Any concerns about an unresolved cliffhanger for the Dante/Sid showdown are dispelled right away in what turns out to be a tense, satisfying midseason finale. Sure, we still have no idea what’s really up with Negan or where Lydia ran off to (and remember that Maggie gal?), but look at everything we got instead: a fairly complete accounting of Dante’s sabotage mission, support for local libraries, a new guy, Gamma’s real name, the new guy’s real name. Plus, Sid gets hungry, Gabe goes rogue, Carol acts the fool, Michonne gets a boat, and the gang discovers Alpha’s megaherd in just about the worst way possible. Even for an extended episode, that’s a lot to process.
Let’s begin with the tragic conclusion of Sid’s journey from suspicious outsider to beloved physician/baby daddy to aspiring infant eater. To understand Sid’s demise, we need to know what the what was going on with Dante, and it turns out that Alpha turned him into a sleeper cell. Dante, we learn, was new to the Whisperers and hadn’t met Lydia, so he was the perfect plant. His orders: Get some clean clothes, join a group of normal humans, and lead them to A-town, where he’ll become Alpha’s “eyes and ea-yahs inside their walls.” This raises a few questions, such as why a Whisperer newbie would be so eager to carry out Alpha’s plan and so devoted to a cult leader he barely knows. (We learn that his son died, which might explain his rather bleak, Whisperer-aligned outlook on life.) At least Sid can rest in peace knowing that we know Dante sabotaged the water supply, and probably switched up the herbs that killed the Whisperer hostage.
Dante still insists that he truly liked Sid and didn’t want to kill him. But tell that to poor Rosita, who ends up in one hell of a pickle — wrestling with a murderous psycho twice her size while her baby cries and the baby’s zombie-dad looks at it like a meal. It really isn’t the best time for Dante to give Rosita a lecture: “It’s okay,” he says. “In nature, sometimes parents eat their young.” Like a mom lifting a Volkswagon off of her child trapped beneath it, Rosita goes into rage mode. She stabs Dante in the shoulder, stabs Sid in the skull, and then pounds the Whisperer into a pulp.
As news of Dante’s double-cross sends shockwaves through the communities, Aaron extracts some major intel from Gamma: Her name is Mary and the Whisperer baby is her nephew. Of additional importance, she knows precisely where Alpha’s zombie horde is corralled, a “sunken field” on the edge of the forest. Carol is ready to go walker hunting the second the last shovelful of dirt is tossed on poor Sid; Daryl, of course, would rather find Lydia. The two eventually have a BFF real-talk session, during which Daryl calls her on her bullshit, correctly assesses her suicidal obsession over killing Alpha, and somehow still shows his sensitive side. (“I’m the one you tell,” he says. “Me.” Don’t act like you didn’t get all emotional after that line. I’m not crying, you’re crying.) His parting words of advice hang ominously: “She’s not worth it … she’s a dead woman anyway. We have a future. Don’t let her take that, too.” As Daryl watches Carol walk away, he’s correctly unconvinced that she’ll follow his advice.
While A-town deals with Dante’s treachery — time to update Rick’s membership quiz, methinks — we finally return to Michonne, who’s headed to Oceanside with Judith and Luke (and even Judith knows Luke is mostly here for a booty call). His ramble about Rachmaninoff leads Michonne to approve a classic TWD side quest that any right-minded survivalist would veto immediately — this time, it’s a trip to the library, since Judith doesn’t have an iPad to keep her occupied when she’s not sharpening her samurai sword. Luke finds sheet music, a few walkers, and a mystery man who saves him and then sprints off.
It doesn’t take long for the mystery man to resurface, making an appearance at Oceanside just as a zombie raid commences. Michonne reveals her superpower is slow-mo, while little Judith puts the new dude on lockdown — she slashes him in the leg, kills a walker, and keeps an eye on the captive. (High-five moment: Michonne rushes over to her daughter, sword drawn; the dude’s staring at the business end of two blades as momma says, “Good girl.” Judith doesn’t even crack a smile. Yes!)
Michonne and Gabe find themselves under pressure and headed in different directions, literally and figuratively. When the stranger explains why he helped Luke in the library, Michonne recalls Sid’s old mantra: “My mercy prevails over my wrath.” She cries and the guy spills the beans — he’s Virgil and his people live on Bloodsworth Island, a naval base in the Chesapeake Bay. Michonne cuts a pretty one-sided deal, offering to take him home in exchange for a literal boatload of guns and ammo. She knows they’re not stopping Alpha and her zombie army without some old-school firepower.
Sid’s motto is lost on Gabe, who, like Aaron, spends a lot of time thinking about how they could have overlooked the enemy in their midst. (Fair question. Dante was a weirdo from the jump.) He’s so torn up that while Rosita contemplates the way her life is irrevocably changed now that she’s a mom, Gabe is basically like, “The miracle of life, the burdens of motherhood—whatever, get over it. I’ve got some real shit to ponder. Like how do I charge this camcorder …” What starts as the usual Gabe come-to-Jesus session with Dante takes a real hard left turn when the priest pulls a knife and stabs him approximately 873 times. Oddly, Rosita doesn’t blink when she sees Gabe stumble out of the jail, bloodied and dazed, but there’s sure to be repercussions for the A-town leader.
While Gabe embraces his wrath and Michonne goes on a cruise, Daryl’s search party finds the sunken field is empty. Worse yet, Carol lays her eyes on what she really came for — Alpha — and gives chase, followed by the rest of the gang. This is clearly a horrible idea, made far worse when Ol’ Cueball runs into a pitch-black cave. You’d think a world-class tracker like Daryl would have a better plan, but he charges after them. The good news is that he finds his friends; the bad news is that they’ve also found the horde and are trapped in a cavern with hundreds of hungry undead. They’d better hope that Lydia’s in the neighborhood or Gamma comes looking for Aaron (or Connie wipes out the horde single-handedly, sweeps Daryl off his feet, and they ride his hog into the sunset, at which point the series can end and I’ll be just fine with that).