by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 10.
I said last week that Alpha was nearly devoid of compassion, and this was clearly evident in Episode 910. Even back in the early days of the apocalypse, Alpha didn’t care about the other people around her, or the military fighting in the streets to keep her safe. She didn’t even care about her own husband. The only thing for which she showed any affection or concern was her daughter, Lydia. And this is where the ‘almost’ qualifier for ‘devoid of compassion’ comes in. The only thing Alpha seems to care about is her daughter, although last night’s episode revealed that this ‘caring’ may actually be harmful to Lydia. Lydia is frightened, disturbed and horribly abused on many levels. Yet she is ‘safe’, and that is all Alpha cares about. In Alpha’s mind, if Lydia is under her control, then Lydia is ‘safe’. The things that happen to Lydia while she is under Alpha’s control are not nearly as important as keeping her there.
Lydia obviously doesn’t understand the obsession her mother has for her. She honestly believes that she is just ‘one of the pack’ and that her mother will not come for her. When Lydia realizes, under Daryl’s prodding, that her mother has deceived her, and that the physical abuse she has suffered was not okay, she starts to open her eyes to another alternative. Her mother convinced her that places with walls always fell, so she is shocked to learn that Hilltop has been standing for more than 6 years. She is just beginning to reach out to another possible alternative… one that may be snatched away from her as Alpha appears at the gates to reclaim her daughter.
Alpha is a tough, hard woman who will do whatever it takes to survive. She’s not alone in that. There have been many characters in the Walking Dead universe who did whatever it took to survive, including Rick, Carol and The Governor. There have also been characters who lost their mental faculties and weren’t quite right in the head, including Rick, Carol and The Governor… wait, I’m sensing a theme here. But the point is that when someone hardens themselves to the point of losing their humanity, their mind just isn’t the same, and can’t be the same as someone who continues to show compassion and concern, even in the worst of circumstances (such as Glenn, Herschel, and Aaron). Other characters have managed to achieve a better balance in this tenuous dance, such as Maggie, Carl, and surprisingly, Daryl. But Alpha is definitely on the far end of the scale.
Henry and Lydia both talked about their Moms, and Lydia suggested that Alpha and Carol were alike. Certainly they have both been through hardships, but Carol’s hardship began well before the zombie apocalypse. Even through her husband’s abuse, she loved Sophia and did her best to keep her daughter safe. It was her failure in that mission that caused Carol to harden, and to become a person who could protect others and herself. Although it took many years, she did eventually learn how to love and trust again, as revealed by Henry’s story about her hair. Yet we saw earlier this season when Carol encountered the remnants of the Saviors that she is still hard, and will do whatever it takes to protect the people she loves. Alpha has not taken that part of the journey, and her ‘alternate lifestyle’ has only allowed her madness to reign. This is what makes her most terrifying as a villain. She doesn’t care about her people, as Negan, Gareth, and even The Governor, did, and she has no moral compunctions whatsoever. There is absolutely nothing holding her back… except Lydia. And now Hilltop has Lydia. The tension in the next episode should be sky-high.
In the middle of all of this is the fragile emotional connection being built between Henry and Lydia. While it may seem small, Lydia doesn’t have anyone in her life who is considerate of her, and Henry’s small kindnesses (including sharing a snack of worms with her) may be the fastest way to her affections. If Lydia has to leave with her mother, Henry isn’t going to be happy, and neither will Lydia.
While most of the episode was about Alpha and Lydia, there were some other developments as well. Most notably, the show is about 10 years into the zombie apocalypse, and there are still a lot of stupid people around who think it’s okay to just go walking around in an area that has known dangers with only a small group and no plan. Even worse, one of these people was Tara, who had just seen Jesus make such a mistake and come back dead. So as the new de facto leader of Hilltop, she decided to do the same thing. To her credit, Tara quickly realized once they found Luke’s and Alden’s horses that they should retreat and come up with a better plan. And then when she confronted Yumiko about her group’s nighttime excursion, Tara was surprisingly logical and compassionate. This is the first time I’ve ever had hope that Tara might actually make a good leader for Hilltop.
Magna’s development as a leader is a little behind Tara’s. I was impressed that she recognized the mistakes that she had made at Alexandria, and that she was willing to change in order to remain at Hilltop. Yet then she did a 180 the moment Kelly insisted that they had to find Luke. I completely understand their emotional connection to Luke and their intense desire to do anything to find him (even if it risks their position at Hilltop) but going out into an area with an unknown, dangerous enemy in the middle of the night is just plain stupid. They weren’t going to find anything they didn’t when they were previously out with Tara in the daytime, and tracking was certainly going to be more difficult. What, exactly, did they plan to do, other than wander around until they were caught too? At least Yumiko and Magna quickly figured this out, even if Connie and Kelly risked the danger to have their emotional moment. I have very little sympathy for these kinds of stupid decisions this far into the apocalypse. People should have learned by now, or suffered the fate of natural selection.
One thing I found very interesting this episode was the additions to the early timeline of the apocalypse. Alpha created her mantra, ‘You’re weak… there’s no room for you here…’ and changed her outlook on Day 43, weeks before Rick even woke up from his coma in the hospital. While obviously she has come a long way since then, she’s been in this mindset for a long time.
I also found the new references to Coalport intriguing. Clearly something big went down, and Magna’s group disagreed with the position taken by the majority of people there. It seems that they abandoned their guardposts because of it, and left everyone else to die. Is that kind of behavior going to surface again, and if so, will it be to Hilltop’s detriment?
The funniest line of the episode goes to Tara, when she said, “Funky walk, check. No weapons, check.” before killing the walkers her group encountered. While I smiled at the scene, I was also glad to see that the Hilltoppers were quickly learning how to spot the differences and being more cautious than they were before. There may be hope for Tara yet! I also have to give props to Henry for calling out Daryl on being an asshole. He’s not wrong.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, Our World continues to salute ‘iconic heroes’, with this week focusing on Carl. No Man’s Land season mission this week features Daryl and Tara sweeping out errant walkers from the corn fields around Hilltop, wary of the Whisperers.
Do you watch The Walking Dead? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!