The sky is tinted orange, and the land is desolate—the new normal for a country having experienced several radioactive bombs being dropped on its land. A stranger in a haz mat suit and gas mask kills a lone walker, searching their backpack for anything that could be useful. But when this stranger takes out their geiger counter, the numbers are too high. Not even the dead opossum lying near the walker is salvageable. So, the stranger leaves it there and walks onward, through a burning forest, and finally reaches an underpass where there is a vehicle. They goes inside the vehicle, which seems to be his home, turns a lamp on and takes off the gas mask. Underneath that mask is a man we haven’t seen before, but seems to be important if we are focusing solely on him for the premiere of the new season. He drinks a bit of water, takes a small bite of what seems like his only source of sustenance, marks off another day, and goes to sleep.
The next day, he emerges from the van and begins his search, crossing off sections on his map where he has no luck in finding resources. He encounters a walker and kills it, and then we cut to him back in the van. He hears walkers and looks outside to see several in the underpass, but suddenly other people attack them and leave. The next day, he gets out of his van to see all those walkers, but their clothes have been removed, which is definitely something new. Nevertheless, he continues on to search in a new area and comes across a lighthouse. He goes inside to explore and kills the sole walker inside, but is again unable to find anything to help him. Having given up, he goes back to the radioactive area with the opossum and takes it to cook. As he watches it roast, he starts to cry and kicks it over, defeated over the fact that he needs to eat, but doesn’t want to die from the food he eats. Then, a walker makes its way over to him but he doesn’t engage in an attack—just sitting there, waiting for it to take him. But that never happens, because a gunshot rings out and the walker falls to the ground. A group of men approach him, and thinking they’re the ones who undressed the walkers outside of his van, attempts to run away, to no avail. He trips and falls, knocking himself out.
He wakes up to people stripping him and giving him a thorough wash at a facility. He then gets a new set of clothes and is taken up an elevator to the top floor. As the elevator door opens, he hits the two people with him and goes through the gate and locks him out. We see the background of where he is, and he’s in the building we last saw Strand in season six. That is confirmed when we see Victor show up behind him, gun cocked, telling him to turn around and disarming the sword in his hands.
We cut to Howard, the historian we met in the season six finale who originally occupied this space, pouring two glasses of scotch. One is given to Strand, and the other to the man they took in. He also is given a plate of spaghetti, which is the first meal he has had in a very long time. He begins to eat as Strand asks him his name. We find out this new character’s name is Will, and that he was a Senator’s aide pre-walkers and is from Oklahoma. He had been with the Senator since with a few other aides, but they had gotten separated when the bombs went off and the Senator died. Will had been out there for fifty days and didn’t see much of anything, and not many people. Strand mentions how his scouts told him that he said there were people stripping the dead, and Will confirms that, but tells him he doesn’t know who they are.
Strand gives will a tour of the place and explains how he had his scouts only bring things of value that was worth preserving, and that was the same with people. If they are of value, they are allowed to stay. Will asks him what makes them of value, and Howard exclaims that Strand is the one asking the questions. Strand continues the tour and shows Will a wall filled with polaroids of walkers. He has his scouts take pictures of all that they come across in case anyone is looking for their loved ones; this can help them get closure. Will asks him if there’s anyone he’s hoping to find, but Strand says he has everything he needs right here in the tower.
He then brings Will up to the roof and explains how they were all still standing after the blasts because the weather patterns brought the fallout away from them. Now, the tower is the only inhabitable place for miles. Howard adds that they are laying the foundation for a new civilization. But Will continues to ask questions, prompting Strand to say that he isn’t a good fit and can leave. Will asks him why he would give him the tour and go through all the trouble of bringing him in if he was only going to kick him out. Strand tells him that he needed to see if shared his vision, and he doesn’t. So, as a parting gift, Will takes out a necklace he says he found it out there and it will help him carry heavy burdens. He throws it to Strand, who inspects it and realizes it’s the necklace he had given Alicia. He asks Will where he found it, and he says on one of the dead. Strand has now changed his mind. “Going to make you a deal, Will. Take me to where you find this, help me find the owner of this necklace, and I’ll spare you the horrors of a life out there and let you move into our humble abode.”
Will goes out with Strand and a couple scouts, arriving at a low radiation area where they’re able to take their masks off. Strand asks Will why he didn’t go find his people, to which he responds that him leaving wasn’t his choice and that he’s been trying to make it up to those people ever since. “Success is the best revenge,” Strand says. “History is written by the victors. I’m gonna ensure that’s us.” It suddenly starts raining, and Will tells them to put the masks back on because the rain water is contaminated. He brings them under a bridge, which happens to be where his van is. As they wait out the rain, the scouts take pictures of the walkers in the area, while Will and Strand converse. Will finds it funny that Strand is out here looking for the owner of the necklace when he said he had everything he needed at the tower. Strand tells him he does. “Then how come you’re out here looking for her?” Will asks.
Strand looks at him, realizings the man before him has been lying and has lured them here under false pretenses. “I never told you I was looking for a woman,” he says. He commands him to start talking, asking him where she is. Will plays dumb and forces Strand to name her—Alicia. But before either of them can say anything further, hooded people start shooting at them and shoots Will in the leg. Strand takes him and pulls him into the van as walkers start coming. Will says they need to get out of there, but Strand doesn’t want to go anywhere until his question is answered about Alicia. Will lies and says he doesn’t know, but Strand is able to expose those lies when he sees a sign for the Franklin, where Teddy had brought her. Strand says he’ll go there himself to find her, but Will stops him, telling him that “she’ll never forgive you if you do this.” He reveals that Alicia had told him who he was. But Strand, ever as stubborn, wants to show Alicia how wrong she is because that’s how he wins. He takes the gas mask and runs off, leaving Will behind.
Strand gets to the lighthouse and walks up the stairs and finds a map that will help him get to the Franklin Hotel. He exits, but is unable to get far when Will comes up with a gun cocked, telling Strand it’s time for him to answer his questions. They go back into the lighthouse and sit town, Will telling Strand that Alicia said he wasn’t exactly trustworthy, so he was testing him, to see if he was worth saving. “What makes you think showing her that tower’s gonna change her opinion of you?” Will asks. “That tower succeeds because of me. My choices, my instincts,” Strand replies. Will says that what he’s doing is not leadership. He had learned what real leadership looked like from Alicia. She had been locked in that bunker with Teddy’s followers and “could have become a cynical asshole like you, but now. And you know why? Because she knew what Vazquez knew, you cannot lead alone. If you want people to believe in you, you’ve got to believe in them.” He asks Strand if he still has the medallion. He takes it out and hands it to Will.
Will is confused, because this shouldn’t have happened.Will says that he needs this as much as Strand. Alicia had asked him to do something but he couldn’t do it because it would’ve protected everyone there except for her. He’s been looking for a way back ever since, and he thought that if he brought Strand to her, that maybe that would do it. “But after what I’ve seen today, I’d doubt she’d recognize you,” Will states. We see a flicker of emotion from Strand, and he agrees with Will that she wouldn’t. He tells Will that he gave Alicia the medallion to remember who she was because he feared he wouldn’t be able to do the same with himself. He asks for the medallion back, but as Will leans over to give it to him, Strand attacks him. Will grabs for an axe and swings at Strand. He gets control of the situation and says how he thought he could bring Strand and that would make things better, but now he thinks the world would be better off without him. He opens the lighthouse doors to leave, but sees a lot of walkers. He is frozen still as they make their way closer and closer, until Strand pulls him inside and closes the doors. Strand asks him what the hell happened, and Will sputters out that he knew them from the bunker and something bad must’ve happened. Will is confused, because this shouldn’t have happened. He wants to get over to the bunker, but now the visibility is low and there’s a ton of walkers outside.
Will has the idea of turning on the lantern of the lighthouse, as Strand goes outside and starts killing the walkers. But, the light doesn’t stay powered for long, and Strand is left alone in the dark. Will goes down and calls out to Victor, but quickly gets cornered by walkers until Strand comes in and kills them. He tells will that Alicia wasn’t one of them and then asks why Will saved him, and he tells Strand that it’s because he knows he still loves Alicia.
They make their way to the hotel, which is just a pile of rubble. Yet, Will is able to weave through it and lead Strand inside to the bunker door. They enter the bunker, but it’s completely empty. Will starts calling out Alicia’s name, but there is no response. They enter a room that has a painting of Alicia on the wall, along with Teddy’s tree that now seems burnt and is sans walker. Strand asks Will if she had painted that, and he thinks she did based on a note he finds for him. All it says, though, is padre. Strand asks what that is, but Will says he doesn’t know, but it doesn’t matter, because it’ll probably get Alicia killed. He gets upset, saying that if anything happens to them, or to her, that it’s on him. Strand realizes that Will loved Alicia too. Strand tells him that he was right— it wasn’t about proving something to her, it was about proving something to himself. “That I didn’t need her. But I do. As do you,” he says. “Maybe that’s the point of all this. Maybe we’re supposed to find her. Together,” Will responds. But Strand has idea that can help her find them.
hey take the light from the lighthouse and fix it on top of the tower. Howard says the light will reach fifteen miles. Will believes Alicia will see it, follow it, and find this place. Strand tells him that Alicia was the closest thing he had to family. Will says she can still help him be the man he wanted to be. Strand takes a pause then says that him leaving the tower was a bad idea and he didn’t listen to his instincts. Will, however, thinks he made the right decision and now they can make this place better, together. Strand tells him they won’t do it together and that he was wrong about leadership not being about the one, because he can do it alone. He’s seen other places try to do it Will’s way but never fully succeed because of one reason—love. “Attachments don’t make you strong, Will. They destroy you,” Strand says. It’s at that point that Will realizes the light wasn’t to draw Alicia in, it was to keep her and everyone else as far away as possible. He doesn’t believe it will work and that she’ll get through to him. Strand tells him she won’t and throws him off the building to his death. Howard steps up next to Strand and tells him, “That’s [the light] gonna draw more than the dead. Maybe even some of those people you were with before. People like Morgan Jones.” To that, Strand replies, “Anyone who tries to get to me, is gonna have to get through them,” as we pan down to see the walkers beginning to surround the tower.