While Carl continues to learn more about The Whisperers, a survivor's fate is decided while another steps down. Blunders are made and a deadly promise is given that is all too real. In the end, lines are crossed that affect everyone.
They meet with the other group, composed of Rick, Heath, Aaron and Magna. Ezekiel remarks on how the group is wasting ammunition on the dead, with Rick saying they have more than they really need, and that they also want to draw them away from the coast before the others arrive. They discuss that the next big project is a road leading to the coast, meant to start construction after the fair.
At the Hilltop, Maggie is told that no one can find Carl, who disappeared earlier that day after The Whisperers' visit. After some thinking, Maggie and the others reach the conclusion that Carl went after the Whisperer girl, with Dante crudely remarking that "the first piece of ass you get makes you do crazy things," much to Maggie's dismay. She goes on to state that, should the Whisperers assume Carl is a spy, it could cause problems.
Elsewhere, Carl wakes up from a brief rest, Alpha and other Whisperers are right in front of him. She questions him, asking if he's following them. Carl explains, pointing his gun at Alpha, that he left on his own and that he just wanted to make sure that Lydia is okay. She suggests he should put down his gun before he hurts himself, and he taunts her saying the dangerous end of the gun is not pointed at him.
She says that whatever his options are, shooting her or not, he'll probably end up killed by the others, and tells him to use his head and that he might just live. She then gets up, asking him if he'll come with them.
Back at the coast, a fishboat arrives. Rick asks if Ezekiel is nervous, much to the latter's discomfort. He says it's clear that he's not over her, and that everyone knows including her: Michonne is the first to leave the boat. She argues that there was no one else to do it. Ezekiel mentions he was keeping her Katana warm for her. They start to load up the fish.
Rick approaches Michonne privately, jokingly asking if she missed him. She asks about the new woman. Rick tells her about Magna and her group, saying that she's smart. Michonne jokingly asks if Andrea has something to worry about, a joke misunderstood by Rick, who rebukes that he'd never do that to anyone. She apologizes, saying that they don't do a lot of talking on the boat and that she's getting bad at it. He jokes that she was always a talkative person.
He asks her if she found what she was looking for, but gets no response. She apologizes for everything. Rick argues that she disappeared and they spent a great deal of time looking for her and that people could have died. She explains that it just didn't feel right, being there at The Kingdom with Ezekiel, happy, after everything she's been through and everything she's done. She says she abandoned her children because of her job and destroyed her marriage.
Rick says that they do deserve happiness after everything they've been through, telling her to get her shit together and stop punishing herself for stuff that wasn't her fault, and to go home.
At the pier, Rick and Michonne continue to talk for a while about her daughters. When telling her that she shouldn't live her life in misery due to their believed deaths, Michonne becomes defensive. She however is quickly defused when Rick apologizes explaining that he didn't want his best friend to be miserable. They then talk about the fair. Michonne explains that Pete is attending but she plans to remain at the pier. Rick asks her to attend stating that Carl would like to see her. She says she would like to see him too and when Rick cheerfully believes this to mean her attendance, she says "we'll see" with a smile.
At the Hilltop, Gregory has been locked up and is begging Harlan to be freed making up a story that both Maggie and Jesus were attempting to frame him. Harlan does not believe the story however and points out many flaws within it before Maggie also comments on the lie explaining that she had already told him that Gregory would make up a story. He seems surprised when he hears Maggie's voice and the two enter a angry, short lived conversation which ended with Gregory asking if he would be killed and Maggie remaining silent.
Jesus and Maggie then talk about Gregory and how to handle the situation; Jesus suggests that the bullies families were probably aware of his plan and Maggie agrees that it makes sense and plans to talk to them when Dante enters cheerfully. Due to his happy tone Maggie assumes that it means he was able to find Carl however he reports that he has not, Jesus comments that Rick will not be pleased but Maggie disregards it explaining that she has bigger problems and that Carl is on his own.
Carl, Lydia and the Whisperers continue their journey. They explain that they only have to travel a little further and Carl believes that this means they have a camp, Alpha then explains that they don't have camps and instead live how they were intended to live (Without shelter, instead huddling together for warmth). They then arrive to a large group of people, disguised in the same costumes with camp fires, livestock and other necessities.
Maggie then interviews Tammy. She reveals that she and the other parents did indeed know about the planned attack and apologizes as she sobs. When Jesus asks why Tammy hadn't come forward to warn them she explains that she was still angry about the fight between her son and Carl and that it was this anger that previously blinded her judgement. When asked if this was the same for the other parents she admitted that Gregory could be persuasive.
After discovering that both the Rose and Harlan families were aware of the attempt on Maggie's life, Jesus asks what should be done to them, suggesting exile. However, Maggie tries to remain focused on Gregory which frustrates him as she still remained undecided on what to be done with him. She reveals however she is no longer undecided and that Gregory must be killed.
Meanwhile at Alexandria, Negan is bathing in a small tub provided for him outside of his cage. He is being guarded at gunpoint by two men during this. Olivia is also trimming his hair and the two share uncomfortable words about his scars as she does so. Andrea enters to assure that everything was 'good' to which Negan responds "The one thing I've never been accused of is being good". The two men then take the tub as Negan dresses and Andrea orders him to go back into his cell with her gun drawn. Olivia seems to initially struggle with locking the cell but eventually believes to succeed. The two women then also leave and Negan sighs, but much to his surprise, he realizes that in fact the cell door was still unlocked.
Rick arrives at gates of Alexandria, back from his trip to the coast. Before he can enter, he is greeted by Dwight, who doesn't feel like going inside the zone and talking with the others.
After being questioned about Sherry, Dwight says she found a nice guy, someone who "has more face than he has" and that they're in good terms with each other. He then opens up to Rick, saying he doesn't feel like he's fit to be a leader, and asks him to choose a new leader for The Saviors.
Rick states that he can't do that, because Dwight took control of The Saviors, back there at the end of the Battle of Hilltop, and that he needs to tell his people that he's stepping down, and that they will need to elect a new leader.
After The Saviors leave, Aaron and Heath discuss how everyone doesn't particularly like The Saviors, and how they're the weirdest group of the mix, joking that The Sanctuary should be renamed a "[place with] bunch of weirdos."
Andrea meets Rick inside the gates, asking him how the trip went. He greets her, and they discuss the upcoming fair. The conversation is cut short by Rick going to visit the jail, much to Andrea's dismay.
He goes down, and much to his shock, Negan is sitting inside his cell, with the door open. Negan sarcastically welcomes him home.
Rick reaches for his gun, only to be taunted by Negan about his leg and his "grandpa" appearance. Negan then questions Rick about the gun, since he could have easily sneaked behind and subdued Rick, but instead he decided to stay, as to make Rick trust him a little. He goes on and says that he could have booby-trapped the safe-zone, he could have started a fire in the house to kill Rick and Andrea while they're asleep or that he could have simply raped Andrea without anyone knowing.
Much to Negan's surprise, Rick still says that nothing has changed and that he has no trust in Negan. Knowing that nothing he says will work, Negan proceeds to taunt Rick about the reason why he's keeping him here, only to prove to himself and no one else that he has mercy, and that he wants others to believe he's a good person and the only one who can fix the world.
Elsewhere, Rosita announces to the Alexandrians that she and Eugene are going to have a baby. Discreetly, Rick takes Olivia away from everyone and harshly chastises her for leaving Negan's cell unlocked.
Later, he and Andrea talk about what happened and discuss the risk of having Negan there, "living" with them close to everybody else. Andrea suggests that they should just kill Negan already and be done with it. Rick then proceeds to talk about how he must give an example and prove that they've changed, that death as a punishment isn't necessary anymore, that they can control their emotions and prove that they're civilized people, and that if they let that go and kill again, everything will fall apart.
At the Hilltop Colony, Maggie and the rest of the residents watch Gregory being hanged as punishment for his attempt on Maggie's life.
Gregory's corpse is taken down from the tree, as Maggie delivers a speech to the Hilltop citizens, saying that she expects it to be the last time an execution has to happen, and that she wants everyone to work with her to ensure the success of the town.
In Alexandria, Andrea wakes up and goes to check up on the structures set up for the fair, which will happen later that day.
At The Whisperers' Camp, Carl and Lydia watch the skinning of a zombie. Soon, Alpha approaches Carl, and, after noticing the latter's aggression, reminds him that he's still a captive. She announces that there is no other way, and that she must learn more about Carl's people.
Back in Alexandria, Siddiq shows Maggie, Sophia and baby Hershel their room. Later, Paul joins her when she tells Rick about Carl's disappearance. After a brief moment of tension, Rick accepts Maggie's apology for not telling him sooner, and Rick decides he must go out and look for Carl himself. Shortly afterwards, Rick, along with Andrea, Michonne and Dante go out to search for Carl.
At the fair, Earl Sutton is talking to a mysterious woman about her work, impressed by the machetes and spears she is showing off at her tent. He asks her how long ago she joined the communities, to which she responds that she joined them very recently. Unbeknownst to him and everyone else, the woman is Alpha, the leader of The Whisperers, infiltrated in the fair to learn more about the communities.
Earl Sutton continues speaking with Alpha at the fair. As she walks off, Ezekiel approaches Earl and mentions that Alpha seems strange. Pete joins the conversation, telling him that they should speak about Michonne. Pete points out that it is obvious that Michonne still likes him and that Ezekiel should come talk to her and hopefully snap her out of whatever made her distant. Ezekiel runs off overjoyed and promises to never give up on Michonne.
Elsewhere, Rick, Dante, Michonne, and Andrea are on horseback riding through an extremely overgrown suburban area. Rick apologizes to Dante about being harsh with him about Carl. Dante accepts Rick's apology and explains how the Whisperers took him even farther out than the area where he was captured and that he is fearful of them. Rick mentions that he has to hold out on Carl being alive. Dante reassures Rick and Andrea mentions that Carl is a badass.
A Whisperer then walks out saying "your son is quite handful," prompting Rick to pull his gun out. Rick threatens the Whisperer, ordering him take the group to Carl. The whisperer then tells Rick that he should be mindful of who is listening to his threats. Just then, a group of Whisperers emerge from behind wreckage. The group is surrounded as the whisperer tells Rick that he will take him only to Carl and that everyone else must stay put under guard.
Back at the fair, Jesus and Maggie are discussing how they are going to go about telling Rick that they have killed Gregory. Maggie tells Jesus that it was not a good time to tell Rick after she had just mentioned the issue with Carl. She also states that she is the Hilltop leader and that it is not Rick's business to know what she does. Maggie mentions that she does not even want to think about Carl and what had happened to him. Jesus reassures her that Carl is okay by saying he has probably only grown stronger, to which Maggie agrees.
Back at the Whisperer camp, Carl is being held back by Lydia as he demands to know where Alpha has been all day. A Whisperer tells Carl that he shouldn't care what others are doing. Another Whisperer approaches and calls out that he "caught one" on the road. Carl sees Rick and is surprised, but apologizes for scaring him. Rick is surprised Carl does not have his glasses on.
At the fair, Eugene and Rosita are shopping for maternity clothing. Rosita mentions that after she has the baby she is going to need all the incentive possible to get back into shape. Eugene replies that he does not care what she looks like and will accept her in whatever shape is comfortable for her. Rosita begins to cry and says that she is terrible. The two hug and apologize as Eugene says that Rosita is only human. As Rosita leaves crying, Eugene buys a broken CB radio from a seller for a beer.
Back at Whisperer camp, Rick and Carl are talking while Lydia sits nearby listening. Rick wants Carl to come with him but seeming as Lydia won't leave, neither will Carl. Rick stresses about the dangers of this group as Carl responds by saying that he never asked his dad to come. Rick puts his hand on Carl's shoulder and tells him that he is getting him out of here.
Carl pushes his father's hand away as Rick looks shocked. Carl tells Rick that ever since his eye was taken and he was disfigured, no one would look at him without flinching, even him and Andrea. He then goes on to say that the only person who accepts him for it is Lydia and says she looks at him like he is normal. He then tells Rick that Lydia is special to him and that they care about each other. He states that he has finally found something good in this world and that he wants to hold on to it. Rick, looking defeated, sighs and says that he understands.
Alpha then approaches and says that she isn't impressed upon seeing Rick after all of the things she had heard about him. Rick tells him that he does not appreciate being held captive and that he would like to leave with Carl. Alpha says that she wishes he was never held captive. Alpha is holding a blood-stained machete.
Alpha says that she encountered some trouble on the road home and that it was unavoidable. Rick asks her what she has done and if she has hurt Andrea or Michonne before being punched by a Whisperer. Rick says that he will remember this as he wipes blood from his mouth. Alpha tells one of her people to go clean the machete and then tells Rick that he is in no position to threaten her and needs to be broken of the habit of threats. She tells Rick that the two of them will be going for a walk as Rick shouts that he will not leave Carl. Alpha threatens to kill Carl if Rick does not comply, forcing him to cooperate.
Alpha holds Rick at gun-point as they walk. The duo pass an overgrown gas station and a freeway. Rick asks her that if she planned on killing him that she could have saved them both a lot of time. Alpha states that although she is willing to kill Rick, she has no desire to. Alpha tells Rick to stop talking and to keep his voice down. Rick then asks Alpha where she is taking him as Alpha points to a building ahead of them.
Rick and Alpha approach a four-story building with a small water tower on top. Alpha tells Rick that the building is clear and the two go all the way to the roof of the building. Alpha tells Rick to go to the edge and look. She tells Rick that she wants him to see that she will destroy everything he has built in this world, everyone he has loved in this world, and that this is not an empty threat. Rick then looks over the edge with Alpha to see a massive herd below.
After showing Rick the massive horde of Roamers, Alpha takes him off the building and takes him back to the Whisperers camp. Rick asks Alpha what she wants from him, she replies he has nothing to offer her. She proceeds to mock Ricks "fake" way of life and say how they are like children playing pretend. "You've built a shrine to a world long dead," Alpha says how her people are the ones who live truly and live a life of freedom. Rick then questions her about her ideology about the Whisperers being free despite them referring to their leader as "Alpha" and having to sleep in the cold and wear dead human skin.
Back at the Whisperers camp, Lydia tells Carl that if he sees the opportunity then he should leave. However Carl says he refuses to leave without her. Lydia warns Carl that Alpha hates outsiders and that they are in major trouble that Rick showed up and threatened Alpha. Rick and Alpha show up, Rick tells Carl that they can leave peacefully however Carl refuses to leave Lydia. He tells Rick that the Whisperers rape Lydia and Alpha allows it and he confronts Alpha about it. Alpha claims that Rape is a power of the natural world and making it excusable. Lydia breaks down telling what has happened to her and Alpha is disgusted by her show of emotion and strikes her in the face calling her weak. She preaches how in order to survive in the new world one needs to be strong and she too breaks down. Rick separates them and Alpha whispers to him that they can provide the safety to Lydia that she could not. She then disowns Lydia and tells her to go with Rick and Carl. Alpha informs Rick that she has marked a border that separates them and the whisperers. And that they are not to cross that border or her horde will cross into their side. Rick takes Carl and Lydia and they leave.
Rick, Carl and Lydia return to where he left his search group and sees two horses surrounded by dead whispers and the group of Michonne, Andrea and Dante missing. They quickly get on their horses and ride off, Carl questions why his father is upset. Rick says he worried about Andrea and the fact that Alpha had blood on her machete, and he was also puzzled by this border Alpha mentioned. Rick is interrupted when he sees a long line of reanimated heads impaled on stakes. He is in shock when he sees that the heads on the stakes include Olivia, Josh, Carson, Tammy, Luke, Erin, Ken, Amber, Larry, Oscar, Rosita and Ezekiel. Devastated by the site Rick collapses to the floor when the tearful Andrea, Michonne and Dante appear and Andrea asks what they will do now...
- Rick Grimes
- Carl Grimes
- Maggie Greene
- Rosita Espinosa
- Eugene Porter
- Paul Monroe
- Earl Sutton
- Harlan Carson
- Hershel Greene
- Morton Rose
- Tammy Rose
- Mrs. Harlan
- Josh (Zombified)
- Amber (Zombified)
- Erin (Zombified)
- Larry (Zombified)
- The Whisperers
- Olivia (Alive, Off-Panel)
- Josh (Alive, Off-Panel)
- Carson (Alive, Off-Panel)
- Tammy Rose (Alive, Off-Panel)
- Luke (Alive, Off-Panel)
- Erin (Alive, Off-Panel)
- Ken (Alive, Off-Panel)
- Amber (Alive, Off-Panel)
- Larry (Alive, Off-Panel)
- Oscar (Alive, Off-Panel)
- Rosita Espinosa (Alive, Off-Panel)
- Ezekiel (Alive, Off-Panel)
- Rosita's unborn baby (Confirmed Fate)
- 2 unnamed Whisperers (Confirmed Fate)
- This volume has the second most named deaths with a total of 13: leading Volume 21 with 9 and following Volume 8 with 20.
- Gregory is the twenty-third main character to die.
- Rosita Espinosa is the twenty-fourth main character to die.
- Ezekiel is the twenty-fifth main character to die.
- This is one of two volumes to feature a baby's death, the other occurred in Volume 8 with Judith's death.
- Judith's death, however, happened after birth, while Rosita's baby died in utero.
- Coincidentally, both Judith and Rosita's baby died at the very end of a compendium.
- This volume concludes the third compendium.