*WARNING: Detailed spoilers for this week’s episode!*
Last week, Carol once again made a terrible and out-of-character decision, which resulted in Connie and Magna being trapped in Alpha’s walker horde cave.
While Daryl went off to find them, Alpha sent Beta to hunt down the traitorous Gamma and bring her back to the Whisperer camp for what is likely to be a severe punishment.
Oh, and Alpha and Negan got it on. Thankfully, we will not be exploring that blood curdling subplot this week.
The episode opens with Beta heading out to an RV. Upon entering it, two Whisperers politely move a chair for him, which leads to the entrance for an underground tunnel.
We’ll get back to that in bit…
Over in Alexandria, Rosita awakens from a nightmare (about Whisperers killing her baby Coco) when Gabriel calls for her to come to the front gate. She arrives to find Gamma, who is surrounded by spear-pointing Alexandrians. The traitorous Whisperer informs them about their people being trapped in Alpha’s horde cave. Gabriel is skeptical, especially since the horde was very recently known/assumed to be in a field. Gamma insists she’s telling the truth, though, adding that her nephew was the baby Alpha forced the Whisperers to leave at the Hilltop–and that she’d do anything to see him again.
Gabriel asks Gamma if she can lead them to cave. After she replies affirmatively, the Alexandrians lower their spears and allow her through the city gates…and right into Rosita’s fist, who doesn’t believe her one bit.
When Gamma awakens from her concussion, she finds herself locked in the same cell where Gabriel stabbed Dante to death–a little nugget of information he and Rosita are happy to share with their new prisoner. Gamma swears she doesn’t know anything about the man who was sent to spy on Alexandria (and who killed Sidiq/Coco’s father), but her captors remain unconvinced. They also inform her that if she can’t convince them she’s telling the truth, then they’ll kill her.
When Gamma once again insists on her truthfulness, Gabriel claims that his time as a priest taking confessions trained him to tell when someone is withholding information. Gamma replies by telling Gabriel he should ask God if she’s being honest. Gabriel counters with an admittedly badass/chilling line:
I’ve spoken to God. He told me to hang you.
That rattles Gamma enough to admit she killed her sister for Alpha, which is apparently enough to get Gabriel to believe her story.
Gamma briefs the Alexandria war council on the Whisperer patrol presence along with the best way to find and enter the cave. Afterward, she is returned to her cell. Rosita still doesn’t believe her, but Gabriel is convinced Gamma has given them good intel–and is rearing to kick some Whisperer ass.
As they prepare to depart, Rosita calls Gabriel out for his blood lust, which he feels is totally justified. She counters by expressing her concern that Coco can’t lose another father-figure before abruptly departing.
Judith goes to visit Gamma in her cell (which is pretty on brand) and asks what her real name is, which she reveals to be Mary. Judith follows up by asking Gamma/Mary what she was like before becoming a Whisperer. Mary starts with a standard life retelling before admitting that Alpha’s brainwashing made her forget much of her life before the zombie apocalypse. She also admits that she and her sister were struggling to survive, which is why they fell in with Alpha.
Judith responds by stating that Mary simply met the wrong person first…and that if she’d met her mom or dad first instead, she wouldn’t be in that cell. She ties a final bow on the heart strings by telling Mary that she doesn’t look like a monster to her.
As the Alexandrians prepare for battle, they get a report from one of their outposts that a large herd is headed their way. Gabriel deduces that the Whisperers know they have a defector and are trying to stop them before they act on her intel.
He sets up a strike team to head out and take on the horde before heading on to the cave. Before Gabriel can apologize to Rosita for leaving her, she tells him she agrees with the decision. In addition to not trusting herself out in the field (due to her lingering fear/rage from the Whisperers invading her home), she also wants to make sure Coco still has at least one parent alive if things go badly.
That night, Beta rises from a grave in Alexandria. Aside from the logistical impossibility that his tunnel work presents, it does make for a pretty cool/terrifying image. The horror gets cranked up another notch when he kills two guards and a group of Alexandrians enjoying dinner, then patiently waits for them to reanimate.
While all this is happening, Gabriel discovers that the outpost team was forced to make the distress call and that they’re all dead…and that there is no walker herd headed for a very lightly defended Alexandria.
While Rosita and the skeleton security crew inexplicably struggle to deal with six walkers, Beta kills the one guard they left to defend Mary’s cell (despite her being the obvious reason the Whisperers would have shown up), takes the key, and unlocks the door.
Mary tries to tell him that Alexandria is not the place Alpha said it was, but he doesn’t care, commanding that she come with him for a painless death at her former leader’s hands or a very painful one from his.
Mary rightfully calls Beta on his B.S., declaring that Alpha would most definitely torture her. She also adds that she’s not afraid of him, which becomes a much easier position to take when Laura puts an axe to Beta’s throat. Mary’s rescuer moves the big lug out of the way and tells her to go get help. Instead of incapacitating the obvious infiltrator/instigator, however, she allows him to break her weapon and (apparently) kill her–but not before Mary makes it outside.
As she’s calling for help, Judith beckons her inside her house above the prison cell. Beta follows them inside and does some Michael Meyers stalking for a bit before Judith finally shoots him in the shoulder through her bedroom door. Instead of checking to make sure he’s dead, though, she takes R.J. and runs downstairs. As Mary slowly walks after them, Beta grabs her by the ankle and yanks her to the floor. He then gets up, revealing that he was (OF COURSE) wearing a bullet proof vest.
Just as Beta about to take off with Mary, Rosita shows up. She manages to get the upper hand for a bit, but Beta eventually pins her down. Right as he’s about to kill her, Mary commands him to stop while brandishing one of his knives that he dropped. Instead of attacking him, however, she offers herself (since Alpha demanded that she be brought back alive) in exchange for sparing Rosita.
Beta leads Mary back to the Whisperer camp. As he’s discussing how great it will be to be with her sister again after they kill her, the pair are surrounded by Gabriel’s scouting party. Despite having him dead to rights and being armed with shotguns, Beta manages to escape.
Gabriel is prepared to execute Mary for what appears to be her treachery, but she’s able to convince him that she is on his side.
The next morning, Aaron arrives and tells Gabriel about what happened back at the cave. Later, Rosita leaves for Hilltop to see a doctor along with Mary, who she finally introduces herself to.
Elsewhere, Daryl tracks a Whisperer through the woods to an entrance to the horde cave. When he finds it, the Whisperers appear to be in the process of moving a small group of walkers for some reason. He attacks and kills all but one, who manages to get a good knife swipe across his face. Despite suffering from the show’s patented Blurry Blood POV, he still manages to knock her down and stab her through the shoulder with a stick, twisting it as he demands she tell him where his friends are (?).
Unfortunately, everyone’s favorite redneck stud gets distracted by the approaching walkers. This allows the surviving Whisperer to grab Daryl’s knife and stab him in the leg.
At this point, it sure looked like Daryl was a goner. After a commercial break, however, we discover that he somehow limped away from both the walker horde and his completely mobile attacker (while half blind) and found an old gas station to hide in…WITH THE FREAKING KNIFE STILL STICKING OUT OF HIS LEG. All this scene needed was a magic dumpster falling from the sky and we’d be set…
But I digress…as Daryl’s pursuer closes in, he finds a crowbar conveniently within reach (ugh) and grabs it. The Whisperer approaches, then stops and begins banging her gun on piece of metal, bringing the walkers to their location. She also struggles to keep her eyes open as the injuries Daryl inflicted upon her begin to take their toll.
After a while, three zombies wander in and lumber toward Daryl. Despite having a perfectly good (and fortuitous) crowbar in his possession, he goes to great pains to kick down a nearby fire extinguisher to defend himself with. After utilizing the crowbar and extinguisher to neutralize the first two walkers, he’s forced to pull the knife out of his leg to kill the third one, causing his wound to bleed profusely.
That night, the Whisperer stalking Daryl takes off her mask, revealing herself to be Alpha. She asks her dying adversary if he can feel the sweet embrace of death like she can, then transitions into a rambling soliloquy about how she and her daughter were forged by pain. Daryl responds by pointing out that Alpha lost Lydia because she didn’t love her.
This was apparently the exact wrong thing to say as it inspired Alpha to get up and stumble towards him. She nearly reaches Daryl before falling onto her back again. Before she can fade into unconsciousness, however, her daughter Lydia (who last we saw fleeing everyone to be on her own) emerges and sits down next to her.
I really wish I was making that last part up.
Alpha tells her daughter that it’s her destiny to lead the Whisperers, then begs to be put out of her misery. Lydia refuses on both counts, instead telling Alpha that the humans of this world might not be perfect, but the life she can have with them is all she ever wanted.
The next morning, Alpha awakens to find that Lydia has rescued Daryl and scratched a message into a nearby table with the knife she’d refused to commit patricide with:
Your way is not the only way.
A Mother’s Wrath
The next day, Daryl wakes up to find Lydia watching over him. After catching up for a bit, he asks if she killed Alpha. Lydia responds by asking Daryl if he could have done the same to his father.
Meanwhile, a couple of Whisperers find Alpha. As they help tend to her wounds, she vows to kill everyone with her walker horde.
Once again, we have an episode that is brilliantly constructed on all aspects except the story, which is an absolute mess.
Just like the last week, the cinematography is fantastic. The scene in which Beta infiltrates Alexandria might actually be one of my favorites in the entire series.
As expected, the acting is top notch all around. Seth Gilliam’s job portraying Gabriel in particular deserves a ton of praise. He’s taken one of the most pathetic/unlikable characters on the show and believably transformed him into a hard edged capable leader–all while still retaining his humanity.
To be fair, the show’s writing staff does deserve a good deal of credit for that, as well. This season has featured some genuinely good dialogue and impactful moments between its characters. Unfortunately, some eye roll-inducing moments of individual characterization are often made worse by a stream of story decisions/moments that make you want to pull your hair out.
Let’s start near the end of the episode and work backwards:
- After running off to be by herself in the woods, Lydia just happens to show up exactly where Daryl and Alpha are. You could say she’s been watching everyone from a distance, but that makes her timing pretty terrible–especially since Daryl was bleeding out for hours after immobilized and attacked by walkers.
- Despite being a behemoth of a man who’s surrounded by shotgun wielding adversaries, Beta suddenly turns into a teleporting gazelle and zips away into the forest unscathed.
- If there’s ANYONE who should know better than assume an adversary is dead without shooting them in the head, its Judith Grimes. Instead, she runs off with her little brother, allowing Beta to get up and continue his reign of terror through Alexandria…or pull Gamma/Mary to the floor.
- This scene wouldn’t have even been possible if former-Savior-turned-good-guy Laura had finished the job when she had Beta dead to rights. ..or just held him in place. Either should have been easily possible for a woman who was once one of Negan’s top lieutenants.
- Why did they leave one guard at Mary’s cell when they knew Mary/Gamma would be the primary target of an infiltration?
- Okay, I’ll buy there being a random gas station near where Daryl was injured. I’ll even go along with him fortuitously finding a crowbar. But how did he manage to get away AND HIDE from Alpha while half blind and with a knife stuck in his leg?
- Speaking of Alpha, what was the purpose of her being out on patrol with a handful of walkers besides ensuring a dramatic showdown with Daryl?
- A tunnel into Alexandria seems like the type of thing the Whisperers could have utilized a lot more. Also, if it was Dante who made it, when did he have the time? Wouldn’t someone notice him digging in the graveyard for hours?
I realize that a show about the dead rising requires a suspension of disbelief, but that doesn’t excuse rampant story inconsistencies. It’s hard to understand how a writers room that does so many things right can continue to get so much wrong.
Maybe next week we’ll at least get some more answers on what Lydia’s been up to–or maybe we’ll be forced to watch Negan and Alpha get intimate again. You never know with this show anymore…