In This Episode ...
Aaron and his group arrive from Alexandria, and Earl is instantly suspicious of Mary, who he doesn't recognize. There is no sympathy when he learns that Mary is Adam's aunt, and he is viciously against her having any contact with the child.
No time to worry about that, though: Lydia is there with dire warnings that her mother is moving the herd and coming toward them. Earl wants to fight and is willing to die to protect their home, but everyone else is ready to survive. The first thing is to evacuate the children. Daryl leads a covered wagon to Oceanside, but they don't get very far: Felled trees block the roads, and zombies dangle from the trees (though I don't think they were zombies when they were put up there). Daryl realizes that Negan has now joined the Whisperers, and there is no way out. He returns to Hilltop with the kids and everyone sets about getting ready for impending doom.
Ezekiel, having heard what happened at the cave, refuses to show any animosity toward her. She sees the lump on his throat and he admits it is cancer. This leads to sex, though it isn't pity sex; I think they are both hurting and need relief. That, and they think there is a good chance they will die tonight.
There is a lot of build-up as everyone gets ready for war -- especially because they don't have many fighters over at Hilltop. They fortify the spiked fence; set up an electrified trip wire; make amends; sulk. Daryl and Ezekiel vow that, if anything dire happens, they will evacuate the children first. The kids stay hunkered inside, even after Judith insists she wants to fight.
Night falls, and the troops are ready to go. They wait outside, and it takes an interminably long time for the zombies to make it to them. First, the electrified tripwire. It decapitates one zombie, and slows a bunch more down, but only momentarily. Eventually the wire snaps, zombies fall, more zombies trounce them, and they move forward.
Next up is a fence of spikes and brambles. The zombies get stuck in the fence, and the troops move forward to kill as many as possible.
The Whisperers, meanwhile, are standing well out of the fray. Using big slingshots they fire bottles of liquid at the Hilltoppers, who are confused by what appears to be tree sap. But they keep killing zombies. Unfortunately, the use of the sap becomes all too clear. The Whisperers start launching flaming arrows, which lights one guy on fire. Between the flames and the failing bramble fence, the troops have no choice but to retreat ...
... Except that the Whisperers have now set the front gates of Hilltop alight. There are zombies in front of them, fire behind them. What do the Hilltoppers do now?
Now that is how you do a cliffhanger! The rest of the episode was a lot of buildup, but I think it was worth it. Now the Hilltoppers are stuck between a rock and a hard place -- or rather, a wall of fire and a dead place. They are screwed. Plus, I learned something: I had no idea tree sap was so flammable.
Judith and Daryl
It's actually a really sweet scene between Daryl and Judith. Judith wants to fight and insists she isn't scared of the fight. She is scared for RJ, for her mom, for Aunt Carol, and for Daryl. Daryl assures her there is "no shame in that -- you know who you are fighting for." Then, to top it all off, Judith gives Daryl a present: an updated leather vest with wings sewn on the back.
Alpha and Negan
After the pair have sex, Alpha asks Negan to whip her arm with a switch. Then she returns the favor. The reasoning behind this isn't clear, but I think it goes back to Alpha's belief that they are now dead or something. Anyway, Negan gets his dead mask after that.
Negan also makes a suggestion to Alpha. It might feel good to slaughter everyone at Hilltop and Alexandria, but he suggests that it might feel even better to make them all surrender and join Alpha's crew. Is this Negan trying to exert power over Alpha, or does he have a soft spot for Alexandria/Hilltop? When they are attacking Hilltop, Negan brings this up again, and Alpha says she is making them join her: as her horde.