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The Walking Dead - Guardians - Review

The Walking Dead “Guardians” was written by LaToya Morgan and was directed by Michael Satrazemis. Morgan’s other credits include Into the Badlands and TURN: Washington’s Spies. She definitely makes a terrific addition to the writing team with this episode, which has some great scenes and nails the characters. There were some great performances in this episode, and I really liked how the themes of isolationism versus family and community play off of each other.

We get some insight into the Whisperers. In the opening scene, Lydia (Cassady McClincy) is interrogated by Alpha (Samantha Morton). Lydia mostly lies to Alpha, but she does get an admission from Alpha that she came after Lydia – breaking her own rules – for more than just information. Alpha also wants to know if they “touched” Lydia – rather maternal. Lydia is clearly going to be Alpha’s week spot! However, will that almost admission of care mean that Henry (Matt Lintz) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) won’t be able to trust Lydia?

Michonne (Danai Gurira) is finally home and catching up on what’s been going on. She is furious about Gabriel’s (Seth Gilliam) radio system and is brutal about laying the blame for Jesus’ death, Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) escape and Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Eugene’s (Josh McDermitt) almost being killed right at Gabriel’s feet. She is furious that the council has been hiding things, but Gabriel is just as mad because her veto power – for security – has made everything a security issue and effectively taken away the council’s power.

Gabriel argues for not cutting themselves off from the rest of the world. He makes some good arguments – who do they turn to when they need help? Of course, given the threat outside their doors… Michonne argues for it not being safe “out there,” and Aaron (Ross Marquand) surprisingly comes to her defense. He doesn’t deny that he enjoyed the time he spent with Jesus – but he brings up the new threat and reminds them all of how often Michonne’s judgment has saved them.

Siddiq (Avi Nash) brings up the cost of isolationism. He mentions seeing Carol (Melissa McBride) and that Michonne turned her down about going to the fair. Gabriel is furious that Michonne spoke unilaterally on behalf of Alexandria, but she insists that it was old business. Siddiq points out that they have new information and it’s not too late to reconsider. Things at the Kingdom are much worse than they thought. Laura (Lindsley Register) insists that the Kingdom can take care of itself – it always has. This is really interesting because it shows that Laura is on the council – as a respected member. She remembers dealing with the Kingdom as a Savior, but Siddiq brings personal knowledge of Carol – and insists – correctly! – that Carol wouldn’t ask a second time if she wasn’t desperate. This shows how a council can work to bring a wealth of information, and it shows how important personal relationships are.

Nora (Tamara Austin) motions for a second vote, but Gabriel says why bother? Michonne will just veto it – and Michonne confirms that she will. Michonne points out the dangers and says she wishes they could go. She would be fine to open the doors of Alexandria and welcome the people of the Kingdom in as she did with the people of Sanctuary. Ezekiel isn’t ready to give up the Kingdom according to Carol’s letter, so they are at an impasse as far as Michonne is concerned. Siddiq points out “what does it mean for Alexandria to survive if the Kingdom falls?” And this really gets back to both Carl and Rick’s vision of the future. But Michonne is completely focused on the survival of Alexandria.

Rosita is having increasing difficulty doing up her pants – but it’s clear that she’s told Gabriel. He returns from the meeting discouraged. He’s the leader of a council that is no longer a council. It’s really nice to see how both Gabriel and Rosita have changed. It’s still a bit of a surprising pairing, but it really does work. Rosita tells him that it’s a lot – her being pregnant on top of the council issues – and she’s ok if he wants to walk away. It’s not what she wants, but she won’t hold it against him. The question of parenting in this episode is nicely juxtaposed through the different story threads.

Completely unsurprisingly, Henry is caught by Beta (Ryan Hurst). Hurst is a great addition to the cast, and I’m excited to see more of him – though I doubt he’s going to be a character we come to like! Hurst is also gigantic compared to everyone else on the show. Henry stupidly admits that he was following them for Lydia – who maintains her own cover/safety by marching up to him and punching him in the face. Of course, she’s also protecting him because if Lydia showed any feelings toward Henry, it would sign his death warrant.

It’s hard for every scene with Josh McDermitt not to be my favorite, and we get a classic when Eugene comes to Gabriel to help him make his decision about Rosita. Eugene has prepared detailed charts! Chart one lays out the pros and cons of staying with Rosita while she raises a baby with someone else. Chart two takes the numbers assigned to the factors on chart one and assesses them over time! Eugene is nothing if not thorough… He notes some instability in the first few years, but over the long term there is projected positive growth. In other words, over the long haul, Gabriel staying with Rosita is the best course of action.

Gabriel thanks Eugene – and Gilliam is fantastic in this scene as Gabriel struggles to find a nice way to say that he doesn’t want to look at Eugene’s rubric and statistical analysis. Eugene finally just tells Gabriel that he’d be a damn fool to let Rosita go. I loved Eugene telling Gabriel that he remembers and appreciates what Gabriel has done in the past for him – maybe that’s why he can give up the love of his life to him? Eugene tells Gabriel that Rosita is the best thing that’s ever happened to Gabriel – and he’d be a damn fool to “toss the literal baby out with the proverbial bathwater.”

Gabriel is struggling with it not being his baby, but is doesn’t seem like he’s got an ego problem about it not being his, but more that he feels the baby should be with its father. Eugene points out that it’s not Gabriel’s or Siddiq’s choice – it’s all Rosita’s. I loved that he’s still oblivious enough to add that he doesn’t understand why Rosita would chose Gabriel – but he is the one she loves. Eugene also admits his own feelings for Rosita to Gabriel. Eugene tells Gabriel to figure it out: they love each other and Gabriel should stop wasting time – in the end, that’s all they have. Gabriel asks love or time? And Eugene doesn’t hesitate to confirm both. He’s also brought a gift of stretchy pants for Gabriel to give Rosita as a peace offering!

Meanwhile, young love is having a hard time as Henry overhears Lydia tell Alpha that she didn’t think Henry was worth mentioning and that’s why she didn’t. She says he must be dumber than she thought. I loved Beta basically picking Henry up with one hand to turn him back around! Alpha, however, wonders if Lydia is just a good liar. She trusts animals because they don’t lie – Lydia had to lie, but they are just words. Air. They don’t mean anything – and then she gives her an apple. It’s a bit on the Adam and Eve nose, but ok…. It is a nice way to punctuate the fall from the ignorance of animals to the knowledge of being mortal. The Whisperer camp is clearly no Eden either. And of course, Alpha is the snake here.

Michonne finally pays a visit to Negan – and Morgan and Gurira are terrific. Michonne wants to know why he came back. Negan tells her that he was in her home – he could have waited and bashed in her skull. He could have bashed in a bunch of skulls. Michonne tells him that he’s an asshole, not an idiot. He didn’t do it because he knew he’d get killed. Michonne knows that Negan tried to make it “out there” and found out he couldn’t, so he came back. Negan actually admits that she’s right. The world has changed – but so has he. He asks her to try to learn to trust him a little bit.

Michonne tells him that choosing self-preservation over revenge doesn’t earn her trust. Negan tells her that he can be more than a symbol of Rick’s mercy. He tells her that she’s got a good thing going but her control is slipping through her fingers. He knows something about keeping people in line. And it’s at this point that Negan really loses her – but also acts as a wake up call to what she’s doing. He offers to be a sounding board – one leader (former) to another. Negan points out that she wrote up a constitution, but she’s the one who makes all the decisions. Michonne gets angry because she knows he’s right. She’s done the wrong thing for the right reason.

Michonne tells Negan that they’ll be tying him up while they re-fortify the locks on his cell, and they’ll be closing up the windows – as that’s where he gets all of his intel. As Michonne looks up at the window, she sees Judith (Cailey Fleming) run away. She goes after Judith, leaving Negan alone – and pretty disappointed that his only entertainment is now being taken away. I do have to wonder how he’s supposed to get any air though…. Shouldn’t he be having issues with vitamin D deficiency?

Daryl and Connie (Lauren Ridloff) find the spot where Henry was taken. Connie has to tell Daryl to look at her when he talks so that she can read his lips – it’s kind of an interesting way to underscore how little Daryl actually communicates with anyone. However, it’s also a nice reality check. Dog finds Henry’s staff. Daryl and Connie work together to take out a couple of walkers –earning each other’s respect. It’s hilarious when Daryl sends Dog to retrieve his arrow and then it snaps when Dog won’t just give it back. I loved the look between Daryl and Connie, but even better was Daryl’s “bad Dog” – which was not much of a reprimand!

Watching Beta skin walker heads was disgusting! Alpha stops by to give Henry a lesson in Darwinism – the strong survive and the weak die. The walkers are the strong ones because they aren’t “dead” – so that’s why they act like them. However, Alpha has a problem on the homefront with a little mutiny brewing. Her followers have noticed that Alpha has broken her own rules. They don’t go back for the lost – until her “cub” got nabbed AND they gave up two of theirs.

Alpha has clearly faced this issue before. She tells Sean (Benjamin Keepers) that he knows what to do – and he stupidly challenges her. Beta is right there to hold a knife to his throat, and he tells her that she’s changing the rules again. Alpha denies it. He has the right to challenge her leadership at any time – and she has the right to defend it. Alpha, however, knows that Helen (Allie McCulloch) is really the one pulling the strings on the mutiny, however. Alpha has seen her plotting. The challenge, therefore, is Helen’s.

Helen finally goes toe to toe with Alpha, telling her that she’s lead them into danger, and having Henry there, puts them in more danger. She tells Alpha that she’s failed all of them. However, the others don’t come to Helen’s defense. She tells Alpha that she doesn’t want to fight her. Alpha tells her too late and garrotes her head – right off! Much to Henry’s horror as he has a front row seat. It’s a spectacular effect and I hope the actor got to keep her fake head!

Alpha presents the head to Sean, and it looks like she might be letting him off the hook. She tells him to shush – and then knife’s him. His body is dragged out to feed the walkers – as Daryl and Connie watch from the woods. Lydia has changed her clothes and doesn’t talk to Henry, but she shows him that she’s wearing the wooden coin he gave her. It’s the best she can do to communicate with him – and thankfully, it seems that Henry isn’t too stupid to get it.

Michonne checks on a sleeping RJ (Antony Azor) and then confronts Judith about her being at the jail. She doesn’t deny it. Michonne thinks that Judith is spying on her, and Judith tells her that she went to see Negan – and admits that she has been talking to him because she feels sorry for him. I adored her “Well, obviously” when Michonne tries to point out that Negan isn’t her friend. She tells Michonne that Negan listens to her – and not everyone does.

Michonne tells her that she never wants Judith to go near him again – he’s in a cage because he’s a monster. And then Judith gets mad! She insists that Negan is a human being. Michonne says that he’s done monstrous things – he’s killed people that she and Rick cared about. Judith insists that he’s not like that anymore. He got out and it didn’t start all over again – he’s not like that anymore. Michonne tells her that she gets why Judith wants to believe that, but people don’t really change. And then Judith lowers the hammer by pointing out that Michonne changed. Gurira’s response is fantastic. Michonne tells Judith to go to her room because she needs a minute. And it’s not because she’s angry but because she knows that Judith is right.

Alpha asks Beta to take off her mask. Again, it’s a bit on the nose – clearly, he’s the only one she’s really willing to drop her guard with. She comments that it’s been a year since anyone challenged her and it felt different this time. He tells her that the pack believes in her and is alive because of her and that it’s good to remind them.

And then we get an horrific story. When Lydia was three, she got tangled in plastic in a closet and almost suffocated. Alpha watched until it was almost too late before saving her. Once she knew Lydia was ok, she hit her – hard – because she had to make sure that she never did it again. Alpha tells Beta that you have to do whatever it takes to protect what you love – even from itself. Clearly, she’s applied her wonderful parenting skills to her life philosophy! Yikes!

Beta points out that they need to protect themselves from the outside too – they need to be ready when they come for Henry. Alpha assures him that they already are – Henry gives them an advantage. I really did love the body language in this scene between Morton and Hurst as they relate to each other as animals do. Beta is suspicious of Lydia, and Alpha is on board to find out if Lydia really does feel something for Henry.

Gabriel heads home with the present for Rosita and finds her on the steps with Siddiq. It’s a little – maybe a lot – awkward, but smiles are exchanged. The smile on Rosita’s face seems to suggest that she thinks that Gabriel has made his decision and is staying. Eugene also watches and smiles – and it’s more than a little bitter-sweet for him. Maybe this will finally free Eugene to find someone?

Michonne goes to visit Aaron, and Gracie (Anabelle Holloway) opens the door. It’s a nice reminder that at least Aaron has gotten to be Daddy. Michonne thanks Aaron for his support at the meeting, and he points out that they’d all agreed to the rules. He tells her that recent events made him remember why they had rules in the first place. But recent events have also made Michonne reassess the present in light of the past.

Michonne tells him that if the council wants to revote to send a delegation to the fair, she won’t veto it. She still thinks it’s a terrible idea, but the people can weigh the risks and make their own decision. That’s what the Charter was all about. It’s also a nice echo of Gabriel weighing his choices. Michonne also points out that it’s for the Kingdom. Aaron and Michonne both hope that they won’t regret it – and then we see the wagons being loaded – as Michonne sits alone in the church.

Henry is taken by Beta to Alpha and Lydia in the night. Alpha throws he Daddy-killing knife on the ground between them. She tells Lydia to pick it up and kill the boy. She says that Lydia wasn’t gone long, but maybe it was long enough – to forget which side she’s on. Lydia is clearly devastated – and McClincy delivers a stunning performance here. Alpha tells her not to be weak like her father – and Lydia knows what happened to him. But Lydia really does know now – and calls Alpha “mother.” It’s a subtle way for her to show she knows Alpha killed him.

The lesson is interrupted by walkers invading the camp. And then Daryl’s there – in a walker mask. He grabs Henry, but Henry won’t leave without Lydia. Daryl is prepared to leave her. Lydia is also prepared to stay, but Henry grabs her and drags her along when Daryl is done waiting.

It seems that conflict will now be inevitable. This episode does a really interesting job of interweaving the different leadership styles. I really liked as well how questions of parenthood resonate with leadership concerns too. Lots of great performances in this episode, and the Whisperers with Alpha and Beta leading are definitely some great creepy villains. Does anybody think this fair is going to be anything but a bloodbath? We are counting down to the end of the season, and I’m already starting to worry about who we will lose. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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