Carol and Negan sure did, but it turns out Alpha’s severed head casts a long shadow even after Carol (Melissa McBride) sticks the Whisperer’s noggin on a stake, the exact same fate Carol’s adopted son Henry met at Alpha’s hands. Carol stares at it, having thought all this time it would finally bring her peace, but it’s clear she doesn’t feel better in the slightest. In fact, all she can do is berate Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) for taking so long to finish the job she’d secretly broken him out of Alexandria’s jail to do. Then, when he asks her to hold up her end of the bargain and return with him to Alexandria to spread word of his heroics, she leaves him high and dry to have some time with her thoughts.
Her thoughts take the form of Alpha, who mocks and insults her for the majority of the episode. This is a much livelier version of Alpha, and actor Samatha Morton makes the most of her chance to play the role with a touch of (extremely mean-spirited) humour. She reminds Carol of her failure to protect Henry and her failure to protect her daughter Sophia. She says Carol’s abusive husband Ed, who died back way back in season one, was correct in his many, highly misogynistic insults of her. And Alpha also reminds Carol of one of the series’ most powerful scenes – when Carol was forced to kill 12-year-old Lizzie, who killed her own sister without remorse and would certainly have killed again.
Long-time fans will remember an emotionally wrecked Carol telling Lizzie to “Just look at the flowers” when executing her, which is where this episode’s title (“Look at the Flowers”) comes from. I was very excited to find this out because an episode where Carol is forced to take some serious moral introspection and potentially recontextualise one of her most traumatic moments could be really powerful. Instead, it’s just another one of Alpha’s taunts.
Carol’s real problem is, having lost so much in her post-apocalyptic life, she’s scared to return to Alexandria in fear of what else she might lose, namely Daryl. Better for her to go solo and take off on another boat than run the risk of having to see her BFF die. But after bringing down a shed roof on herself, trapping her and leaving her vulnerable to the inevitable zombie, she realises she wants to live and keep having connections, yadda yadda. It all feels like a missed opportunity, despite Carol very badassedly dislocating her shoulder to escape the wreckage.
Daryl (Norman Reedus) joins Negan in the celebration.
Meanwhile, Alpha puts Negan in danger, although not because Father Gabriel would absolutely murder him if he goes back to Alexandria without Carol to confirm what happened. It’s because when he goes to check on Lydia, he finds an extremely angry Daryl (Norman Reedus) who is absolutely going to murder him until Negan tells him about Carol’s plan and says he can (partially) prove it by taking Daryl to Alpha’s head. Except Alpha’s head isn’t there.
Luckily for Negan, a trio of Whisperers sneak up on them and train a shotgun on Daryl – and proclaim Negan as their new Alpha for having killed the previous titleholder. Negan is understandably delighted by this new development, forcing the now-captive Daryl to kneel before him right before shooting one of the Whisperers instead. Once the other two are defeated, it’s enough to convince Daryl that Negan’s been telling the truth. There’s something very satisfying about watching the two of them sit on a log together, sharing a canteen. They’re not going to be BFFs – it’s going to be a long time before anyone in Alexandria really warms to him, other than maybe Judith – but he’s finally getting recognised for being one of the good guys. It’s been nearly two years since Rick captured him in the season eight finale, so it’s been a long time coming.
Where is Alpha’s hissing, zombified head, you ask? Why, it’s being cradled like a baby in Beta’s arms after he feeds it a random Whisperer’s cheek for daring to call him the new leader of the Whisperers because “she can hear you.” (Alpha definitely posed the biggest threat to this dude, and she certainly followed up on it.) His leader’s death definitely sends Beta to a dark place, which is truly saying something. He wanders into a small town hotel, seemingly aimlessly, until he arrives in a room that where a bearded face on a concert poster and a few record albums finally confirm what The Walking Dead (and Fear the Walking Dead) have been teasing for a while: he used to be a country music superstar.
Beta (Ryan Hurst) is sad when he learns all his rowdy friends will not be comin’ over tonight.
His name was Half Moon, and he’s not half-bad if I do say so myself. However, the room is small and plain, the bed is a cot for one. Since it’s completely implausible he walked directly in a fan’s room, we can read between the lines. Half Moon had clearly fallen from stardom before the apocalypse hit, which is why he pathetically put up his own concert poster on his hotel wall – to remind him of his glory days. His decline is likely also what led him to that rehabilitation centre mentioned earlier this season.
Beta tears down the poster and smashes his old guitar, but then seemingly thinks better about destroying the last vestiges of his old life. He puts on one of his albums, loudly, which attracts a mess of zombies to the hotel. After he tears off more of his skin mask (Gamma ripped off a piece first) he thanks Alpha’s head and sticks a knife in it. When he leaves the hotel, he’s replaced the missing half of his face with part of Alpha’s face, and it is impressively creepy. The herd of zombies he amassed follow him as he stalks away, of course.
Meanwhile, Alpha has nothing to do with Eugene, Yumiko, and Ezekiel, who set out to Charleston, West Virginia to meet with the mysterious Stephanie. Instead, they find zombies who have been dressed up like characters from a Tim Burton movie and tied in place to make hilarious scenes. Two dapper zombies have a meal in a restaurant, and one of them even has a martini glass stuck to his hand. One’s chilling on a scooter. The best – and the one that deservedly sends Ezekiel into paroxysms of laughter – is a zombie cop giving a zombie in a car a ticket. Then a girl with a purple boa, purple hair, and an assault rifle bursts out of nowhere and exclaims, in utter delight: “Oh my god! Hi!” This is obviously not Stephanie, but she is absolutely the greatest ridiculousness to happen to The Walking Dead since Rick was airlifted off the show.
This character – this whole scene – transforms “Look at the Flowers” from fine to great. While there are two more episodes in season 10, we’re only getting one more since a certain non-zombie pandemic has delayed the finale until later in the year. If we don’t get to learn everything about her next week I will be extremely disappointed. If only the Garbage People were still around to see what’s she’s been doing. Hey, Jadis? This is how you make art in the zombie apocalypse.
Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) contemplate a masterpiece.
- Clues to Beta’s musical past include but are not limited to: Alpha recognising him when she first met him then taunting him with a song; a Whisperer recognising him after Gamma took part of his mask (and getting killed to keep Beta’s identity secret); and a pile of vinyl records with a dude who looked exactly like actor Ryan Hurst on the cover popping up on Fear the Walking Dead last September.
- I know the Whisperers are fanatics, but the fact that dude stayed with Beta after Beta forced his face into Alpha’s zombie mouth was extremely bananas.
- Ezekiel and Jerry have an extremely tearful goodbye which is so out of the blue that it is almost a certainty they shall never see each other again. Since Ezekiel’s the one who spends the episode coughing up blood, I suspect we know how this will play out.
- As a resident of the city, I would like to thank The Walking Dead’s location unit and digital effects department for vastly improving the look of Charleston, West Virginia, particularly its skyline. It’s nice you think so highly of us, but you left out our beautiful mountains, which is really our best feature!
- I’m curious about the backstory of the gun and bloodstain on Beta’s room’s floor. The note he finds, which reads “These 2 eyes see 1 truth” is probably more important, but until the show explains why I don’t care.
- If Beta is somehow not Half Moon, then he was a huge fan that excelled in Half Moon cosplay.