[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Walking Dead” Season 10, Episode 6, “Bonds.”]
After an extremely pokey start, Season 10 of “The Walking Dead” seemed to finally be kicking into gear after last week’s packed (albeit sub-par) episode. Unfortunately, “Bonds” downshifts the pacing while maintaining the low level of quality. This week’s entry has several significant developments –—Alexandria’s hit with a plague! Eugene discovers a new community! — but it still finds time to watch Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) throw acorns at a can for what feels like seven years. Ultimately, “Bonds” is just lifeless; a drama-free checklist of setup that fails to draw in the viewer. It has all the narrative impact of a Wikipedia summary, which is disappointing when the show has made obvious table setting much more compelling in the past.
Last week’s big plot point — Negan’s invasion of the Whisperer’s territory — lands with a thud this episode as… Beta (Ryan Hurst) makes Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) do chores. Now obviously Negan would have to do something to gain Alpha’s (Samantha Morton) trust, but I did not expect a wacky montage of Negan passing the various Whisperer trials like “Can you dig a hole?”, “Can you skin a zombie?”, and ultimately, “Can you survive when Beta tries to kill you out of jealousy?” Even if Alpha’s on a recruitment drive, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that she would accept Negan as a member, especially when she’s always killing her diehard followers. So why would she want Negan, whose main character trait is that he never shuts up? Despite his endless yapping, he still manages to impress Alpha, even bending the knee to her to prove his loyalty. Hopefully whatever plan he has in mind to take the Whisperers down from the inside will kick off in earnest next week.
Of course, everyone on “The Walking Dead” has to act really dumb at least a few times per season, and this week it’s Daryl and Carol’s turn, who begin this episode with a perfectly sensible mission that eventually goes off the rails. It’s clear at this point that Carol is very willing to endanger all of the communities as long as she gets her revenge, and Daryl puts all common sense aside to cross the border with her because he’s too close to her to see that she’s playing him… until she’s already nabbed a Whisperer hostage. It’d be one thing if Carol knew Alpha’s full plan, but she’s not privy to the same info we are, so her actions just come off as dangerously selfish.
So is Daryl in love with Carol or what? He’s very quick to dismiss Connie (Lauren Ridloff) as a romantic prospect when Carol brings her up, and his reluctance to elaborate on why is very suspicious. Carol correctly points out that they live in the damn zombie apocalypse, so there are way fewer fish in the sea, but Daryl still won’t budge. “Will they or won’t they” is certainly a valid story to tell, but this one’s been playing out over 10 years! This isn’t “The Remains of the Day,” Daryl, just say what you feel! Your enemies might kill you and wear your skin tomorrow! Live a little! Or maybe Daryl has some other perfectly good reason for denying himself any happiness. He’s so stoic that it’s honestly impossible to tell. Daryl’s the lead of the show now; we need him to open up a little more. As it is, it’s just two characters talking in circles with no resolution.
At least Eugene (Josh McDermitt) is ready to put himself out there, even though it’s to a complete stranger over the radio. Still stinging from Rosita’s (Christian Serratos) rejection, Eugene manages to contact a mysterious woman who he immediately bonds with. She doesn’t want to reveal too much about her circumstances yet, but Eugene convinces her to remain in contact so they can build trust. Which is all very sweet, but since this is “Walking Dead,” it also sets off every alarm bell. Hopefully she’s legit, because Lord knows we don’t need yet another crowd of jerks for our heroes to fight. And of course you can’t rule out the possibility that she’s just in Eugene’s head, especially considering how immediately perfect she appears to be. (For example, she never asks Eugene, “Why do you talk like that?”) It’s awfully suspicious that Radio Girl’s first rule for Eugene is “You do not talk about Radio Girl.”
- Siddiq (Avi Nash) is now sleepwalking with Coco in his arms. Will he open up about his problems to someone next week only to discover his issues getting worse the week after that? Because that’s been the pattern so far.
- Alexandria’s mass stomach bug might be a virus, or it might be because Gamma’s (Thora Birch) been poisoning the water supply. Unfortunately, Aaron’s (Ross Marquand) stuck in the Phantom Zone this week, so no one’s been informed that there are eviscerated corpses stacking up in the creek.
- Guess Carol’s off the pills. Happy to put that behind us, but it probably shouldn’t have been a plot point in the first place.
- Carol’s plan to locate the horde is a good one, but sadly she doesn’t know that the show only has the budget to render the horde once per season, so she was doomed to fail.
- Boy, is Negan turned up to 11 this week. He must be making up for lost time. It’s downright exhausting. Beta gagging him is basically a face turn, would that he could have left him that way.
“The Walking Dead” Season 10 airs new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.