It feels like everyone just needs a bit of a breather in The Walking Dead world this week. But when you live among the undead, a moment’s peace is hard to find: especially when the walkers are at the door.
After Alexandria was hit by wave upon wave of zombies in last week’s episode, this time it’s the turn of the poor folks up at Hilltop. It’s all triggered by the felling of a gigantic tree which comes crashing through the community’s walls and injures nine people. Naturally, a swarm of walkers is drawn to Hilltop as a result. Is this latest act of sabotage yet further proof that the Whisperers are behind the attacks?
The walker invasion is eventually put down without any more fatalities, but there’s a call for further help from Oceanside (which will surely be the setting for next week’s episode). However, it’s events over at Alexandria in ‘Silence the Whisperers’ which are worth focusing on this week: and, surprise, surprise it’s all to do with Negan and Lydia.
Who will come to Lydia’s defence this week?
It’s getting hard out here for a Whisperers’ daughter. Lydia, the estranged child of Alpha, carries the burden of being associated with the masked villains while living in Alexandria, and three bullying residents in particular — Gage, Margo and Alfred — are giving her plenty of shit for it. When you’re an outcast living in Alexandria, who do you go to for a bit of reassurance? Why, Negan, of course! The mass murdering former leader of the Saviors tells Lydia that she has to “kill them”… with kindness, obviously. Negan’s a changed man now, right?
After Daryl breaks up this friendly pep talk (“he gets me,” Lydia unsettlingly tells Daryl — who, let’s not forget, has been semi-officially appointed by Alpha as Lydia’s guardian), the pair find that Lydia has become the target of anti-Whisperers graffiti as they’re confronted by the words “Silence The Whispers” daubed in yellow on their front door. Undaunted, she confronts her bullies by messily skinning a squirrel on their table in the Alexandria cafeteria (there’s no health and safety regulations in the zombie world), and that bloody power play leads to Gage, Margo and Alfred ultimately deciding to ambush her late at night to “scare her”, school playground-style. In the ensuing scuffle, heroic Negan (never thought we’d write that) steps in and prevents the three from bashing Lydia’s face in.
However, this act of heroism comes at a cost: Margo is shown slumped lifeless against a wall; the full force of Negan throwing her off Lydia has caused her to sustain a massive, fatal head injury. Erk.
Who let Negan escape?
“Negan saved my life,” Lydia says in defence of her protector (well, he was a Savior after all). Naturally, Alexandrians are up in arms about Negan’s accidental-ish killing of Margo (“everybody’s talking about Negan again,” Carol observes at one point. “It’s like time never moves”) and the pariah tells Daryl that he realises he’s been suckered in by a community who all want him dead. “I started believing in your way of life, your moral code,” Negan explains. “Hell, you even gave me a little taste of freedom just to yank it away when I did the right thing.
“That’s pretty messed up – and you and I both know I appreciate some messed-up shit.”
As the Council comes to vote on what to do with Negan (the words “something inside him has broken” suggests that they’re not looking too favourably on his case), Michonne kindly reminds Daryl that Lydia needs to be protected. Alpha is less likely to attack Alexandria if Lydia is inside their walls; and if Lydia leaves their community they have nothing to bargain with — she has to stay at Alexandria. Asked by Michonne to vote for her by proxy, Daryl ties the council’s vote by saying he believes Lydia’s version of what went down during the fight and that Negan hasn’t returned to his evil old ways.
Gabriel is given the casting vote, a decision he opts to sleep on. What sounded like a wise call proves to be a foolish one, though, as Gabriel goes to Negan’s cell the next day only to discover that someone has let him out after over six years of imprisonment. Now who would do such a thing?
It’s Lydia who initially claims responsibility, and voluntarily locks herself in his vacated cell as an admission of guilt. Daryl, who somehow knows that Lydia didn’t sneak out at night to do the deed, doesn’t believe her, though.
So who is on Team Negan, then? Might it actually be a kidnapping by a Whisperer who has successfully infiltrated Alexandria, much like Alpha did to devastating effect at The Kingdom last season? Maybe it was Carol, who admitted to being sick of Negan’s lingering ability to evoke the same old hand-wringing panic among the survivors? Or maybe it was someone unexpected like Siddiq, who is seen wrestling with his PTSD and survivors’ guilt again this episode, in an effort to try and make things right.
We speculated last week that Negan’s bonding session with Aaron might’ve signalled that the former baddie has in fact reformed his old ways. But then his going AWOL this week now suggests that, actually, screw all of that, Negan is just going to keep being Negan after all. Time — and the coming episodes of this hot-and-cold season 10 — will only tell…
‘The Walking Dead’ airs on FX every Monday at 9pm