by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 9.
While The Walking Dead finished the first half of season 10 with a lackluster finale, the show managed to pick up exactly where it left off, but in a manner that brought out the urgency of the situation in a way that just wasn’t present in Episode 1008. At first, when Alpha threw down the torch outside, I thought that she might be trying to ‘smoke’ the survivors out of the cave and into an ambush. Instead, it was apparently a more symbolic action, like throwing down a gauntlet. Alpha ordered her people to make sure that no one escaped, and they gave all of their lives attempting to do as she asked. Which leads to the question… how many followers does Alpha have in her tribe? How many people are actually living in the woods? We know that her group is big enough that Lydia didn’t know everyone (Dante was chosen to infiltrate Alexandria because Lydia would not recognize him). Is this loss of people significant for Alpha, or are they easily replaced?
Of course, Alpha hasn’t just lost loyal followers. She now knows that she has also lost Gamma, someone whom she had originally seen as a daughter-substitute. This loss has to have cut her to the core, as Gamma would now be the second ‘daughter’ who has betrayed her. The question is, how is Alpha really reacting to this betrayal? Is she taking it in stride, as confident as the façade she is trying to project? Or is she devastated emotionally? It is entirely possible that this has Alpha questioning her judgement, which would explain why she is trying to get close to Negan. While she clearly does not like him (or trust him), I suspect that Alpha is beginning to respect Negan’s observations. So far, everything that he has told her has been correct, and he has proven himself to be a man who survives at all costs, and deals with pitfalls (literally, as she pushed him into the cesspit) as they come.
It is very likely that Negan is using Alpha in a similar fashion: gaining her ear and weighing his options. Given the relationships Negan forged in Alexandria, I don’t think that he wants to harm the communities, but he may be considering remaining with Alpha’s group as the next most viable option. It is possible that he simply wants to earn Alpha’s trust and then convince her to leave the area permanently. Yet my money is on Negan taking down the Whisperers from within.
The encounter between Alpha and Negan in the clearing was about as far from romantic as it was possible to get, and had me laughing more than anything else. While there were other humorous moments in this episode (such as Jerry sucking in his gut to squeeze through the rocks), the ‘sex scene’ with Negan and Alpha was the funniest thing I ever recall seeing in this series.
That humor was much appreciated, balancing with the desperation and frustration felt inside the cave. I had been hoping that Carol’s sudden character change would be in the past, yet she is still making terrible decisions in a manner completely unlike her. Her claustrophobia is understandable (she may have hidden from her abusive husband in the past, or been locked in a closet by him) but her insistence on running off without thinking through her plan is very much unlike the woman viewers have come to know over the first 9 seasons of the show. Yes, Carol has had her demons and issues, but she has never been stupid, until Season 10.
Carol now has to bear the burden of possibly killing Connie (and Magna) as a result of her carelessness. Daryl has been Carol’s true friend since the beginning of the apocalypse, and now she has just taken the other woman in Daryl’s life from him, not intentionally, but through her own thoughtlessness and selfishness. Even worse, Connie was nothing but kind to Carol, helping her through her panic in the cave and watching out for her. If Connie doesn’t make it out (I suspect that she and Magna are in there, alive, but may take as long as the rest of the season to re-emerge), then Carol has yet more deaths to add to her conscience, which will only send her spiraling further. Yet I am still holding out (diminishing) hope that something will serve as a wake-up call for Carol and bring back her old self. Perhaps knowledge of Ezekiel’s cancer might serve as such a catalyst?
Outside of Carol’s inexcusable behavior, the other thing that bothered me this episode was the behavior of the walkers in the cave. They were swarming the survivors as they leapt from rock to rock, but mostly waving hands around, rather than grabbing at their feet. Many of the walkers looked close enough to bite the survivors’ legs as they edged by, yet none of them did. For me, this deflated the tension that should have filled the scene, as it didn’t really feel like anyone was in danger. In contrast, the scene where the walkers were crawling after Jerry and chewing on his shoe was gripping and heart-pounding. I just wish that the earlier scene had had a bit more of that dangerous flavor.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, Walking Dead: No Man’s Land is once again hosting season missions highlighting ‘extra scenes’ from each episode. This week’s episode mission shows Daryl, Aaron and Jerry clearing rocks inside the cave to get to an exit, while fighting off walkers and Whisperers.
Do you watch The Walking Dead? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!