Ah crap, annoying Henry is back on The Walking Dead this week. Even beheading the twerp isn’t enough to make him shut his damn, whiny mouth.
To be fair to the show, Henry’s appearance is part of a dream/hallucination sequence. It’s not like somebody stitched his zombie head back onto his body to keep him around for a while. Even so, I really thought we were rid of him for good.
Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are the primary themes this week. On a seemingly quiet morning, a smattering of Walkers head toward Alexandria. Once dispatched, they’re followed by another wave, and then another, and then another, and then another. The Alexandrians fight non-stop for nearly 50 hours to protect their town, and see two more big herds lumbering their way from opposite directions, each a couple hours out. When a messenger from the Whisperers arrives to call for a meeting with Michonne, everyone assumes that Alpha must be behind this attack, but the messenger denies it and Lydia doesn’t think the strategy fits her mother’s M.O.
After debating it for a while, Michonne, Carol, and Daryl lead a small group to the border where they had previously found their friends’ and loved ones’ heads on pikes. They follow instructions to put down their weapons, but Carol keeps a handgun tucked in the back of her pants. Alpha arrives and chastises them for crossing into her territory. She’s unsympathetic to their excuse about putting out the forest fire (“We have no conflict with nature,” she claims) and knows that they had also crossed twice before. The Whisperers are always watching.
Alpha insists that they must be punished, but rather than bloodshed, she proclaims that she’s setting a new border and taking some of Alexandria’s hunting ground. When she taunts Carol about Henry’s death, Carol pulls her gun, but Daryl and Michonne wrestle it out of her hand. Alpha says that she understands a mother’s rage and will forgive her this time. Carol doesn’t want her sympathy. After leaving, Michonne tries to give her a talking-to about maintaining peace, but Carol gripes, “The bitch has to die.”
In the woods on the way home, Carol spots three Whisperers watching them. She takes a couple shots and chases after them, but the Whisperers are gone before anyone else catches up or sees them. Daryl learns that Carol has been taking amphetamines to stay awake because she’s afraid to sleep. Michonne begins to doubt whether there really were any Whisperers in the woods at all. Even Daryl questions what Carol says she saw.
The group take shelter for the night in an abandoned school. Carol hallucinates seeing her own face (as well as dead kids Henry, Sophia, Lizzie, Mika, and Sam) on the cover of a Home Economics textbook. Later, she sees and hears Henry beckoning her from a classroom. Drifting in and out of consciousness, she has a conversation with Daryl about his childhood that he later denies talking to her about.
In this sleep-deprived haze, Carol spots a Whisperer woman in the school and chases her to the gym, where she gets caught in a trap and winds up hanging from a rope by her feet as Walkers close in on her. She fires off a couple shots from her gun and fights frantically until she’s able to cut herself down, injuring her arm in the fall. By the time her friends get to her, Carol has killed all the Walkers, but there’s no sign of any Whisperer.
Daryl and Michonne bring Carol back to Alexandria for Siddiq and the new douchebag doctor to stitch up her arm (mostly the new guy, since Siddiq continues to suffer debilitating PTSD). Passed out from exhaustion, she has a dream about living in idyllic domesticity with Daryl and Henry.
Meanwhile, a trail of blood from the school gymnasium leads to a Whisperer dying on the ground outside. Carol was right after all. Some Whisperers had followed them across the border.
While all that is going on, Gabriel is left in charge of the defense at Alexandria. He orders Aaron to take Negan out with him on Walker killing duty. Aaron is not pleased about this at all and refuses to let Negan carry anything more deadly than a broomstick. They squabble about whether Negan is really rehabilitated or can be trusted.
Aaron has a really cool battle mace attachment to his prosthetic arm that lets him punch right through zombie skulls. Nevertheless, he gets attacked by a zombie covered in toxic hogweed and loses most of his sense of vision. He stumbles around half-blind, and Negan appears to have abandoned him. Aaron makes his way to a shack in the woods, unaware that Negan is sitting quietly in the shadows. When Aaron makes enough of a commotion to attract more zombies, Negan saves him and stands guard over him for the night until his vision returns in the morning. Aaron bristles at the idea of relying on Negan for anything.
Back to the Friendzone
At Alexandria, an exhausted Rosita snaps at Eugene and shuts down any fantasies he might have had about the possibility of her ever falling in love with him. He’s crushed.
Setting aside my misgivings about the return of Henry, this is a pretty strong episode. The exhaustion conceit is an effective tool for generating suspense. The character work is also mostly good, though Carol’s hallucinations are kind of a hackneyed plot twist device. I’m interested to find out what’s really behind the influx of Walkers, if the Whisperers really aren’t responsible. (Eugene theorizes that the satellite crash may have drawn them, but everyone else prefers to blame Alpha.)
I had some misgivings about last week’s episode, but in general the season has gotten off to a surprisingly decent start for a series that’s been on the air for nine years. Whether this small amount of momentum can hold up remains to be seen, of course.