As Alpha and her whispering zealots walk her daughter Lydia back to their encampment, we get a peek inside the world of these new antagonists and meet a new face in the Whisperer hierarchy in the process. Michonne is scrambling at Alexandria with the arrival of these new threats, but doing so only highlights the similarities between herself and Alpha.
Lydia hopes Alpha came to extract her from Hilltop out of motherly love. Perhaps there was a little of that going on, but it’s not the Whisperer way. Alpha begins to question her daughter about what she learned. Lydia acts like she just pretended to be helpless to find out about Hilltop’s inner workings, but when the information she provides doesn’t suffice (compared to everything else she’s keeping to herself), Alpha wonders why they even went back for her in the first place. It’s as Lydia mentioned to Henry before, the Whisperer way is to move on if one of their own doesn’t return.
Stopping to rest by a stream, Alpha hears some of her followers… well, whispering to each other about the day’s events. She keeps that on the back burner for now, because Beta, her second in command, played by Sons of Anarchy veteran Ryan Hurst, is ready to make his entrance. He pops up to surprise capture Henry, who hasn’t been as stealthy as he would’ve liked in tracking the group. The boy gives up that he’s from Hilltop and he came for Lydia. The girl punches him to try to cover her true feelings, but his presence seems to have already outed her, especially as Alpha starts asking more questions about why Lydia chose to leave him out of her story.
Alpha considers the Whisperers to be animals. They live like animals. She had already mentioned to Daryl, they care for babies in the wild like animals. She tells Lydia now she likes animals because they don’t lie. Alpha further plays with her mind, toying with her victim, saying she had to lie because the people at Hilltop lie by nature.
When they reach the Whisperers’ camp, more of their daily lives are unmasked. For one, there’s a whole lot more than suggested. Walker masks dangle in the trees like ornaments as their wearers cut open deer for food, others carry buckets of supplies on makeshift slings, Beta expertly slices off the skin of a fresh walker to make a new mask for Lydia, another station weaves them together, and more still congregate at various trunks. Their faces are all smeared with dirt and rot, presumably to further mask their scent.
Henry is tied up to a tree in the center, watching all of this play out. He’s speaking with Alpha, who’s going on again about how they live as nature intended (only the strong survive and such), when she’s approached by those two Whisperers conspiring with each other by the brook. The man calls her out for going back to save her “cub” even though it’s not their way and it put the group in danger. Alpha says it was worth it since now they know where Hilltop is and how much supplies they have. People follow her, she adds, by choice, because she makes them strong. If a Whisperer doesn’t like the way the Alpha is running things, however, they are allowed to challenge for leadership. So the man does, but Alpha turns the tables. As Beta holds him at knifepoint, she faces the woman. “The challenge isn’t his, it’s yours,” she says, noting how she put the rebellious idea in his mind by the stream. The woman doesn’t want to fight, but Alpha says it’s too late before decapitating her. Alpha hands her head to the man and kills him too when he starts whimpering. After all, “Crying is weak.”
This is, obviously, an extreme. Yet, Michonne is chastised at Alexandria for pulling similar political tactics. She knows all about the relays Gabriel, Rosita, and Eugene were trying to set up in secret, which led to the death of Jesus and injuries to Eugene and Rosita. Though unintentionally, Michonne is also using fear to secure political power. Gabriel notes that they all set up a government that would allow the people and their elected council members to make decisions, but Michonne vetos everything she deems to be a security concern. “Now everything is a security concern,” he says. The difference is that she course corrects when she sees herself in the eyes of her daughter, whereas Alpha only becomes meaner with Lydia.
Michonne spots Judith spying on her from Negan’s jail cell when she goes to hear his offering to be a “sounding board.” He’s changed, he argues, and wants to pass along some wisdom “leader to former leader.” He, too, notes that Michonne is taking dominion over Alexandria, but she doesn’t listen. She confronts Judith at home later and learns she’s been speaking with Negan. Judith then drops a nice burn (“He listens to me, not everybody does”), but Michonne says Negan is a monster. Judith knows better. She states Negan’s not a monster, he’s a person, and he had a chance to go outside and the world didn’t go to Hell because of it. Michonne argues people don’t change, but Judith points out that her mother did, alluding to Rick’s (presumed) death. It’s only then that she decides to allow the council to revote on whether Alexandria should participate in the Kingdom’s Fair, which they do and she does not veto the decision.
Meanwhile, in a side storyline that maintains a semblance of humor, Gabriel now knows about Rosita’s pregnancy with Siddiq, but he decides to be with her anyway, thanks to Eugene’s words and not, surprisingly, his multiple pros and cons charts weighing the cost-benefit analysis of what that would mean. Although, as Gabriel approaches Rosita and Siddiq on her front porch to bring newly crafted stretch pants from Eugene, it gives a glimpse of how awkward that delivery room is gonna be if Siddiq ends up as Rosita’s doctor. Yikes.
But back to the Whisperers…
Alpha and Beta reconvene in her private “quarters.” It seems like she’s attempting to share a maternal story about how she almost lost Lydia as a child when a plastic bag got stuck over her daughter’s head, but it quickly turns dark when she says she slapped Lydia across the face to make sure she never did something like that again. Alpha intends to do the same now that Lydia has appeared to take a liking to Henry, but fortunately, Daryl, Connie, and Dog are close behind.
In the dead of night, Beta brings Henry forth before Alpha and Lydia. Alpha commands Lydia to kill Henry or Beta will kill them both. Lydia begins to cry, which already isn’t a good sign in front of her mother, but Daryl and Connie, blending in by wearing their own walker masks, have been redirecting a herd toward the Whisperers’ camp. In Whisperers speak, walkers are called “guardians.” But they don’t seem like it as screams ignite the woods, while others scramble to put on their masks. It’s in this chaos that Daryl and Connie go to grab Henry, but the boy refuses to leave without Lydia. So all four of them abscond.
A closing thought before readying ourselves for the fallout to come: Dog even knows how to fetch Daryl’s arrows for him?! If Dog dies, I say we riot.