Spoiler Warning for Season 9, Episode 10 of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed. Minor spoilers from “Fear the Walking Dead” will also be discussed.
“When you stay soft, people die.”
Alpha is here. She’s dangerous. She’s ruthless. She wants her daughter back. After being introduced at the tail end of the Mid-Season Premiere, the villainous leader of the Whisperers is seen fully as the show provides viewers with backstory on how she became the person she is today. This chilling episode does a lot great, but does have some drawbacks and instances of just plain stupid character decisions. That being said, the horror is on another level.
This episode features a series of flashbacks scattered throughout and told via Lydia narrating in the present timeline. These flashbacks will be recapped at the end of this review while the current storylines will be discussed first.
Still locked up in jail, Henry and Lydia decide to open up to one another and share their pasts. Lydia explains how much she misses the sounds and smells of the dead, something that is disturbing to Henry. While discussing their parents, Henry tells Lydia that his biological father and mother died and that Ezekiel and Carol are now his parents. There’s an interesting point made by Lydia that Carol sounds a lot like her own mother in that they are both not to be messed with. While the two teens talk, Daryl is sitting just outside, listening to everything. Henry states that he’s being nice to Lydia because someone (King Ezekiel) was kind to him and his brother when they were found. It’s here that Lydia starts prodding for information and manages to get Henry to not only reveal that there is another community, but he flat out states the Kingdom’s name and mentions that it’s a day’s ride away. From a strategic standpoint, this is one of the stupidest things he could have done. Daryl knows this and storms into the jail to remove Henry and lecture him outside. Rather than realize the error of his ways, Henry is angry to find out that Daryl, Enid and others have been listening to his conversations with Lydia to gain information. Storming off, Henry calls Daryl an asshole. Sure, Daryl is direct and blunt, but he’s just looking out for the safety of the community.
The other notable story arc of the episode follows the Hilltop residents as they search for Alden and Luke, who were captured by Alpha. Tara leads a search party consisting of Magna, Yumiko, Connie, Kelly, Marco and Kal to a wooded area and they discover a cluster of walkers feasting on something. They realize they have to be careful upon approaching the walkers…as they might actually be people. In an action sequence that allows each of the characters to show off their skills, they take down multiple walkers before discovering the grisly sight of Alden and Luke’s horses mauled. Connie investigates and discovers that the horses were cut open and skinned, something that couldn’t have been done by ordinary walkers. This discovery causes Tara to reassess the search effort and orders her people to return to come up with a better plan. The fact that they have absolutely no clue as to how many Whisperers are out there is deeply concerning to her. Kelly tries to protest, but Tara doesn’t even give her a chance to fight her on this. They need to return. This is an excellent example of Tara’s leadership in action as she is forced to make difficult decisions that might not be the most popular. Throughout the episode, the ways in which Tara leads really make for impressive growth in her character.
This episode really hammers in parallels between Lydia and Daryl, and also sets up what should be a really fascinating dynamic between them. Daryl goes down to the cell and offers pain medication for Lydia’s injured ear, but she doesn’t accept it. The conversation shifts to Lydia’s past and she explains that the outbreak took over the world when she was around the age of six. Contrasting his “bad” cop persona last episode, Daryl tries to take a lighter approach and tells Lydia that the Hilltop has good people who could help her if she is willing to work with them. Daryl also hands over the pills and slides a ladle of water through the cell, but Lydia sees an opportunity and tries to fight back. Quickly disarming Lydia, Daryl spots a large number of bruises all over her arm and the two fall silent. Later, he returns with a switch to explain the tactics some fathers use to beat their kids. The flashbacks of Lydia’s past originally showed her father being abusive, but Daryl is able to determine that it was in fact her mother who beat her. Daryl was abused as a child, so he clearly understands and can spot cases of it happening to others. That’s such a crucial part of his backstory that shaped who he was in the earliest seasons, but he’s been able to come around from it to now help someone else in a similar situation. Something great about this particular relationship is that Lydia is also able to see the cracks in Daryl’s arguments. After he expresses the fact that society is being built back up, Lydia points out that Daryl doesn’t belong. To be fair, he has been living in the swamps and only recently returned to the communities.
In one of the trailers, Yumiko paces around and declares that her group needs to go out and continue the search for Luke. Magna is against that idea, citing the fact that she nearly made a move that would have ended things for them at Alexandria; she doesn’t want to do the same here and go against Tara. They hold a vote and after an emotional plea from Yumiko, Magna and the others ultimately decide to head out under the cover of night. When night comes, the foursome sneak out of the Hilltop via the emergency escape that Sasha created during Season 7; this was used by her and Rosita when they went on their rogue plot to assassinate Negan. Once outside the walls, Connie finds tracks in the dirt and realizes that they aren’t from walkers, but rather the mask-wearing adversaries. Yumiko expresses guilt over what went down in Coalport, a place that was referenced by the group when they first arrived at Alexandria. It seems as though they abandoned their posts in Coalport in order to survive when it was falling apart. A sneaky quiet walker manages to lunge for Kelly, prompting the group to realize that walkers are all around them. Yumiko, Manga and Connie all agree that they need to return to the Hilltop, but Kelly simply cannot go back. She tearfully explains that when things went bad in Coalport, the group was separated, but Luke found her. This is absolutely understandable that she would want to keep looking, but things get dangerous when Connie sends Magna and Yumiko back and states that she will stay with her sister. She assures her two friends that she and Kelly will be okay…but that is a risk that none of them should be willing to take right now. When two people are missing, why would you allow two more people to stay by themselves in clearly hostile territory?
Back at the Hilltop, Daryl’s finishes his chat with Lydia and comes to the conclusion that she is a broken girl. Henry had been sitting outside listening to the conversation and starts asking a million questions when Daryl clearly just wants to go to bed. There is some fantastic backstory provided via Henry as he explains that Carol used to have long hair when she was with Ed, but she cut it because he would grab onto it and throw her across the room. Now, all these years later, she finally feels safe enough to have long hair again; Ezekiel is the person she always deserved to be with, because now she gets to be the queen she is. Henry attests to the fact that Lydia is not a bad person, and that she’s just messed up and scared. Later, he goes and visits her in the cell and they get their first actual look at one another. Strangely, Henry admits to liking Lydia…even though he’s literally only known her for a day or so. In the most infuriating action taken during the episode, Henry actually releases Lydia to give her a tour of the Hilltop. The two exit the cellar and hide from the guards between the trailers. Being that she’s lived out in the world for so long and learned survival skills, Lydia picks a worm out of the dirt and eats it before offering one to Henry; this is something that’s absolutely foreign to him, but he does it regardless. In yet another naive move, Henry starts pointing out key areas of the Hilltop, including the medical trailer; he even names Enid and states that she is the community doctor. In yet another amateur move, Henry has his back turned to Lydia while revealing key information. This allows her to pick up a hammer, but the sound of a baby crying triggers her horrific memories and she has a panic attack. Thankfully, nothing bad came of this little excursion as Lydia asks to be locked back up, but it still was totally irresponsible of Henry to do this. Daryl was watching as usual, but even he wouldn’t have been able to save Henry if Lydia really wanted to whack him over the head. Henry locks Lydia up and per her request, stays with her overnight. The two hold hands under the cell and it becomes totally clear that Henry is madly in love with this girl he literally just met.
When morning comes, Daryl arrives with food and finds Henry still outside of the cell. Lydia straight up tells them both that her people aren’t coming for her and that the group’s policy is to just leave their own behind when they’re injured or captured. She also reveals the existence of a temporary camp near the bridge. This builds up to Lydia coming to realize the truth of her past. Flashbacks sprinkled throughout the episode show the onset of the outbreak, but Lydia is an unreliable narrator and therefore the actual events are intermixed with lies her mother has been telling her. Set somewhere in or near Baltimore, a young Lydia (Scarlett Blum) is sheltered in a basement with her mother and father Frank (Steve Kazee) on day 23 of the global apocalypse. In these memories, Frank is erratic and panics in front of Lydia while her mother tries to comfort her. Other survivors in the basement listen to the Emergency Broadcast System, but quickly realize that help probably isn’t coming and propose leaving. On day 43 of the apocalypse, a survivor begins to panic and tries to break open a window, but Alpha throws him to the ground and suffocates him. Frank holds Lydia and comforts her, shocked by the drastic actions of his wife. In the next flashback, Alpha is bald and discusses the fact that the body of the man she killed needs to be disposed of. Frank comforts Lydia as Alpha creepily watches. In the middle of the night, Lydia awakens and stumbles upon the dead body. Suddenly, he reanimates and attacks, but Frank intervenes and has his throat ripped out. This is the memory Lydia has been living with; thinking that she is partially responsible for her father’s death. The real events finally come to her and she remembers the walker attacking someone else, causing chaos that prompts Alpha to hatch an escape. Frank doesn’t want to leave and stands up to Alpha, but the mad mother isn’t willing to lose her child and decides to kill her husband. In this moment, Lydia, Daryl and Henry all realize the sick mind game Alpha has been playing with her own daughter to keep her in line. The truth is finally out and things are about to change.
The final moments of the episode are downright terrifying. Henry and Daryl exit the cellar and discuss the fact that some people just aren’t meant to be parents. There’s a touching moment where Henry expresses his gratitude that Daryl and his mom are best friends. Outside the walls, Magna and Yumiko return and spot Tara on the lookout post at the gate. Yumiko speaks with Tara and personally apologizes as guards outside walk Kelly and Connie back to the community. Tara was aware that the group snuck out so she sent guards after them. This is another instance of Tara’s leadership shining as she makes it clear that she wants to hear feedback from her people and that not all of her decisions will be 100% right necessarily. Tara just doesn’t want anyone else to die, and Magna’s group are included in that. There’s a moment of panic as Yumiko spots something suspicious from afar. A large collection of Whisperers are approaching the community. For some reason, Connie is several yards back and must dive into the cornfields to hide as Kelly panics and is dragged into the walls by the guards. Tara alerts the guards and Daryl, and puts the Hilltop on high alert as the creepy collection of enemies march forward. The camera focuses in on a ouroboros belt buckle before turning and showing the back of a bald woman’s body as she marches through her soldiers up to the outer gate of the Hilltop. We see her face, dirtied and almost unrecognizable from the flashbacks. The two parties stare at one another before the woman opens her mouth and declares “I am Alpha,” in a frightening southern accent. Alpha wants just one thing: her daughter. This is our first look at current day Alpha without her walker skin. The fact that she is showing herself sans the Whisperer get up says a lot. She means business.
The good in “Omega”
- The parallels between Daryl and Lydia are really excellent. It’s comforting to know that the writers haven’t forgotten about such a crucial part of Daryl’s backstory that made him into the person he is today.
- Daryl’s lighter side coming to the surface as he realizes that taking a hard edge with Lydia is not going to work. He understands her, because he was once her. This is the start of what should be a great relationship.
- Henry’s attempts to make up for his mistakes by citing Carol and her past, as well as her friendship with Daryl.
- The backstory of Alpha and Lydia presented in a jumbled way so as to accurately showcase the horrific manipulation that a daughter has experienced from her own mother. Flashbacks on this show are typically clear, but this is a unique case of both the character and the viewer not knowing the whole truth and being fooled by an unreliable narrator.
- Additionally, the flashbacks help to paint Alpha as a total villain that we shouldn’t have sympathy for. In the same regard, Lydia is shown to be a victim in this scenario.
- Tara’s demonstration of her leadership shows just how much her character has developed since being introduced in Season 4, but also just from her reckless antics against Dwight last season. She’s really a formidable who should be able to lead the Hilltop through this conflict.
- Magna’s group showing their absolutely willingness to risk it all in the name of saving their friend. That right there is some genuine loyalty.
- The creepy factor. The Whisperers and Alpha are some of the scariest things ever shown in this series.
The iffy in “Omega”
- Alpha and Lydia receiving backstory in the form of flashbacks when so many characters haven’t is a little odd. Negan has been in the story for years now, yet we only received snippets of his life prior to the Saviors. There’s also plenty of long-running main characters who have and will likely never be given backstory. Still, it was important for us to see Alpha and Lydia prior to the Whisperers.
- Characters missing. It is very much apparent in episodes such as this that certain characters are not shown because that would require paying the actors. The fact that Alden and Luke aren’t shown is understandable, but is a noticeable result of this. Enid should have been shown even if only briefly. Additionally, while we are seeing the Kingdom next week, it is downright ridiculous that they are being kept totally out of the loop once again. Carol being separated from everyone is lame.
- Magna’s group back-tracking and wanting to return to the Hilltop immediately after sneaking out feels extremely contrived. That being said, it would make sense for them to not think totally clearly in this situation.
The bad in “Omega”
- Henry should not be this blatantly naive and reckless over someone he just met. It is in line with his character to be direct and careless at times, but some of his actions this episode are laughably ridiculous. From him giving up identifiable information about the communities to him releasing Lydia and touring her around the Hilltop, it’s really hard to believe Carol’s child would act this stupid. At this point, Henry is being treated more as a plot device to force things to happen rather than an actual character…and that’s a huge problem.
- Connie and Kelly hanging out in the woods AT NIGHT when they clearly understand that they are in danger. Again, this can be chalked up to them not being in a great mindset, but this particular moment isn’t great.
- Connie going on a leisurely stroll several yard behind Kelly and the guards while returning to the Hilltop. It is painfully clear that the plot calls for Connie to be trapped outside during this first interaction with Alpha…so they manufactured a way for her to get stuck.
Top performances in “Omega
- Cassady McClincy as Lydia
- Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon
- Samantha Morton as Alpha
- Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler
- Angel Theory as Kelly
- Matt Lintz as Henry
Lingering thoughts and predictions
- Transmission from the Emergency Broadcast System in the flashbacks revealed that the Army secured downtown Baltimore. It is unknown if that city was bombed as part of Operation Cobalt, which was explained in Season 1 of “Fear the Walking Dead” as the military effort to contain the outbreak. Los Angeles was firebombed fairly early into the apocalypse, but it is entirely possible that Baltimore may still be standing. It’s worth noting that Washington D.C. seems to have not been bombed, as seen in the Season 9 Premiere.
- Young Lydia’s mention of Halloween may provide further clues as to when exactly the global apocalypse began. Small hints from both series place the theorized start of the apocalypse to either August or September 2010. This series of flashbacks helps with world-building and expanding the lore of the Universe.
- Hopefully, Daryl opens up to Lydia more about the abuse he suffered. This could allow them to connect more and could provide some additional backstory for Daryl, while also allowing him to make reference to Merle and his family.
- The current standoff between the Hilltop and the Whisperers is reminiscent to that between the Prison and The Governor, regarding Michonne. Rick really considered turning Michonne over…and thankfully he didn’t.
- The circumstances surrounding the fall of Coalport and Magna’s group escaping could make for a really interesting series of flashbacks.
- Luke and Alden being held hostage parallels the final showdown between the Prison and The Governor when he captured Michonne and Hershel.
- Alpha and Frank sing the song “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” to young Lydia in the flashbacks. Fans of “Breaking Bad” will recognize this song from the series finale.
“Omega” is a solid episode even if it does have a handful of problems. Most of these problems relate to the recurring issue of characters making unbelievably dumb decisions that serve to move the plot forward. Still, the horror aspect as well as the flashbacks and handling of the new characters really serves to make this yet another worthy chapter in an amazing season. Just when we thought we had found peace, the living started walking with the dead.
Be sure to tune into “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.