Here's why we're worried about Daryl and Ezekiel in the weeks to come.
Tonight on "The Walking Dead" we learned 2 things: 1) Pine tree sap is apparently very flammable and 2) Either Daryl or Ezekiel probably won't make it out of The Whisperer War alive.
That's right, another pivotal showdown from the comics kicked off Sunday, as the Whisperers closed in on Hilltop for a fight that will almost surely end in quite a few of our favorite survivors no longer among the living.
Like the previous episode, this one began with more ominous footage of Beta doing something we wouldn't fully understand until later. This time, it was him filling up sacks with pine tree sap. As we'd see at the end of the hour, those sacks were basically gasoline bombs and brought hellfire down on Hilltop.
We then witnessed Negan "graduate to the next level of kinky Whisperer shit," as Alpha had him whip her wrists with a reed, before doing it to him in return. Cool, cool. He then presented her with a strategy for dealing with the other side, saying that while he "respects a well-deserved massacre," it might be more advantageous to her cause to have the Hilltoppers and Alexandrians "bend the knee" -- hey, remember "Game of Thrones"? -- and become part of her army.
She liked the idea ... but with her own twist. More on that later. Oh yeah, Negan also finally got a skin mask (above).
Before the siege on Hilltop, Rosita, Judith, RJ and Gracie, Aaron and Mary (or The Whisperer Formerly Known as Gamma) all arrived in town to a less-than-warm welcome from both Alden and Earl. While Aaron said Mary was there to see her nephew -- who Earl had been raising -- neither of them were down with that idea.
Daryl and Lydia showed up shortly after, following his brutal battle with Alpha last week, and warned them all that a Whisperer attack was likely imminent. Most of them wanted to make a run for it, or at least get the kids out of town and over to Oceanside, but Negan pulled a Savior move and had the roads around Hilltop all blocked by fallen trees.
As all this was going on, Ezekiel went to the woods to find Carol, who had retreated from the group after her actions got Magna and Connie trapped (killed?) in a cave. He talked her into returning, she noticed his enlarged thyroid and the two had sex. They have a sweet, post-coital chat, where she proved she still has a sense of humor despite everything that's happened to them. This was the first of many "goodbye" type scenes of the night, making us worried about the fates of both the King and Daryl.
Daryl's first worrisome chat was with Ezekiel, in which he acknowledged the two were never close, but made it clear he and many of the survivors appreciated the King's strength. They then made an agreement that, should something happen to one of them, the other would focus on getting the kids to safety. That all but guarantees, in our mind, that one of them will die in a blaze of glory, doing something to allow the other to protect the children.
Daryl then met with Judith, letting her know there's no shame in fear, especially if it means that "you know who you're fighting for." She presented him with a patched-up vest -- we teared up -- before she promised him that she and RJ would go with Ezekiel should it come down to it.
Lastly, D had a brief but powerful moment with Carol. "Please don't hate me," she simply said. "I'm never gonna hate you," he responded.
While the show is laying it on thick with Daryl, Ezekiel seems like the more likely candidate to bite the dust. Knowing he's going to die anyway from cancer and not wanting to see himself waste away, he'll almost certainly get a hero's death in the weeks to come.
Lydia and Carol also kind of smoothed things over. Or at least smoothed things over as much as the daughter of Alpha -- who killed Carol's son -- and Carol could. We're not concerned about these two, yet.
Meanwhile, viewers learned Eugene and Stephanie have kept their radio conversations going and are falling for each other in the process. After Rosita overheard her on the other end, she put her theory that they both like each other to the test, finally giving Eugene permission to kiss her. He didn't take the bait, proving he has strong feelings for the mystery woman. He eventually told her they're in Virginia, before she asked if he can meet her in Charleston, West Virginia in a week. He agreed, provided he doesn't die in battle.
Though it would be a cruel twist (and, thus, good TV fodder) for Eugene to die before letting anyone else know about this other community, we feel confident he'll make it out alive and finally get some action.
After a "getting ready" montage, in which Lydia was given Henry's armor and Gamma was handed a spear, it was finally time to fight.
The gang put all that formation training we saw in the season premiere to use as Alpha's horde descended upon Hilltop. A ton of walkers were sliced in half with a makeshift electric fence which, sadly, didn't last long ... and all the main characters got epic hero moments with their specialty weapons.
Unfortunately, Beta then showed up to really lower our excitement, as he and the Whisperers began dropping sap bombs on the survivors. Just as they realized what was happening, a fire arrow hit and set everything ablaze.
Negan was shocked by the move, thinking Alpha would make them "bend the knee." Nope. While she wanted them in her army, she only meant they could be part of her undead horde. "Holy shit, you are a badass," he told her.
As the survivors retreated back to Hilltop, more arrows hit the walls around the community, lighting them up. The episode ended with Daryl watching them burn.
With the kids all seemingly inside the burning walls, we'll see whether Daryl or Ezekiel save them next week ... and if one of them becomes the biggest casualty of the Whisperer War.