‘Tales of the Walking Dead’ Recap: ‘Dee’ Boards a Boat for Alpha’s Backstory
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Tales of the Walking Dead Season 1, Episode 3, “Dee.”]
Wait, didn’t we already do this?
On multiple levels, “Dee” feels like a repeat for the zombie franchise. We’d been on a mysterious boat in Fear the Walking Dead’s second season, and we’d already explored Alpha’s (Samantha Morton) history in Season 9’s “Omega” and Season 10’s “We are the End of the World.” Unfortunately, that leaves this episode of Tales in the position of needing to justify its existence… and while Morton is excellent as ever, it’s hard to cobble together why the show went with this particular story for her.
To be honest, save for the final few minutes, most of the episode doesn’t seem written for the “Alpha” character. Almost any mother-daughter duo could’ve been slotted into the main roles. But as it is, sometime after Dee kills Lydia’s (Scarlett Blum) father, but before she’s a Whisperer, she and Lydia wind up on a boat in the swamp with a group of well-off people. Dee’s working as their janitor while Lydia’s befriended their leader, Brooke (Lauren Glazier). As happens with all communities in this world, it goes bad.
Someone disappears mysteriously in the middle of the night, leading to an investigation that wraps up too quickly (“murder mystery in the zombie apocalypse” likely would’ve been a better storyline). The culprit is another member of the group who is part of another group on the outside, and he wanted to get his off-the-boat buddies in so they could live in the lap of luxury. As the truth unfolds so does chaos, and the guy and his friends start killing all the members of the boat group. Dee and Lydia barely escape; they take a dinghy and head to shore. There, they hide from the dead as Dee winds up covered in walker guts, and she smothers a terrified Lydia with them, too.
From there, the plot, unfortunately, dissolves. Dee and Lydia run into Brooke, who survived the boat community going under. Dee wants to kill her, but Lydia stops her — so, instead of stabbing the woman, Dee leaves her with a deep gash on her face as a form of jealousy-laden revenge. This sequence could’ve worked, except there’s a lengthy stretch of time where Dee and Lydia are arguing, and Brooke knows Dee wants her dead, but she just… sits there and listens to them instead of running away? It’s strange.
Lydia and Dee wind up at an abandoned RV park, where Dee tries to get her daughter to kill some walkers. Nine-year-old Lydia has had a very bad day and just wants to play with fairies and talk to the trees, so, of course, that doesn’t go well. Dee’s able to take down the walker trio, but Lydia runs into the woods, crying. Dee runs after her and eventually finds her. She says she’s been “talking to the fairies and the trees,” and insists she can hear them. As it turns out, Lydia was hearing something: she was hearing the first iteration of the Whisperers, who approach wearing skin masks and telling the mother and daughter to “whisper.” As the episode ends, it’s revealed that Dee killed their leader, thus becoming the new Alpha.
If you’re left confused by how this works with Alpha’s existing backstory, you’re not the only one. In Season 10, we saw her and Lydia come across Beta (Ryan Hurst), who joins them, but Dee doesn’t have hair at that point. It’s implied that whole interaction happened before the formation of the Whisperers. Here, though, it seems like Dee joined the Whisperers rather than founding the group. It also looks like when she and Lydia met Beta, based on what happens in this episode, the Whisperers would’ve already existed. Huh? Did she go with these Whisperers for a bit, leave, then meet Beta and start her own version of the Whisperers?
I was excited at the prospect of an Alpha backstory episode, since Samantha Morton’s performance was one of the main show’s best. Unfortunately, Tales doesn’t give viewers much of anything new. We already knew that Dee had issues with possessiveness regarding Lydia, and that she was abusive. We already knew Lydia was frightened of her. The new characters are all wiped out by the episode’s midpoint and don’t have much impact. It’s also odd that Tales decided to give Alpha a key component of Madison Clark’s (Kim Dickens) backstory on Fear, saying Dee, like Madison, killed her own abusive father before the world ended. Was this a nod to all those mid-2010s fan theories that Madison and Alpha were the same person?
A better episode might’ve focused on the early days of the Whisperers as a twisted version of “Here’s Negan,” or centered around Lydia’s family at the very start of the apocalypse. Instead, unfortunately, “Dee” only adds unnecessary footnotes to a story the main show told better.
Tales of the Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC