The episode begins with Aaron and Gracie making their way through the woods in the dead of night. They’re stopped by the arrival of a walker, a Savior, a Wolf, a Whisperer, and a partridge in a pear tree. Aaron puts down one walker, but when Gracie is suddenly no longer by his side, Aaron finds himself surrounded and stabbed to death.
Oh, hey again, Mays.
Aaron awakens from that nightmare and sees Gracie by his side, fast asleep. He straps on his Infinity Gauntlet- I mean, his prosthetic arm- and gets ready for the day.
Jerry, meanwhile, spots a walker and alerts everyone that there’s been a breach. Aaron tells Gracie to head down to the basement and not let anyone in. She’s got her whistle with her, just in case.
Indeed, one of the slats in the Alexandria wall is down and the walkers have already feasted upon a resident here or there. The residents put the downed wall back up and force back the walkers, but a steady stream of the dead is making its way towards the Safe Zone…
Tobin wouldn’t have allowed this to happen.
Over at the Commonwealth, we’re treated to an orientation video about the community. Our tour guide is Director of Operations Lance Hornsby, played by Josh Hamilton. Apparently you’re watching this video only if you’ve made it through the screening process. Under Governor Pamela Milton’s leadership, the Commonwealth is over 50,000 strong.
Everyone is assigned a job best suited to their skill set to keep the community thriving. Community, caregiving, and security. That’s the Commonwealth way. If this video was any cheesier, it’d be parmesan.
When the video ends, Eugene, Princess, Yumiko, and Ezekiel are given their work assignments and housing. The intent wasn’t permanent residence, but if they have a problem, they can take it up with the case supervisor.
Again, the joke is just too easy to make.
Yumiko is the only one who wasn’t given a job. She instead is invited to the Office of State Affairs. Ezekiel and Princess will go meet with this case supervisor, while Eugene is to meet with the woman identified as Stephanie, which is how I’ll be referring to her going forward for reasons that will make more sense later.
While the nearby employee initially can’t help Yumiko, his tune changes when he sees her letter is an invite to the Office of State Affairs. She inquires about her previously mentioned family member, so the employee offers any assistance he can provide.
Back in Alexandria, while some residents bang on the walls to spread out the walkers, Aaron and the other noteworthy characters note that the walls are more fragile since walkers broke through. The food situation hasn’t improved either, and they haven’t replaced the tools destroyed by the Whisperers. What’s left of the horses has been salted and jerkied.
Aaron suggests that some of the blacksmith tools may have survived the fire at Hilltop. Carol offers to take a group there, but pessimistic Rosita suggests thinking about other options if they can’t even protect Alexandria. Aaron’s not ready to abandon his home, but hey, it is worth considering.
Maggie and Negan continue their journey to the satellite post. Negan notes that this only works if they trust each other. Obviously Maggie’s not a fan of that idea, but Negan asks if that’s how she feels, why hasn’t she put him down yet? After skillfully tossing a blade at a walker behind Negan, Maggie tells him that she asks herself that same question every day.
Aaron, Jerry, Carol, and Lydia are instantly at the burned out remains of Hilltop and begin taking out the reanimated bodies of Hilltop’s remaining residents.
Because Judith has seen some serious shit in her life, she’s training the rest of the kids in Alexandria. She spots some older kids, that we’ve never seen before, messing with the walkers in one of the open parts of the wall. Judith threatens to tell Rosita, but one of the kids shoves her, saying she talks too much, which is probably why her mom abandoned her.
Have you figured out yet that we’re supposed to hate these kids?
Anyway, Judith puts her blade to the offender’s neck and dares him to say it again. He doesn’t because he likes being alive, so Gracie and a stony-faced Judith leave them.
Who the hell are these kids?
Whatever. Maggie and Negan arrive at the satellite post. Negan thinks they shouldn’t wait too long, as it just increases the likelihood of the Reapers catching up to them. Negan suggests at least taking the food back, and while it’s not enough to feed an entire community, he tells Maggie to cut her losses. Those losses are Maggie’s people, but she’s still got people back at home.
Even though Negan knows his vote doesn’t matter, he says they should give it until sundown. If no one shows up then, they probably never will.
Back at the Commonwealth, Yumiko enters a bakery and is taken in by the sights and smells. She tells one employee that she’s looking for someone. When another employee, Tomi, played by Ian Anthony Dale, comes out with a cake, he drops it and is stunned into silence upon seeing Yumiko.
At Hilltop, while Aaron laments what has been lost, Lydia notes how the walkers are milling about. They’re being herded, which can only mean there’s a Whisperer afoot. They do indeed find a Whisperer among the walkers, but Lydia recognizes the unmasked man.
The woman identified as Stephanie, played by Chelle Ramos, gets ice cream with Eugene, who is also overwhelmed by everything the Commonwealth offers. While he’d like to stay here indefinitely, he remembers his mission and asks the woman identified as Stephanie how to cut through the Commonwealth’s red tape. She doesn’t know how, though, as things move slowly around here.
As the two spot the radio tower, the woman identified as Stephanie suggests that Eugene reach out to his friends back home. He doesn’t want to involve her in something that’s not her responsibility, but she wants to help. She works in the comms department and could get access, but clearance could take a few weeks.
Ezekiel and Princess arrive to inform the two that they found the deputy supervisor. It’ll be five weeks to see the boss. Luckily, the woman identified as Stephanie has an unofficial offer. As the four head off, they’re watched by the guard in the orange armor…
We return to Alexandria as Judith finds her and Carl’s handprints on the floor. She goes to the asshole kid from before, but he denies any wrongdoing. Gracie, RJ, and Hershel offer to help put it back together probably because they have literally nothing else to do.
Later, Rosita joins Judith and remembers when Carl made those so Judith could have a memory. Except now it’s broken and Carl’s gone. A teary-eyed Judith asks Rosita if it gets any easier, saying she’s afraid she may forget about her family.
So Rosita talks about the father she never really knew. Her mother died when Rosita was a bit older than Judith, but she still misses her. Even though it was just the two of them, Mom found a way to keep them going. Rosita didn’t know it them, but Mom was teaching how her to survive on her own. She’d be alright if Mom wasn’t there. Carl and Rick did the same for Judith, so she’d be able to get through the tough times.
Hey, Tyreese is the one who carried her from the prison.
Rosita tells Judith that handprints are nice, but she doesn’t need them to remember how much Carl and Rick loved her. Well, she doesn’t have a Polaroid, picture, so it’s at least a substitute. Besides, Rosita is apparently good at fixing things. That’s probably bullshit, but whatever helps Judith feel better.
The Whisperer, who goes by the name Keith, tells his interrogators that after Alpha died, the herd scattered. He keeps the walkers for protection. That and old habits. Aaron isn’t about to believe a Whisperer, but Lydia rightly points out that he trusted Gamma. Or Mary. Whatever you want to call her. This Keith guy wasn’t part of Alpha’s inner circle. In fact, he feared her.
They take him into the cell, where they find other scared Whisperers. Upon finding another mask, Aaron asks Keith how many other Whisperers are still out there. Lydia speaks up for the Whisperers, saying they’re just trying to be regular people, but this doesn’t change his mind. When Jerry finds a piece of Nabila’s clothing, he’s also no longer convinced.
Keith goes on the defensive and tries to attack, but he’s outnumbered and knocked down before he can do any damage. As the other Whisperers flee, Aaron takes Keith’s blade and makes his move.
While Eugene and the woman identified as Stephanie head for the radio room, Yumiko and Tomi catch up. When things first started getting bad, Tomi fled Chicago. After leaving Yumiko a voicemail, he headed East, but ran out of gas 20 miles north of the Commonwealth. He was lucky enough to link up with good people. They wound up at the Commonwealth in its infancy when the Miltons made it a safe haven.
The community’s expanded a bit at a time. Tomi almost forgets what’s going on outside the walls. Even though Tomi was a surgeon, he’s just trying to help people, and baking lets him do that. Yumiko knows he can do more, but he asks when’s the last time she saw him happy and content. She can’t remember.
Tomi likes his life the way it is. It’s the one gift he got out of the world falling apart. Right now, it’d be great if Yumiko didn’t ruin this. As for whether this place is good as it seems, it’s far better, in Tomi’s opinion. So if Yumiko wanted to get help for people, she can get help here. Anything is possible, as long as she follows the rules. Tomi then offers Yumiko cake. Hopefully not the one he dropped.
Elsewhere, Yumiko keeps watch and intercepts the head guard, who she addresses by name: Mercer, played by Michael James Shaw. Hang on, did they say Mercer’s name at some point already?
Whatever. To keep him from going in, Princess stalls and thanks Mercer for returning her $2 bill. Also, she notes his beautiful eyelashes.
There are worse ways to stall, but this is pretty high up there.
Now let’s get to something interesting. Aaron interrogates the Keith by holding a walker in front of him. Keith doesn’t have what Aaron wants to know. Instead, he says that Alpha was right about the survivors, saying they pretend to be better than the dead, but they’re not. So Aaron lets the walker bite Keith’s hand. This is a step too far for Lydia, who storms off.
Aaron offers to cut off Keith’s hand to stop the infection, but Carol puts a stop to this by killing the walker. Aaron rages at her, saying she of all people should understand what they’re doing. After all, they’re standing on the ashes of what the Whisperers did, and now their people are going hungry.
Carol of all people understands this, yes, but she points out that the actions she took after Alpha killed Henry ended up hurting other people. Now she has to live with that guilt. She wants Aaron to avoid walking down the same dark path that she did. Jerry finally lets Keith down and Aaron gives him a choice: he can cut off his hand himself, or Aaron can do it.
Rosita and Judith’s wood workshop is interrupted when they receive a radio transmission from Eugene. Rosita tells him how things have gone since he left, but the feed cuts out.
At the same time, Eugene also notes that the feed has gone haywire. Before he can try a higher frequency, Mercer and several guards enter the radio room and arrest Eugene for unauthorized use of government property. Ezekiel and Princess have also been apprehended.
Negan prepares to head back to Alexandria with supplies, but Maggie tells him that the mission isn’t over. They tussle for a bit just before Gabriel and Elijah enter. Apparently they met up in the woods. Maggie tells them that Duncan, Agatha, and Cole are all dead, Alden’s hurt but alive, but nothing on Daryl and Frost. So they’ll wait.
Once more at the Commonwealth, Eugene, Princess, and Ezekiel are charged with trespassing, reckless endangerment, and illegal communication with a foreign entity. They’ll be able to make their case before a judge in an hour. If found guilty, they’ll be banished. They demand to speak to their lawyer, but the rules are for citizens. The newcomers are technically asylum seekers. Privileges come when they are earned.
Eugene also can’t talk to Stephanie, as she’s being processed and separately charged as a citizen.
In enters Lance Hornsby, who demands that the asylum seekers be let go. Also, Mercer is to be notified. When Lance leaves, Stephanie tells the three that they can trust him. He can stop them from being banished, but they’ll still have to pay for what they’ve done.
Back at Hilltop, Lydia apologizes to Keith for what’s happened, but he knows that Alpha would’ve done worse. Carol leaves him some food for the others, and Keith thanks her, saying that not all of the Whisperers were like Alpha. Some just wanted to survive.
To prove that he has indeed changed, Keith informs the four that he saw girl that came out of the cave where Alpha kept the horde. She looked hurt, but alive. He last saw her in the woods by the screaming cave. Good thing Lydia knows where that is.
It’ll be dark before they get back, so Aaron suggests starting at first light. While Keith is approached by the other Whisperers, Aaron, Jerry, Carol, and Lydia leave Hilltop as the episode comes to a close.
Even though this final season has been a chore to watch, there are bright spots. No great episodes, in my opinion. Just good or decent. “Out of the Ashes,” though, has some real momentum and gives us a great episode. Certainly the best since “Here’s Negan.” The characters are taken to some interesting places, there’s great conflict, and for a few characters, we see the toll that the war and loss have had on them.
Aaron has always been the optimist. Alexandria is his home. He was our introduction to the Safe Zone in Season 5. All the other residents are either gone or dead. Heath is unaccounted for. Deanna, Tobin, Francine, Jessie and her boys, Spencer, Enid- they’re gone. Who is left among the original Alexandria Safe Zone survivors? Aaron. This is his home more than it is for anyone else because he helped make it what it is.
He went out to bring Rick and company here. He saw the community attacked by the Wolves, the Saviors, and now the Whisperers. Not to mention the encounter he and Gabriel had with Mays. He has endured it all, but at a heavy cost. If anyone has a right to be livid about the damage done, it’s him. His anger is justifiable and Ross Marquand is great here in showing Aaron’s increasing desperation and frustration.
What the Whisperers did is bring the communities near the point of no return. Burning and wrecking Hilltop is just further insult, and the survivors having to put down their comrades doesn’t help.
So what would you expect Aaron to do when he finds a Whisperer? He’s immediately going to distrust them, and he has every reason to be skeptical. More so when it turns out that the Whisperer was lying.
Before going into that, I appreciate Lydia’s usage here. For one, she actually gets something to do. But also, she was right to call out how Aaron trusted Gamma. Hell, Lydia herself was a Whisperer and she changed.
How about Alden? The former Savior and very person who didn’t want to trust Gamma when Aaron did? Aaron knows that people can change, but he’s blinded by rage and Lydia refuses to be party to his actions, which I like.
It’s one thing to just torture the poor guy for information, but going as far as having a walker bite him? Without losing that hand, Aaron handed Keith a death sentence. That’s a step too far that I’m not sure even Rick would take. I mean, he’d probably just kill Keith outright, but having a walker bite the guy shows how far Aaron has fallen.
But he can be brought back from that brink, because Carol has been there. Her actions are still having ramifications to this day. She took a shot at Alpha. She followed her into that cave, which led to Connie’s disappearance in the first place. Her plan with Negan to kill Alpha led Beta to bring the Whisperer horde to destroy Alexandria, which is still recovering from the attack.
Her selfishness and anger had major consequences for everyone else. So it’s a great character moment for her to warn Aaron against going down the same dark path she walked. She didn’t forget what Alpha did to Henry, and Aaron didn’t forget that the Whisperers have made the world a harsher place for kids like Gracie. But like Carol said, this isn’t a path he wants to take.
It’s a refreshing change of pace for Carol to admit her wrongdoings, but it’s also interesting to see optimistic characters like Aaron and Jerry brought to this dark place.
In the end, sparing Keith’s life benefitted them in the end when he reveals that he saw Connie. He could’ve killed her or kept the information to himself, but he revealed it to show that yes, the worst of us can still try to change. Not every Whisperer was like Alpha or Beta in the same way that not every Savior was like Negan. So like Jerry said, it’s a good thing that Aaron didn’t kill Keith.
Jumping over to Alexandria, Judith is very much following in Carl’s footsteps, albeit much smaller in her regard. She’s a kid at heart, but had to do a lot of grown-up things due to the world she lives in. While she was at least old enough to remember spending time with Michonne, I doubt she remembers much, if at all, of Rick and Carl. The closest things she has to a family are gone.
She’s taking on a leadership role of her own by training the other young kids. I’m still not fond of these scenes, but they’re more entertaining than watching them play cards. Though I still find the confrontation with the bullies a bit forced. For starters, who the hell are they? Saying Judith’s mother abandoned her just feels like a way to make that one kid an asshole. I bet this kid knows less about Michonne than Judith does.
Judith has few people she can talk to- that are at least present in this episode. I think if Daryl were here, he’d be able to cheer up Judith, but he’s busy being inducted. And Carol…doesn’t have the best track record with kids. So in that regard, Rosita is the only option left. I like her encouraging Judith and reminding her that physical items aren’t needed to remember how much Carl and Rick loved her.
They’ll always be in her heart. With or without a Colt Python. I was actually expecting Rosita to go with Judith to that asshole kid and teach him a lesson, just because of how cliche this show has become at times, so I’m glad that didn’t happen.
Jumping over to the Commonwealth, the reunion with Yumiko and Tomi is nice and it’s good to see the lost be reunited. But again, it doesn’t have the staying power that it should. Why do we cut away the moment Tomi sees Yumiko?
Again, I know changes will be made, but when Michonne saw her daughter, we stayed on that moment. It wasn’t just a reunion and the issue ended before the two hugged. Kirkman had the right idea in letting us see this joyous reunion take place. We don’t even see what Tomi and Yumiko do immediately when they reunite, and I think it’s a missed opportunity.
That said, I do like the implied history between the two of Yumiko trying to manage Tomi’s life, whereas he’s perfectly happy baking instead of being a surgeon. You can tell that Yumiko wants to believe Tomi when he says that the Commonwealth is the real deal, but there’s still a lot we don’t know, like who this Governor Pamela Milton is, and what the rules are that must be followed.
Well, we know Eugene’s broken a few just through his usage of the radio. Like the others, he’s taken in by what seems unbelievable. He’s eager to help, and his gamble by confiding in this community paid off. True, his actions got him, Ezekiel, and Princess in trouble, but it’s not out of selfishness. He knows he’s treading a fine line, being an asylum seeker to the Commonwealth.
Involving the woman identified as Stephanie doesn’t help her case, either. Still, Lance Hornsby saved the day by ordering the three freed. Why he did so is curious, considering he doesn’t know them at all. It could be an ulterior motive, or maybe he’s a straight arrow, but we shall see.
As for Maggie and Negan, the two continue to just acknowledge each other’s presence without ripping out each other’s throats. Negan remains pragmatic as always, and Maggie knows that he’s right about making decisions like leaving the satellite house before the others arrive. But Maggie admitting that he’s talking sense would be tantamount to swallowing a nail.
Negan’s all about saving his own ass, but we’ve seen that he’ll go out of his way to help others. Maybe Maggie didn’t believe when he said he was going back to Alexandria, but until Elijah and Gabriel arrived, there was no reason to wait for people who were probably dead.
In the end, Gabriel and Elijah did show up, giving Maggie more incentive to stick around for the others. Or whoever might still be left. Again, Maggie might hate Negan’s guts and want him dead, but that won’t solve anything.
“Out of the Shadows” was a great episode. More so compared to the rest of the season. Taking Aaron to such a dark place and having Carol bring him out of the darkness was an unexpected character moment I didn’t expect for either. But it was handled very well. The episode made good use of the characters here, had good tension, and gave us a greater look at the Commonwealth.
Hopefully this momentum carries through in the rest of the season.