For the final episode of this first season of Tales of the Walking Dead, the show decides to return to its horror roots in a unique fashion. “La Doña” is not the first time the series as a whole has put together a haunted house-themed episode, as it was memorably done fairly recently in “On the Inside.” However, the anthology format is quite fitting for exploring this concept to the fullest, which is exactly what occurs. It’s not just walkers and crazy people going bump in the night, as an encounter with a Bruha leads to a variety of sinister hallucinations and other possible forms of witchcraft taking its toll on this week’s set of characters.
Stepping in this week are Idalia (Daniella Pineda) and Eric (Danny Ramirez), who have been trekking their way through the woods with one of their now-undead friends trailing behind them. In an effort to have shelter for a night, Idalia recalls a home she was told of by their now-walker friend Maria. The person occupying said domicile is apparently a healer of sorts (the term “bruha” is also thrown out to a puzzled Eric). Given what we’ve seen from this series so far, I was certainly intrigued by what this more supernatural idea could offer. Ironic, given that this is a show already about zombies, that a witch could possibly deliver something even wilder, but here we are.
Idalia and Eric find the home and enter. They are confronted by Alma (Julie Carmen), who is initially resistant to the new arrivals but relents and offers food, water, and shelter for a night. Unfortunately, that’s not enough for Eric, who challenges Alma’s decision to only allow them one night of shelter, ultimately leading to the older woman having an attack, collapsing, and hitting her head on the way down. This would be a horrible situation in the eyes of others, but it’s pretty telling when neither Idalia nor Eric show much remorse about the events that just occurred.
Instead, the couple decides to make this home their new home, complete with a half-assed proposal from Eric in the process. If only things were that simple. It’s not long before Idalia is in front of a mirror, cleaning the blood from the deceased homeowner off her face, only to hear, “this is my house,” stated from unknown origins. This is followed by a dead woman’s hands emerging from a reflection and strangling Idalia before she regains her consciousness.
Eric needs a bit more convincing to realize something’s afoot. He’s more or less enjoying the “sick ass house” the two have decided to stay in. Hearing noises of his own, he only goes on to discover a paroquet before trying to get rest in the bed of a dead woman. Moments like these lead to honest discussions between the two living residents, considering what they have done and what’s implied they have done before arriving at their current location. There’s also room for jump scares, which is pretty refreshing for The Walking Dead.
Director Deborah Kampmeier seems to have fun channeling various haunted house flicks. Seeing blood on the walls, evil shadows, and eerie POV shots all add to the atmosphere here. One particularly ambitious sequence finds several Christ figures on Alma’s crosses coming to life and attacking Idalia. It works to show just how far this episode is willing to go as far as feeling less grounded than episodes of the past. Along with the time loop-focused entry, it really is neat to see The Walking Dead let itself have this sort of fun.
Of course, from a story perspective, there’s only so much going on here. Much of “La Doña” finds the characters encountering different horror scenarios and reacting without being entirely affected. Soon enough, both Eric and Idalia are clear enough to see that bad things are occurring, thanks to the murder of a bruha. It doesn’t stop them from believing in some of the various hallucinations being thrown their way.
By the end, Alma seems to amass enough power to force the two out of her house, but in the most punishing of ways. After having largely turned on each other, we watch the couple being dragged across the floor, ultimately stabbing each other, and then getting wrapped up in deadly vines that seemingly contain the bodies of others who suffered the same fate.
As a finale to this season, it’s undoubtedly a bleak end. We watch two characters who are only revealed to be guilty of more wrongdoings throughout the episode, and then they are punished in the harshest ways. I know there’s been a reconfiguring of this season, and I can see why to some degree, but I also wonder if this episode would have worked better coming more in the center of this bunch. Regardless, this is another inventive outing as far as taking what we know and doing something fun with the genre. Not all entries will be the strongest with any anthology, but this is not among the weakest either. I had fun seeing the knife twist against these characters, which is all you sometimes need in a one-off installment like this.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: A bit of action at the beginning to highlight, but this was an episode focused on haunted house shenanigans more than anything.
- “Sleepwalkers” is the term of choice for walkers this week, and I like it.
- The water reflection gag is a good use for a scary moment.
- And that’s going to do it for this initial season of Tales of the Walking Dead, I’ll be curious if we get more entries in the future, but for now, it’s time to prepare for the end of The Walking Dead proper.
- Thanks for reading, and feel free to hear what I and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.