Everything we learned about the shadowy organization that took Rick Grimes and seeks other valuable "assets" as two members of the group sacrifice themselves to the Civic Republic.
With "Fear" having wrapped its season last week, "The Walking Dead: World Beyond" took over our Walking Dead Night with its own two-hour finale, and finally we're starting to get a sense of the real stakes and meaning behind this show.
Last week started to drop the façade that this was simply an epic journey quest saga like "The Lord of the Rings" with dead people by circling back to those three circles and Julia Ormand's Elizabeth Kublek.
In that scene we learned that Huck (Annet Mahendru) has been working with CRM all this time, and this week we found out just how twisted the minds behind all of this are -- assuming we can believe anything Huck says.
But while we may not be able to believe her character, we can believe Mahendru when she says that "World Beyond" is the show that's leading up to those "Walking Dead" movies starring Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes (last seen being abducted by CRM).
"We're the lead-up to the movies, so we're going there," the actress told ComicBook.com. "All the questions fans have had for, I don't know, inherently a decade, right? Our show is the answers to that. So we are very much heading to CRM. I mean, that's the helicopter... We're getting really close, you know?"
This episode took us closer than ever before, while fundamentally shifting the premise and focus of the show ahead of its second season. And let us say it's about time, because the quest portion of this journey was really starting to drag.
This week was all about gaining more information, about CRM, about our characters and even about what we've already seen. Learning that Huck has been working behind the group's back all this time to isolate the "asset," recontextualizes almost everything that has come before.
That is a very, very good thing as some of this season has been a slog. Knowing that Huck was a mole all along, sabotaging different aspects of the mission and even going so far as to frame Silas for murder. Yeah, we learned a lot this week.
Apparently, her goal all along was to separate the "asset" from everyone else in the group. But again, as we gained more information, it reframed the entire season. For instance, Elizabeth gave the girls the map to intentionally send them on this quest.
After the Civic Republic intercepted Dr. Bennett's messages to his daughters, Huck infiltrated the system and she's the one who sent the cryptic messages suggesting he was in danger. The plan was for her and Hope to go together because Hope, as it turns out, is the "asset."
We still have some questions that need answering about the CRM's tactics when it comes to these "assets." After having already brought Dr. Bennett into the fold, he apparently triggered this whole operation by talking to his new girlfriend, Lyla, about his precocious daughter Hope.
Lyla is the same doctor we saw earlier experimenting on walkers, including her former colleague Dr. Abbott. She lied to Dr. Bennett about their colleague -- and we still don't know exactly how he died -- and she couldn't quite bring herself to tell him about the CRM's plans for Hope.
She seems conflicted, because she's clearly working him as an asset while he believes they're really in love. Or maybe she has caught feelings for him, so she's now conflicted. Or the relationship could just be to pump information out of him before she turns him into zombie chow.
Clearly lives are not all that important to them, unless the lives are worth something. We saw this over on the parent series when Jadis had to negotiation with the CRM for Rick Grimes' life.
They apparently need people who are smart and leadership material, but perhaps not too strong. They only took Rick when Jadis told them he was a "B." They might fear the independence and strength of an "A," which is why the moves are probably going to spell trouble for them because Jadis totally lied about Rick.
Now, we see again just how ruthless they are with securing "assets" they want and leaving no loose ends out there. For all their flying around in helicopters and sporting a recognizable symbol, they do like to keep their secrets.
On the one hand, this makes sense as there are a lot of surviving groups out there, with many of them worse than a herd of walkers -- we've met a few over the years. But they're also brutally selective about who they deem worthy of inclusion (whether they want it or not).
We suspected that's why we saw the systematic destruction of the entire Campus Colony in the pilot. Now we learn that Huck's mission was also to secure the "asset" (Hope), with everyone else in their group being considered expendable.
In other words, she was expected to wipe them out. But Huck appears to also be conflicted -- and conflicted can be exploited.
Sure, she had no problem killing Tony (Scott Adsit) and Percy (Ted Sutherland) -- or at least trying in Percy's case -- and framing Silas for it, because she was trying to separate the group before they were ready to take in Hope.
And she just kept lying and lying, even when she was basically caught. It took guns pointed at her and the truth just being thrown in her face for her to admit first to Hope and then to Felix that she was CRM.
But even then, Huck was trying to fulfill her mission while saving everyone's lives. She kept trying to urge Felix and Iris to run away in hopes it would save their lives. In her mind, if CRM secures Hope, they can leave the rest alone.
Finding out that Lyla is working Leo and Huck was working everyone was just the first piece of the puzzle. We also confirmed that Elizabeth is Huck's mother, making that one of the most dysfunctional relationships in the whole franchise.
For all that Lyla appears to be a true believer to the CRM cause, Elizabeth is a callous and casual monster, wiping out Campus Colony and calmly telling her daughter they were going to go ahead and track down and wipe out Felix, Hope, Elton, Silas and Percy, too.
After all, can't have anyone out there who knows anything about what this organization is doing, even as they're sending agents out into the world to try and find valuable "assets," or even trading and negotiating for them with people like Jadis.
These people are true believers of the kind Charles Manson would be proud of. They have their ideology, their convictions and a willingness to do anything to achieve their goals.
That said, we're still hard pressed to fully understand why anyone felt it was necessary to wipe out Campus Colony once Huck had successfully convinced Hope (and her group) to leave. Did they need to wipe out anyone who knew her or might come looking for her?
"The Walking Dead" is all about the end of the world, but CRM believes that their mission is to stave of a second end of the world.
It's something Elton had hinted about from his mother's book, though he thinks maybe humanity has 15 years left and CRM is thinking 30. Thus, as Huck said over and over again, they're willing to do bad things for the greater good.
Scorched earth helps minimize the potential of people to interrupt the important work they're doing to save the world, or so they believe. It seems a huge use of resources now to focus on finding and wiping out the rest of Hope's group.
That tells us that CRM's hold on what they've got going on isn't as strong as they think it is. They're clearly worried about outside forces stopping them before they can accomplish their goals.
Those goals appear to include Lyla's research into the walkers themselves; whether they're seeking a cure or a vaccine remains to be seen.
There is also much to be learned from Will, who was reunited wit Felix this week in a touching scene. But he left originally as part of Dr. Bennett's security detail, then he was taken on a military mission and we saw him being hunted.
He escaped and apparently reconnected with a large group (we're going to guess other CRM escapees) before finding Felix and Iris. But he also knows about the destruction of Campus Colony.
Is that why he was hunted and likely set to be executed? Or did he find out from his new friends? And if so, why was he hunted? Was it to isolate Dr. Bennett from any connections to Campus Colony?
Or even to keep its destruction secret, if Will did somehow find out? Now, as they want also to kill Felix and Iris, they're planning to keep it secret from him that they killed one of his daughters, too -- but hey, they brought the other one to work with him!
It's kind of a haphazard way of doing things, even as they do it with such military precision. They're definitely better at wholesale destruction than people management. Sometimes kill everyone isn't the best policy.
Kind of has us a little worried for Silas, who sacrificed himself to CRM so Elton and Percy could escape to go warn the others about Huck and try to -- well, it's already too late for any of that, but at least they can reconnect.
As for Silas, he's not an "asset," and could actually be considered a danger. We could see CRM trying to use him to lure the others in, so he might be useful enough as a tool to keep alive long enough to save him.
A very vague teaser for the new season, coming in 2021, was really just a propaganda piece for CRM, about all their structure and order and education and technology and civilization, hinting that we're going to be taking a much deeper dive into that world as Hope enters it.
At the same time, we've got Elizabeth and her people on the hunt to finish the job Huck didn't, taking out basically everyone else from this cast who isn't Hope. Elton and an injured Percy (still bleeding where Huck shot him) are searching for the rest of the group.
And Felix and Iris, who were advised by Huck they could find safety five miles north, found there Will and his band of survivors. This is another reason to question Huck's overall loyalty and compassion.
Is she working against her mother the best she can in an impossible situation, even though she's been a sleeper agent this whole time? Or maybe she cares about this particular group of people after their months together and just doesn't want them to die.
But if she knew about Will and these other survivors to the north, there may be more that we don't know about her and her true motives. She could be working as a mole of sorts inside the CRM, close to her mother, in the same way she was a mole at Campus Colony.
But perhaps the best twist was finding out that Dr. Bennett had it wrong about his children. He told the story of Hope disassembling and reassembling a computer at six years old as indication of her genius, but he didn't know the whole truth.
Iris had helped her, at least a little bit, to get it right. In other words, as Hope apparently figured out along the way, she alone isn't the asset CRM is looking for. So surely she will disappoint them. It is Hope and Iris together that are the true "asset," the genius collaboration.
Season 2 will see our group come together and attempt to take down CRM and save their friends, but it seems unlikely they can succeed in both of those things ... or there would be no point in the Rick Grimes movies.
Now, they could save their friends and escape CRM, setting up Ricks' story. Or perhaps they somehow become a part of his journey. Maybe this show has to end so this cast can be a part of the film trilogy -- or at least some of them.
If producers want fans to get invested in this show, they need to make it much more obvious how important it is to Rick's story and the overall "Dead" universe story.
Instead, they spent way too long on a somewhat pointless quest story -- that was apparently all about preparing Hope to join CRM. They could have made it more clear there was a mole early on. They could have not abandoned Elizabeth's character for more than half the season, as she is the connection to the bigger picture.
These final two episodes started peeling back the layers of CRM and adding intrigue and a sense of importance to everything else going on. That's what we've needed all season long.
A limited series like this isn't about the characters as much as it's about the story. We're not going to get invested in the lives of these characters because we know our time is limited, so we focus instead on the story. That needs to be the hook, and for too long it wasn't.
Thankfully, it looks to be taking center stage from this point forward. The long trudge to Mordor -- er, New York is over and it's time to take the fight directly to CRM. Hopefully, it all wraps up with more purpose and drive next year!