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The Walking Dead 10.02 Review – ‘We Are the End of the World’

October 14, 2019 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
The Walking Dead - We Are the End of the World
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The Walking Dead 10.02 Review – ‘We Are the End of the World’  

This week on The Walking Dead, everything is super disturbing whether it’s in the present or the past! But that really is par for the course with the Whisperers, isn’t it?

The plot: This week, we split our attention between when Alpha met Beta seven years ago, and some events from the Whisperers end of things leading up to the moment of the Alpha-Carol staredown from the end of the last week. In the past, Alpha and a young Lydia seek refuge in what turns out to be an abandoned mental institution, and there they meet Beta. He reluctantly lets them stay for a night, and over the course of that night, he and Alpha bond over killing walkers and the sweet lullaby that is walkers growling. Lydia faces her fear of the undead, and the world, embracing being one of the monsters, and even eventually playing a role in recruiting Beta by telling him that Alpha is trying to save him by inviting him to join them. It turns out he’s been living here with the corpse of his best friend, and refuses to leave him behind. Alpha says he doesn’t have to, and thus we find out that Beta’s mask is his former friend’s face. In the present, Alpha has been lying to the pack and telling all of them, Beta included. Much of the story focuses on two sisters, however: one who will become known as Gamma, and her sister, the mother of the baby boy who was left out to die but saved by Connie last season. The sister is having trouble getting right after leaving her child, knowing he’s in a better place, missing him, wanting to be with him again, and so forth. Her sister is far more ruthless and tells her to get her shit together. It seems she will after Alpha shows her mercy and even sympathy once, but when the sister fully snaps and tries to kill Alpha, Gamma literally throws her to the walkers to save her leader. She is thus dubbed Gamma as a reward. Beta has spent much of this time questioning Alpha’s choices, and eventually discovers her at a secret ‘refuge’ she left for Lydia, including her old plush bunny, and figures out Lydia is still alive. Alpha snaps, destroying it, and says the pack can never Lydia is dead. He promises they won’t, and together they chant a chilling mantra that seems to get her back on track. And, in the end, we see her see Carol, and we know there’ll be hell to pay soon.

I’ll say it upfront, this episode was kind of amazing. The origin of Alpha and Beta, the origin of the face-wearing, the complex matter of abandoning one’s child and what that does to you, how Alpha deals with this, how Beta deals with her, it’s all twisted and terrifying and fascinating. There’s really no question after this episode that this is 100% a cult. It’s not just an insane length that people have gone to in order to survive, it’s a way of life, with mantras and rules and it expects absolutely loyalty from its members. And, naturally, a certain amount of hypocrisy from its leadership.

There’s a lot going on in here, but let’s talk about the love story of Alpha and Beta. Both Alpha and Beta are seeking something else, something more than just surviving in the held back way that they’ve both found so far. Alpha has Lydia, yes, but we well know that there are and always have been stark differences between them, even if there is also genuine (twisted and abusive) love. Beta, meanwhile, has holed up in this hospital with the walker of his former best friend, whom he also loves in his way and who, like Alpha with Lydia, he cannot bear to leave behind. But in meeting one another, in bonding over blood and killing, they find in one another someone else who feels more at home and more like they belong among the dead than they ever did among the living. Someone who understands them, someone who is like them in a way their beloved companions never can. When Alpha encourages Beta by adopting his line, “I am the end of the world” to “We are the end of the world,” it cements their connection, and allows her to show him a way to bring the friend he loves with him, forever. It’s so incredibly messed up, but the way the script and the acting play out these scenes in the past, you can absolutely see how it works, how it makes sense. How it’s beautiful in it’s own screwed up way. The pacing of that scene and how it was intercut with Beta playing that role for Alpha in the present day also really drove it home how much of a partnership this relationship is.

But it also brings out a marked difference in these two breakdown points for the two of them. Because Beta’s friend was not his child and was already dead, leaving him no choice but to move on. Alpha, on the other hand, has to let Lydia go and is finding that a whole lot harder than she expected. It’s not entirely surprising to the viewer, or maybe even to Beta, because we’ve seen throughout last season and again in this episode how tightly she clings to Lydia, even though she’s abusive in her expression of her love. By Alpha’s own definition, that love is a weakness. While she claims to feel nothing, she’s lying. To herself, to Beta, and to the pack. She does feel love, and she hates it. She strives to hide it, compartmentalize it, basically she’s trying to do everything she can to get rid of it, but she can’t let go of her love for her daughter. Her reaction to this is what makes her different from the heroes, of course, who would never see this as a weakness or something to be rid of. But it’s her breakdown when she destroys the ‘nest’ of sorts she built for Lydia, where she kept the bunny, that I find most fascinating. She’s repeatedly been derisive and even insulting to her daughter about not being like her, not being strong or hardhearted enough, but when she breaks down and starts screaming that Lydia is not and never has been like her, that changes. It doesn’t sound like she’s treating this an insult to Lydia, but to herself. For once, for one moment, it sounds like Alpha knows Lydia is nothing like her, and that’s a good thing. And yet, even that admission, that truth, is something Alpha can’t stand.

So much of this really comes down to Samantha Morton’s acting and execution of Alpha. She plays the dichotomy of Alpha, and her quiet menace, so incredibly well. It’s a tall order, this is not an easy character to write or portray, but she does a simply amazing job with it. The best casting choice since Negan, hands down!

And what does Beta think of this? It’s hard to say. He’s upset when he learns the truth about Lydia, but he doesn’t seem all that shocked, or even angry. Like maybe he hoped and expected better, but isn’t shocked to find this out. He’s not mad, just disappointed, you know? He’s also obviously still devoted to Alpha. He wants to get her back on track more than anything. He’ll also keep her secrets, and without any sense of duplicity or wanting something in return. I’m not sure there’s anything that could shake his devotion to her, honestly. But that does not look like it will hold true for the rest of the pack if they were to find out the truth about Lydia; and some of them are already tempted by the lifestyle they saw the heroes had as it is.

Gamma’s sister, in the end, is something of a test case, a warning shot to Alpha. She tried to show mercy, to bring her back to being committed to the pack, but when that woman realized that Alpha didn’t just expect total loyalty but had, in fact, manipulated the situation such that she would be forced to give up her baby, she snaps. And that was without even knowing that Lydia yet lives. Proof that Lydia lives would be a breaking point for many, no doubt, but it’s not the only loose thread in Alpha’s otherwise tight grip on her pack. Sticking to the one territory near the other communities is not going to turn out to have been one of Alpha’s better decisions. And it is, of course, all because she can neither let Lydia go nor her need for her lifestyle with the pack go.

But seriously, the origin of Alpha & Beta, the beginning of the Whisperers, the showcasing of Alpha’s continuing breakdown and inability to either let go of her daughter or of her control over both her daughter and her pack, Beta’s unique position as both her devotee and secret keeper…this show has had many memorable villains, and after 10 seasons it’s hard to keep coming up with new things, but they’re still cranking it out and doing it well.

Other thoughts:
– Much is made of never seeing Beta’s face in full, which I kind of love. But I’m very curious to know if we ever will! (I know what comes of this in the comics, but I’ve got no idea if it’ll be the same here)
– They are really setting up a Carol vs. Alpha showdown with how they re-emphasize that moment they see one another, and I, for one, can’t wait. I don’t think Carol’s ever actually been the one to take down a Big Bad of this show, despite how badass she is!
– “We walk in darkness. We are free. We bathe in blood. We are free. We love nothing. We are free. We fear nothing. We are free. We need no words. We are free. We embrace all death. We are free. This is the end of the world. Now is the end of the world. We are the end of the world.” Well, THAT’S terrifying.
– Gamma is played by Thora Birch! Cool!

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
This was just a fantastic episode. Writing, acting, the pacing of flashbacks and present day, the casting of new roles and showing off how good the previously cast roles are--it's just solid all around and I love it. Despite how absolutely messed up it is, or maybe because of that? In any case, amazing episode. The only thing I can say against it is that we really didn't have any of the hallmark TWD action set pieces, though it didn't feel lacking for it.