The Walking Dead delivers the best midseason finale in years. "The World Before" was a visceral, emotionally charged response to the murder of Siddiq (Avi Nash). Dante (Juan Javier Cardenas) attacks Rosita (Christian Serratos) and finally earns his comeuppance. Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) reels from Siddiq's loss and the challenges facing Alexandria. Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Judith (Cailey Fleming) encounter a stranger at Oceanside. Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) learn the location of Alpha's (Samantha Morton) horde, but must settle their issues first.

"The World Before" opens in the past after the decapitations. Alpha instructs Dante to infiltrate Alexandria. Lydia doesn't know him. Dante kills a man, then steals his clothes. He walks as a Whisperer with a herd, then takes off his mask. He runs screaming for help toward a group. They save him and take him to Alexandria. He's given a checkup by Siddiq. We then see Dante in the woods leaving messages for Alpha in a tree. He wrote "Silence the Whisperers." He switched the red lever for the drinking water. He smothered and killed Cheryl in the infirmary. Alpha promises "a special place among us" for his service.

In the present, Dante closes Siddiq's eyes. He grabs Siddiq's knife to finish him before turning, but Rosita and baby Coco enter the house. Dante lies and says she just missed Siddiq, but Rosita is clearly suspicious. Dante walks toward her with the knife. She puts down the baby. Dante throws her to the ground and tries to choke her. Siddiq reanimates and stumbles toward the crying Coco. Rosita grabs Dante's knife and stabs him in the shoulder. She knocks him down, then beats him unconscious. She races to stab Siddiq in the head before he reaches Coco. She holds Coco and weeps.

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On the bridge, Gamma (Thora Birch) approaches Aaron (Ross Marquand). She wants to know if the baby rescued at the Hilltop is still alive. Aaaron confirms, and tells her the baby was named Adam. Gamma admits the boy is her nephew. She wants to see him. She will trade information. Aaron makes no promises. He wants what she knows first. Aaron makes her remove the mask. Her name is Mary.

In the infirmary, Daryl punches a restrained Dante. He, Carol, and Father Gabriel are interrogating. Dante is flippant about what he's done. He admits he "liked Siddiq, but had no choice." His job was to encourage paranoia, force bad decisions. Rosita curses him in Spanish, then kicks him. Aaron walks into the room.

Aaron is stunned by the betrayal. Mary told him the location of the horde, in a sunken field, over the north border. Daryl thinks it's an ambush. He wants to find Lydia. Carol says they have no choice. Aaron brings up Mary's nephew. Daryl tells him to get a group from Hilltop, "The second we're done. We're looking for the girl." He wants Carol to stay. He's upset Carol lost Lydia. She replies that maybe Lydia doesn't want to be found. At least Alpha's people know she's still alive.

Michonne, Judith, and Luke's (Dan Fogler) group are en route to Oceanside. Luke convinces them to stop at a library in a nearby town. While searching for Rachmaninoff's music, a walker grabs Luke's foot through the aisles. Another attacks him from behind. Meanwhile, Michonne is contacted on the walkie and updated about Siddiq's murder. Luke screams for help, and is rescued by a stranger. When Michonne and Judith arrive, the stranger runs from the library, leaving his backpack.

Father Gabriel speaks at Siddiq's funeral. Everyone cries at the somber event. Rosita runs her hands through the dirt. Everyone leaves her to grieve. Carol catches up with Ezekiel (Khary Payton). He doesn't tell her about the cancer. Ezekiel thought Siddiq "was going to live forever." She doesn't accept his help to find the herd.

Rosita hears walkers at the walls. She puts on brass knuckles and goes outside. She beats them savagely, remembering Siddiq's death. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) comes to help her. He offers a genuine, but stammering apology for her loss. He will return to Hilltop. Rosita is too bereaved to speak.

Father Gabriel looks at the video of Dante's interview when he first arrived. Rosita comes in bloody. She's in emotional crisis. She always knew death could come at any minute. She didn't care, but now she has Coco. She has to live for Coco, "I cannot die." She's afraid, but Father Gabriel has no time for her lamenting. "We need to focus on the problem in front of us," he says. Her feelings will pass. They need to find Lydia and decide what to do with Dante. Rosita states sadly, "Maybe Dante was right. We're not as strong as we think we are."

Aaron plays a game with Gracie (Anabelle Holloway). He points to a license plate, and she names the state capitol. He tells her a story of how he found an old village while hiking. Those people had long vanished. He secretly wonders if Alexandria will survive. At Oceanside, Michonne debriefs Rachel (Avianna Mynhier) about Dante. She orders them to vet any newcomers again.

The stranger that rescued Luke is caught breaking into Oceanside. He was trying to steal a boat. The stranger "was just trying to get home." Luke recognizes the man as his rescuer. Suddenly walkers start streaming into the camp. The stranger breached the walls. Everyone springs into action. Michonne runs ahead, then realizes she's lost sight of Judith.

Father Gabriel goes to Dante's cell. He asks if any of Dante's interview was true. Father Gabriel unlocks the cell and walks inside. He confronts Dante, who continues to spout that people are bad and do not deserve a second chance. "I loved Siddiq like a brother. My family will never be the same. His daughter will never know him," Father Gabriel plunges a knife into Dante's neck. He throws him against the wall, then down to the ground. Father Gabriel screams in anger as he viciously stabs Dante to death.

At Oceanside, Judith slashes the leg of the stranger when he tries to run away. She calmly kills walkers around her, "Mom, over here!" Michonne proudly says "good girl." In Alexandria, Rosita walks around the house with Coco. She looks through the window and sees Father Gabriel walking away from the jail covered in blood.

Daryl, Carol, and Aaron meet Jerry (Cooper Andrews), Kelly (Angel Theory), Connie (Lauren Ridloff), and Magna (Nadia Hilker) in the woods. "Let's screw these freaks, in Siddiq's honor," Magna says coldly. They walk through the night past the pike boundary. Carol charges ahead and almost steps on a bear trap. Daryl stops her. They have a long simmering argument. "You don't care what happens to you...as long you get Alpha," Daryl accuses. Carol breaks down. Daryl reminds her that she can tell him anything. They embrace. "She's not worth it. She's a dead woman. We have a future," says Daryl.

Father Gabriel burns Dante's body outside Alexandria. Rosita joins him and puts her head on his shoulder. They hold each other while looking at the flames. At Oceanside, Judith reads one of the stranger's books around a campfire. He tells her to put it away. It's for his daughter. He lunges for it, but is tied up and falls flat. Michonne sends Judith away as she talks to the stranger. He left home for supplies. Why did he save Luke at the library? He needed help, "Mercy is in short supply these days." Michonne begins to cry. She remembers Rick, "My mercy prevails over my wrath."

The stranger lives on Bloodsworth Island in Tangiers Sound, "It's hard to find and fortified." He tells her they can help each other out, "if they have enemies to fight." Michonne updates Judith. The stranger lives on a naval base with weapons. Maybe enough to destroy Alpha's horde. She has to find out, but it's too dangerous for Judith. Mother and daughter embrace.

The next day, Daryl's group arrives at the sunken field. There's nothing. Daryl is furious, but Aaron knows Mary told him the truth. At Oceanside, Rachel has accepted Michonne's plan. She will take the stranger home, get his weapons, and return with the boat. The stranger introduces himself as Virgil (Kevin Carroll). Luke and the others leave with Judith to Alexandria. Michonne tells her daughter to call on the radio if needed. She's "two days behind them."

The boat with Michonne and Virgil sail away. In the woods, Carol lingers behind. She sees Alpha across the field. Carol races towards her. The others follow. Alpha runs into a sheltered den. Carol foolishly charges in with the group in tow. Daryl gets caught up fighting walkers. He grabs two knives and enters the dark den. He cannot see anything. He calls for Carol, then tumbles down a ledge. Carol and Jerry pull him up. They are in an underground cave surrounded by thousands of walkers.

"The World Before" takes the show to a thrilling midseason cliffhanger. Daryl and Carol are trapped underground with the horde. Michonne sails into the blue with hopes for serious weaponry. Dante did his damage, but gets slaughtered by Father Gabriel. He and Rosita have a new understanding of what has to be done for baby Coco. Mary is now a spy in Alpha's camp. Will she help Daryl and the others escape? What awaits Michonne on the island? Where is Lydia? How will Alpha respond to the breach? The Walking Dead continues season ten next February on AMC.

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Julian Roman at TVweb
Julian Roman