It was the ninth midseason finale of The Walking Dead, when Jesus was killed by The Whisperers in a graveyard that we really knew that the Angela Kang era of the series had arrived. After nine and a half seasons, the zombies series finally went full-on horror, and it hasn’t let up since, thanks to powerful performances by Samantha Morton, whose Alpha is the leader of a really messed up cult, and Ryan Hurst as Beta, who plays her enforcer like he’s Jason Voorhees.
This week’s episode, “Stalker,” specifically highlighted how f***ed in the head Alpha is, and how dangerous and brutal Beta can be.
1. Canadian filmmaker Bronwen Hughes directed this episode. Hughes directed Harriet the Spy back in ’96 and a great movie called Stander that no one talks about in 2003. More recently she’s become a television director. She’s a great director if you want to create an iconic shot. For instance, she directed the Breaking Bad episode where Walt threatened to blow up Tuco with his bag of fulminated mercury. Viewers of that series will remember this shot:
Hughes also directed this year’s season premiere of Better Call Saul, including that 13-minute cold open with Gene in Omaha. In this episode of The Walking Dead, there were so many great shots that it’s hard to pick just one. Or even two. I’m going to intersperse a few through this week’s takeaways, starting with this incredible shot of Beta entering Alexandria:
2. Beta managed to get into Alexandria through a tunnel built from an abandoned RV outside the gate that traveled all the way to a grave inside of Alexandria. Dante apparently had a hand in building the tunnel system. Once inside, Beta diabolically murdered a houseful of Alexandrians (including Alfred!) and patiently waited for them to zombiefy. He then used the zombies as a distraction while he tracked down Gamma in her jail cell, because Alpha had instructed him to bring her back alive. Laura — one of the last remaining Saviors — prevented Beta from immediately capturing Gamma, but it appears as though it cost Laura her life (RIP).
In typical Voorhies fashion, however, Beta manages to survive being shot in the chest by Judith — who forgot to double tap! — and a fight with Rosita, where Beta nearly gets the best of her. However, Alpha resurfaces just in time and threatens to kill herself if Beta harms Rosita. Beta can’t have that because Alpha wants her back alive. However, en route back to The Whisperer camp, they encounter Father Gabriel and company. Beta quickly scampers away, while Gamma (whose actual name is Mary) appears to have gained the trust of the Alexandrians, thanks to her efforts to save Rosita’s life. I’m glad. As a longtime fan of Thora Birch from Ghost World and American Beauty, I’d like to see how she cleans up outside of the skin mask and behaves as an Alexandrian. She may also be needed to fill the space left by Rosita if she leaves the show at the end of the season.
3. The Daryl and Alpha subplot was mostly effective, save for the terrible red filter Hughes used to provide viewers a POV shot of Daryl with blood dripping into his eyes. Otherwise, it was an expertly choreographed fight sequence between Daryl and Alpha and several Whisperers, including one bad-ass moment when Daryl pulls a knife out of his leg and plunges it into the head of a zombie.
Both Daryl and Alpha basically fight until they’re both so near dead that they can no longer fight anymore. They pass out feet away from each other, but before they do, Lydia resurfaces. She talks with her mother, Alpha, and tells her that she cannot go back to The Whisperers. Alpha tries to get Lydia to kill her and take over as leader of The Whisperers, but Lydia begs off. The Alexandrians are flawed but they are human, and that is all that Lydia has ever wanted, and it’s what Alpha has never given her. After Alpha passes out and awakens, she announces that she’s stronger than ever, apparently liberated from her sole weakness: her daughter. “Screams will be song to me.” Alpha’s ready to bathe in blood.
4. Meanwhile, after leaving her mother — who she cannot bring herself to kill — Lydia saves Daryl and sits with him while he sleeps for most of the day. She’s made her choice. She has rejected Alpha. Daryl is her daddy now (metaphorically speaking).
5. Father Gabriel has transformed into a bad-ass killing machine in the Kang era, but there’s still some compassion underneath, as evidenced by his treatment of Gamma, who he affords the opportunity to explain herself. Father Gabriel also realizes — like Alfred — that the Whisperers really are weak when confronted one-on-one, with the exception of Alpha and Beta.
6. My man Kenric Green, who plays Scott and is the MVP of The Walking Dead, got a line in this episode. Scott has been around since season 6 now, which low-key makes him one of the longest running characters on the series. He will outlive them all! (Actually, I fear that he may meet the fate of a certain comic book character, and that’ll be very unfortunate).
7. We don’t see Laura turn, but I think it’s safe to assume she is dead. There weren’t many good Saviors. She will be missed. Aside from Sherry and Dwight — now on Fear the Walking Dead — I think the only notable Savior left may be Alden.
8. The preview for next week’s episode teases a big battle between Alexandria and The Whisperers.
That teaser doesn’t tell the whole story. This sneak peek from last night’s The Talking Dead suggests that next week’s episode might be The Walking Dead’s Battle of Winterfell. Holy crap!