Believe it or not, we’re already past the half-way mark for season 10c of The Walking Dead. The fourth instalment of this mini-series between season 10 and the upcoming final-ever season switches the narrative focus once again as we re-join Eugene, Ezekiel, Yumiko and Princess to find out more – finally! – about the mysterious Commonwealth survivors’ community. But are they a force for good or just downright evil? Here’s what went down in The Walking Dead season 10 episode 20, ‘Splinter’.
What happened in The Walking Dead this week?
- We pick up right from where the season 10 finale ‘A Certain Doom’ left off with Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) and Princess (Paola Lázaro) being surrounded at a railyard by a group of mysterious Stormtrooper-like soldiers. There’s lot of shouting and scuffling, with Princess initially resisting arrest and Yumiko taking a mighty blow to the head. Our four survivors are then confined in four separate railway containers – it’s all seeming very ‘Terminus’ so far.
- Princess becomes the central focus of the episode as she wrestles with feelings of anxiety, PTSD and claustrophobia that are amplified by her confinement. She manages to rip out a section of wood from the side of her train-prison (giving herself a splinter in the process) and makes contact with a quite-concussed Yumiko in the next car along. Yumiko implores Princess not to resist and “just do what [the soldiers] say” while also requesting that Princess keeps talking to her to prevent her from passing out. She obliges, recalling an unsettling encounter with her abusive step-father during the before-times. Yumiko, though, is unresponsive: it appears she’s passed out, and the soldiers can be heard taking her away.
- The next day, Princess manages to uncover another gap in her train car and escapes. She happens upon an imprisoned Eugene, but is disappointed to hear that he wants her to comply with the soldiers as well. Theorising that their group are just being routinely assessed by the soldiers, Eugene believes that their captors could help them defeat the Whisperers (“if it hasn’t concluded already”) and that they have to “present themselves as worthy of allegiance”. Princess begrudgingly agrees and goes back to her car just before a solider enters and instructs her to follow.
- Princess is showered down and inspected by the soldiers – presumably to check for walker bites – before she is then interrogated by an unmasked soldier (Jessejames Locorriere) about their intentions and their past movements. Princess, though, just wants to know where Yumiko is and so the interrogation is unsuccessful: “You should’ve answered our questions,” the gruff soldier tells her.
- Back in her train car, Princess hears a banging from the roof as a hatch opens – it’s Ezekiel (“it took some epic manoeuvring”)! He wants to escape, but Princess, having not done the group “any favours” during her inquisition, just wants to know that Yumiko is OK. Ezekiel tries to talk her round by promising that “no-one is going to hurt you any more – not while I’m here”. N’aww.
- “What if Eugene trusted the wrong people this time?” Ezekiel wonders as they wait to make their escape – with an opportunity to do just that then arriving as an unwitting soldier (Cameron Roberts) comes to deliver food. Princess distracts the soldier before Ezekiel flies in and punches him to the ground, much to Princess’ annoyance (“the opportunity presented itself, so I took it,” he argues).
- Now it’s their time to question the soldier. “I know this is a lot, but is it possible, maybe, that we’re not the bad guys?” the soldier asks, before claiming that his people have “access to things that are valuable in times like these” and that the survivors’ current detainment is all part of “protocol” (they even have paperwork, apparently). “The place we live is a good place. Our job is to keep the many, many good people who live there safe. We’re careful because we have a lot to lose.”
- Having spilled the beans (a bit, anyway), the soldier unwisely lashes out at Princess – prompting Ezekiel to beat the shit out of him. But as Princess pleads with him to stop, Ezekiel disappears and it’s now Princess who is delivering the beating. She’s hallucinating: Ezekiel was never there, the escape holes in her container are gone – but the badly beaten soldier is very much real.
- Princess, having swiped the soldier’s gun, is on the move. But she’s stopped in her tracks by a very bizarre vision of Ezekiel, who is cavorting with two walkers dressed in old railway-style clothing (“we start dying the day we’re born,” he grimly states). The Ezekiel-ghoul tries to convince Princess to flee (“I’m a god-damn superhero on my own,” she says in agreement), but she doesn’t: while she’s only known Eugene, Yumiko and real-Ezekiel for a week, that’s “a lifetime in apocalypse years”.
- Princess goes back to the car where the handcuffed soldier is and apologises to him for beating him up. “I’m not crazy, if that’s what you’re thinking,” she explains. “I mean, there’s the ADHD, the anxiety, the PTSD, the depression, the crushing loneliness and the active imagination that helps me cope with all of that. But maybe that’s the only sane response to an insane world?”
- She uncuffs the soldier, who asks for his rifle back – he’ll have to explain himself to his superiors given that it’s now likely that Princess and co. “will have to go back to whatever shitty corner of the world you came from”. Princess says she’ll answer their questions, explaining how they came upon the railyard in the first place. “The rules are simple, questions are routine: people just complicate them,” the soldier says. “We just need to know you can play ball with us.”
- Princess asks when she can see her friends again. Well, how about now? “I got her, let’s go!” the soldier yells, sliding the train car door open to reveal that his fellow soldiers have Yumiko, Eugene and Ezekiel cuffed and wearing black hoods over their heads. A startled Princess has no time to react before a hood is placed over her head, too.
Any new faces?
Among the group of masked Commonwealth soldiers we see in the episode, only two show their faces. We don’t learn their names, but there’s a clear command system in place: the soldier who is captured by Princess and Ezekiel claims he’s just “a grunt”, but the interrogator who fails to get any answers is clearly a higher-ranking operative in the system. It’s likely we’ll see both of these figures again – although perhaps not until season 11 kicks off.
This week’s biggest question: What are the intentions of the Commonwealth?
“A bunch of scary action figures come to life” is Princess’ excellent assessment of the soldiers we get a good look at in ‘Splinter’. Sadly, though, the action doesn’t leave the trainyard so we’re deprived of a proper look at the Commonwealth for at least another week. But, for all of their heavy-handed behaviour so far, one tantalising clue about the potential salvation offered by the Commonwealth is provided by the captured soldier, who reveals the community’s mantra: “For the benefit of all, and for all who seek solace at our gates.” That sounds promising, right? Well, as we said earlier: remember Terminus? “Sanctuary for all. Community for all. Those who arrive, survive” were the chilling and ultimately cannibalistic words that time round – why should it be any better at the Commonwealth?