Tonight’s episode offers an up-close-and-personal look at two very different leaders who share one thing —a willingness to do (almost) anything necessary to keep their people safe. At Alexandria, Michonne wrestles with the secrets that have been kept from her and some serious talkback from Judith. Then there’s Alpha, who rules the Whisperers with an iron fist and redefines the concept of “tough love” with her daw-dah. Both women must deal with a serious crisis of confidence, which, to no surprise, reveals rather divergent approaches to problem solving and consensus building. As unrest grows, Michonne relies on the will of the people; Alpha prefers a less democratic solution. And all the while, Henry continues to be a dumbass.
Kudos to the Whisperers for their very Method approach to their roles: With no zombies anywhere nearby, they still shuffle around in the woods like the dead. (Even Lydia can’t help walking, though she’s maskless, freshly scrubbed, and clad in fresh duds from the Gap.) We also learn that it’s a real party hanging with the Whisperers, who like to do stuff like whisper, dig in the dirt, sit in the dirt, and stare at a dirty stream. Listen close and you’ll hear one of them mumble of Alpha, “She could have got us all killed.” That’s a bad move — as Lydia told her boyfriend, momma ain’t one to mess with! It’s clear that Lydia’s still not only scared of her mom — only referring to her as Alpha — and also still angry about her recovered memory of her father’s murder. When Lydia asks if gathering intel on Hilltop is the only reason Alpha returned for her, momma replies simply, “What a stupid question.” Think the answer is yes, kid.
Things are only slightly less tense at A-town, where Michonne and the town council are at odds about her de facto dictatorship and, of course, Zeke’s stinkin’ Faire. What’s unclear is why they need some big festival to hook up the Kingdom with badly needed food and supplies; can’t they just cut a deal and skip movie night and feats of strength and Luke and Alden’s band and whateverthehell else is planned? Aaron has Michonne’s back, but council prez Gabe and Siddiq — or Sid, as we’re now calling him — suggest she’s got too much power and that attending the Faire is important. Michonne counters with what seems like an unassailable counterpoint: “There is a group dressed as the dead who are trying to kill us.” Since when has that stopped anyone from doing anything?
Adding to Michonne’s headaches is Negan, who returned to A-town and curiously headed straight to his cell like a good boy. He offers to give her council in these tough times — “leader to … former leader” — and makes an appeal for trust. (Perhaps he should have started his pitch without saying that he could have hidden at her home and bashed her head in. Lousy choice of words, Neegs.) Michonne also confronts Judith, who’s her usual delightfully smart-ass self; when told that Negan’s not her friend, she zings, “Well, obviously.” The two of them debate whether Negan is capable of changing, and Miss Grimes gets sent to her room for speaking too much damn truth to her mom. #FreeJudith! In the end, Michonne caves in to the will of the people, who apparently demand the right to celebrate at a meaningless carnival while homicidal skinmask people are on the loose. Mark my words, Zeke’s Faire is gonna be an apocalyptic Fyre Festival.
There’s also a romance quadrangle that either resolves itself too easily, or more likely, is setting up a future complication (I’m betting on the latter — at least one of these four is gonna die before the season’s over). Rosita wants Gabe to stick around, even though she’s carrying Sid’s child. The preacher is torn, which even Eugene can see is ridiculous. There aren’t many women to choose from, Gabe, and you’ve got a kickass babe who’s not bothered by your milky eye. Just roll with it, dude! Poor Eugene gives Gabe two charts outlining why this is a no-brainer, along with some stretchy pantaloons to give as a gift (which Rosita clearly needs, judging by her too-tight jeans). Eventually, Gabesidita unites in slow motion for what seems like a pleasant resolution, as Eugene and his braided ponytail watch forlornly from afar.
We shift from lovesick genius Eugene to lovesick dumbass Henry. He’s tracked Lydia to Whisperville, which is about as fun as you’d expect. Alpha’s O.G. right hand, Beta, shows the kid around — there’s a mask shoppe, a game carving station, and a bunch of dirty people sitting around doing nothing with no amenities or shelter or a single damn thing that would suggest why any of them stick around. To be fair, maybe they stay purely out of fear. While Beta works on a sick new mask for Lydia — so much craftsmanship goes into these things; did you see the stitching detail in the back? — Alpha is busy creeping out Henry, walking all slow and muttering stuff like, “The weak dah, like nay-cha intended.”
That’s when the two conspiratorial Whisperfolk step to her and disrespect her authori-tah. The bearded dude issues her an official challenge, and Alpha counters by slowly circling his girlfriend. The woman is fully freaked out and tries to call it off. “Too late,” says Alpha, before delivering one of the nastiest executions in Walking Dead history — she’s garroted with a wire that slices her head clean off. Alpha then does what any self-respecting murderous psychopath would do: hands the head to the boyfriend, wipes his tears with a bloody finger, then shanks him. I think it’s roughly at this point that Dumb Henry realizes he’s in trouble, and also, could use a change of boxers.
Luckily, Daryl and Connie are on Henry’s trail (along with Dog, who’s a better tracker than a crossbow bolt fetcher). Adding to Henry’s good fortune: Moments after Lydia is given the choice to stab him to death or let Beta kill them both, a gang of zombies rolls through, chowing down on any unmasked Whisperers. Daryl and Connie sweep in, skin faces on, to grab Henry, who grabs Lydia, and all four of them run off into the dark.
Lydia sure seems like she’s ready to turn on her mom, but there’s no way Alpha’s letting go of her daw-dah that easily. And no way the Whisperers pass up the chance to crash Zeke’s party.