A lot happened last week on The Walking Dead:
- Beta had a nostalgia-driven nervous breakdown over Alpha’s death, inspiring him to raise a new walker horde.
- Negan and Daryl became the buddy cop due we never knew we wanted.
- Eugene, Ezekiel, and Yumiko met a gun toting Princess.
- Carol completed her tenth self reflection/redemption cycle.
This week, we get to see how all those pieces fit together to set up
next week’s the recently postponed season finale.
Royal Screw Up
The episode opens with Eugene, Yumiko, and Ezekiel not sure what to make of Princess, who is by far the happiest person we’ve ever seen on the show. After a year of not being around any other people, she’s desperate to make new friends.
Unfortunately, her giddy and scattered demeanor makes Yumiko paranoid, which leads to things getting a little tense. It should be noted that Yumiko’s wariness is completely understandable, especially when you’re dealing with someone holding a high-powered assault rifle who can’t stop talking and debates out loud whether the people she’s speaking with are real or hallucinations. Just as Ezekiel starts to get things settled down, Princess decides to prove her trustworthiness by gunning down a group of approaching walkers, which she does with impressive aim and efficiency. However, the gunshots also scare off the horses, leaving Yumiko, Eugene, and Ezekiel stranded in the city.
Princess appears genuinely sorry about her mistake and offers to take the group to a garage where they can pick out a vehicle to take them the rest of the way on their journey. She even hands over her gun to Eugene to show that they can trust her. Despite Yumiko’s misgivings, the group follows Princess to see if a new set of wheels is in their future.
Unfortunately, their trip takes them straight through a minefield where Princess almost gets them killed by losing track of her steps. After barely getting them through that debacle, Eugene figures out that Princess has been leading them in circles.
With Yumiko pointing an arrow in her face, Princess breaks down and admits she was drawing out their trip to the garage as long as possible because she missed being around other people. She also reveals that she had trouble making friends or connecting with anyone even before the zombie apocalypse. This makes Yumiko feel sorry enough for her that she actually lowers her weapon.
Eugene expresses his understanding of Princess’ plight, explaining how his social awkwardness and bad decisions nearly isolated him from everyone he loves and cares about now. He then offers her the same grace shown by others to him years ago…while also asking for confirmation that there really is some transportation they could use to get to their meeting with Stephanie. Princess takes the group to a garage filled with bikes. Not exactly the “wheels” they were expecting, but still a significant upgrade from traveling on foot.
As they prepared to head out, Yumiko tells an overjoyed Princess that they would like her to come along with them.
Beta leads his walker horde (along with a few Whisperers) into Alexandria, which he is surprised and frustrated to find completely empty. Unbeknownst to him, the town’s residents have hidden themselves in an abandoned hospital building dubbed ‘The Tower.’
I have no idea how they knew Beta was coming with a new horde. Maybe just assumed that Alpha being killed would result in some type of retaliation.
Whatever the case, everyone in The Tower appears to be preparing for a final battle. Luke in particular claims to be working on something he feels everyone is depending on him to complete. We don’t get to see what that is just yet, but we do learn that he needs someone to volunteer for a dangerous mission to help him.
As you probably guessed, the volunteer is Carol. Surprisingly, Kelly ask to join her.
The pair find a car and rip out the wiring Luke needs for his secret project. When Carol tries to apologize for causing the cave in, Kelly expresses her belief that Connie isn’t dead while also assuring her that she understands why Carol did what she did. Kelly then reveals that Carol’s pre-season nine reputation as a lone wolf badass is well known, even to those who didn’t know her during the Rick Grimes days–and that it’s something that she should be proud of, not a part of herself to give up every time something bad happens.
It was at this point, while screaming “YES! THANK YOU!” at my television screen that Kelly officially became one of my favorite characters.
Back in Alexandria, Beta and a group of Whisperers debate what to do next. When Beta doesn’t receive any good ideas from his lackeys, he consults with the voices in his head, which tell him to head to Oceanside.
Thankfully, he was polite enough to say this out loud, allowing a hidden Aaron and Alden to hear his next move.
They tail Beta’s army out of Alexandria, remaining hidden and radioing the horde’s movements back to Gabriel at The Tower. When Aaron tells him that the horde is headed toward Oceanside, Gabriel responds positively, affirming that a mass of walkers descending upon the beach community is somehow part of their plan. (Good thing that the voices in Beta’s head are on the same page with the good guys).
As Beta leads his army toward Oceanside, one of the Whisperers makes the mistake of referring to him as Alpha. He’s about to kill her when the voices in his head start up again, imploring him to be patient. They also tell him to have faith in himself while also remaining observant of his surroundings.
I gotta say, aside from potentially encouraging to attack Oceanside (which has now been revealed as a ruse) the voices in Beta’s head seemed like a positive influence up to this point.
Unfortunately, things take a decidedly wicked/weird turn when the voices physically manifest themselves as one of the walkers, which begins speaking to Beta directly.
The undead hallucination draws Beta’s attention to a cat running through the woods in the same direction as The Tower. It then turns and tells him that his faith (i.e. craziness) will be rewarded. Beta gleefully halts his army’s progress, commanding them to change course and to follow the hungry feline.
Aaron and Alden attempt to run back to The Tower and warn everyone, but are promptly surrounded and captured by Whisperers.
Back in The Tower, Judith approaches a pensive Lydia and apologies for what happened to her mom. Lydia responds that no apologies are necessary since her mom isn’t even worth missing. She follows that up by saying that not everyone gets to have a great mother like Michonne, which hits Judith like a punch to the gut.
After Judith leaves, Negan approaches Lydia and tells her that even though it had to be done, he was sorry for killing her mother–and that he genuinely liked her. He then offers Lydia the chance to say anything to him that she wants. She responds by calmly telling him that everyone else wished he’d died, too.
Later, Negan tells Lydia that despite how bad Alpha was, she was still her mom and that she has to mourn her. He knows from personal experience how not mourning a loved one’s death can eat up a person’s soul.
Lydia initially responds by hitting and shouting at Negan, enraged that he could somehow find a way to like her when she wanted to hate her mother and couldn’t do it. She eventually collapses in his arms and sobs while he comforts her.
Love and Learn
Daryl treks through the woods near The Tower while attempting to hail Michonne. After warning her not to go home (and vaguely referencing a plan to defeat the Whisperers once and for all), he reminisces about how things used to be before main characters started dying and/or leaving the show.
He eventually comes across Judith, who is blowing off some steam by killing walkers. When he tells her to return to The Tower, she refuses, insisting that she wants to learn how to track, hunt, and fight like him to help protect the others. He agrees, allowing her to do a perimeter sweep with him.
As he’s giving Judith a lesson on tracking, they come across a group of walkers. One of them runs away after Daryl shoots it, revealing herself to be a Whisperer.
The pair tracks their wounded quarry, who they find clinging to life while lying in a ditch. She explains that she used to be part of the Whisperers, but had to leave due to Beta turning into a complete nutcase after Alpha died.
After insisting that she doesn’t know if Beta is aware of The Tower, she begs Daryl to let her turn into a walker. He responds by shooting her in the head.
Judith admonishes Daryl, insisting that they didn’t have to leave her and she might have a family. When she continues to express her dismay over them leaving the Whisperer for dead, Daryl stops and asks Judith to explain what’s causing her to feel so strongly about leaving one of their enemies to die.
Judith admits that the thought of the Whisperer potentially having a family made her even more depressed/upset about her mother being gone. She then tells him about Michonne leaving on a trip to “help some people she met” (purposefully omitting the info about Rick potentially being alive). When Daryl asks why she didn’t tell him, Judith tearfully admits she was afraid Daryl would go after Michonne and leave her, too.
Daryl tells Judith that while he can’t promise there won’t ever be a situation that calls him away, she has family of people bunkered in The Tower who would do anything for her–and will one day need her to do anything for them. He also reminds her that just because her heart hurts now doesn’t mean that everyone else in her life is a potential source of abandonment or sadness.
After the two embrace, Daryl gets a call on his walkie to get back to The Tower as quickly as possible–Beta and his horde have arrived.
A lot happened off screen to set this episode up, especially with regards to Negan being allowed back into Alexandria and Lydia finding out that her mother was dead. Those are two things I would have liked to watch play out when they actually occurred.
That being said, what we did get to see was really good.
Much like her comic book counterpart, Princess is probably going to need some time to grow on me. Thankfully, the actress playing her (Paola Lazaro) is absolutely perfect for the role. I also love the empathy that Eugene and the others showed her.
Even though I’m completely done with Carol redemption stories, it was nice to have Kelly articulate exactly why she needs to stop falling into the self deprecating spiral she does every couple seasons.
I wasn’t expecting a confrontation between Lydia and Negan this soon, much less for it to be so impactful. It’s one of the first times when Negan has felt anywhere close to genuinely redeemed and reformed person from the character we met way back in season six. He also knows all too well the damage that unprocessed grief fueled by anger can do to a person’s soul. Him being the person to finally break through and help Lydia begin the grieving process feels strange, but also makes sense.
Even if you think I’m way off base about that last part, I think we can all agree that Daryl and Judith are painfully adorable together. I still don’t like that Michonne left Judith to look for Rick, but I appreciated that the show isn’t shying away from how much that decision affected her.
As far as the stuff with Beta goes…it definitely feels/looks cool, but it’s also requiring some fairly large gaps within the narrative. Some of the decisions he’s “hearing” could obviously be his own intuition, but others are a little too on the nose. I get that the dead walking the earth is supernatural, but the voices in Beta’s head leading him exactly where he (and the story) needs him to go is a bit much.
Thankfully, his last zombie-advised decision helped set up a potentially great season finale that I certainly did not see myself looking forward to a few weeks ago…which of course has been delayed. Guess that’s one more thing we can all look forward to once things start getting back to normal.