by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 11.
While the confrontation with the Whisperers at the gates of Hilltop did not end in violence, it was still cold and creepy, and full of menace. Alpha proudly told Daryl that her people were animals, and certainly she seemed less than human in her behavior. She stood defiantly, bringing out more people, without any regard for the reactions from the Hilltoppers. She stated that revealing her face to them meant that she was not planning on a confrontation, yet she almost started one when she left a crying baby to appease the oncoming herd.
I don’t think Alpha had to leave the baby. The mother didn’t really try to quiet the child. The obvious solution would have been to nurse the baby, and she didn’t even attempt to do so. And the mother seemed matter-of-fact when leaving the child on the ground, instead of just departing the area with the infant in her arms. Did none of the Whisperers care about the baby, or was it a pre-arranged test, to see what the Hilltoppers would do? Likely, it was both. Alpha was willing to risk the baby to assess her opponents. Clearly, the Whisperers see any kind of sentiment or emotional attachment as a weakness. They wanted to learn how far the Hilltoppers would go, and they were successful in that objective. How they will use that information in the future is unknown, but an enemy without compassion, without mercy, even for their own people, is definitely one to be feared.
I find it interesting how Daryl took charge of this encounter. On a basic level, he was filling in the role that Rick played in the comics, when ‘civilized’ society first formally met the Whisperers. Yet at the same time, Daryl was completely undercutting Tara’s leadership. Granted, she’s only been in charge of the Hilltop for a couple of days, but he didn’t even ask her what she thought they should do. Daryl simply made decisions ranging from ‘We’re not giving up Lydia.’ to ‘Lydia has to be given back.’ without any consultation with Tara at all, even though he was putting her community at risk. I’m not sure if this is because Daryl is not a ‘consensus’ kind of guy, or if it’s because Tara defers to him and isn’t yet comfortable in her leadership position. Probably there are elements of all of those things. But if he’s going to be part of a community and not just off in the woods hunting in the swamp, Daryl needs to think about the effect of his actions on the others around him.
Interestingly, in the comics, there was a lot more discussion about whether or not it was right to give up Lydia. Of course, Lydia’s abuse in the comics was far more than what was hinted at in the show, so there was a much stronger moral aspect to the decision. On the other hand, Alpha is asking for her daughter. Is it morally wrong to keep a child from its mother, even if the culture of the other people is one you don’t understand or isn’t one with which you agree? This would have been a compelling topic for exploration in the show, but it was all brushed aside with Daryl’s brusque comment that ‘they’re not getting her’. I’m hoping that Tara shows a little backbone and tells Daryl off, now that the immediate threat is over.
While the threat at the Hilltop gates is over, this isn’t the last we will see of the Whisperers. Daryl told Henry that ‘The world is sh*t sometimes, and you live with it. It’s all you can do.’. Yet Henry couldn’t live with it, and went off to help Lydia, in typical teenage boy hotheaded fashion. Yes, it was a rash decision, but it’s coming from a good place. Unfortunately, that decision is about to get Henry in a lot of hot water. And more trouble is likely coming for the unwitting Kingdomites, who passed a sign with a symbol written on it that likely marked the edge of Whisperer territory. If that is indeed what the symbol meant, there will be consequences for the people of the Kingdom.
It was also nice to see a little of Enid this week. The contrast between Enid running out to hug Alden (and Yumiko running out to hug Luke) when he was released stood in stark contrast to Alpha smacking Lydia’s face. Yet Enid isn’t entirely pure of heart. Her brief comment that she knew that Henry liked her revealed that she knew of his feelings, and wasn’t above using them to get Henry to do what she wanted (in this case, to give Lydia back). But I liked hearing Enid reveal something of what was in Carl’s letter to her, that she had to do more than just survive, and that she couldn’t let the bad things change her. I’m glad to see that she is following that advice.
I usually point out the humorous moments that I enjoy in each episode. There were a few token humorous moments this week, such as Jerry’s gum, everyone bopping to the funky beat outside of the movie theater, or Diana’s comment regarding the expiration date of the butter-flavored oil, but what struck me much more this episode was not the humor, but the heart. Jerry was so excited to become a father, and clearly loving the role. As the King said, ‘You are the biggest-hearted among us.’ Carol and Ezekiel were clearly in love, as seen by their support of each other, and deference to each other’s wishes.
The Kingdomites were on a mission not for necessities, but to bring joy to others at the fair, and to find a display case for the charter. It’s pretty clear that the Kingdom is the place to be this far into the apocalypse. People are thriving and prospering, and they want to share their joy and bounty with others. Yes, all of that is about to be threatened with the arrival of the Whisperers, but for this brief, shining moment, we got a look into what the world could become, if everyone had good intentions and helped each other. Of course, I expect that all to fall apart, possibly as soon as next week. That’s just the way the Walking Dead universe works. But it is stories like this that give us, and the citizens of this new world, hope, which is sorely needed in an apocalyptic future.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, Our World continues its salute to ‘iconic heroes’, with this week focusing on Carol. No Man’s Land‘s season mission this week features King Ezekiel, Jerry and Carol cleaning the last walkers from the floor of the movie theatre while Jerry retrieves the dropped bulb.
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