"What It Always Is" is the fifth episode of the tenth season of AMC's The Walking Dead. It is the one-hundred and thirty-sixth episode of the series overall. It premiered on November 3, 2019. It was written by Eli Jorne and directed by Laura Belsey.
Kelly hunts a wild boar in the woods while struggling with her hearing. She hits her target and puts the boar out of its misery when a walker approaches her. Kelly kills it as more arrive and devour the boar. She sprints away through the woods until she trips and falls down a hill, injuring herself. A walker silently creeps up from behind as Kelly starts passing out.
Elsewhere, Negan washes his face in the river as Brandon pretends to hold a knife to him. He reveals he is joking and tosses Negan a canteen. Negan drinks from it and then flashes a smile. At Hilltop, Eugene has people salvaging every inch of the tree as Alden tells Yumiko they need to build up their defenses. She says this is not the time as Earl complains about their lack of retaliation against the Whisperers. Suddenly, Brianna tells Yumiko that someone stole the crate of fish from Oceanside.
Inside the Barrington house, Magna is pouting as Yumiko arrives to tell her to be better at watching the food, but she only turns up her music and ignores her. Daryl and Siddiq arrive to tell Ezekiel they couldn't find Negan. Ezekiel coughs and asks Siddiq to help in the infirmary. The Hilltop hunting team also returns and Connie expresses concern about Kelly's whereabouts. Oscar informs her that she volunteered to stay back and would return later. Connie looks concerned as Daryl listens nearby.
Back in the woods, Negan gets annoyed at Brandon as he mimics the Saviors' whistling. Brandon starts fantasizing about the Sanctuary and reveals he is mad that Rick Grimes killed his parents. He then claims he heard that Negan shot Carl Grimes. Negan gets angry and corrects him, showing respect to Carl, and saying he would never kill a kid. "We're both Negan", Brandon says seemingly understanding him.
They continue their journey and find a Whisperer border. Before they can investigate, a walker attacks Negan. He uses the wire around its neck to rip its head off and stomps its head. He sarcastically thanks Brandon, who reveals he was making him another Lucille and he had also snuck his leather jacket from the community. Negan smiles but asks him to put it all back in the bag because he doesn't want to be recognized.
Meanwhile, Aaron is swinging a sword around on a bridge when he hears footsteps. He hides and watches as Gamma cuts open a walker and spill its guts on the river to contaminate the water. Elsewhere, Brandon asks Negan to rate female walkers on hotness when they suddenly hear screams from inside a bus. Negan runs inside and stabs several walkers to save the woman and her son. Brandon arrives and complements Negan on his brutal walker killings, comparing him to his old self. While searching for Kelly in the woods, Daryl tells Connie a story about how he saved Merle from drowning during a fishing trip but was chastised for not getting the beer off the lake. Suddenly, Dog finds the remains of the boar. They hear a noise behind them and find Magna.
Back at Hilltop, Yumiko is worried about the group still being out in the woods as Alden helps to make her feel better. When she leaves, Earl tells Alden the Whisperers will eventually return. Alden claims he hasn't forgotten about what they had lost. In the infirmary, Ezekiel starts coughing very aggressively and reveals to Siddiq a large lump on his neck. He explains he has a family history of thyroid cancer and knows that it's unlikely he will survive his illness due to a lack of proper medical treatment in the current world. Siddiq offers alternate solutions but Ezekiel has already made up his mind.
On the bus, Amelia shares her story with Negan and Brandon. She then takes her son Milo for a walk as Brandon suggests they rob them. Negan stops him and orders him to go back to Alexandria. Brandon says he can't go back, so Negan tells him to go wherever the hell he wants, as long as he doesn't see his creepy face again. "You're just like all the others," Brandon says before leaving. At the Whisperer camp, Gamma reports to Alpha that she needs another guardian. A Whisperer then demands that instead of using more walkers for slower strategies, they should release their herd on the communities. Alpha allows the group to vote but nobody agrees with the Whisperer. She suddenly cuts his leg and he collapses. When he tries to strike, she slices his arm and then hands the knife to Beta to finish the job.
Meanwhile, Negan talks with Milo who is playing with a toy airplane. He realizes Milo has never been on a plane and explains the joys of it. He also teaches him the joys of nut-tapping and promises to take him and his mom to Hilltop where they will be safe. Back in the woods, Gamma walks with the reanimated Whisperer. She starts having flashbacks to when she killed her sister and starts to stab repeatedly the Whisperer on its head. She ends up cutting herself and dropping her knife in the water. Aaron appears and throws some bandages. He introduces himself and tries to get her to do the same, but she picks up the bandage and runs off.
Elsewhere, Daryl, Connie, and Magna find an exhausted Kelly lying under a tree. As they give her water, Kelly insists to Magna they tell Daryl and Connie about the supplies they've been taking. Daryl is mad about them hiding the supplies and Connie suggests they lie and say they found it in the woods. Meanwhile, Negan returns with wood for a fire when he hears Brandon whistling. He investigates and discovers Brandon has killed Amelia and Milo. Brandon smiles and asks if he passed the test, believing that's what Negan wanted him to do. Enraged, Negan picks up a stone and angrily beats Brandon in the head. He then grabs his bat and leather jacket and leaves on his own.
Later that day, Daryl and the others return to Hilltop with Kelly. Siddiq radios Dante, who tells him Rosita caught a bug. He says he'll return to Alexandria tonight and then asks to speak to Carol. Ezekiel sits in front of the radio but changes his mind at the last moment and turns it off. In their room, Yumiko questions Magna about the stolen supplies. They start arguing and Magna admits she did kill the man who hurt her cousin despite Yumiko believing her to be innocent all those past years. Yumiko is hurt by the revelation and asks her to sleep somewhere else.
At their camp, Gamma confesses to Alpha that Aaron gave her gauze for her wound. Alpha shushes her and instructs her to sit, before removing Gamma's mask. They discuss sacrifices and Gamma tells her that her sacrifice was much greater, in reference to Lydia. Alpha says Aaron might be useful for her plans and they might have to wear a new mask. Back at Hilltop, Daryl prepares to leave when Connie apologizes for involving him with Kelly and Magna's lie. He understands because they are her family. She then confesses she considers him her family too.
Meanwhile, Negan is trotting around the woods and arrives at one of the borders. He yells to get the Whisperers' attention and starts to get surrounded by a group of walkers. As he starts smashing their heads, he is suddenly thrown to the ground by Beta. "Alright, you big ass freak, let's do this," Negan tells defiantly to Beta as he smiles.
- Anthony Lopez as Oscar
- Austin Freeman as Alex
- Camille Robinson as Brianna
- Virginia Newcomb as Amelia
- Roman Spink as Milo
- Ross Crain as Whisperer
- Seven as Dog
- Juan Javier Cardenas as Dante (Voice Only)
- Juliet Brett as Frances (Flashback)
- Unknown as Adam Sutton
- Alfred as The Wild Boar
- Matthew Czarnowsky as Coalition Soldier
- Warren Franks as Coalition Soldier
- Phil Washington as Coalition Soldier
- Maria Z. Wilson as Coalition Soldier
- Sierra Sawaya as Hilltop Wrangler
- Aja Lacy as Hilltop Resident
- Susan Boone as Hilltop Resident
- Carol Parente as Hilltop Resident
- Danny Evans as Hilltop Resident
- David Jones as Hilltop Resident
- Jack Kidd as Hilltop Resident
- Jordan Ling as Hilltop Resident
- Keely Rose McDonald as Hilltop Resident
- Maggie Holmes as Hilltop Resident
- Nick Bruno as Hilltop Resident
- Stephen Phillips as Hilltop Resident
- Brandon's Mother (Confirmed Fate)
- Brandon's Father (Confirmed Fate)
- Magna's Cousin's Rapist (Confirmed Fate, Pre-Apocalypse)
- 1 unnamed Whisperer (Alive and Zombified)
- 1 boar
- First appearance of Brianna.
- First (and last) appearance of Amelia.
- First (and last) appearance of Milo.
- Last appearance of Brandon.
- Last appearance of Frances. (Flashback)
- The title of the episode, "What It Always Is", comes from Amelia's speech, where she says that "what it always is in the end" is her and Milo surviving together, referring to their past.
- This episode was made available for streaming to subscribers of AMC Premiere on November 1, 2019.
- Karen Ceesay (Bertie) is upgraded from "Co-Star" to "Also Starring" in this episode, despite making no appearance in the episode whatsoever.
- Kelly's hearing continues to grow worse, a problem first seen in "Lines We Cross".
- Ezekiel is revealed to have thyroid cancer which both his grandmother and father successfully fought off. In the current world, Ezekiel is convinced that his condition is terminal.
- The Whisperers are confirmed to be behind the recent events as part of a slower, more long-term strategy by Alpha. These include expanding the border, contaminating a nearby creek, and knocking down a tree that damaged the Hilltop's walls.
- It is also hinted that the Whisperers might, in fact, be responsible for the waves of walkers attacking Alexandria in "Ghosts", despite Gamma's claims to the contrary, since a Whisperer complains about the "guardians" lost at the enemy's walls, although it's possible he is talking about the walkers being sacrificed to pollute the survivors drinking supply, or the walkers that attacked the Hilltop in "Silence the Whisperers".
- Brandon is revealed to be a former resident of the Sanctuary. His parents were either Savior soldiers or workers who died in the war.
- Aaron reveals he is from Vermont.
- It is revealed that Magna was in prison for murdering her little cousin's rapist. Yumiko defended her as she believed Magna was innocent, but Magna reveals to Yumiko that she really did kill the man in revenge.
- The song that Magna is listening to is from Emily Kinney's (who played Beth Greene) "The Turtle and the Monkey".
- Brandon mentions that one of the stories he heard about Negan was that he forced Rick Grimes to cut off Carl's hand and then Negan shot Carl to death. This is a partial reference to the events of "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be". Negan is visibly distraught at the accusation that he harmed Carl, stating that he never did that and he would never harm, let alone kill, a child.
- Negan crosses over into Whisperer territory and is stopped by Beta.
- When he crosses into the Whisperer territory he uses the same song that he used when he enters Alexandria.
- Negan's original leather jacket returns after being absent since "Wrath". His red scarf also returned in this episode after being absent since "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life".
- He also gets a replacement for Lucille.
- Negan offers to take Amelia and Milo to Hilltop rather than recruit them or make them followers, but they are killed before he could.
- Negan's motives in doing so are altruistic and he simply requests that they not tell anybody that it was Negan who sent them.
- Gamma is revealed to be poisoning Alexandria's water supply by killing walkers and spilling their innards into the river the community uses to survive.
- Coalition soldier extra Chris Brittain passed away during the filming of Season 10. As a way to honor him, the armor his character wore was worn by fellow coalition soldier extra Warren Franks.
- Negan and Brandon traveling trough the woods is adapted from Issue 153.
- Brandon holding resentment towards Rick for killing his parents during the war against the Saviors is a reference to Brandon holding a grudge against Rick for his parents' deaths in Issue 152.
- Brandon giving Negan his leather jacket back is adapted from Issue 153.
- Ezekiel commenting that Henry used to carve animal figures is a slight nod to Carl carving a boar in Issue 130.
- Negan bonding with Milo is a reference to Negan bonding with Jeremy in Here's Negan.
- Negan beating Brandon to death with a stone is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 153, where Negan stabs Brandon in the chest instead.
- Negan crossing the border and heading into the Whisperers' territory is adapted from Issue 153.
- Negan being confronted by Beta and a small group of Whisperers is adapted from Issue 154.
- Negan getting a replacement for Lucille is a slight nod to Negan crafting a replacement for Lucille in Issue 174.