Heads Are Rolling on a Particularly Brutal Installment of 'The Walking Dead' (RECAP)

Emily Hannemann
Spoiler Alert Gene Page/AMC

[Spoiler Alert: Do not read ahead if you have not watched "Guardians," the March 3 episode of The Walking Dead]

If last week’s Walking Dead was about having the will to make hard choices, this week’s installment is about coping with them.

Michonne’s coping with her council’s anger at her rigid security protocols and her insistence that they should stay away from Ezekiel’s fair, and being mom to a rebellious daughter. Father Gabriel’s coping with the knowledge that Rosita’s unborn child isn’t his. Lydia’s coping with her decision to return to the Whisperers and her feelings for Henry, which end up putting both her and him in a dangerous position by the end of the episode. Even Alpha’s coping with some dissent in her ranks, which she squelches in a particularly brutal (and stomach-churning) fashion.

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So much drama. So many walkers. Don’t lose your head!

Something in Return

The episode opens with Alpha questioning Lydia about her time at Hilltop. When she can’t give Alpha all the information she needs, Alpha gets upset. “I broke my own rules coming to get you, what do I get in return?” Alpha snaps, “excuses, wasted words.” When Lydia asks if information was the only reason Alpha came to get her, her mom says, “What a stupid question.”

As the Whisperers continue traveling, Alpha hears some of her followers whispering about how her conduct was “unacceptable” and how she could’ve gotten all of their people killed. She doesn’t have time to address this before a new threat reveals itself — Henry, who has been following the Whisperers. Alpha decides to take him with them as they travel back to their camp, and they keep going.

Back Where You Belong

Alpha questions Lydia about Henry, but she says she acted helpless and he fell for it. They meet up with a large group of walkers and then travel into their camp, and Alpha tells Lydia, “You are back where you belong.”

No one in the Whisperers’ camp looks very happy, and that discontent gets a voice in a man and woman who step forward to voice their displeasure with Alpha. They don’t think it was a fair trade to give up two hostages for Lydia, and when Alpha says anyone can challenge her for her place as leader, he does so. But Alpha maintains that the challenge isn’t the man’s; it’s the woman’s, because she was plotting with him in the woods.

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Challenge Issued, Challenge Failed

The woman asks Alpha why she hasn’t retaliated against Hilltop and the others for killing their people, and says keeping Henry puts them in danger. “You haven’t failed me,” she says, “you failed all of us.” Alpha takes this about as well as one would expect — she decapitates the woman and holds up her bleeding head like a trophy. When the man starts crying, Alpha kills him, too, and both girlfriend and boyfriend become walker food.

While Lydia shows Henry she’s still on his side by wearing a necklace from Hilltop, Alpha asks Beta to undo her mask. She tells him about an incident when Lydia was young and she almost asphyxiated on a plastic bag, and after discerning that she was okay, Alpha hit her. Mom’s justification for this? “So she’d remember never to do it again.”

Protecting What You Love

Alpha says they have to do whatever it takes to protect what you love, even from themselves. Beta agrees, but he says they need to protect themselves from the outside, too; namely, people who might come for Henry. He suggests Henry could be useful with Lydia, too, in terms of determining whether she feels something for an outsider. “Let’s find out,” Alpha says.

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Alexandria Survives

Meanwhile, things aren’t going so great at Alexandria. Michonne is angry that the council kept information about the inter-community communications relay from her, and most (aside from Aaron and one of the former Saviors) think Alexandria should join The Kingdom’s fair. Michonne is loath to do that, saying the roads leading there are dangerous and so are the Whisperers. She’s okay with opening their doors to those who need help, but she isn’t willing to risk her own people’s lives for the fair or to keep The Kingdom standing.

Things are getting even more awkward in the Rosita-Gabriel-Eugene-Siddiq love square. Rosita’s far enough along in her pregnancy that she can’t button her pants, but Gabe’s still on the fence about raising a kid that isn’t his.

Chatting with Negan

Thankfully, Eugene manages to talk some sense into him. He tells Gabriel that Rosita doesn’t love Siddiq — and she doesn’t love Eugene — she loves him, and he shouldn’t let go of that. With Eugene’s advice in mind, Gabriel goes back to Rosita, who’s sitting on the porch steps with Siddiq, and they all go inside.

Michonne goes to meet with Negan, who has quite a bit to say about his current situation and how he’d like things to go. He thinks he can be useful as an advisor to her, which he maintains that she needs, because he hears people voicing their anger with her through his window. “All I’m saying is that I know a thing or two about keeping people in line,” he says.

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Judith Talks Back

She rejects his offer and even goes a step further — she tells the guards to close his window. As she does so, she sees Judith running away, seemingly having spied on the meeting. This leads to an awkward conversation later on, when Judith tells her mama she’s been talking to Negan and insists he isn’t a monster. Michonne says otherwise. “I don’t want you to ever go near him again,” Michonne tells her daughter. When Judith pushes back, an emotional Michonne sends her to her room.

Judith’s outburst shakes Michonne to her core. She goes to Aaron and thanks him for supporting her at the meeting, but says if the council wants to re-vote to send a delegation to The Kingdom’s fair, she won’t veto it. The people, she says, can weigh the risks and choose… and they choose to participate in the fair.

Daryl to the Rescue

That night, Beta brings Henry to Lydia. Alpha gives Lydia a knife and tells her to kill him. “Don’t be weak, like your father,” Alpha says, adding that if she doesn’t kill Henry, Beta will kill them both.

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Thankfully, Lydia is saved from making this horrible choice by an oncoming horde of walkers, led by Connie and Daryl, who had been tracking Henry for the duration of the episode. When Henry refuses to leave Lydia, all four of them escape into the woods.

Other Observations:

  • I don’t know who’s scarier, Alpha or Beta. They’re both horribly ruthless and utterly terrifying. And it seems they’ll be going the comic route and having Beta keep his mask on at all times, which is even creepier.
  • The music that played when Alpha was addressing her people — and when she issued her challenge — was intimidating, frightening, tense and chilling. Exactly as it should be. Bravo, Bear McCreary!
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  • Alpha decapitating the woman was one of the most brutal displays of violence we’ve seen on the show so far (and you thought Negan Lucille’ing people in the lineup was bad!), and it feels like it was meant to foreshadow a major comics event.
  • I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I look forward to the day when Negan has more to do. Angela Kang has turned him into an interesting, multidimensional character, and I found myself hoping Michonne would accept his offer to serve as her advisor (though I knew she wouldn’t). He could be useful with the Whisperers, too.

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