Last week, we bid farewell to Michonne as she headed out to find Rick. This week, we return to where things left off two episodes ago after Negan decapitated Alpha and presented her zombified head to Carol.
In case you were wondering, the title of this week’s episode is a direct reference to what Carol said to Lizzie before executing her way back in Season 4 (which itself is a direct reference to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men).
The episode opens with a flashback from sometime around Episode 4 of this season. Carol goes to visit Negan in his cell as he awaits his fate for accidentally killing Margo while defending Lydia. Carol offers to let him out (I guess it really wasn’t Lydia) if he brings her back Alpha’s head, assuring him that this act will redeem him in the eyes of the community.
We then jump back to the present, where Carol is placing Alpha’s zombified head on one of the boundary spikes. Although clearly pleased about Alpha’s demise, she expresses frustration that Negan took such a long time to get the job done. As you might imagine, Negan does not appreciate this, explaining that what he had to do–and surviving to tell about it–was always going to take some time. He then asks Carol to walk him back to Alexandria so he can finally start a new and hopefully more pleasant chapter in his life.
Surprisingly, Carol refuses, claiming that she needs time to be alone and won’t be going back to Alexandria for a while. An enraged Negan asks how long it will be until she’s ready to return. Carol blithely responds that she doesn’t know. She follows that up by explaining that since he’s free now, Negan can do whatever he wants while she takes her time–just like he took his time killing Alpha.
Never thought I’d be on Negan’s side in a debate about whether him or Carol is being a better person, yet here we are.
Road Trip Resolve
Over at the Hilltop rendezvous point, Jerry tries to comfort Ezekiel, who is chastising himself for almost getting the children killed. The mood lightens significantly when Yumiko walks in with Magna, who Jerry had assumed was dead.
Meanwhile, Eugene takes care of an injured Rosita, who insists that he tell the rest of the group about his radio contact with another community. He gets up in front of everyone and explains about Stephanie, his scheduled meeting with her, and why he’s willing to take a chance on her being part of a good community, especially after everything they’ve lost recently. The group is skeptical at first, but turns cautiously optimistic as Eugene speaks. They eventually decide to send a group with him to the meeting in West Virginia.
Yumiko encourages Magna to join them, saying that it might do her some good to have a new adventure. Magna counters by saying that she believes the routine and their community of people are good for her–and that Yumiko should be the one to go, instead.
As the scouting group prepares to depart, Jerry expresses his sadness over Ezekiel leaving, calling him by his name instead of “boss” as the two embrace.
Listen and Chew
Back at the Whisperer border, Beta and two Whisperer goons discover their leader’s zombified head on a boundary spike. After pointing out that this was likely the work of Negan, Goon #1 tells Beta that he is Alpha now. Beta reacts to this by telling Goon #1 to take off his mask and “listen” to what Alpha is saying. As he attempts to comply, Beta forces him to “listen” more closely, pushing his head right next to Zombie Alpha’s mouth.
Goon #1 screams in pain as his cheek is torn from his face. After Goon #2 flees in terror (smart move), Beta lets go of Goon #1 and carefully removes Alpha’s head from the spike, cradling it in his arms as it snaps and stares up at him.
Elsewhere, Negan goes to the cabin where he originally tied up Lydia. He walks inside to find Lydia gone, but Daryl’s crossbow shoved directly in his face. Negan tries to explain that he was only pretending to be part of the Whisperers so that he could kill Alpha, which he attempts to prove by revealing Alpha’s mask. Daryl remains unconvinced, but his resolve appears shaken when Negan asks why else would his “girlfriend” let him out of his cell back in Alexandria.
Negan leads Daryl toward the spike where Carol left Alpha’s head. By the time they get there that evening, however, the head is gone. Daryl, who is understandably pissed, prepares to turn his prisoner into a crossbow target.
As Negan frantically tries to explain why things aren’t as they seem, they are suddenly confronted by trio of Whisperers, one of whom declares that Alpha is dead because of him while pointing a sawed off shotgun in their direction. Just when it looks like Negan and Daryl are both about to get smoked, the Whisperers all take a knee, declaring the former leader of the Saviors to be their new Alpha much to Negan’s amusement and delight.
He orders his new minions to tie up Daryl and hand over their shotgun. After enjoying a bit of speechifying, he shoots one of the Whisperers dead. He and Daryl combine to kill the others, finally forming an uneasy trust/alliance.
The next morning, Negan admits that part of him enjoyed being in league with Alpha. After years being locked inside a cell, it was nice to feel important again. In the end, though, he could never be okay with killing people who didn’t deserve it–and absolutely could not stomach murdering children. Daryl steadfastly refuses to change his personal opinion of Negan, but does appear to accept the possibility that he could be a member of their community instead of a prisoner.
Head Games Part II
Carol is off enjoying a social distancing walk in the woods when she begins to hear voices whispering her name. The voices eventually turn into a full-on hallucination of Alpha, who proclaims she is “always watching.” Hallucination Alpha continues to taunt Carol, reminding her how she lost both her children and her guilt about the people that were hurt or killed in her quest for revenge.
The taunts soon turn to Carol’s repeated failures at isolating herself, eventually leading to the hallucination demanding that she say out loud what she really wants. This shakes and distracts Carol enough that she’s attacked and nearly bitten by a ninja walker. She manages to kill it, but the hallucination remains, insisting that Carol reveal her unspoken desire.
That night, Carol finds an abandoned cabin and climbs up toward the rafters and pulls down the canoe conveniently tied up in the rafters. The hallucination’s taunts become more pointed, distracting Carol again and causing her to pull a part of the roof and a large canoe down on top of herself.
The next morning, Carol remains trapped as Hallucination Alpha continues to mock her. As if that weren’t bad enough, a nearby walker hears Carol tell the hallucination to shut up (FINALLY) and begins making its way toward her.
Hallucination Alpha doesn’t let up, discussing how many people in Carol’s orbit have died–and that Daryl very well could be next. She also points out that Carol’s hallucination could have been anyone, but she chose her because she knows what needs to be done.
As the walker closes in, Hallucination Alpha commands Carol to “look at the flowers” just like she told Lizzie to do before executing her. Carol momentarily appears to give up before finally managing to free herself from the rubble. She fends off the zombie, stabs it in the head, and collapses, defiantly telling Hallucination Alpha that “it’s never too late.” She then gets up and makes her way back to Alexandria, where she’s greeted at the gates by Daryl.
Beta and a soon-to-be-zombified Goon #1 (whose loyalty is simultaneously pathetic and impressive) walk through a deserted town. Goon #1 coughs, which attracts the attention of a walker. Beta stretches out his arms and smiles, appearing to welcome his chance to join the undead. Before the walker can reach him, though, Goon #1 takes out a knife and attempts to stabs it in the head. Beta responds by running Goon #1 through the chest with a sword, allowing the walker to feast on his corpse as he spends his final moments alive in agony.
Seriously, I know he’s a Whisperer and all, but the poor guy can’t catch a break.
Anyway, Beta holds up the bag containing Zombie Alpha’s very agitated head to his ear, appearing to listen to whatever he thinks she’s telling him…which is apparently to go into an old restaurant containing musical instruments and a promotional poster for his former (and very popular) country music band/persona, Half Moon. Beta responds by going full rock star, tearing down the poster and smashing the guitar.
That night, he puts on a record of a live recording from one of his concerts, which actually sounds pretty decent. It also draws a ton of walkers to his location. What appears to be a suicide attempt is soon revealed to be a revitalized (and re-individualized) Beta amassing his own army.
The next morning, he thanks Alpha’s head for showing him the way before running a knife through it and going outside to lead his new horde.
Eugene, Yumiko, and Ezekiel ride on horseback toward the meeting with Stephanie. Along the way, they find a pair of walkers in cages, which definitely warrants some investigation. As they clear the area, Ezekiel is barely able to remain upright and finish off the walkers near him due to the cancer invading his body.
That night while the group is resting, his horse collapses from a previously unseen zombie bite (?). Ezekiel is forced to put the suffering creature down, which nearly breaks him. He begs to the others to leave him behind if he also falls, but Yumiko refuses, insisting that they need him.
The next day, the group enters the city of…um…Pittsburgh.? It looked way too big to be Charleston, but despite providing comic book accuracy for this stage of the journey, Pittsburgh doesn’t make a lot of sense considering where they came from and where they were heading.
Whatever the case, the city appears completely empty, although they do find walkers dressed up and chained down in various setting/acts that people would have done before the apocalypse (eating, driving, sitting in front of stores, etc). This creeps out Eugene and Yumiko, but greatly amuses Ezekiel.
Just when you think things can’t get any weirder, they are greeted by a purple-haired, machine gun toting young woman who is overjoyed to make their acquaintance.
There’s a lot to like about this episode, but also a lot of the same problems that have plagued the show all season.
I’m not sure if I can take yet another story about Carol dealing with trauma by making completely irrational decisions. I get that a lot of people might react that way, but this is a woman who has repeatedly shown herself to be tough as nails and has an ironclad conviction in what’s right or wrong…unless the plot needs her to completely abandon those aspects of her character, of course. Also, while I appreciate the decision to have Samantha Morton play Alpha one more time, how much creepier would it have been for Henry to take on that role? Instead, we get more of Alpha’s a slightly punched up version of Alpha’s standard “you’re weak and you suck too much to exist” dialogue before Carol is predictably able to overcome things.
On the positive side of things, the story with Beta losing his mind accompanied by the soundtrack to his former rock star life was excellent. I also really enjoyed the scenes between Negan and Daryl. The moment with the Whisperers showing up right as Daryl was about to kill him was a bit contrived, but did lead to an important shift in their dynamic that needed to happen.
As far as the scouting party trio is concerned, those scenes with Ezekiel really got to me, especially the one where he had to put down his horse. In a world where people are constantly on guard from being killed by monsters, it’s easy to forget how sobering and even terrifying a more conventional (and slow) death can still be.
As far as the new character is concerned, she virtually guarantees that we are going to be adapting one of The Walking Dead comics’ best storylines. Even if we weren’t, though, the character will definitely bring a sorely needed breath of fresh air to the series.
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