‘The Walking Dead’: Talkie Walkies

The Walking Dead
“Evolution”
November 25, 2018

Ah, the mid-season finale. So who dies today?

In Alexandria, Father Gabriel tries to lead Negan in some mediation but Negan would rather gossip about Father One-Eye’s relationship with Rosita instead. Gabe isn’t interested, though, and leaves in a huff. When he comes outside, he finds the Hilltop riders (One of whom is Soul Man himself, C. Thomas Howell, whom I recently confused with The Haunting of Hill House‘s Timothy Hutton, making me realize that I may have never been able to tell them apart since the 80s. Anyway.) telling some red shirt that Rosita is at Hilltop, recovering from an injury. Father Gabriel has a worried.

Later, when Father Gabriel comes to change out Negan’s chamberpot, Negan mocks him some more, but Gabriel has HAD IT, OFFICIALLY.

Gabriel yells at him that he’s tried to help Negan, he’s tried to find the person under there BUT THERE’S NO THERE THERE. And MEANWHILE, his GIRLFRIEND is hurt at HILLTOP and IT’S ALL FATHER GABRIEL’S FAULT SO EXCUSE HIM IF HE’S NOT IN THE MOOD FOR NEGAN’S LITTLE POOP JOKES. And with that, Father Gabe storms out of the cell, while Negan feels kinda bad for pushing too far.

Later, Negan is alone in his cell when he notices that the cell door isn’t actually locked, and he is like, “IS IT REALLY THIS EASY?” before seeing himself to the door.

Michonne, Siddiq and their new buddies arrive at Hilltop and that one Kingdom Lady, Dianne, makes them surrender their weapons before entering because it’s like that now.

Quick question: So, now that Dianne is a Hilltopper, why does she still wear all the Kingdom accouterment? Or I guess a better question is if the Kingdom accouterment actually helps keep people safer, why doesn’t everyone wear it, at least while they are outside of their gates?

Anyway, at the infirmary, Tara is all cold-shouldery to Michonne who wonders where Jesus is. Girl, don’t we all. Tara explains that he is out with Aaron and Daryl looking for Dr. Mullet, to which Michonne is all, WAIT, AARON? AND DR. MULLET? THEY’VE BOTH BEEN WANDERING AWAY FROM ALEXANDRIA? WHAT ELSE DON’T I KNOW ABOUT?

Michonne contemplates trying to find the men, but Tara suggests that she just stay put — they’re probably on their way back by now. If the newcomers want to make Hilltop their home, they’re going to have to wait for Jesus to come back and they’ll have to earn their keep. And then Tara glares at Michonne again just so that we get it. WE DO. WE GET IT. MICHONNE DID SOMETHING BAD TO MAGGIE.

Meanwhile, Team Lady Gaga worries about joining a group whose leader calls himself Jesus — it seems awfully culty. Ooh girl, just wait. One of their other friends has declared himself a king.

Speaking of, Michonne introduces Team Lady Gaga to Carol who communicates with Connie through sign language before asking Michonne how the kids are doing. Carol explains that she’s dropping Henry off at blacksmithing camp before urging Michonne to come to this fair that King Z is planning, that they need this to bring their worlds back together again but Michonne is all, NOPE. SORRY NOT SORRY.

See, because that bridge that Rick was trying to build so that the communities could reach each other more easily but that he had to go and explode to prevent the walkers from eating his friends and family, and then they didn’t ever go back and fix in the ensuing six years for some reason we don’t know?

Carol loads up her shit, says goodbye to Henry and begins her ride back to the Kingdom. Bye, Carol! See you at the fair, Carol! I hope you get to wear a cool wench costume!

Over at the blacksmith shop, Earl invites Henry to come hang out with him and Brett Butler after dinner, and at first Henry’s all, “Uhhh … yeah, but I’d rather hit on Enid?” And that’s when Henry sees Enid kissing Nice Savior.

Henry:

At dinner, some other teenagers notice Henry sitting by himself and they invite him to hang out with them that evening. And because they are teenagers, hanging out means, “getting drunk, leaving the gates, and acting like assholes.” The Hilltop teens take Henry out to a pit they’ve dug where they have trapped a walker whom they play with like a toy, and one of the teens pees on because teenagers. Henry, however, thinks this gross behavior is gross and puts the walker out of her misery to the disappointment of the other teenagers who leave him in the pit.

Henry is locked up in the drunk tank by Tara to think about his sins and Earl threatens to send him back to Hilltop. But Henry pleads with him to let him stay, he just was so upset at seeing Carol cry when she said goodbye to him earlier. Earl, who has been known to make his own boneheaded choices while on the drinky-drinky, sympathizes and agrees to talk to Jesus when he returns.

And over in the infirmary, Siddiq apologizes to Michonne for keeping so many secrets from her. Michonne understands and adds that she knew the Hilltop people would still be pissed with her but it didn’t make it any easier. Siddiq points out she can still mend some bridges fences, but Michonne refuses because she won’t do it the way the others want her to. SHE HAD TO MAKE HARD CHOICES DAMMIT.

(Odds on Michonne finally getting over herself and deciding to rebuild that bridge in the next season or two?)

And then Rosita wakes up and demands that she take them to Dr. Mullet. Michonne assures her that Daryl, Aaron, and Jesus are on the case, but Rosita, panicked, insists that they don’t know what they’re up against.

Speaking of, the tracking mission starts off … strangely. The guys immediately notice that Rosita’s trail goes through the walker herd, that the zombies appear to just be … milling about. Weird. Almost as weird as the one walker giving them some serious side-eye.

As they continue through the woods, Jesus tells Aaron that Daryl used to trade with Hilltop until he didn’t — he guesses Daryl just prefers it out in the wilderness. Aaron points out that it sounds like how Jesus has been behaving before pointing out that Jesus would be a great leader if he just TRIED. Aaron also notes that Daryl spends so much time trying to keep people away, but finding them is his real talent. DAMN, JESUS AND DARYL MAKE GREAT BOOKS BECAUSE AARON JUST READ THE SHIT OUT OF THEM.

And then Daryl warns them that he can hear the walkers, they’re getting closer.

The men find Dr. Mullet’s barn, where Dr. Mullet warns them that they have to leave. NOW. The walkers are on their way back for him. Daryl explains that’s impossible, the herd has already been through, he saw their tracks. But Dr. Mullet is insistent that they will be coming back for him, that they are looking for him — they had already been by twice before. AND GET THIS SHIT: THEY CAN TALK.

Before the men can tell Dr. Mullet that he’s obviously suffered some sort of head injury, Dog starts barking, warning them of incoming zombies and they hurry out of the barn.

Out in the woods, the men are confused as to how the herd could double back, that this isn’t normal walker behavior, and Dr. Mullet suggests that they are evolving. Which, no, that’s not how evolution works. Evolution is dependent on reproduction, of a mutant gene that gets passed along because the individual lives long enough to reproduce. I guess you could make an argument that some people had a genetic mutation that allowed them some level of consciousness after death which gave them an advantage over other walkers and so as the dumb walkers die off, the smart ones are left behind and are capable of organizing and making trouble with the herds? Yeah, I still don’t think that’s evolution. I don’t think that’s the word he means here.

ANYWAY. The herd starts getting closer, so Daryl offers to lead them away while Jesus and Aaron take Dr. Mullet to the horses. To that end, Daryl and Dog set off a bunch of fireworks, only to have the herd completely ignore them …

… and continue following Jesus, Aaron, and Dr. Mullet.

Daryl is confused.

Meanwhile, Jesus, Aaron and Dr. Mullet have found themselves inside a very foggy and very atmospheric cemetery with these damned persistent walkers closing in all around them. However, the only gate and exit point is locked so they try to shove Dr. Mullet over to no avail.

Just as they decide all they can do is fight against Very Not Good odds, Michonne, Yumiko and Lady Gaga arrive and help them unlock the gate! Hooray! I mean, I have no idea how they found them in this exact spot in this heavy fog bank in the middle of the night at the precise moment their friends needed them the most, but hooray!

Jesus orders Aaron to help get Dr. Mullet out of the cemetery, promising that he’s “got this” and he does pull some very cool ninja moves against some walkers. But just as he is about to join his friends, a walker sneaks up behind him and stabs Jesus in the back, while whispering, “You are where you do not belong.”

Daryl finally shows up and kills this “walker,” and as Aaron mourns his boyfriend “training buddy” Daryl notices something odd about the “walker’s” skull. He cuts into it, revealing that it’s a mask, that they were ambushed by walker cosplayers. But before they can really grasp the whatthefuckitude of this situation, the whispers start up again:

They’re trapped.
Circle ’round.
Don’t let them slip by.
Keep them together.

So meet the Whisperers. These whackadoodles are obviously our next foes now, and as the comic readers can tell you, they are really fucked up. SPOILER FONT AHOY:

In the comics, we learn that the Whisperers are a freaky cult who believes the zombie apocalypse was a good thing, that humans are no better than any other animal and the apocalypse has reduced us to our primeval origins. They wear the zombies’ skin and are nomadic, walking among the herds instead of having any one particular home base. They think of themselves in pack terms: only their leaders, Alpha and Beta, are allowed names. And they believe rape is a false social construct, so women and girls are left to defend themselves. Fun! They will kill people in groups, but if they find loners they will try to recruit them into their gross rotting-flesh-wearing cult. But if you refuse to join them, they’ll kill you. They have weapons — knives, mostly — but at least in the comics there were a couple of instances of Whisperers using firearms. Their most powerful weapon, though, is the herds of zombies that they steer and corral. Oh, and according to the comics, there are about 150 of them. Wrap your head around that: there are 150 people who are cool with donning a literal corpse costume and are down with rape. 

They seem nice!

Also, and this gets spoilery for the story itself, Alpha’s daughter, Lydia, eventually falls for Carl and chooses to live with Team Rick. The assumption is that this story will still take place, but that Henry will fill Carl’s role here. Also, the Whisperers kill a bunch of beloved characters, so brace yourself: Beheadings are coming. 

Another quick comic spoiler: what happens with Negan. Scroll over to find out what happens in the comics — but I warn you, this will tell you what happens with the whole Whisperers’ storyline:

As happens in the show, Negan escapes his cell, but in the comics, he doesn’t leave, hoping that it will prove to Rick that he can be trusted. Surprise! Rick doesn’t trust him. So when he gets another chance to leave, Negan takes it and finds himself with the Whisperers, whom he is fascinated by. Negan decides he likes Alpha’s style as a leader — until he doesn’t. After he tries to stop some men from raping a woman, Alpha decides he’s not cut out to be one of them. He ends up killing and beheading her, and taking her head back to Rick who allows him to join The Militia, the group of communities who once fought Negan and the Saviors and who are now fighting the Whisperers.

But that won’t be for a while. I suspect the show will streamline this story a bit, just having Negan cut to the chase and try to join the Whisperers without trying to prove himself to Michonne first so that when he shows up with Alpha’s head, it will be more of a surprise both to Michonne and the audience. 

OK! No more spoiler font except to say that in the comics, Jesus is still alive.

As for the episode itself: I have genuinely mixed feelings about it. On the positive side of the ledger, I am DIGGING the Whisperers. The thing is, The Walking Dead has been turning into a Western over the past couple of seasons — a conceit that they as much admitted on The Talking Dead after the first episode of the season — which is fine, I get it, we are at a point in the story where the characters aren’t as much struggling to survive  as they are trying to establish a society in a literally hostile environment.  But I also didn’t sign up to watch a Western. I came here for a horror series. And with the introduction of this group, with this episode and final sequence, in particular, it felt like the show returned to its horror roots. These fuckers are CREEPY, and much scarier than a dumb ol’ walker.

As for the most controversial element of this episode, Jesus’ death, I have mixed feelings about it: I’m not so much irritated by his death as I am irritated that they squandered a great character over the past three seasons. Jesus was such a fun character when he was introduced back in season six, and the revelation that he, Daryl and Maggie were in agreement that Rick made a mistake with Negan last season was one of the season’s few genuine surprises. But between those two points in the story, they did fuckall with this badass fighter and ray of optimism in an otherwise very dour universe. He could have — and should have — been so much more. I would have much rather spent all that time we’ve been wringing our hands over that ding-dong Father Gabriel seeing what Jesus was up to, for instance.

And in fact, the actor who played Jesus, Tom Payne, felt the same way, telling Entertainment Weekly that he was bored with the direction his character was going  BECAUSE THERE WAS NO DIRECTION: “I had kind of reached a point in the show where I was a little bit in stasis, and like, ‘Well, you know, I have to do more with my character, otherwise I’m cool with being killed off.’” And: “I was talking to the showrunners about this last year, and they were aware I was a little bit kind of bored and unhappy, and ‘Let’s do something, kill some people, kill me, I don’t care. Let’s do some shocking stuff!’ Carl was a shock last year, but I thought tons of people were gonna die against the Saviors and barely anyone did. I was like, ‘What’s going on? Let’s kill some people, let’s do it. Let’s be what this show is.’ And I’m happy to be a part of that this season. I wanna be a part of the shock and the horror and what makes the show great. I’m happy with it.”

Bored and unhappy. WAY TO GO, WRITERS.

The other point about Jesus’ death that irks me is, again, not the death itself, but how they manipulated our feelings with the tease of a potential relationship between him and Aaron before killing him off. In the comics, these two are a couple at this point, and it would seem that after SIX YEARS of clearly a sexual spark between them, their relationship should have developed beyond the awkward wrestling stage, BUT WHATEVER. Frankly, it felt cheap to tease what could have been between these two just so as to make his death that much more emotional. Maybe if they had fleshed out Jesus’ character a bit more in the past few seasons they wouldn’t have had to depend on Aaron’s reaction to make his death land like a gut punch.

However, I will say that I am seeing some complain that this is another instance of the Bury Your Gays trope, and I have to respectfully disagree. The show has been steadily adding LGBTQ characters since they introduced Tara in season four, including the new characters Magna and Yumiko. And the only other LGBTQ character they killed before this was Eric at the beginning of last season. Death comes for everyone in The Walking Dead universe: children, old people, African-Americans, white folks, good guys, bad guys, gays, straights, goats, tigers. If you have diverse characters on a zombie show, diverse characters are gonna die. It should feel like pandering if gay characters were untouched by death.

And in fact, showrunner Angela Kang basically said the same thing in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

“We’re proud we had this wonderful character. He’s one of my favorite characters from the comic books as well. For our writers who are LGBTQ, it’s something that mattered to them as well. We have a lot of wonderful diversity and representation on the show, and that’s something we’re very proud of. For a show that deals with issues of life and death and people who have heroic and surprising ends, it’s hard because almost anyone you kill on our show or write out is going to be part of some underrepresented group on television. I wish all of television would step up as well. We just tend to get a lot of attention for it.”

In short, I’m sad and irritated that Jesus died, not because he was gay and not because of his relationship with Aaron, but because the character had so much unfulfilled potential that the writers just never explored out of sheer laziness.

it sucked and you sucked snl terrible bad

So let’s stop being lazy, guys! How about a second half of the season that has less mopey Michonne, more scary monsters, and fewer undeveloped characters! You can do it! Maybe!

The Walking Dead airs on AMC on Sundays at 8/9 p.m.

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One thought on “‘The Walking Dead’: Talkie Walkies

  1. They did the Sister thing again where they took an interesting character, made them boring as hell for a few seasons, then right as soon as they make them interesting, TWD kills them off. I was mad for all of the things that you and Leslie Jones said here. Buh.

    Liked by 1 person

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