‘The Walking Dead’: Look at the Xs

The Walking Dead
“Scars”
March 17, 2019

OH HI GUYS! Look who remembered she blogs The Walking Dead right before the tenth season is set to begin! I honestly don’t remember why I didn’t finish blogging season nine — life happened, I suppose — and if I remember correctly, I fell so far behind that I just decided I would wait until closer to the premiere of the next season so that the recaps would serve as a little reminder of where we had been. And lookee here, the premiere is upon us. So without further delay.

This episode is almost perfectly split between a storyline in the present, and a storyline in the past, specifically some eight or nine months following Rick’s disappearance. I usually begin with the past storylines in these situations, but this time I’m going to begin with the present because it’s my blog and I do what I want.

After Henry got his fool self stabbed in the leg in a half-baked plan to run away with Lydia, Daryl brings him, Lydia, and Connie to Alexandria for a little first aid. Everyone in Alexandria takes one look at this Lydia character and is like …

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… but Daryl insists that they can trust her, so Michonne is like, “FINE.”

While Henry gets his leg stitched up and worries about the “gross scar” it’s going to leave, Daryl explains to Michonne that they aren’t staying — they are headed to the Kingdom … eventually. Michonne then asks to speak to Lydia alone. As he gets up to leave, Henry thanks Michonne for changing her mind about sending people to the Kingdom’s fair, and she’s like, “YEAH WHATEVER SHOO.”

Once alone with Lydia, Michonne is like “Listen, sister, I’ve done things to protect this place. Lots of things. Lots of BAD things. And it might have been a lot easier if I was the only person I had to protect. If I could just, you know, theoretically, walk away and take all the danger with me, that’d be pretty awesome. CATCH MY DRIFT? BECAUSE I’M TOSSING IT TO YOU REAL SLOWLY.”

Meanwhile, Daryl chats with Judith who points out that Daryl helped Lydia. Daryl’s all,
“Nuh-uh, she’s just a side benefit of me helping Henry.” But Judith points out that Lydia’s being helped regardless. She then suggests that they should all just stay there in Alexandria, but Daryl rejects this: what’s important is keeping Judith and her brother safe. Judith huffs that she knows that they can: she’s heard the stories about how they defeated the Saviors. If they all banded together, they could kick these Whisperers’ asses, too. WWRD? But Daryl is all, “disapproving grunt.”

That evening, Daryl, Henry, Lydia, and Connie prepare to leave — because traveling at night definitely seems like a good idea — while Judith glares at her mother from a distance. When Michonne notes that Judith is pissed with her, Daryl explains that it’s because Judith doesn’t know the whole story and that maybe it’s time to tell her. And then they head off instead of just resting there for the night. You know, because.

bye everyone

The next morning, Michonne discovers that Judith has snuck out, so she storms to Negan’s jail cell where he reveals that yes, he and Judith have chats about all sorts of things: homework, the good ol’ days when Carl shot a bunch of his men, and how he and Rick were constantly fighting and killing each other’s men. You know, appropriate stuff for 10-year-olds. Which is basically the position Michonne takes: HOW DARE YOU. But Negan’s like, “Hey, maybe Judith talks to me because I’m honest with her. You should try it sometime.” Negan then tells Michonne that Judith hates that she’s not allowing new people into Alexandria, that she’s not living up to what Carl had envisioned for their home.

Michonne:

how-dare-you-nightcap

Negan then points out that Judith is Michonne’s daughter: she’s gonna do what she believes is right come hell or high water.

And sure enough, when Michonne returns home, she finds Rick’s gun gone and replaced with a note from Judith explaining that she’s sorry, but she needs to help their friends.

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So Michonne rides out into the wilderness, screaming for Judith, and killing some zombies until she finally finds the little dumbbadass and saves her from being eaten alive.

As for what happened back then:

Michonne and Daryl searched for Rick for months — at least eight months, as a hugely pregnant Michonne is out there searching corpses and moping around on the riverbanks.

Sometime later, Alexandria once opened its gates to some strangers, among them some children and Tara from True Blood who happened to know Michonne from when they were younger. What are the chances? Tara is wounded but insisting that she needs to go back out — there are others out there who need help.

Michonne tells her to stay put and she, Father Gabe, Dr. Mullett, and Rosita follow one of Tara’s kids, Winnie, to a deserted factory that is decorated with butchering diagrams. Homey! There, they find another group of children whom they bring back to Alexandria with them.

Sometime later (that night? the next night? a week later? WHO KNOWS) Michonne and Tara are watching the kids together, Michonne wistfully noting how much Rick would have loved having them there. Michonne also notes how impressed she is with Tara’s kids’ hunting skills, and Tara explains that the kids are capable of anything. The adults, they didn’t make it — they broke. But the kids, they are resilient and grow and learn.

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Tara then encourages Michonne to keep looking for Rick — after all, Michonne found her after all these years.

The next morning, Michonne and some of the other Alexandria parents go to retrieve their children from a sleepover with Tara’s kids only to discover, OHNO! They’re gone! Along with all their food and medical supplies.

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Fortunately for Team Alexandria, Tara left a bunch of bloody footprints that lead to the manhole, and Daryl and a hugely pregnant Michonne head out to retrieve the kids. Why they go alone when previously four of them went out to retrieve Tara’s kids and why someone maybe less pregnant than Michonne was sent out to rescue kids from a maniacal kidnapper?

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Daryl and Michonne take a pregnancy break where Michonne explains to Daryl that she trusted Tara because they had been through so much together, including her mother’s death. She wanted Tara to be that friend again — she needed her to be. But she should have known better, should have sensed something. Daryl assures Michonne that it’s not her fault: “Some people just got so much evil in their hearts, and they hide it like they’re wearing a mask or something.”

GET IT? LIKE THE WHISPERERS? BECAUSE THEY WEAR MASKS, TOO?

Anyway. They approach an old school where they spy one of Tara’s kids and chase him into the building. But UH-OH! It was a trap, and they are confronted by all of the children who are armed and waiting for them. Daryl is shot in the shoulder with an arrow and Michonne is knocked unconscious.

seth meyers not good

When Michonne and Daryl regain consciousness, they have been bound and gagged and tied to an overhead pipe, and that bitch Tara is watching them from a corner. At one point, Tara encourages one of the smaller children, Linus, to “be strong.” And by “be strong” she means “brand them with a giant X on their lower backs.” Tara explains that only the strong survive and that she’s taught her children to be capable of anything. THOSE BUTCHERING DIAGRAMS SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE FIRST CLUE.

At some point, Tara and the children leave Daryl and Michonne alone — which is always a huge mistake — and they are able to free themselves. They split up to look for Little Judith and the other Alexandrian kids, and in the hallway, Michonne, armed only with a pipe encounters Tara and some of the kids who confront her with her own katana. She demands they give Little Judith back, but Tara’s like, “Nah, she’s better off with me,” just as Little Judith and the other children run out of the building behind Tara. Tara then tells Linus that he knows what’s next, and he recites: “Marked our kill, kill our mark,” as Tara takes her leave.

Which, OK, but why not just kill them outright instead of binding them and gagging them and branding them? It just seems like a lot of trouble to go through when you could just kill them and be done with it.

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Anyway, the dumb teenager who has Michonne’s katana doesn’t know how to use it, obviously, and drops it after Michonne shoves her. When Michonne bends down to get it, Linus slashes her belly, and now Michonne is REALLY PISSED.

The kids run away, and Michonne chases after them, only to be attacked by Tara with a 2×4. As the children run into a nearby trailer, Michonne manages to get the jump on Tara and stab her to death as the older children watch in horror.

Michonne assures the older kids that they can come back to Alexandria with them and live there which is when the oldest boy orders the younger children to kill Michonne’s kids.

seth meyers not good

Michonne has no choice but to kill him, and then all the other children, one by one, as they ignore her when she begs them to stop and continue to threaten her and prevent her from getting to Little Judith and Jesus Christ, if you thought “Look at the flowers” was bad …

Anyway, in the end, there’s only one child left, Winnie, and she thinks about going into the trailer and killing Little Judith and the other Alexandrian children, but at the last moment, as Daryl emerges from the school, Winnie turns and runs away instead.

I MEAN JUST IMAGINE BEING DARYL AND FINDING MICHONNE SURROUNDED BY A BUNCH OF DEAD KIDS. YIKES X ONE INFINITY.

Little Judith and the other Alexandrian kids come out of the trailer and Little Judith, she pauses for a second before running over and embracing Michonne.

And so that’s why in the present, Michonne tells Judith the whole awful truth, adding that there was a moment there when Judith didn’t seem to recognize her, and she was worried that she had lost her. Judith explains that Michonne didn’t look like herself, because of all the blood, and Michonne is like, “HOLY SHIT, YOU REMEMBER THAT?” Judith admits that she does but she never talked about it because it made Michonne sad.

Michonne notes that this is the reason why they’ve shut themselves off from everyone else, and Judith is like, “OK, but that’s bullshit. Our friends need help and you can choose to help them. And you should. If you’re doing everything you can to protect me because you love me, then by that logic, when did we stop loving Carol or Maggie or Daryl?”

lafayette oh snap true blood honey no you didn't

Later, Michonne takes Judith to Carl’s grave where she explains that after Carl died, she promised herself she wouldn’t lose another child. But then Rick disappeared and then Little Judith went missing and all of it freaked her shit out. So the people of Alexandria decided to make it only about the people who lived there. That’s not what Rick or Carl would have wanted, Michonne concedes before adding that Judith is right and that they will protect the people they love — all of the people they love.

With that, Michonne and Judith (who is worried about her own scar earned on her stupid little excursion because that metaphor hadn’t been quite beaten to death) take out the wagon and pick up Daryl’s group in the woods, asking if they need a ride to the Kingdom.

And, since we can’t end on an upbeat note, the Whisperers watch the whole thing from the woods.

Let’s begin with the episode’s overall theme — it’s right there in the title — scars and scarring, which Michonne, Daryl, Henry, and Judith all bear. I’m sure I don’t need to overexplain the symbolic import of scars: they are physical remains of an injury, a wound. They serve as a constant reminder that the person bearing the scar has had an experience that changed them, and often (and certainly in the context of this episode), an experience that wounded them, that hurt them. Michonne and Daryl bear the Xs as a reminder of not just their terrifying experience but also the lesson they took away from it: helping others will result in horrific consequences. And thus: why Michonne shut herself and her community off from even their dearest friends.

But scars also represent survival. To be scarred means that an individual went through a painful experience and came out the other side — transformed, stronger even. Ritual scarification is a common practice in some societies, often representing particular milestones in people’s lives. It marks a turning point: this person now has passed into a different stage in their lives, be it puberty or marriage or even having survived some sort of illness. The point is, the scar is a mark of resilience and wisdom, even. And here, with Michonne finally confronting her scar, telling her daughter the truth as to how it came to be, Michonne is finally rejecting the mark as a symbol of pain but instead embracing it as a symbol of growth and change.

The other thing I wanted to point out about this episode is the theme of motherhood, and what mothers will do to protect their children. First, the symbolism of the hugely pregnant Michonne is impossible to miss — she is motherhood, and she will do anything — ANYTHING — to protect her children, both her unborn baby and her adopted daughter Little Judith.

But there is also this contrast being drawn between Michonne and Tara and how they parent. Michonne clearly represents this old world, even civilized idea of how one should raise children and protect them from the evils of the world. In contrast, Tara has come to understand this new universe very differently and decided that the only way to truly protect children is to turn them into murderous soldiers.

What is interesting about Tara is that this vision of motherhood, this notion that children must be taught to be stronger, to the point of being capable of killing, it obviously has some parallels to Alpha and the Whisperers’ philosophy, but it also bears a strong similarity to Carol from seasons three and four, back when she was teaching children in the prison how to use knives and to kill if need be. Returning to our first theme, Carol had been scarred by the loss of her daughter Sophia, and she became fixated on preparing other children for the changed world, to protect them in a way she hadn’t with her own daughter. This, of course, comes to a head with the horrific episode, “The Grove,” in which Carol is forced to kill that tiny psychopath Lizzie after Lizzie murders her own sister, which as I noted in the recap parallels this episode and the tragic choice Michonne is forced to make: kill the children or have her own children die.

For me, the most interesting moment in the episode is when Michonne learns that despite her best efforts to protect her from these horrors, Judith knew this story all along. In this world, the horrors are unavoidable, even for children, it’s just a question of the best way to protect them — if you can.

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

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