In contrast to its typically sluggish pace, The Walking Dead has a pretty eventful week this time out. The latest episode juggles three major storylines, and interesting things happen in at least two of them.
Sadly, in an almost unforgiveable failing, the episode neglects to take advantage of a perfect opportunity to kill off annoying Henry. I hope the eventual payoff to his character arc (i.e. a really horrific death) is worth the protracted wait to get to it.
Having rescued Henry from the Whisperers, and grudgingly bringing Lydia along with them, Daryl tries to kick the girl out of their little group. He relents when Henry whines about it. Daryl also gets pissy when Connie takes charge and leads them in a different direction than he wanted to go.
Back at the Whisperer camp, a man who was bitten during the Walker attack expresses his wish to be allowed to turn into a zombie so that he can still be useful to the group. The imposing Beta (Ryan Hurst from Sons of Anarchy and Bates Motel) vows to get Lydia back.
Connie leads Daryl, Henry, and Lydia to an abandoned building that was still under construction when the apocalypse hit. If they climb to the upper floors, they’ll hold higher ground and will force the Whisperers to separate from the real Walkers (which can’t climb stairs). It turns out that Connie knows this building very well. She and her friends had stayed there for a while, and she left behind a stash of food and supplies hidden under a floor panel. The building is also pretty well fortified. With Daryl’s help, they set a trap to lead the Whisperers into a choke point.
Daryl and Connie also argue about what will become of Lydia after this altercation. Daryl still wants rid of the girl, but Connie wants her to stay with them.
Henry gives Lydia a spear, but she says that she doesn’t want to kill any of her own people. She points out something that’s obvious to everyone else – that Henry rescuing her was a very stupid decision. Nevertheless, she kisses him until interrupted by Daryl. Recognizing her uselessness in this fight, Daryl locks Lydia in a room with Dog to protect her.
Before long, a herd of Walkers and Whisperers converge on the building. Daryl fires an arrow that takes out the zombified guy from earlier. Beta’s kind of annoyed by that. The herd breaks into the building and is funneled toward a passageway that’s insufficiently barricaded. Beta recognizes the trap and takes his Whisperers up a different staircase, which forces them to leave the real Walkers behind in the lobby.
Daryl and Connie pick off Whisperers as they make their way upstairs, but it’s a difficult battle. Henry tries to fight too, but almost immediately gets injured in a leg and is almost killed until Lydia breaks out of her room and Dog races in to save the dipshit.
The formidable Beta smashes through a wall to attack Daryl. The two have a pretty brutal knife fight, which Beta very nearly wins. Daryl escapes his grasp and hides in the cubby hole where Connie stashed her supplies. Beta walks right past him, believing him to be hiding behind some plastic curtains. This gives Daryl an opening to charge him and shove him down an open elevator shaft.
While the Kingdom readies itself for the upcoming fair, Jerry and Dianne inform King Ezekiel that they were accosted on the road by a new group called the Highwaymen, who demanded payment of a toll for use of the road. These are apparently the people behind the spray-painted symbol we saw in a previous episode. Their presence and activities may threaten the success of the fair if nobody can get to it. Ezekiel wonders if this could be the work of Jed and his band of renegade Saviors, unaware that Carol murdered them a while back.
Expecting war, Ezekiel goes to check out the situation with Carol, Dianne, and Jerry. They scope out the Highwaymen compound and see a bunch of people with guns. Knowing that it couldn’t be Jed or his Savior friends, Carol suggests maybe trying to talk to these people first and negotiate. Ezekiel is skeptical.
Carol arranges a meeting between herself, Ezekiel and Jerry with the leader of the highwaymen, a big guy dressed like a cowboy. His name is Ozzy (Angus Sampson, recently seen in Syfy’s Nightflyers), and of course the meeting turns out to be a trap. However, Ezekiel and Carol anticipated this and set a double-trap of their own.
Ezekiel tries to make peace by offering these Highwaymen a job. If they will agree to keep the roads the Kingdom safe, he’ll allow them access to the trade fair. Ozzy scoffs at such a pathetic offer, until Carol asks how long it’s been since any of them has seen a movie. Suddenly, everyone is interested.
Middle of the Road
En route to the Kingdom fair, Tara and her delegation from Alexandria are stopped by a fallen tree in the road. While working to clear that, a herd of Walkers approaches. Fortunately, it’s just zombies, with no Whisperers mixed in.
In the ensuring commotion, Earl the blacksmith is hurt (not seriously) and his wife Tammy Rose (Brett Butler) struggles to protect the Whisperer baby they’re caring for. They were bringing the child to the fair hoping to find a younger couple to adopt it.
Just before the situation gets out of hand, a cavalry arrives on horses and motorcycles to save the day. It’s the Highwaymen. Ozzy introduces himself as their escort to the fair.
The Kingdom’s fair gets underway, and the Highwaymen happily attend. Despite both being ancient, Tammy and Earl decide to keep the Whisperer baby and raise it themselves for the year or two before they both die of old age and/or cirrhosis. Carol and Tara worry about what could have happened to Daryl and Henry.
Daryl tells Henry that they’ll head to Alexandria to get him some medical attention for his leg, but they can’t stay long. So long as Lydia is still with them, they won’t be safe anywhere they go, and can’t risk drawing Alpha directly to their friends.
Presumed dead at the bottom of the elevator shaft, Beta landed on top of the elevator car a couple stories down, missing some teeth but still alive and very pissed.
The failure to kill Henry is a major bummer, but this episode is surprisingly good otherwise. The battle at the abandoned building is very tense, especially the fight between Daryl and Beta. Beta surviving his fall is kind of a copout, but I’ll forgive it because he’s a compelling villain.
Connie is turning out to be a more interesting character than she seemed at first, and she has some really good chemistry with Daryl. I also like that the Highwaymen turn out to be friendly rather than just yet another antagonist group. That’s a nice surprise.
Still… Henry. The kid’s simply gotta go soon.