I have to say, the way this episode was chugging along, I wasn’t sure we’d get an official Alpha death.
I was hopeful the “war” would end this week, given the way episode 11 episode played out, but the actual staging of “Walk with Us” was puzzling. We kicked things off in the absolute thick of it. Just guts-deep in the flaming carnage. And then the story cut away to the morning after and we had to kind of figure out who was still alive as the episode pushed forward. The only thing we knew was that things sort of reached a stalemate, though Hilltop, for all intents and purposes, was lost.
Sure, there are still lingering Whisperer bits to deal with, as Beta and the rest of Alpha’s ghouls are still out there, but “Walk with Us” was a pivotal, and merciful, end to the majority of the conflict. And it did it with a fun twist – one that answered a series question that I’d utterly forgotten about: Who freed Negan from his cell? Back in the fall, in “What It Always Is,” the show tried to make us think Brandon – aka Negan Fan Numero Uno – was the culprit. But that was never made official. In fact, if you read the episode right, Brandon only tracked Negan out into the woods after he’d learned of the escape. He didn’t orchestrate anything.
The Walking Dead: “Walk With Us” Photos
Carol and Negan
Carol’s choice to free Negan, with a pact in place to kill Alpha, would have happened back in Episode 4 of the season, “Silence the Whisperers.” That’s when Negan was possibly on the chopping block for accidentally killing Margo while he was protecting Lydia. Obviously, Negan had to be Carol’s Plan B since she kept on trying to track and kill Alpha herself (leading her, and others, into that cave trap). Whether it was a back-up plan or not, it was still a smart play because – boy! – did it pay dividends. Carol literally had Alpha’s head delivered at her feet.
I knew how Alpha died in the comics, I just never knew the full context – as in, what brought Negan to commit the act. I’m assuming they changed a few things around, but the quick neck slice remained the same. Alpha got taken down from the inside, by a guy who’d managed to gain her trust – a master manipulator named Negan. In the end, it was Lydia, and Alpha’s stubborn commitment to killing her own daughter, that drove him to draw his blade. From his brief interaction with Carol at the end, it seemed like his plan might have always been to kill Alpha, but who ultimately knows? He was certainly testing Alpha at the end, to see if she’d actually go through with killing Lydia after he tried to convince her not to. If she’d agree to spare Lydia, would he have spared her? Maybe not, since the cabin was empty. He did seem to carry an affection for her in the end, though.
But then again, when Aaron briefly saw Negan out in the woods, Negan said, “Aaron, I’m not…” but then couldn’t get out the rest. That’s a big indicator that he was always a part of the Whisperers as a mole and that the endgame was to end Alpha’s reign. Had Aaron not been so angry, we could have gotten the full explanation right then and there.
Whatever Negan’s misgivings might have been, however brief, he did the deed and slew the dragon. It was a wickedly sweet swerve that paid back Alpha for not only killing off several of the show’s heroes by infiltrating their ranks, but also for the beheading said victims. And for Negan, maybe this means full redemption within Alexandria.
Gamma and Beta
Mary getting killed by Beta was an early indicator that perhaps this Whisperer arc was drawing to a close. I’m not against the death outright, though I will say Mary had huge potential as a new full cast member. We tracked her story long enough that she was already someone, now on the good guys’ side, who we could grow to invest in more. That doesn’t happen easily on this show anymore.
Mary died, basically, saving baby Adam, who was trapped in a car with Aiden and Kelly (if I were to mention a few characters who haven’t “popped” like Mary). Her story came full circle as she more or less proved to the doubters that she had her nephew’s best interests in mind. Then, with Beta killing her, we got a quick moment that revealed Beta to possibly be a famous country music star from the old livable world, which has been a rumor ever since actor Ryan Hurst sang on a track (written by former Dead
star Emily Kinney) that played in the episode “Bonds.” In the comics, Beta was actually a famous basketball player before the End Times so it would make sense for Ryan Hurst to be playing someone of celebrity note.
With as tall and striking as Beta is, it still feels weird that no one could pick him out of a lineup until a portion of his mask, which doesn’t cover his beard, got ripped off. At least the poor Whisperer he killed also mentioned recognizing his voice. Regardless, Beta is the big remaining threat, and thread, still out there, stalking around, from this story. Will his fate play out the way it does in the comics? From the small bits I know (which include a character who’s already been killed off the show), I feel like there’s a fun team-up coming to take down the big guy.
“Walk with Us” wound up feeling very satisfying, because of the final five minutes (where we actually heard Negan talk more about his wife), but that doesn’t mean it was great all the way through. It was structured strangely and that kind of threw everything off a little bit. Within it were some cool moments, like Judith having to kill Earl after he messed up his own suicide, and Carol telling Eugene to run off for his rendezvous with Stephanie. But why did Aaron shoot Gamma/Mary with the arrow first when he could have taken out Beta and then put Mary out of her undead misery?
And what was that whole Daryl/Ezekiel pact about last week when neither of them wound up saving the kids? They found Ezekiel under a pile of rubble and then went and found the children. Also, why tie up Lydia in a shack at all? Negan could have lied to Alpha completely without actually kidnapping Lydia and making the girl think her life was in danger. That seemed like it was just for our benefit, to trick us.
That being said, it was the perfect time to wrap things up, for the most part, and the twist at the end worked nicely.
“Walk with Us” could have been one of the best Walking Dead episodes, but it was paced and plotted out in a bizarre way that left us asking questions for most of the episode with regards to how things ended from the night before. Some mid-card character deaths, and a big final twist that took down the major villain, helped elevate it in the end.