The Walking Dead
Folks, it’s hard out here on these streets during the zombie apocalypse. And it’s even harder when you’re a single mom trying to keep your chrome dome stubble-free and your daw-dah alive. Granted, it’s also true that, in Alpha’s case, she’s solo parenting because she murdered her husband. But he was a little too touchy-feely for the harsh realities of the new world. And Alpha likes her men mumbly, tall, and troubled, as we learned tonight in the origin story of the Whisperers (and the “Have a Happy Day” T-shirt).
This episode picks up where last season’s Alpha backstory left off: She’s fled her group after killing a few of them in front of poor Lydia, who’s more like her Paw (i.e., a sane human being) than her Momma. We also know this flashback is seven years ago, because we’re still doing the chapter titles thing and see “7 Years Ago” on the screen in big bold letters. There’s Alpha and Lydia, walkin’ with the dead, and in case you thought Alpha might be in the running for Mom of the Year, her response to Lydia’s scream at the sight of a woman getting her face chewed off is to yell, “You almost got us killed again!” And all you parents out there think you have it tough because your kid wants more time with the iPad?
It’s revealing of Alpha’s fearlessness that, upon encountering a huge dude with a sack over his face and machete in his hand, her instinct is to learn him somethin’ right from the jump: She doesn’t die easily and he’ll have to kill her child, too, because Alpha ain’t going anywhere without her. Lydia is understandably terrified by all of this — zombies outside, the butcher her mother’s become, and now this poor man’s Leatherface. When Lydia asks if the scary guy is a monster, Alpha delivers the line of the night, and what would totally be the Whisperers’ slogan if they hooked up with a branding agency: “We’re all monsters now.”
Here’s something I never thought we’d see: Alpha and Beta’s meet-cute, complete with flirting in the hallway of a psychiatric hospital and Alpha playing coy when asked about her name (““The dead don’t have names,” she tells him. “We shouldn’t either … those of us strong enough to be alive out here know each other on a primal level.”) Big Man explains he ended up there because he “got into a tussle with the dead.” He’s also very goth, based on his love for the incessant rumble of growling zombies: “It’s the only sound I never want to end.”
We bounce between the past and present, with one key theme being Alpha’s greatest strength: her talents as a master manipulator (something she shares with Negan). In the flashbacks, Beta is guarded, nearly cutting Alpha’s hand off when she tries to touch his face. By the end, though, she’s given him his name by positioning him as her subordinate. (“If I’m B, what does that make you?” he asks. “A,” she says.) She also liberates him from his last human attachment: That smiley-face tee Beta wears belonged to a now-zombified friend he was keeping alive, until Alpha knifed him. That sends Beta into a fit of rage until his new friends calm him down. “The world, it went dark so we could see a new path,” Alpha tells him. “Walk with me in the darkness. Walk with me and you will never be alone again, my B.” That would be endearing and tender if these two weren’t homicidal maniacs.
Cut to the present, as the Whisperers face a crisis in leadership. Ever wonder what happened to Thora Birch? We meet her and her younger sister, who both have a knack for rounding up walkers. But little sis is a bit flighty, and who can blame her — she’s the mother of the baby Alpha gave up at Hilltop and suffering some serious separation anxiety. After a meltdown, she has a come-to-Bald-Lady-Jesus moment with Alpha in something called the Deeper Place, which is basically the tree in Dagobah where Luke Skywalker sees a vision of Darth Vader. The girl cries hysterically as Alpha spares the knife and instead strokes her hair. Sis tells Thora Birch that she’s totally back on board with the boss lady. As far as cult leaders go, Alpha’s up there with Manson and L. Ron.
But all it takes is the sight of a zombie wearing a Baby Bjorn for the girl to lose her shit again, and it’s her big sister who throws her off Alpha’s back and into a pack of hungry undead. Thora’s reward for turning her kin into zombie jerky is a promotion and a name — Gamma, which places her third on the very limited Whisperers org chart. “We’re strongest when we kill our own bluuuud,” Alpha tells her during a (what else) creepy ceremony marked by chanting and close talking.
Beta knows Alpha is having mommy issues of her own, though. He catches her sneaking off to a makeshift crib at their old camp, and in a rare turnabout, gets in Alpha’s head, pointing out that Lydia isn’t dead, and Gamma can’t replace her own daughter. Alpha throws a fit just like Beta once did over the Happy Day guy (who, by the way, Beta carries with him, literally — it’s his pal’s face Beta wears. Kudos for setting a new standard for besties status, bro).
By the end, A and B have come full circle, rededicating themselves to “the cause” and to Alpha’s dirt-fisted leadership. They touch hands, chant their mission statement, and reveal themselves to basically be libertarians with less access to indoor plumbing and a more liberal view of murder: “We walk in darkness, we are free. We bathe in blood, we are free. We love nothing, we are free. We fear nothing, we are free. We need no words, we are free. We embrace our death, we are free. This is the end of the world. Now is the end of the world. We are the end of the world.”
We are also at the end of the episode, as Alpha stands at the bottom of a ravine and faces off with another bad mother, Carol (who’s killed a child herself and yet still looks like June Cleaver by comparison). Michonne may be the leader of the survivors, but this is going to be Carol’s fight — mama a mama.