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The Walking Dead - Ghosts - Review

        The Walking Dead “Ghosts” was written by Jim Barnes and directed by David Boyd. This is Barnes first episode, which may explain why some characters felt a bit different to me. This is a much more in-depth look at Carol’s (Melissa McBride) psyche than we’ve seen before. Barnes’ other credits include Timeless, Gotham, Falling Skies, and Revolution – so he’s no stranger to apocalyptic world (Timeless and Revolution also tie him to Eric Kripke and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan) by extension!). I liked the way the title played through all the storylines as various characters dealt with the ghosts of their past and the show really focused on what would have to be rampant PTSD.

It seems like we’re getting those dramatic title cards now as a thing. The first one in this episode tells us 6:00am Hour 1 – and then we continue through a montage of attacks by waves of walkers on Alexandria to Hour 49… We see Carol (Melissa McBride) taking some kind of pill and not allowing herself to sleep with an egg timer – fitting for Housewife-cookie-baking-Carol. We see everyone clean and rested at the beginning and getting gradually dirtier and more exhausted. The waves are coming from the “border” and they wonder if they are being sent by Alpha (Samantha Morton).

Michonne (Danai Gurira) takes a quick break to visit the kids. RJ (Antony Azor) is asleep in her bed, but Judith (Cailey Fleming) is sitting by the window – it’s not safe to go to sleep unless you know that it’s safe she tells Michonne, and she agrees. Before Michonne can even answer whether it’s safe or not, she is called away by the radio as another wave approaches – and this time it’s from the north and the south. I loved how this scene is paralleled at the end of the episode with Michonne able to declare them safe and the two climbing into bed on either side of RJ.

Eugene (Josh McDermitt) is on watch, and Negan is on cleanup duty. Eugene estimates that they’ll be fighting into the night, and Daryl (Norman Reedus) tells Michonne that people are reaching the end of their rope. Gamma (Thora Birch) arrives and tells them that the attacks aren’t them and to come to the border, lay down their weapons, and wait. When Daryl asks for what, she answers “her.” And we all know she means Alpha. This would have been both an acting and directing choice, but Gamma was too self-confident for me here. I also think it would have been a lot creepier for her to have whispered her dialogue.

It’s Council time and tensions are running high as everyone is tired and on edge. Lydia (Cassady McClincy) tells them that she doesn’t think the walkers are from Alpha and that Alpha wants to meet because they crossed over onto her lands. Aaron (Ross Marquand) suggests just not going, and Dante (Juan Javier Cardenas) points out that they’re already under attack. Lydia tells them it’s not a good idea not to go and that if Alpha wanted them dead, she’d just send the hoard – not do it a bit at a time. Eugene tries to tell them that there could be another explanation based on the satellite and the fire, but he’s interrupted by Margo (Jerri Tubbs), who just wants justice for the Highwaymen who died. As soon as she mentions them, we see Siddiq (Avi Nash) become uncomfortable as his raging PTSD kicks in. Michonne, Daryl, and Dante all observe his discomfort as he has to leave the room. At least we know that he’s got good people looking out for him who recognize the signs and can help.

Michonne gets the meeting back on track. She asks Daryl how many were in the hoard, and he tells her 10s of 1000s. Michonne then puts Margo on the spot – what’s her plan for taking them out? Margo doesn’t have one – and neither does anyone else. Michonne points out that if Alpha sends the hoard, they are done. Right now she just wants to talk – so that’s what they’re going to do. She tells the assembled that they won’t get through if they don’t act as one.

Michonne, Daryl, and Carol plan their three-pronged plan. Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) will guard the gate from the northern wave. Aaron will take some troops and handle the southern wave – which is more dispersed, and they’ll go to the border. We get a great shot of Aaron changing out his hand for a mace! Carol, of course, isn’t going anywhere unarmed and she takes her trusty pistol with her – and pops more pills.

One of my favorite scenes was Gabriel convincing Aaron to take Negan with him. Neither are interested in the pair up! Gabriel points out that Negan has only been taking care of the dead – he’s a lot fresher than any of the other fighters. Negan pulls Gabriel away and says he’d rather pick tomatoes and bury corpses. He doesn’t want any of the hateful vibes taken out on him – people are tired and amped to 11 – Great Spinal Tap reference!!! Gabriel says “It’s Aaron! He’s a Saint!” – and we get a shot of Aaron looking anything but saintly! And then we get what has to be a classic line – He tells Negan he can fight and Aaron that he needs fighters. “Peanut butter? Meet Jelly.” He ends the discussion by telling Aaron he’s taking him! Negan tries to make friends – in his totally creepy and can’t quite not be sarcastic…. By telling Aaron that his mace is awesome – but then following it up with “putting the old stump to work…”

Aaron and Negan fight side by side. Negan has only been armed with a broomstick, which really isn’t much of a weapon. When he finds a crowbar lying in the grass, however, Aaron won’t let him keep it. Negan tries to tell him that he’s changed, but Aaron isn’t having any of it. Really, I think that Negan is fully capable of taking Aaron out with the broomstick if he wanted to…. Aaron is dealing with the ghost of Eric – and Negan is dealing with the ghost of his own past.

At the border, they lay down their weapons and Daryl watches over Carol who asks for a minute at the pole that had Henry’s head on it. The coin with H – for hilltop, hero, and Henry is still there. Henry is very much her ghost.

We cut to Eugene fighting alongside Rosita (Christian Serratos) who is his ghost.

Given that in addition to Daryl, Michonne, and Carol, there is Laura (Lindlsey Register) and a couple of red suits, I was worried that the encounter with Alpha would go completely off the rails. Alpha arrives – and this is creepy as her group comes out of the dark and mist and she slowly emerges from her walker alter-ego. She tells them that they’ve broken the one law – stay where you are. Daryl tells them that the fire would have destroyed their land. Alpha tells them that the fire is natural – and they have no conflict with nature. Michonne tells her that it could have wiped out one of their communities. Alpha knows about all three times that they’ve crossed – during the fire, during the winter storm, and when Aaron and Michonne were on the bridge!

When all the whisperers show that they are armed, I thought we were going to see some deaths. Alpha surprised me by saying that she considered context! There will be no bloodshed – but she’s taking more land. Carol points out that it will cut off their hunting grounds. Carol says that they don’t have to stand for this… and Michonne cuts her off – but Alpha goads her into finishing – “Bullshit!” Daryl tries to get her away. But Alpha stops him – she wants Carol to submit by breaking eye contact and looking down – like every animal to the Alpha!

Alpha tells Carol that she should fear her – but of course Carol doesn’t and tells her so. McBride is really fantastic in this episode and this scene. Carol could almost be a whisperer when she tells Alpha that she feels nothing at all when she looks at her. But Alpha knows which button to push – mother to mother – she tells her that Henry screamed Carol’s name right before they took his head. Carol pulls her gun out at that point and Michonne hits her arm so the bullet goes harmlessly into the ground. Daryl pulls Carol back and Michonne apologizes. She tells Alpha that they haven’t slept – and Alpha knows what she lost. Alpha says that she forgives her – mother to mother – but then tells them to run. They’re on her land now.

They stop for a rest and coffee on the way back. Michonne tries to talk to Carol and all Carol will say is “the bitch has to die” before walking away. Daryl tells Michonne that Carol hasn’t been the same since she got off the boat – maybe she was better off there. But Michonne maintains that Carol belongs with them. Daryl also tells her that Carol hasn’t been sleeping and has been spending her nights looking for the whisperers. The stage is set to doubt what Carol sees… we see her take a shot at three whisperers before she falls and then the others are after them. Michonne tells them to capture not kill.

It’s now dark and Aaron and Negan are still fighting by the tractor. When Negan gets in a tight spot, he grabs the crowbar to save his life. I was puzzled as to what was on his arm that he’s scratching at when he stands up – but that becomes clear later on. Aaron tells him to drop the crowbar and is then going to tie Negan up and march him back to camp. But now Negan is tired and he’s had enough – he refuses – though he’s happy enough to go back to Alexandria.

Aaron pulls his knife and Negan calls him on. He doesn’t think Aaron is serious. When Negan goes to walk past, Aaron doesn’t try to stab him, he just trips him. Negan taunts him – “are you 12?” He then asks what’s wrong with him – Negan’s been putting his neck on the line for him fighting with him all day. Aaron tells Negan that if he gave a shit about them, he’d leave. Negan tells him that he did what he had to – back then. But Aaron wants to know why the love of his life had to die – Eric is his ghost.

Negan tells him that one simple truth kept his people going – if you don’t protect what’s yours, someone will take it away from you. It’s your job – as a man – to protect it. It’s the story of America. Aaron interprets this as Negan saying that Eric’s death is his fault – and if that’s the case, then Negan failed his wife. And Aaron finally gets under Negan’s skin. Negan warns him to be careful – and Morgan and Marquand are both just fantastic in this scene. Aaron gets right in his face as he tells Negan that she died hating him and he’ll never see her again. He taunts Negan – do you want to say something? And Negan says, “yeah. I do. Behind you!” and there are two walkers right behind Aaron. Aaron manages to kill them, but one with some kind of plant growing out of it almost bites him, and when he stands up, Aaron suddenly can’t see and calls for Negan – who doesn’t answer.

Michonne and the others find nothing – not even tracks. But Michonne wants to know how long Carol has been popping pills. Carol tells her since she got back – and then gets angry – they’re just like caffeine! It’s fine! The group head to a nearby school to get some rest for the night before going all the way home. Daryl clears a room – that we’ll see again later – and Carol trips over a Home Economics textbook. It’s perfect for homemaker-Carol, right? It’s also our first indication that all isn’t right with Carol and maybe she IS seeing things. She sees herself with Henry (Matt Lintz) – old and young – and Lizzie, Mia, and Sophia – all her children – with their throats cut as she serves the pancakes with her short warrior hair. Daryl breaks the spell by coming back for her. Carol insists on taking first watch. She pops more pills – and where is she getting all these pills anyway?

Aaron manages to find his way inside a house. Negan is sitting there in the dark, but doesn’t say anything. Aaron is flailing about the house, breaking things and his flashlight has turned on. Naturally, the light and noise attract walkers. When it seems like Aaron is about to die, Negan finally comes to his rescue. There’s a scary moment as he stands over Aaron that it looks like he might be thinking of killing Aaron, but then he speaks. He tells Aaron he saw the light and that Aaron can’t see because of the Hogweed that was growing out of the walker that Aaron killed. It causes rashes – Negan’s arm – and blindness, which can sometimes be permanent. It’s a nice metaphor that we come back to. Aaron has washed his eyes out. Negan moves away, and Aaron wants to know where he’s going – now clearly wanting Negan to stay and protect him. Negan says that he’ll keep watch – remember Judith saying that you should only sleep when it’s safe – and they’ll leave in the morning.

As Carol keeps watch – with the egg timer beside her, she’s joined by Daryl. He tells her a story about his Dad – who has a long-haul trucker. On one trip he hallucinates running over a girl. His Dad didn’t sleep much either. He’d stay up 24 hours to make a run, and sometimes that will make you see things. Carol tells Daryl that she’s not a meth-snorting truck driver… and then she apologizes. He agrees that she’s right – she’s not like his dad, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong either. I love that in some ways, Daryl is also Carol’s ghost – or at least her conscience. The egg timer goes off and it’s time for Carol to continue cooking herself and take another pill. Daryl tells her not to take it, but she does anyway. The bottle is empty though – just as Carol clearly is. Daryl asks if she can’t sleep because of bad dreams.

Carol goes to the room that Daryl cleared earlier and there is a walker sitting in it. She hears Henry’s voice and turns to see him in the broken window. As she turns back around there is a whisperer with a knife! And then she startles awake. Daryl asks her where she’s been – she’s been gone a half hour – but Carol clearly has no memory of this. Carol assures him it’s fine – she’s not his Dad seeing a ghost – and Daryl is totally confused. His Dad wasn’t a truck driver. That part of the conversation was an hallucination. But we get a repeat of Daryl asking Carol not to take the pill. She asks for one more hour on shift, and Daryl agrees. Carol only has one bullet left. She sees a shadow move, but now we are left to wonder if she’s really seeing this.

Carol wanders into the gym – and doesn’t watch where she’s putting her feet. She steps in a trap that lifts her up and knocks over a bunch of stuff to make noise to attract walkers. And then there does seem to be a whisperer there taunting her. Have they been sent to assassinate Carol? She manages to get off her one shot and then screams for Daryl. Hanging upside down, she manages to stab a couple of the walkers in the head before she gets down. When the egg timer goes off again, she’s standing in the middle of the gym, surrounded by dead walkers as the rest of the group run in…

Carol has but her arm badly, and they rush her back to Alexandria. Siddiq has a full blown episode of PTSD when faced with the wound. Dante sees it and says that Siddiq is not ok, but the two work together to patch her together. Dante then covers for Siddiq in front of the others. He’s still ashamed, however, and walks away from Dante – he’s not ready to talk yet.

It’s morning and back at the farm house, Negan is still standing at the window when Aaron wakes up. Negan still has the crowbar – slung over his shoulder the way he used to carry Lucille. He asks Aaron if he can see him – and Aaron can. It’s a terrific metaphor – Aaron can see that maybe Negan has changed – or at least has something else to fight to keep… them.

Things are finally quiet in Alexandria. Rosita and Eugene stagger back to the house. Eugene wonders where the baby is and tells Rosita that he went out to fight with her to protect her because the little nugget can’t grow up without her Mama. But when has Rosita ever wanted or needed to be protected? Rosita points out that she taught him to fight. Rosita tells him that they are never going to be together – she apologizes for it being harsh and says she’s so tired she feels drunk. Eugene asks her if she’s familiar with the saying “A drunk mind speaks a sober heart.” Sleep deprivation lowers inhibitions – he finally believes that she’s telling the truth. Eugene has still been harboring hope that some day they’d have something. Rosita doesn’t think that their friendship is nothing. Eugene says that their whole friendship is based on his hope that he’ll be re-zoned from friend to lovetown. This is Eugene’s ghost – and he’s finally letting it go. I’m excited to see what’s next for him now….

Michonne checks on Siddiq. He tells her that he’s just tired. She accepts it. But Dante then joins Siddiq. This was a great scene for both of these actors/characters. It’s also a nice way to introduce Dante as he opens up to Siddiq in an effort to get Siddiq to open up to him. Dante tells Siddiq that he was in Iraq and that you go in one person, and come out another. He then goes on to tell the story of a “guy” that everyone knew. He was a cocky guy who never broke – until he did after he lost his entire troop. He came back with the shakes, 1000 mile stare, flashbacks – he was a mess, in and out of VA hospitals. Siddiq jumps on the “was.” Siddiq is desperate to know what happened with the guy – and Dante tells him that he’s having a drink with him. It’s his own story. The two laugh over Dante describing himself as Adonis-like.

Carol is finally asleep and seems to be having a nice dream. She wakes up to find Daryl making breakfast, but they’re out of jam. Daryl gives her money for the store, her watch has no hands, and then Henry, at the table and without a cut neck, asks her where she’s going. Carol wakes up and comes downstairs to find Michonne in the kitchen. Carol insists that she saw the whisperers, but Michonne says that she’s the only one who did see them. Michonne thinks that these are Carol’s ghost. Michonne goes to bed with the kids. Carol checks in with Daryl – and he believes her.

And in the final scene, we are back at the school and follow a trail of blood to a dead whisperer. That was not a ghost.

I really liked how the theme of ghosts wove throughout the entire episode. It’s great to finally see Negan starting to interact with more characters. Is he really a changed man or just doing what he needs to to get by. Now that Eugene doesn’t have Rosita to pine over, will he finally move on? And what is Alpha really up to? What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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