by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 5.
The themes of this episode were escape and denial. Negan was trying to escape persecution. Brandon and Siddiq were trying to escape their lives in Alexandria. Magna and Kelly were planning for a possible escape from Hilltop. At the same time, Kelly is in denial regarding her worsening hearing and vision, Ezekiel is in denial about his cancer, and about the necessity of telling Carol about his condition, while Aaron is in denial regarding the dangers of speaking with a Whisperer.
Strangely, a person I thought was in denial, Earl, turned out to be completely correct. Alpha has indeed been sending the small attacks against Alexandria and Hilltop, and caused the tree to fall on Hilltop’s walls, with a plan to slowly cut the strength out from underneath these settlements. While this was the explanation she gave when questioned, my feeling is that she doesn’t want to obliterate Alexandria or Hilltop with her massive herd because she doesn’t want to risk the possibility that Lydia might die. A couple of episodes ago, Alpha went back to the original Whisperer camp, hoping that Lydia might have returned. I believe that hope is still within her.
In the meantime, Alpha’s plan to have Gamma cultivate a relationship with Aaron appears to be a good one … as long as Gamma remains loyal. Gamma is still playing her cards close to the vest. She appeared to be unhappy with Alpha’s treatment of the questioning Whisperer, yet she did not hide her interactions with Aaron. I believe that she is doing what is best for her, and may yet betray Alpha and/or the Whisperers for her own benefit. For Aaron’s part, I was surprised to see him reaching out to Gamma. Isn’t he someone who is distrustful of Lydia? Why would he suddenly think that he can bond with a Whisperer who hasn’t rejected Alpha’s rules?
Negan’s escape from Alexandria has been noticed, and Brandon packed up and followed him. He must have been planning something for a while, as it took him a long time to find Negan’s jacket in the back of a storage locker. Strangely, Brandon seems to have found Negan relatively quickly, despite appearing to have few survival skills. Why did no one else from Alexandria find Negan? This is likely because they aren’t looking for him. Either they deem it to be too dangerous to go searching for Negan, or they have too much to worry about with their other, more pressing, concerns.
Brandon is an interesting case. He must have been about 8 years old when The Sanctuary fell. His parents were killed in the war with Team Rick, and Alexandria took him in. Yet he never forgot growing up in Negan’s regime, and Negan has taken on a legendary status in his mind. Chances are good that the other kids taken in at this time from The Sanctuary feel the same way, as Brandon had heard stories regarding Negan’s exploits. How many other ‘Negan fans’ are living in Alexandria? Is it possible that one of them was responsible for setting him free? Are they in contact with an adult who came from The Sanctuary, such as Laura? This opens up an interesting realm of possibilities.
Unfortunately, Brandon’s hero-worship of Negan was his focus as he dealt with mental instability. He was unable to see that Negan had changed, or understand that he was angering Negan by suggesting that Negan had killed Carl, or that he should distrust Amelia and Milo. Brandon’s warped interpretation of Negan’s rebuke was his final mistake. While Negan’s killing of Brandon was brutal, in the end, it is not so different from Carol’s killing of Lizzie (look at the flowers…). There is no treatment for mental health in this universe, and it is difficult to imagine Brandon, had he lived, going on to do any good.
Negan is clearly struggling with his place in the world. In the Walking Dead comics, he has a personal code concerning women and children. He does not abide anyone hurting women or children, or taking advantage of them. In the television universe, Negan has always been shown to bond with children. We have seen this with Carl, Judith, and even Lydia. This same natural bonding occurred with Milo, and it is clear that Negan was beginning to form an attachment with the boy, making it all the more horrific for him when he realized that Brandon had killed Amelia and her son. It was this that caused him to fly off the handle and kill Brandon, and then to pick up his jacket and Lucille 2.0, after having refused them earlier. Yet at the same time, I do not believe that Negan is back to his ‘old’ self. While he is not currently a part of the communities, I think that he would still like to be there, and that he cares for many of the Alexandrian residents. Crossing the border to confront the Whisperers is his way of using his old ‘skills’ to deal with a new threat. I am eager to see Negan interact with Alpha and Beta, and how his insidious charm infects the Whisperers, who are already beginning to exhibit signs of dissent (as seen in Episode 1002).
Daryl spent more time with Connie in this episode, as they searched for Kelly. Yet even before that, Daryl was looking for Connie when he arrived at Hilltop, and signing with her from across the grounds. The scene where he tells her the story about Merle, communicating through his own combination of speech, written words and sign language, is telling, and it is clear that he has become attached to Connie. This is demonstrated when he learns of Magna’s and Kelly’s betrayal of Hilltop, yet keeps the secret at Connie’s behest. He trusts her, and when Connie tells him that he is her family, it is meaningful to both of them. It seems as if he is closer to Connie right now than he is to Carol, though of course Daryl’s friendship with Carol goes back to the beginning of the apocalypse, and that history carries a lot of weight behind it. I am curious to see if Daryl will have to choose between them, and which way he might lean if Connie and Carol are ever at odds.
Magna and Yumiko are also at odds. It is unclear why this separation is occurring, yet there were hints in the previous episode, when Magna resented Yumiko taking charge during the fight against the walkers outside Hilltop’s walls. It turns out that Magna has been keeping secrets from Yumiko for a long time, taking supplies from Hilltop and hiding them away. Even more, Magna has been lying to Yumiko since before the apocalypse, and is actually guilty of the crime of which she was accused back when Yumiko was her lawyer (Yumiko thought her innocent). Why this has come to a head now is unknown, but clearly Magna has grown apart from Yumiko, and the tight-knit group that first arrived in Alexandria has become fractured.
Kelly has also grown apart from her sister, keeping the secret of the pilfered supplies from Connie, perhaps because she didn’t trust Connie’s growing relationship with Daryl. Kelly is also desperately trying to deal with her worsening hearing loss, and apparently now has issues with her vision as well. She was not in any condition to be going off on her own, and it was a poor judgement call to break off from the group of Hilltop hunters. Was she that desperate to be alone, or has her deteriorating health affected her judgement? As an aside, she must be awfully skilled with that sling to kill a boar! I wouldn’t have thought that such a small rock could deal a fatal blow.
King Ezekiel is suffering from a health condition, yet it is one with which he is familiar, given its hereditary nature. He has to live with the knowledge that this cancer will kill him, when in the past, he could have been saved. He is suffering on his own, and it is now clearer why he was contemplating suicide in the previous episode. It is sad that he cannot reach out to Carol for comfort, yet it is also understandable why this is the case. He doesn’t want Carol to feel obligated to him, yet at the same time, Carol would likely be hurt if he passes and she did not know about it beforehand.
Siddiq confessed some of his stresses to Ezekiel, admitting that he is having difficulty dealing with the pressures of being a doctor in Alexandria. Yet when push came to shove, he insisted on returning when he learned that Rosita was ill.
Relationships are being tested, and new ones are being formed. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as Negan infiltrates the Whisperers and Gamma forges a sure-to-be-awkward relationship with Aaron.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, this week’s Walking Dead: No Man’s Land season mission shows Negan fighting walkers while racing to get to the bus where Amelia and Milo are being attacked. Walking Dead: Our World is introducing Epic Eugene as a new character, and is featuring him as Hero of the Week.
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