The Walking Dead Recap: Head Games — Plus, All Hail the New Alpha

Gone but not forgotten, The Walking Dead’s Alpha once again reared her ugly head in Sunday’s episode, in so doing changing the course of Carol’s future, Beta’s… in a way, everybody’s. Read on, and I’ll explain how.

‘WALK ME THROUGH THOSE GATES SO I CAN OPEN UP A NEW CHAPTER IN THE BOOK OF NEGAN’ | As the ominously-titled “Look at the Flowers” began, we flashed back to Carol making a deal with Negan: If he brought her the head of her son’s killer, and fast, she’d make sure that he was forgiven for the accidental death of Lydia’s attacker back in Episode 4. In the present, though as we well know he’d produced the chopped-off block that Carol had requested, she was dissatisfied with the speed with which he had accomplished his task. He’d had to earn the villainess’ trust, he argued. “That s— takes time.” Well, he could do what he wanted as far as Carol was concerned, but she wasn’t going to help his rebranding efforts in Alexandria. Not just then, anyway. “I need to be alone,” she said, “and s— like that takes time.” (Oh, Carol, it takes a lot to make me empathize more with Negan than you, but you’re doing it, lady. You are doing it.)

Shortly thereafter, Beta and two Whisperers discovered Alpha’s head in Carol’s trophy case on a pike. “You,” gasped a Whisperer to whom we will give the super creative name Whisperer No. 1. “You are the Alpha now.” Oo, Beta did not like that. Mm-mm. No, he had the fellow remove his mask, then forced him to get close enough to Alpha’s reanimated noggin for her to bite his ear off. “Can you hear her?” asked Beta while Whisperer No. 2 took a sudden interest in cross-country running. (How Mr. B refrained from making a “Can ya hear her now?” joke, I’ll never understand.) Anyway, Beta packed up Alpha’s head as carefully as one would their favorite baby doll and walked Whisperer No. 1 into a small town, where he let walkers finish what the boss lady had begun. Beta then headed to what appeared to be his old stomping grounds: the back room of a bar, where there was a guitar, a poster for Half Moon — the legendary singer that he used to be — and a snippet of a lyric written on Grand Hotel stationery (“These 2 eyes see 1 truth”). Once he’d trashed the place — what, could there be a more rock-’n’-roll way to grieve? — he tore off part of his mask and cranked one of his albums to draw a crowd of guardians outside. The following morning, he thanked Alpha’s head for putting an idea in his, ended its argh’ing and began leading his new horde toward, presumably, Alexandria. Oh, and he’d fixed the rip in his mask… by adding a piece of Alpha’s face to it. (And they say romance is dead.)

‘PLEASE TELL ME WE AREN’T REALLY ON A JOURNEY TO FIND CHOCOLATE BUNNIES’ | Meanwhile, at the safe house, Ezekiel beat himself up for failing the kids during the Hilltop fire. They were all fine, but it didn’t matter to him. “These days,” he sighed, “the mistakes seem to stick harder than the triumphs.” When Magna arrived, alive and well-ish, she and Jerry enjoyed a warm reunion; apparently, being trapped in a cave with a bunch of walkers really bonds virtual strangers. With Rosita’s encouragement, Eugene announced that he’d been in communication with someone outside their group — someone that he was scheduled to meet. Immediately, suspicious eyes turned toward him. How did they know this individual wasn’t a spy like Dante had been? Before things got heated, Ezekiel spoke up, throwing what was left of his kingly weight around to say that he trusted Eugene’s judgment. For his part, Eugene added that, after all that they’d just lost, if believing he might’ve made a new friend made him a fool, that was a role he was willing to play.

So, off the smitten smarty-pants prepared to go with Ezekiel and Yumiko (who clearly hadn’t, as I’d mistakenly thought, broken up with Magna). In an especially sweet scene, Jerry said goodbye to his “boss” as if all too aware that it might be the last time they saw each other. “The Kingdom needs you,” Ezekiel told his dear friend. “Make sure our legacy lives on.” Good advice, seeing as it didn’t seem like Ezekiel had much longer. On the road, he soon realized anew that he was hardly in fighting shape. And when his horse keeled over, it occurred to him: “He wasn’t strong enough to make the journey. Maybe I’m not, either.” (I’ll go ahead and say it for the horse: Ya couldn’t have thought of that before you rode me to death?!?) Rather than let Ezekiel turn back, Yumiko insisted that they were on their trip “to find out what’s possible, what none of us can predict… or imagine.” Hmm, like maybe proper medical care for Ezekiel? We can but hope. In the meantime, the group rode on and eventually entered a big metropolis. Everywhere they looked, it seemed like they found walkers, still moving but tied in place, positioned in tableaus that brought to mind life pre-apocalypse. What the actual… ? Did Eugene’s radio girlfriend have a particularly weird sense of humor? She’d struck me as more serious than that. In any case, the young boa-clad woman they eventually encountered was one kooky ball of energy — like Tank Girl on Red Bull. “Oh my God!” she exclaimed when she saw them. “Hi!” (Just look at the picture above; she’s gonna be a pip!)

‘YOUR TRACK RECORD DOES NOT INSPIRE CONFIDENCE’ | On her walkabout, Carol was dogged every step of the way by visions of an Alpha who was far less crazy-lady and far more Mean Girls. She dropped the names of all those Carol had lost, as if reading from a White Pages of the deceased, and suggested that if our tortured heroine returned to Alexandria, she’d only lose more people — maybe even Daryl. And Carol was “not taking this head,” Alpha added, knocking on her noggin. “Unless you take your own.” (Apparently, the Alpha of Carol’s imagining was a lot like Negan for real: She never shut up!) On and on, Alpha prattled, about how she knew the truth, and so did Carol, something about a letter Carol had sent Maggie about her bald nemesis… Alpha was all over the place with it until finally Carol fell through the rotted floor of a shack from which she was trying to retrieve (I think that was) a boat. As a walker, as one always does, approached, Alpha beckoned it. “This way, friend!” she said, adding that Carol should “just look at the flowers like you’re supposed to.” (Told ya imaginary Alpha was mean.) Needless to say, Carol managed to free herself, kill the walker and return to Alexandria (with what I imagined had to be at least a dislocated shoulder). She is clearly going to live to be older than Betty White.

While all this was going on, Negan went to retrieve Lydia from the shack in which he’d stashed her. As you know, she wasn’t there. But Daryl was. Negan was quick to explain about the deal that he’d struck with Carol, but when he tried to prove he’d kept up his end of the bargain, of course, Alpha’s head was gone. After Daryl raised his crossbow to offer his performance review of Negan’s supposed handiwork — if he’d beheaded Alpha, he hadn’t done it fast enough — the men were caught off guard by a couple of Whisperers who, per Alpha’s own rules, regarded her killer as the new Alpha. (Swear to God the reversal of fortune brought Negan thisclose to laughing at Daryl like he was Nelson from The Simpsons.) Negan’s first order of business was to take away the only rifle in play; his second was to make Daryl kneel before the Alpha. “You should probably shoot me,” said Daryl. “Don’t threaten me with a good time,” Negan replied. And with that, he and Daryl took out the Whisperers. The following day, as the men gave up waiting for Carol to return (or return Alpha’s head to its pike), Negan admitted that he had liked being with the Whisperers. “It was nice feeling like I mattered again… but [Alpha] took it too far. You don’t kill people who don’t deserve it,” he said, “and you never kill kids.” (People who don’t deserve it? Uh, tell that to Denise, Glenn, Abraham, Olivia… Need I go on?) “Is that supposed to make me like you?” asked Daryl. “What about my winning personality?” Negan replied. Despite the flaw to Negan’s logic, this could be the beginning of a beautiful — straaange — friendship.

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