Herrings don’t get much redder than this. In Sunday’s action-packed episode of The Walking Dead, Alpha led a herd toward Alexandria — but not to attack it so much as to draw away the community’s fighters, thus allowing Beta to sneak in through a tunnel beneath Dante’s grave, go on a killing spree and create a whole new herd within the community’s walls. Brilliant, right? Read on, and I’ll reveal not only whether Alpha’s second-in-command made Rosita’s nightmares about her death come true but also who came out on top when Daryl and the Whisperers’ leader went mano a mano.
‘NO TORTURE, NO GAMES, NO SECOND CHANCES’ | As “Stalker” began, Rosita awakened from another nightmare, this one about Beta being poised to Ginsu Coco. That being the case, the new mom was grateful for the distraction provided by Gamma’s arrival at the gate with news of her friends’ predicament (dealt with, you’ll recall, in “Squeeze”). Though she and Gabriel were skeptical of the Whisperers’ motives — “Baby Adam is your nephew? Suuure, he is!” — the preacher took her up on her offer to show them the horde’s new location on a map. At that point, Rosita slugged the girl, called her a liar and had her thrown in the cell. There, the couple sorta menaced Gamma until she revealed that she’d killed her sister for Alpha. “She didn’t even have to ask,” Gamma marveled. At last, Gabriel really believed her and set about organizing two rescue parties to go after Daryl, Carol & Co. When Rosita, Scott and Laura seemed hesitant, he assured them that they needn’t be afraid. “If we can break [Gamma], we can break others” — by pulling teeth, cutting off fingers, any means necessary.
Privately, Rosita expressed her fear that Gabriel was so aggressively “itching for a fight” that Coco was going to end up missing her father figure as well as her daddy. Meanwhile, through the prison window, Judith introduced herself to Gamma — sorry, Mary — and learned as much of her story as the former Whisperer could remember. Post-apocalypse, she and her ill-fated sister had needed someone to make better decisions for them than they were making themselves. Then they’d met Alpha. “You met the wrong person first,” said an empathetic Judith. If Mary had met Rick or Michonne instead of Alpha, she wouldn’t be in that cell. Outside, as the rescue parties prepared to set off, Gabriel learned via walkie-talkie that a herd was headed for Alexandria. New plan, he decided: Rosita and Laura would guard the gate with a skeleton crew, while he and everyone else broke up the herd, then moved on to help their friends at the cave. (Did anyone else think he was a goner when he left Rosita with his hat?)
‘YOU WERE DEAD THE MOMENT YOU CAME TO US’ | While all that was going on, Daryl, hoping to find another entrance to the cave in order to rescue Connie and Magna, spied on the Whisperers. Upon seeing Alpha lead a herd away, he followed and ultimately got into an especially bloody fight with the Whisperers’ leader. (It was so bloody, in fact, that at times shots from Daryl’s POV were red-tinted.) Before a commercial break, things looked bleak for our hero: His vision was scarlet-hued, he had a knife stuck deeply in his leg, and he was surrounded by walkers. But when we rejoined the action, he’d somehow managed to go into hiding at a gas station. (Why there are so many gas stations in the middle of nowhere, I’ve never quite understood.) Alpha, also significantly worse for wear, hobbled after him, then banged on a wall to draw walkers. By the hardest, Daryl took out all the three, the last of ’em with the knife that he yanked out of his own leg.
As night fell, Beta rose from the Dante’s grave and slaughtered enough unsuspecting Alexandrians to form a mini-herd. (A herdlet?) As the community descended into chaos, he went to Gamma’s cell and ordered her out. But she was no longer afraid of Mr. B. Before he could kill her on the spot rather than follow orders and deliver her to Alpha, Laura appeared and put a spear to his throat. After sending Gamma to get help, Laura was, of course, promptly dispatched by Beta. (What a long background journey the former Savior had managed to have!) Called inside to safety by Judith, Gamma hid with the little girl and RJ. And when the bogeyman began to turn the knob on the bedroom door in which they were shaking, Lil’ Ass-Kicker shot him in the chest! Judith and RJ then fled from the house, but Gamma wasn’t so lucky. Beta, who’d been wearing a bulletproof vest, grabbed her as she tried to run past his body. Then Rosita showed up, stared her nightmare in the mask and appeared to be about to orphan Coco when Gamma returned in the nick of time. Putting a knife to her own throat, Mary reminded Beta that Alpha wanted her alive, and used that leverage to get him to leave Alexandria — and leave Rosita with a pulse!
‘I’M TINGLING WITH JOY’ | En route back to the Whisperers’ camp, Beta and Gamma came upon Gabriel and his posse, who by then had figured out that Alexandria wasn’t in any danger from a herd. Beta escaped into the night, and Gamma miraculously convinced the preacher to believe that she’d helped put an end to the big guy’s rampage. Meanwhile, back at the gas station, blood loss made Alpha loopy. Daryl, on the other hand, remained sharp, provoking her by pointing out that she’d driven Lydia away “because you didn’t love her.” Alpha had a big, almost-funny reaction that. “What did you say?!?” They’d have been fightin’ words if they hadn’t already fought. She crawled toward her nemesis, then collapsed and saw Lydia. Was the girl really there or a vision? At that point, it was unclear. Nonetheless, Mom played some more mind games with her, telling her, “I am you, and you are me,” and the Whisperers were waiting for Lydia to lead them. But Lydia wouldn’t put a knife in Alpha’s chest. She hadn’t come for her mother or the Whisperers, she’d come for Daryl and his friends. “They’re human,” Lydia said. “Not perfect, just human. That’s all I ever wanted. It’s what you never gave me.”
The following morning, it became obvious that Lydia hadn’t been a vision. Daryl was gone, and a message to Alpha had been carved out: “Your way is not the only way.” Later, Alpha was found by some Whisperers, battier than ever. Though “stronger than ever” was how she put it. Then, delighted by the prospect of bathing in her enemies’ blood, she recited the Whisperers’ mantra. Elsewhere, Aaron made it back to Alexandria from the cave (the survivors had gotten separated, he said); Rosita left Coco with Gabriel while she headed to Hilltop to have her Beta-inflicted wounds tended to; and she and Mary seemed to start over with a clean slate. In the woods, Daryl awakened with a start and was surprised to learn from Lydia that he’d slept through most of the day. How had she found him? She’d just been out there, she said. Watching him and the others, watching the Whisperers… deciding. Methinks she made the right decision. But she hadn’t killed her mother, she had to admit. “If it was your father,” she asked Daryl, “could you’ve?”
So, what did you think of “Stalker” and its battles royale? Hit the comments with your reviews.