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‘The Walking Dead’ Has Ramped Up The Disturbing Quotient Once Again In This Week’s Episode

Spoilers from this week’s The Walking Dead episode will obviously be found below, so here’s your chance to lurch away like a zombie.

For those unfamiliar with The Walking Dead, this week’s episode, “Look at the Flowers,” would be an out-of-context trip, even for anyone already familiar with zombie movies and television shows. Hell, what’s going on now would probably sound bizarre to fans of The Walking Dead who bailed after season seven.

Consider what has gone on the last season and a half: A messed-up cult of nameless wanderers who call themselves The Whisperers wear the skin of zombies over their own faces so that they can blend in and roam with other hordes of zombies, which they use as their own mindless, unkillable armies. A man named Negan — best known for bashing in the heads of two characters with a baseball bat wrapped in barbwire he named after his dead wife — ends up joining The Whisperers to take them down from the inside. This requires that he have sex with a bald woman who goes by the name of Alpha while she is wearing a skin mask, which is a turn-on for Negan because she reminds him of his late wife, who died of cancer.

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Negan cuts off the head of the bald woman, though he gets tearful about it because (again) the mass murderer in the skin masks reminds him of his late wife. Negan, by the way, used to be a high-school gym teacher. Negan subsequently takes Alpha’s head and plants it on a pike, where it is discovered by Beta, a former world-famous country singer turned Whisperer. WHAT? He removes Alpha’s zombified head from the spike, throws it in a bag, and then distills meaning and direction from the hisses of the decapitated zombie head.

Alpha’s hissing leads Beta to an old dive-bar, where he listens to an old record of his, and psyches himself up to lead another horde of zombies into battle, but not before he removes the skin from Alpha’s face and plants it over half of his own face. The other half of his face is covered by the older, leathered skin of his dead friend from rehab. Now he looks like Zombie Phantom of the Opera.

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If disturbing content is what viewers are looking for, there’s plenty of is in this season of The Walking Dead, and with Beta and The Whisperers marching toward Alexandria like they’re in a “Thriller” video, I expect there will be more, if not in next week’s episode, then in the season finale (whenever that airs).

Meanwhile, Carol’s storyline this week largely entailed wrestling with her own demons, and those demons took the form of Alpha, the ghost of whom haunted Carol into a structure that collapses upon her. As a zombie approaches Carol — pinned underneath the wreckage — the ghost of Alpha taunts her about the mistakes of her past. Carol has suffered more losses (mostly children) than maybe anyone else on The Walking Dead, and the ghost of Alpha needles all those sore spots, blaming her for sending Henry away to The Hilltop (which led to his death) and reminding Carol of the time she had to shoot mentally-ill Lizzie for killing her little sister, Mika. All of this, of course, followed the death of her biological daughter, Sophie. The Walking Dead has really done a number on Carol, who committed suicide in the comics. After her sequence with Alpha in “Look at the Flowers,” it’s easy to wonder who she avoided it here.

However, the television Carol pulls herself together just in time to remove herself from the wreckage and violently dispatch with the zombie before heading back to Alexandria, where Daryl is waiting for her, though their relationship is still uneasy and strained, and will likely remain so as long as Connie remains missing.

In the meantime, Daryl and Negan also had an adventure together, and by that I mean, Daryl is angry that Negan didn’t kill Alpha soon enough, and he remains deeply skeptical of Negan’s motives, at least until a couple of Whisperers stumble upon them and treat Negan as their new Alpha. Negan — who had been handcuffed by Daryl — does not use the opportunity to kill Daryl, but rather to save him from the Whisperers, which earns Negan Daryl’s begrudging respect. “[Alpha] took it too far,” Negan tells Daryl. “You don’t kill people for no reason, and you do not kill kids.”

“Is that supposed to make me like you?” Daryl asks?

“No,” Negan responds. “But what about my winning personality?”

Silent grunt.

I think, Daryl and Negan may someday become reluctant friends. We’re only two seasons away now from the Negan/Daryl bromance!

Additional Notes

— Eugene, Yumiko, and Ezekiel’s storyline is more about setting up next season than it is about resolving The Whisperers’ arc. They meet Princess on the way to Charleston, which signals the next — and final — arc from the comics, The Commonwealth. Meanwhile, Ezekiel is struggling with his cancer.

— Carol and Daryl are really hard on Negan for taking too long to kill Alpha, which I think is unfair. It takes time to earn someone’s trust, sleep with them, destroy an entire community together, and then cut off their head!

— The title of Beta’s real-life country album is Half Moon, which is interesting considering what his face looks like by the end of the episode.

— Ghost Alpha mentioned Carols’ ex-husband Ed Peletier. It’s been a long time since that season 1 character has been mentioned.

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