7:05pm PT by Josh Wigler
'The Walking Dead' Sets Up Brutal Battle: Who Will Die Next?
[This story contains spoilers for season 10, episode 11 of AMC's The Walking Dead, "Morning Star," as well as the Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard comic book series on which it's based.]
Game of Thrones prefaced its epic White Walker battle with "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms," a contemplative episode in which the various warriors of Westeros prepared to fight the Night King and his minions — only for that war to play out in epic (if hard to see) fashion one episode later in "The Long Night."
What does any of that have to do with The Walking Dead, you ask? Well, potentially, a lot, based on the events of "Morning Star," season 10's eleventh installment, written by Vivian Tse and Julia Ruchman, directed by Michael Satrazemis. Much like the aforementioned hour of Thrones, "Morning Star" focuses on the denizens of the Alexandria Safe-Zone holed up in the Hilltop as Alpha (Samantha Morton) and her horde approaches. There are touching farewells, unexpected romantic reunions, and a whole lot of other emotional moments that strongly suggest some of the regular cast is not long for this world.
Some folks are definitely safe. Norman Reedus' Daryl Dixon and Melissa McBride's Carol Peletier are right at the top of the list; they are untouchable, as the only season one veterans still in active rotation. Josh McDermitt's Eugene won't die, either; he has a date, after all, and his date is going to lead to the next big phase of the show. Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan has too much still to accomplish before he can meet his maker, and it doesn't hurt his case that he's Robert Kirkman's very favorite character in the whole Walking Dead universe. Likewise, Ryan Hurst's Beta remains an enigma, with an elaborate backstory that has yet to be explored beyond Easter eggs; he's relatively safe until such an occasion comes to pass.
Beyond that? Lots of characters are fair game — and here are the ones we're most worried about as the war at the Hilltop ramps up. Final warning: some comic book spoilers are ahead.
King Ezekiel (Khary Payton): In "Morning Star," viewers are repeatedly reminded about Ezekiel's illness. He and Carol reconcile. He and Daryl forge a plan to save the children. The deck is set for the king to lay down his life for a noble cause — and perhaps this is the exact reason why he was spared his grisly comic book fate last season.
Jerry (Cooper Andrews): The king's right hand man almost died in the midseason premiere. It felt highly unlikely that he would lose his life before getting to say goodbye to Ezekiel. Now, he's in the exact position for such a farewell. Losing Jerry is not something anyone wants to contemplate, but alas, it may come to pass.
Dianne (Kerry Cahill): The Kingdom's eagle-eyed sharpshooter enjoyed increased screen time in "Morning Star." In the Survivor lexicon, this is what's known as the "visibility spike," which has nothing to do with the spiky border on which Alpha rested the severed heads of so many Alexandria Safe-Zoners. Dianne is an easy target as a recognizable casualty, albeit one without the same long-term story consequences as an Ezekiel or a Jerry.
Rosita (Christian Serratos): She and Eugene reconciled. She and Gabriel had a farewell back in Alexandria. Perhaps most important, Serratos has a new TV series on the way. Will poor Coco lose her mother so soon after losing her father? We don't really think so, but we're steeling our stomachs just in case.
Gamma (Thora Birch): There's something about Mary that suggests an imminent demise on the horizon. She was lucky to escape the attack on Alexandria with her life intact. Will she be so lucky at the Hilltop? We don't think so — but we also think she won't die until she gets a moment of atonement in service of her infant nephew.
Alden (Callan McAuliffe) and Earl (John Finn): Toss a coin (not to your Witcher) as for which one is in more danger, but the increased focus on their distrust toward the Whisperers indicates some sort of redemptive arc in their worldview — perfectly timed before one or both die as a result of that attitude adjustment.
Luke (Dan Fogler): Frankly, it's a shock he's still alive! Long past his comic book expiration date, it looked like Luke had his final farewell from the Hilltop shortly before the midseason finale. Surprisingly, he's not only still alive, but he's back at the Hilltop after a very quick trip to Oceanside. Perhaps he should have stayed at the beach; it was his likeliest bet to survive what's coming next.
Lydia (Cassady McClincy): It would be a significant turn from the comics, where Lydia is a main character long past this point in the TV series' story. Then again, Chandler Riggs' Carl survived way past this point, too, and look how that turned out? If someone needs to die to galvanize both Alpha and Daryl, then this is the one right at the top of the list.
Alpha (Samantha Morton): Alpha's death in Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's comic books is utterly iconic, though it's not likely to transpire on the television show, at least not in the same way. Still, her days are numbered, and there's no better time than this coming battle for Negan to reveal his true colors, killing Alpha in the hope of gaining some renewed loyalty within the community.
Michonne (Danai Gurira): Michonne only dies in the coming battle if she arrives early on in the episode, as Gurira only has a limited number of appearances still on the clock before leaving The Walking Dead. Most viewers assume Michonne will survive, transitioning to the feature film world where Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes will continue to thrive. But in the comic books' Whisperer War arc, Rick's wife Andrea (long gone on the show) dies from a zombie infection while saving Alexandria from a herd. Could Michonne follow the same fate? Again, only if she's a major part of the big upcoming battle — but everyone who expects she is a lock for new life in the Walking Dead films ought to prepare themselves for a much more upsetting possibility.
Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming): Speaking of "much more upsetting possibilities," let's close out with the most upsetting of them all. Judith's courage in the face of the coming war was on full display in "Morning Star." It's hard to picture how Michonne survives and leaves The Walking Dead with Judith still alive as well. Either Michonne takes Judith with her, or...well, yeah. Forget about Daryl; if Judith dies, we riot.
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