After some almost-butt-nekkid canoodling between Negan and skin-masked Alpha created a new category of shocking TWD moments (“Gore-free horror,” perhaps), where do we go from there? Apparently, nowhere with either Negan or Carol, both of whom are conspicuously absent in this episode. I’m imagining Alpha in postcoital repose, wondering whether to kill Negan just to shut his yap, and then peacing out when she realizes, “Ah betta check on that cave and make sure all that’s left ahh the deeead.” As for Carol, she’s probably still staring at that cave-in she caused. All in favor of Carol returning to the seafaring life for good, please raise your hand.
The upside of putting them both in time out is a welcome and unexpected showdown with two of the badassiest badasses. Daryl is searching for a way back into the underground, and it seems the most direct route is straight through a few Whisperers he’s assassinated. Out of crossbow bolts? No prob. What say we just sneak up on some unsuspecting dirtballs with this here knife … until hot damn, there’s Alpha, who’s positively radiant with a homicidal afterglow.
Considering Daryl nearly took out that gigantic murderous freakshow Beta, you’d figure Alpha would be no match for him. But she’s got a way of exceeding all expectations, and the brawl that ensues does not disappoint. Alpha gives as good as she gets and then some. By the time they’re done slugging it out, she’s woozy, but Daryl is so bloody that he can’t see straight and has a knife plunged deep in his thigh. The pair stumbles into a nearby gas station (where I’m pretty sure the price on the pump was $8 per gallon) and Alpha calls on a few dead friends to finish what she started. Props to Daryl for what might rank as one of his top-ten kills as three zombies close in on him: The first gets a fire extinguisher to the head; the second, a tire iron to the skull; and he finishes the last walker by pulling the knife from his own leg.
Meanwhile, back at A-town, Gamma the Spaaaah is ready to sell out the Whisperers in hopes of reuniting with her nephew, son of the sister she murdered to impress her old boss (Gamma doesn’t remember much of her past life, but I’m betting she worked on Wall Street). Before she’ll have a chance to see the kid, she needs to impress two people: Gabe and Rosita, who’s rocking some serious athleisure couture these days and is not afraid to throw a strong right hook to send a message. Given her baby daddy was strangled by a Whisperer a couple days ago, she has a right to be salty and suspicious.
Gabe, however, declares that he knows when someone’s lying — this despite the fact that he didn’t sniff out Dante, the homicidal sleeper cell who was one half of A-town’s universal health-care system. Gabe comes off as a bit unhinged at first, but eventually we see his tender protective instincts toward Rosita (though I didn’t fall for that ominous moment when he handed Rosita his hat and rode out of town, suggesting he might not make it back alive).
Leave it to Judith to extend some compassion and bring out the humanity in Gamma, aka Mary. (I’m ready to time-shift 15 years into the future when Judith is running the show, Uncle Negan hosts the wildly popular “Undead from A-town” podcast, and his love child with Alpha is an insufferable dick.) But Judith’s faith in their hostage is tested when Beta infiltrates the tunnels beneath A-town. His stealth mission explains the odd opening sequence: Beta walks into an RV, finds two Whisperers inside, they move a chair to reveal a hole that leads to some underground lair where flies buzz and a Whisperer sits alone in the complete darkness. Okay, sure.
However Beta managed to pull off this plan, it worked to bloody near-perfection. Knives drawn and peacocking in that long jacket like it’s Serial Killer Fashion Week, he goes house to house slitting throats to create an instant zombie army. (Note that for a minute I was actually rooting for Beta, thanks to Alfred, the asswipe Highwayman who was bragging about roughing up Lydia.) Beta is nearly stopped by Laura, the ex-Savior with the neck tat and a massive pole-axe, but judging by the wet crunchy sound when Beta throws her like a rag doll, her climb up the A-town org chart might be over for good.
Both storylines end with promise for the A-towners—until they don’t. As Beta and Mary-Gamma head back to Whisperville, he’s pretty clear on what awaits: “You will fall. You will rise. You will walk with your sister again.” Good talk, my dude. Thanks to a shotgun blast by Gabe the Polygraph Priest, Beta hauls ass into the woods and spares Mary-Gamma from execution. We last see her headed to Hilltop, as Rosita finally accepts her friend request.
While Rosita’s on her way to see a doctor, Daryl is on the verge of bleeding out. Of course, this doesn’t stop him from letting Alpha know she failed her daw-dah. Funny he should mention Lydia, because sure enough, she appears like an angel—not of death, but of salvation. Alpha literally begs her kid to kill her and take over as the new Whisperers leader, but Lydia, ever the rebellious teen, chooses to save Daryl instead. When ol’ cueball wakes up hours later, she sees the message Lydia carved out: “Your way is not the only way.”
Alpha’s reaction to being rejected once again by her kin is predictably not encouraging: “I’m stronga than e-vah” she declares before reciting the Whisperer mantra like a video-game power up. No doubt she’s more determined than ever to take out everyone in the A-town network. Among the big questions now: What roles will Negan and Carol play in the coming reckoning? Will we see an Alpha vs. Daryl rematch? How much longer will we enjoy watching two acclaimed actresses run around covered in filth while wearing dead flesh masks? And if the life expectancy of the Whisperers is now approximately six more episodes, who’s going to die in the process of wiping them off the map?