'The Walking Dead' Explores Lydia & Alpha's Twisted Backstory (RECAP)

Emily Hannemann
Spoiler Alert Gene Page/AMC

[Spoiler Alert: Do not read ahead if you have not watched "Omega," the February 17 episode of The Walking Dead]

“Omega” is one of the most uniquely unpredictable episodes The Walking Dead has ever done.

Simply put, these 45 minutes are devoted to expanding on the character of Lydia — the teenage Whisperer prisoner who was captured by Michonne and introduced herself to Henry in the final minutes of last week's episode. Who is she? What has her experience been like with her mom, the ruthless, villainous Alpha? Using the present day and flashbacks, the episode explains Lydia’s erratic behavior and dark backstory and characterizes her mother even before she’s properly introduced.

First Look at Alpha Without Her Mask in 'The Walking Dead' (PHOTOS)

First Look at Alpha Without Her Mask in 'The Walking Dead' (PHOTOS)

The February 17 episode, 'Omega,' will explain how 'The Whisperers' rose to power.

If you think you know what’s happening in “Omega,” you might want to think again.

Altruistic Alpha?

The episode opens up with a flashback: a story told by Lydia to Henry about her past. Twenty-three days into the apocalypse, Lydia, her mom, her dad and some fellow survivors are holed up in a bunker. Her dad is openly pessimistic about their chances of survival, but her mom is far kinder.

Lydia keeps talking to Henry about her past and the Whisperers while Daryl listens outside. That morning, Henry offers to give Lydia some of his food, but she turns him down. This leads into another flashback, during which Lydia’s dad tells her mom about his plan to leave the bunker, but she talks him out of it. Again, Lydia’s mom is kind and hopeful and protects Lydia from her father.

Gene Page/AMC

Henry observes that her mom sounds nice, and hesitantly, Lydia agrees. He tells her about The Kingdom, and even gives her its location. That’s when Daryl intervenes; he gets Henry out of the jail and reprimands him. Henry’s none too pleased to find out he was being used to interrogate Lydia, and calls Daryl an asshole.

Lydia Lies

Daryl goes to see Lydia and offers her medicine for her ear. She refuses it. He then tries to talk to her about Luke and Alden, and inquires whether her mom would kill them. “She would if she had to,” Lydia says. Another flashback shows a hysterical man in their camp tried to get out of the bunker. Alpha, in her attempt to quiet him down and restrain him, killed him.

Lydia tells Daryl about her dad — Daryl insists that her mom did what she had to do. He again offers her the pills for her ear, and she accepts them and asks for water. He brings her water and she lunges for him, spitting the pills at him. In his attempt to push her away, Daryl rolls up the sleeve on her shirt and reveals a series of marks.

Gene Page/AMC

Daryl goes back to see Lydia and figures out that one of her parents was beating her, and it probably wasn’t her dad. Lydia reveals it was her mom who gave her those marks on her arm, but she maintains that her mom is doing the right thing. This leads to another flashback; a young Lydia wakes up in the bunker and walks over to the body of the man her mother killed. He reanimates and Lydia screams. Her dad pushes her out of the way, and in doing so, is killed by the walker.

An Ill-Fated Trip

In the present, Lydia uses this memory as evidence that soft people die, while hardened ones, like her mom, survive. Daryl says they’re building a better world now, but Lydia disagrees. She tells him he doesn’t belong with the people at Hilltop and asks him to tell her about his past. Instead of talking to her, he walks away.

Outside the jail, Henry — who had been listening, just like Daryl had been listening in before — talks to Daryl and realizes someone used to abuse him the way Lydia’s mom abuses her. He tells him that Carol told Ezekiel she kept her hair short because Ed used to grab it so she couldn’t get away. Henry says it must have taken Carol that long to feel safe again; he tells Daryl that he can show Lydia there’s nothing to be afraid of, even if he acts like the kind of guy who “slams people against walls” sometimes.

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Henry goes to see Lydia in her cell and makes the less-than-brilliant decision to let her out and show her around Hilltop. This astoundingly dumb move nearly gets him killed when Lydia quietly grabs a hammer, but her plan is thwarted when she hears a baby crying. This triggers a series of repressed memories that clarify the disjointed, inconsistent flashbacks. Flashes of her mom doing the same behaviors her dad had done in earlier flashbacks and offering Lydia her first Whisperer mask make it clear that her dad was the parent who clearly loved her, and her mom was abusive from the start.

Mixed-Up Memories

A panicked Lydia asks Henry to take her back to her cell. He does, and she asks him to stay with her. Henry lays down on the floor of the jail and reaches under the bars. They hold hands. Daryl finds Henry there in the morning, and Lydia asks him for the pills for her ear. She tells them her mom won’t be coming back for her, because when one of the Whisperers dies, they move on and act like the person didn’t exist.

Lydia figured if she escaped with information about the communities, her mom might be more inclined to take her back; Luke and Alden won’t be enough to trade, because her mom, she says, wouldn’t likely have kept them alive. Henry asks her if any of the story she told about her family was true, and she says she had it all mixed up because her mom told it to her over and over for years, but she lied.

'Walking Dead' Boss Angela Kang on Negan's Surprising Choice & the 'Very, Very Scary' Alpha

'Walking Dead' Boss Angela Kang on Negan's Surprising Choice & the 'Very, Very Scary' Alpha

The showrunner talks translating some pivotal moments, introducing Alpha and Lydia, and what fans can expect next.

This leads to one final flashback: the truth. It wasn’t Lydia’s father who pushed her out of the walker’s way, but instead it was another man in the bunker. Alpha starts prying boards off of a door and says they need to leave, but Lydia’s dad refuses. When he walks away to make sure they can get to the stairs, Alpha kills him. Crying in the present, Lydia apologizes for wasting Henry and Daryl’s time. “You didn’t,” Daryl tells her. He and Henry leave the jail, and Daryl says he’s going to talk to Tara about the Whisperers camp. Henry says he’s happy Daryl and his mom are friends.

Gene Page/AMC

Sneaking Out

Outside the walls, Tara, Magna, Connie, Yumiko, Kelly and a few others from Hilltop are out looking for Luke and Alden. They find the missing pair’s horses and determine the animals were cut open — likely the work of a Whisperer. Realizing the extent of the danger they’re in, Tara says they need to head back to the safety of Hilltop and make a plan.

Naturally, that doesn’t sit well with many of the members of Magna’s group… except for Magna herself. Magna is initially hesitant to go, but she eventually comes around, and they decide to go out to find them at night. As one might suspect, this doesn’t go well. They have a discussion about a place called “Coalport,” and Magna says they had to leave their posts or they’d be dead.

Their disagreement is interrupted by a walker, which nearly kills Kelly. After they take it down, they decide it’s too dangerous and opt to head back, but a shaken Kelly remembers that Luke saved her life at Coalport. Connie tells her friends that she’ll stay out and help Kelly look, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll go well — there are Whisperers watching from the woods.

Gene Page/AMC

In the morning, Yumiko goes to Tara and apologizes for leaving. She says it was wrong of them to do so, and they should have realized it sooner. When someone yells for the gate to be opened, Yumiko sees Connie and Kelly approaching with a couple of Hilltop guards, who Tara says saw them sneak out. Tara says she understands why they snuck out, but she tells her the next time Yumiko and her group question one of Tara’s decisions, she wants them to be straightforward with her.

Alpha’s Arrival

All seems to be going well, until a group of Whisperers approach. The guards and Kelly make it inside while Connie hides in a cornfield. Tara calls for Daryl. Magna comes running. They all watch at the fence as the Whisperers stop, and their leader — Alpha — makes her demand. “We only want one thing from you,” she says. “My daughter.”

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Other Observations:

  • Cassady McClincy was incredible as Lydia this episode. She made her character’s heavy storyline not only heartbreaking, but sickening — and turned Lydia into a sympathetic antihero instead of a manipulative prisoner.
  • Daryl’s past hadn’t come up for several seasons, so it’s nice to see Angela Kang not only remembered that aspect of his character but created a parallel between him and Lydia based on their shared horrible experiences with abusive family members.
  • We’ve been getting plenty of “fatherhood” connotations with Daryl, which is… interesting to say the least (first with Aaron telling Daryl he’d be a good dad earlier this season, and now with Lydia erroneously referring to him as Henry’s dad). It might not mean anything, but considering it didn’t happen in seasons past, it might be worth noting.
  • I can’t help but feel a little bad for Tara. This is her first? Second? day on the job as Hilltop’s leader and she has Whisperers knocking at the gate. Yikes.
  • Fun Fact: "Omega" is defined as "the last in a series." So the episode title could be referring to Lydia's final memories in the series of flashbacks, and her revelation that her mom wasn't a good person after all. It might also refer to wolf pack behavior, in which the Omega is the lowest-ranking member of the group... much how Lydia views herself in her mother's eyes when she says no one will come back for her.

The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC