The Walking Dead is in a precarious position at the moment, having lost a number of popular characters this season and introduced several more who look to be a huge part of the future of this show. The series, however, needs to strike the right balance between maintaining focus on the popular characters we know and love like Daryl, Carol, and Michonne, and giving enough screentime to others to give viewers an opportunity to know and love them, too. The Walking Dead, for instance, has had a potential fan favorite in Jerry in their back pocket for a couple of seasons now and hadn’t really given him a big opportunity to capitalize on that until this week.
Likewise, the series has to be careful about slowly introducing Magna, Yumiko, Luke, Connie, and Kelly, because I expect at least a couple of them will be major characters on the series over the next few seasons. It’s important to get them screentime, but not at the expense of the established characters, and Angela Kang has been smart — especially in this episode with Connie — about pairing them with well-known characters, so that we can get to know them without forcing them to carry their own subplots.
In any respect, this episode does what the best episodes of The Walking Dead do: Mix a triumphant storyline with fantastic zombie kills with a more bittersweet storyline that furthers the season-long arc. In the case of the latter, we spend more time with Alpha this week, and we begin to understand what a terrifying threat she poses.
She negotiates the return of Lydia without breaking a sweat. She asks nicely, and when that doesn’t work, Alpha brings in her army. When Daryl refuses to be intimidated by the swelling number of Whisperers, she brings out her leverage — Luke and Alden wearing skin masks. That would’ve been enough by itself to get Daryl and Company to acquiesce to her demands, but she applies even more pressure by leaving a baby in a field as potential zombie food, as if to say, “Death means nothing to us, so your threats of violence are empty.” I can already sense that, unlike with The Saviors, battling back and forth until someone screams Uncle won’t be enough. The Alliance is going to have to wipe The Whisperers completely off the map in order to win. At no point will Alpha be redeemed.