood there listening to the ocean and tried to imaging what those people were like.

Of course, it’s exactly what he’s doing for Gracie – describing a world that she will never know. And the story naturally segues into Aaron telling Gracie that he was one of the first people who settled in Alexandria. It’s another tie back along with the video of Dante. He confides her that recently, he’s been thinking more and more about that village. She asks what happened to those people, and he tells her that he doesn’t know. The camera pans in for a closeup of the license plates – it’s clear that we are going to start expanding the universe. It would appear to be time to find out what happened to the other people in those states – or maybe at least start leaving a history of Alexandria?

Michonne arrives at Oceanside and immediately tells Cyndie (Sydney Park) and Rachel (Avianna Mynhier) about Dante. She warns them that Dante arrived well before the fire – they can’t take that as when Alpha returned. She also warns them that if they’ve taken in anyone new, they can’t trust their old system of vetting them. They are interrupted by Virgil, who’s been captured. He maintains that he’s just trying to get home. Luke identifies him as the guy from the library, but Rachel suggests that he’s been messing with their security measures – and they hang people for that.

Luke points out that he was taking books and had a picture of his family – that doesn’t sound like a whisperer. Again, Alpha’s plan has worked. The paranoia has taken hold as Michonne insists that they don’t know what a whisperer looks like anymore. They are interrupted by a heard of walkers. Michonne tells them to watch their hands as they attack – and then loses sight of Judith.

Gabriel goes to see Dante in the cell. He asks if Dante even had a son – part of his “background.” Dante asks why it matters, and Gabriel admits that it doesn’t, but that it was one of the things that he liked about him. Dante says that he was killed, and Gabriel says no, that Dante had a family. Gabriel realizes that the point is for him to never trust anyone ever again. Gabriel opens the lock and goes into the cell.

He asks if that’s what Dante is there to show them. Dante tells him to look around at what people did to the world. He asks if Gabriel can possibly think that they can be good. Gabriel tells Dante that he loved Siddiq like a brother – and his family will never be the same now. His daughter will never know him, and he worries that Rosita will blame him. He admits that he hasn’t always been brave. Gabriel doesn’t know if they deserve a second chance, but sometimes they get one anyway.

And then he stabs Dante! I was shocked! But clearly, this is Gabriel taking the second chance to protect his family and community! Gabriel completely loses it and stabs Dante over and over, screaming in rage – and then dissolving in tears before composing himself again.

Virgil tries to take advantage of the walker attack to get away – or at least avoid being eaten – but Judith ninjas him out of nowhere, slashing his leg! She hold the katana on him but doesn’t take her eyes off the walkers, leaving him to kill one before calling for Mom – suddenly, poor Virgil has TWO katanas pointed at him. How adorable is Michonne and her mini-Me???

We flash to Rosita with Coco – and you just know that Coco will be trained up as a kickass fighter. She sees Gabriel come up out of the cell. He almost staggers up and then visibly straightens himself before striding back to work. And Rosita knows.

Daryl, Carol, and Aaron meet up with Jerry (Cooper Andrews), Connie (Laruen Ridloff), Kelly (Angel Theory), and Magna (Nadia Hilker). There are hugs all around. Daryl thanks Connie for helping, and she flashes him the “anything for us” message. It’s dark by the time they cross the border. Once again, Carol pauses by the poles. Daryl waits behind her.

Carol almost steps in a trap as she impulsively tries to follow something she saw. Daryl calls her on it, telling her to “stop this shit.” He tells her that she wants Alpha dead so badly that she doesn’t even care what happens to her. He tells her that she never came off the boat – it’s like talking to a ghost. She’s lost herself in grief and revenge. He tells her that he’s the one she talks to. She tells him that she doesn’t know how. This was a beautiful scene between the two – a wonderful showcase for both the acting talents of Reedus and McBride, but also a wonderful tribute to how far these characters have come and their character arc.

Daryl tells her that she’s got to try, and pulls her into a hug. He tells Carol that Alpha isn’t worth it – and she’s a dead woman anyway. They have a future, and Carol can’t let her take that too. He asks her if she’s good, and she says yes, but there’s no way that she can be past all that emotion that easily – and Daryl knows it.

Gabriel burns Dante’s body – and isn’t that poetic! He’s brought the hell and now Gabriel has returned him to it. Rosita joins him and lays her head on his shoulder. She doesn’t blame him and appreciates what he’s done for her. She knows that he will step up for her.

Back at Oceanside, Virgil is hurting and tied up. Judith is reading is reading, and Virgil tells her not to go through his stuff – that book is for his daughter. Judith counters that it fell out of his pack and is clearly the library’s! He lunges at her and she easily avoids him, scolding him to be careful or he’ll rip his stitches. He’s clearly not a fighter.

Michonne arrives and asks Judith to give them a minute. She wants to know what Virgil is really doing there. And I loved that this scene mirrors the last in many ways. He calls Judith a little demon with a sword – and Michonne says like mother like daughter. But perspective is everything. To Virgil, they are like the Whisperers are to “our” heroes. They are dangerous, unknown, violent, and a threat. Virgil clarifies that he didn’t mean it as an insult. You can’t live this long in the world without becoming “comfortable” with violence. He insists that he was just there for supplies. He doesn’t know why he helped Luke other than he needed it. He’s glad he did it because mercy is in short supply these days. He doesn’t expect it himself. And of course, the mention of mercy reminds Michonne of Rick.

Michonne recites to Virgil, “my mercy prevails over my wrath.” Rick’s words. She comes back to his wanting to get home, but he won’t tell her where his wife and kids are. She tells him that they don’t know where he is – and begs him not to let them go through what she did – never really knowing what happened to Rick. He relents and tells her that they’re on Bloodsworth Island in Tangiers Sound. It’s hard to find and it’s fortified. He tells her that he didn’t intend to break in, but he needed to get home. She tells him that good intentions or not, he owes them for the damage. He’s not going anywhere until they work that out, and then he points out that they have enemies to fight… maybe he can help.

Michonne tells Judith that he told her that he lives on a Naval base about two days away. He’ll give them weapons to use that would possibly take out the herd and Alpha once and for all. Judith wants to know what’s wrong. Michonne tells her that it would have to be Michonne that went to get them and bring them back. She’s worried about the risk – and she should get back home. With everything going on, they should be home fighting together. But Michonne has to find out if this might work. Judith tells her that it’s ok. Michonne has to go because they can’t lose anyone else.

It’s daylight by the time they reach the spot where Mary/Gamma said the herd would be, and of course, it’s not there. I’m still wondering what they were going to do if it was… Regardless, Daryl is quick to write it off as a lie, but Aaron points out that the trap they found was rigged recently to deter people from coming there. One trap? That’s not much of a deterrent. Still. I don’t think Mary/Gamma lied… Aaron insists that the herd could have been there, and they had an obligation to check. He tells Carol that he wasn’t wrong, but Daryl insists that it’s time to go and find Lydia now.

Michonne tells Virgil that he negotiated with Rachel. They can borrow a boat and the weapons will pay his debt. Virgil can’t believe that’s all there is to it, but he does want his stuff back too. Once Michonne gives it to him, he holds out his hand and tells her his name, and they shake on it.

Michonne tells the others the plan. She leaves Judith with a walkie talkie and tells her that she can check in as often as she needs to. She also tells her to be good for Uncle Daryl. Michonne and Virgil set off in a sailboat.

Daryl is tracking Lydia when Carol wants to go off on her own. Daryl insists that they all stick together. Carol sees Alpha and the two lock eyes. Alpha smiles – she knows another alpha when she sees one – she runs and Carol follows, with the others hot on her heels. Alpha ducks into a cave, and Carol blindly follows. The others stop to take care of some walkers, but Daryl sends them all ahead after Carol. He’s the last one in the cave and we get a couple of terrific shots – first of the back of his vest that is now down to one wing and then close ups of his two knives. He falls down a cliff to join the others – and they’ve found the herd.

This was a pretty good cliffhanger on a number of levels. Characters in peril and a number of characters who are wild cards right now – Mary/Gamma, Negan, and even Lydia. What will Michonne find with Virgil? How exactly is she going to end up leaving? Are you excited about the return of the show? What did you think about this episode? Were you shocked when Gabriel killed Dante? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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