Review: The Walking Dead 10x20, “Splinter”

Aaron Neuwirth reviews the fourth of The Walking Dead Season 10 bonus episodes, "Splinter," which finds Princess coping with being cooped up by herself, with thoughts on escape.

After last week’s very entertaining standalone episode, it seemed like The Walking Dead was going back to a more story-driven episode with “Splinter.” In fact, it’s a bit of both. While we are given a bit more context about the upcoming Commonwealth storyline, this is largely a solo round to explore Paola Lazaro’s Princess role. There are some neat moves this episode tries to pull off as far as messing with reality, but the series has once again decided to only do so much with breaking from the format for these bonus season 10 episodes. Regardless, as a character-centric episode expanding on the show’s newest main player, there’s plenty of good to be found here.

Picking up where the Eugene & Friends storyline left off, we see the Commonwealth troopers (a cross between stormtroopers and street hockey players) putting a heavy hand behind their apprehension of our heroes. As Princess is not one to take things easily, Yumiko tries to help, only to get a big bang to the noggin’ in the process. The rest of the episode focuses on Princess’ escapades while in solitary confinement.

As we’ve largely seen Princess act as her big, boisterous self in outdoor environments, letting her constant enthusiasm and quick attention span take over, I could already tell that locking her up in a dark train car was not going to be the best situation for her. Dark, alone, confused – all elements that are only going to rile up the woman who turned Pittsburg into her own amusement park. Sure enough, this is what takes place.

Hearing Yumiko in the train car next to her, in an attempt to keep her conscious to stave off effects from a possible concussion (let alone assuage her own claustrophobia), we get more backstory out of Princess, related to the splinter she currently has in her finger. This being The Walking Dead, of course, there’s a convenient story to tell based around some small symbol, only for this episode to wrap that up later on, suggesting the arc is completed. Regardless, it’s enough to place audiences on Princess’ side, even if we know any attempt to escape will likely backfire.

The thought of Yumiko passing out worries Princess to the point of her choosing a quick escape path. She finds Eugene in the next car, who advises against this, using his typical speech patterns to somehow deliver clear explanations in ways still making me wonder if the character has officially been announced as one who is on the spectrum (this show does do its job as far as representation, so I’m all for it if that’s been the intended idea).

As a result, Princess returns to her car, only to be brought in for an interrogation. That goes about as well as one would expect. She’s resistant and gets another punch in the face for her troubles. After being returned to her car, however, she gets another surprise – Ezekiel.

Why am I recapping so much? From here, the episode raised my suspicions about what was going on. Something about Ezekiel’s entrance didn’t seem right, but we spend so much time with the two of them afterward that I convinced myself he was the real deal. Much like last week’s head-fake with Gabriel, I actually am happy to see the show finding some clever ways to throw the viewer off the scent of something being up. That speaks to effective characterization as far as getting an audience to believe in what a character is putting out there. Twisting that on its head only means you are willing to go along with them and then grapple with new revelations about them.

This latter portion of the episode works well not only because of a clever use of Ezekiel but because there’s a solid effort to draw us into how Princess plans to handle her situation. Does it make more sense for her to make a getaway, try to help, or give in to the Commonwealth’s questions? From a morality standpoint, of course, you just want her not to get anyone else hurt. One also has to consider that this mysterious group must have some plan in mind.

Once the soldier gets capture, we think we are getting a sense of what this group is about. They’re too organized to be unhinged power-seekers like the Saviors. Maybe there is a large community that wants to put everything they find through a heavy vetting process before revealing themselves. Regardless, seeing Princess eventually give in for the sake of doing what she thinks will help her friends is a strong way to push this character forward. Of course, she’s rewarded with a quick glimpse of her friends, all bound and hooded, only for her to receive the same treatment.

Is there much progression in the overall story? Not really. This is more about making sure we understand who Princess is before the next season comes and needs her to anchor some key moments, I’m sure. That said, she sure did seem attached to her new group of friends. Regardless, as a character who already knows she could rub some the wrong way, this could be a good test for whether or not fans of the show are ready for more Princess down the road. Regardless, as a chance for the writers to deliver on a single character for 40 minutes (it’s a shorter ep), the work is solid.

Dead Bits:

  • Zombie Kill of the Week: No walker deaths this week…but Imaginary Ezekiel got to hang out with a couple of the dead while having a talk with Princess.
  • So, are we to assume Princess imagined talking to Yumiko as well? What about Eugene? The former seems more possible than the latter.
  • The music is quite eerie this week.
  • I would have done nothing but pick at that splinter until it was out.
  • I’m sure trust is going to play a major role in everything Commonwealth-related.
  • Maybe it was more obvious to others (or not), but I did like the steps building towards the Imaginary Ezekiel reveal.
  • Is that rookie getting a demotion?
  • Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what me and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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