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The Walking Dead - Silence the Whisperers - Review

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The Walking Dead “Silence the Whisperers” was written by Geraldine Inoa and was directed by Abraham himself, Michael Cudlitz. The episode felt a bit disorganized to me, but we finally do get an explanation for that kiss between Michonne (Danai Girira) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton). There are also a couple of wonderful scenes between Michonne and Judith (Cailey Fleming) as Fleming continues to impress as a worthy successor to Chandler Riggs. Of course, it only further increases how out of character it would be for Michonne to willingly leave behind her children… There is also further bonding between Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Lydia (Cassady McClincy). It seems natural that these two would bond as outsiders who are feared and hated by most of the community. Daryl (Norman Reedus) was also once the same kind of outsider, but of course, his history with Negan prevents him from seeing any benefit to the relationship. But then, our knowledge of Negan has to make us question his motives too, and Morgan has been doing a wonderful job unpacking shades of gray in the character. Finally, this episode really centers on the themes of bullies and masks – through lines for the entire series.

The episode begins with a nice montage of various characters set to music. We see that Daryl is living with Michonne and sharing a family dinner, but there’s an empty place at the table. I fully expected this to be Lydia’s place, but it’s actually Carol’s (Melissa McBride) – who we know from last week is staying there, so maybe Daryl was just there for dinner? Daryl takes a tray up to her, but she doesn’t open the door, and it reminded me of Sam – ironically – who also wouldn’t leave the second floor of his house out of fear – the fear that Carol helped instill in him.

Lydia is actually walking around the community, trying to fit in and being shunned. I suspect that Siddiq’s (Avi Nash) aversion to her is really tied to his PTSD. And then we move on to Hilltop. Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) and Magna (Nadia Hilker) have sex, and we see that Ezekiel is restless. The main house is full to bursting. Ezekiel looks out his window – we hear something – maybe walkers or wind? And then he’s running outside and a giant tree has fallen into the compound. But it’s utterly unclear what exactly has happened.

Members of Hillside are trapped beneath the giant tree. Jerry (Cooper Andrews) doesn’t hesitate before running in to try to save them. Aiden (Callan McAuliffe) and Earl (John Finn) stop the others, cautioning that everything is unstable, and they could make it worse by rushing in. Of course, nobody could stop Jerry! Connie (Lauren Ridloff) wonders about how it happened and Luke (Dan Fogler) asks if she thinks it’s the Whisperers. Aiden and Earl are positive it was – and Earl points out that they’re already at war and just don’t know it.

Jerry goes to Ezekiel for direction, but Ezekiel is unable to help. Jerry tries to get him to go into the house, but he insists he’s ok. However, Yumiko takes over and starts organizing everyone. Payton is terrific in this episode as Ezekiel is overwhelmed when faced with the possible destruction of yet another community under his protection.

Back at Alexandria, Aaron (Ross Marquand) is training a group to fight the Whisperers. When Lydia walks by, she’s clearly affected by Aaron talking about how the Whisperers killed their friends and stole their land. Gage (Jackson Pace) proves he’s still a bully – and has new friends to help – Brandon (Blaine Kern III) and Margo (Jerri Tubbs) – who is clearly old enough to know better. However, while Aaron calls them back to the group and tells them to pay attention, he quite surprisingly doesn’t say anything about their cruelty to Lydia.

Meanwhile, Michonne is on the road with a group going to help Hilltop. The group includes Judith, and we get a terrific exchange between these two. Judith thinks Michonne is worried – and she insists that she’s focusing. Judith brings up Carol’s arm and tells Michonne that she knows that the skins shot at Carol. It’s really, really interesting that she uses Negan’s term for the walkers. It’s also interesting that she’s clearly managed to get some information from somewhere, but it’s muddled. Michonne clarifies that Carol shot at them – and Judith wonders if that’s why they took the land – and Michonne tells her that she doesn’t want her worrying about it.

Michonne tells Judith that she’s very good at her job – and she is. Judith offers to be a set of fresh eyes or friendly ears, and that gets a smile out of Michonne. She then does tell Judith what’s going on. Alpha said she’d release the horde if they crossed the border and she’s only taken land. Clearly, Michonne thinks this is a better option. Judith suggests that the rules may be changing. Michonne points out that once you start negotiating with a bully, there may be no end to what they take – and I loved the way this resonates with Lydia’s storyline too. Michonne tells Judith. Some bullies you can live with. Some you have to fight. Michonne cautions Judith to never take an enemy at their word – you must judge them by what they do. And when their actions are unexpected…

I loved that Judith thinks about this for a moment and then provides Michonne with the perfect analogy. She says, you know how when you want RJ (Anthony Azor) to go to sleep, you let him run around first – classic parenting 101, let the kid tire himself out. Michonne laughs. Out of the mouths of babe – Judith suggests that the Whisperers may want to keep them so busy that they become tired and then they have the advantage. Michonne is impressed – and Judith jokes that she knew RJ would be good for something eventually.

Michonne sees Ezekiel riding alone into the woods and goes after him. She’s soon passed by his horse running past her – hopefully heading home to Hilltop – but it’s more likely that Ezekiel has just lost them a horse and some nice tack. Michonne finds Ezekiel standing at the edge of a drop. He tells her to go, and she tells him to step away from the edge – and that she’s not going anywhere. She comes to stand beside him and takes his hand. Ezekiel draws in a breath, and it’s clear that the moment has passed. The two hug as Michonne comforts him and then we get that kiss…. So many dreadlocks… Ezekiel immediately apologizes and Michonne accepts it.

Negan – who is doing laundry – finds Lydia hiding amongst it – clearly contemplating having some worms for a snack – ew! It’s also clearly not the first time that he’s found her there. She tells him that Gage and his friends have been bullying her again. He’s clearly been giving her advice, but she can’t just roll with it – he points out that he didn’t say that or to just run and hide. He told her to kill them with kindness. He tells her not to give them the satisfaction of a getting a reaction out of her.

The two are interrupted by Daryl, who is not happy that she’s hanging out with Negan. It was fantastic to finally get some scenes with Reedus and Morgan! Negan says that Lydia is just trying to fit in, and Daryl gets right in his face as he points out that that is never going to happen if she hangs out with Negan!

Daryl follows Lydia and tells her that Negan is not her friend and to stay away from him. Lydia insists that Negan gets her – and of course, he does. But so does Daryl. However, Daryl’s time as an outsider is a long time ago now. Even when he took himself away from the group, he was still a part of it. We see the first “Silence the Whisperers” graffiti on the door to the brownstone.

We get a fantastic scene between Michonne and Ezekiel. I loved the shout out to the comic as Ezekiel apologizes for the kiss again, and Michonne points out that it never would have worked out because they are both too stubborn. Ezekiel suggests “maybe in another universe” – and it’s deliciously ironic because of course the two were a couple in the comic universe! But I think that we can put our reservations or fears to rest – they clearly aren’t going that route here.

Michonne, as another leader who has experienced profound loss, is the one person who Ezekiel can open up to. He laments to her that he had a kingdom and lost it and regrets that he didn’t do more during his reign. He’s lost Benjamin, Shiva, and Henry – the Kingdom and now Hilltop. And finally… Carol. He admits that he doesn’t even know how to talk to her anymore. And let’s not forget that she was the first person we saw him talk to in his “real” voice.

Michonne tells him that she’s been “here” before – not the physical spot but the emotional one. Michonne tells him about the time when she was ready to let a walker bite her, but then her damn sword seemed to have a mind of its own as it chopped the heads off. But even when she put the sword down, she’d kill them with her bare hands. She finally gave up trying to kill herself. Ezekiel asks what that felt like, and she tells him it felt like a mask… until it didn’t. And we’ve heard this theme many times before – it’s Ezekiel’s own advice – fake it til you make it… Ezekiel acknowledges that his last mask saved his life.

Michonne tells him, just like that, but she also tells him that it’s harder the second time around, especially when you get used to having someone there – a partner in crime, a sounding board – Gurira is fantastic in this scene. Michonne is overwhelmed by memories of Rick – and also that it ends up being “all on you” when the other is gone.

And then the two walk back out of the woods. It’s a nice bit of humor to lighten the mood a bit as Michonne says that Ezekiel isn’t a half bad kisser, and he insists that it was a mess and that he’s not at the top of his game. Michonne points out that she hasn’t kissed anyone in the last 6 years. Wow! It’s hard to believe it’s been that long – but it’s also a good reminder of the time that has passed. Michonne gets Ezekiel to promise not to ride off by himself again. He thanks her.

Back at the Hilltop, the walkers are pushing on the broken fence as the rescue efforts continue. Aiden and Earl work to reinforce the fence, and it’s Luke that suggests they need to push the walkers back. A group goes out to fight, including Luke, Magna, Yumiko, Connie, and Kelly (Angel Theory).

At Alexandria, Lydia takes her own revenge as she joins Gage and friends at their table for lunch – with a squirrel to skin! Once again, no one does anything. Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) actually looks amused. It’s possible that they don’t hear the clearly threatening exchange between Brandon and Margo.

Daryl, however, while he agrees that they deserved it – and in former days might have done something similar – tells her that she can’t be doing shit like that – assuming she wants to fit in. Lydia is actually more angry about what they’ve written on their door – which explains her taunting them by putting her finger to her lips and shushing them. Daryl offers to talk to them, but that’s not what Lydia wants. She doesn’t want him to fight her fights, and she insists that she’s not going to give up. He tells her to try to avoid them, and she leaves. Daryl is clearly flummoxed by this parenting thing!

We cut to night and are back to the laundry. Gage, Margo, and Brandon ambush Lydia. Margo blames Lydia for her friends. She gives Lydia one final chance to run away, but Lydia insists that this is her home and these are her people. Gage almost seems reluctant until Lydia insists that she loved Henry, and then he joins the others in beating Lydia. Margo is about to potentially kill Lydia when Negan arrives and pulls her off. Unfortunately, Margo ends up being flung into a wall and killed. Negan has inadvertently murdered another Alexandrian.

Siddiq confirms that Margo is dead. The crowd that forms blames Negan, but
Lydia insists that Negan didn’t do anything wrong, he was just trying to save her. Daryl looks after Lydia and tells the others to get Negan out of there. Siddiq has another attack of PTSD – large crowd, night, blood… He runs away and screams into a bowl of ice water. Once again, Dante (Juan Javier Cardenas) steps in to look after Lydia.

Daryl says he’s sorry that it happened to her. Lydia misses the dead – who did a better job of protecting her. Daryl asks her what happened, and she tells him simply that Negan saved her life. Daryl pulls her into a hug – and looks thoughtful.

Daryl goes to see Negan, whose first question is how is Lydia doing. Daryl tells him she’ll be alright and then tells him that the people want Negan killed, especially since Rick isn’t around to save him anymore. Negan tells him to keep walking if he’s looking for a confession – it was an accident. Besides which, Margo was an asshole for beating on a kid – agreed! Negan knows that Daryl agrees – they both feel connected to Lydia. Negan is still an astute judge of character, and he knows that Daryl came to look him in the eye because he doesn’t know what to do with him. If it hadn’t been for Lydia, Daryl likely would have taken this excuse to kill Negan…. This is another great scene between Reedus and Morgan.

Negan points out that they are alike – they can both smell the crowd’s desire for blood. Daryl wants to know why Negan stood up for Lydia – Negan’s no hero. Negan tells him that he’s a sucker. He started believing in their way of life and their moral code. He points out the irony of them taking away his freedom when he actually steps up and does the right thing. Daryl tells him that he’ll get the chance to tell his side – but Negan knows it will be no use.

Daryl stops to check on Carol who’s sitting out on the stoop. She’s heard what happened. She says everyone’s talking about Negan again and it’s like time never moved. Carol asks what Daryl thinks. He insists that he doesn’t care about Negan, but he believes Lydia. Carol insists that this is all a distraction – their real enemy is the Whisperers. She’s sure the tree was an attack on Hilltop. Daryl points out that they have to fix what’s wrong internally before going after Alpha. Carol jokingly points out that they should have gone to New Mexico. I’m sure that this is an in-joke for those who watch Fear the Walking Dead – but I don’t, so I can’t gloss this….

Back at Hilltop, the fighters are growing tired as they’ve fought continuously into the night to keep the walkers off the wall. Once we’re outside, it seems obvious folly to have left that gigantic tree so close to the fence in the first place. There is a fantastic shot of Connie and Kelly fighting from on top of a bunch of logs with a full moon behind them. I have to wonder if that moon is CGI or good luck?! The fighters are called back in, but Magna resists retreating until Connie goes to her and tells her to come back in.

Unfortunately, they are no sooner in the gate, then the wall does come down. Fortunately, the crew from Alexandria arrive at that moment – I thought there was only one gate in, but they seem to have come in a different way. They absolutely best part of this scene is watching Judith and Michonne fight side by side with their katanas! Such wonderful work by both Gurira and Flemming!

Daryl calls Michonne on the radio and updates her on Negan. Michonne tells him things have settled down. Daryl tells Michonne that Negan is in the right, but he doesn’t think it’s going to matter this time. She wonders if she should come home and asks how Lydia is. Daryl tells her not good. Michonne insists that Daryl has to keep Lydia safe for all of them. Clearly, Michonne is working a larger plan that we don’t know about – she tells Daryl that their plan to buy time was working until Carol shot at Alpha. Michonne points out that Alpha didn’t kill them because she wants Daryl to protect Lydia. Lydia has to stay at Alexandria. Daryl agrees to make sure that she does. Michonne tells him to keep it between them for now. Michonne asks about RJ and Daryl jokes that he’s a little afraid for him because he won’t eat his vegetables. Daryl also tells her that the Council is meeting. She asks him to be her proxy when they vote – and she tells him that she’s knows he’ll do the right thing – but she doesn’t tell him how to vote. Michonne then gets a call from Oceanside…

In front of the council, Gage and Brandon try to attribute everything to Lydia being crazy. Gabriel may not have said anything, but he has been watching. He asks them why they agreed to meet her there in the dark if they thought she was crazy. They have no good answer. Brandon insists that they were the ones who were attacked, and Gabriel points out that Lydia is the one laying in the infirmary. Brandon points out that Margo is in a grave.

Aaron argues against Negan – even while admitting that he’s had glimmers of Negan having changed. And there were some really gray moments between Aaron and Negan in the last episode. Siddiq argues for Negan and the civilization that they’ve built. He also, like Carol, points out that they should be a lot more worried about and focused on the Whisperers who are their real enemies. Gabriel points out that the Council wasn’t made for this – stopping a lynching essentially. Daryl points out that if they can’t make a decision, the people outside will. Daryl insists on a vote, and votes no. Gabriel says he wants to take the night to consider his vote and tells the others to do the same.

There is a great scene at Hilltop as the group decides on next moves. Michonne is heading to Hillside as they’ve spotted a Whisperer watching them. I loved that Eugene (Josh McDermitt) makes a comment about one indicating a thousand watching and Luke totally gets he’s talking about cockroaches even though Eugene pompously uses the scientific name! These two really, really need more scenes together and to be friends!

Michonne wants to check on Oceanside, and Luke volunteers to go. Yumiko immediately starts teasing him about Jules – and it’s clearly the reason that he wants to go! Dianne (Kerry Cahill) also volunteers to go. Michonne tells Eugene to lead one of the wagons back to Alexandria, but Eugene has different plans. I loved that Judith looked concerned that Eugene wasn’t going home. It’s actually healthy for him finally to separate himself from Rosita. He explains that he wants to help rebuild the wall, using his superior expertise, of course.

Eugene’s roundabout explanation leaves everyone confused except Michonne who promises to bring back supplies to help him do it faster. Eugene apologizes to Judith for not being able to escort her home, but Judith is thrilled when Michonne says that Judith is coming with her. Michonne tells her it’s for a pair of friendly ears, but is she also keeping Judith from what’s happening to Negan?

Magna is sitting apart from the others, and Yumiko goes to her. Magna is sulking because she didn’t get to do what she wanted – she insists that they could have taken the walkers. She resents Yumiko making the decision. Magna tells Yumiko that she’s not her lawyer anymore…. And that fills in some backstory…

Gabriel goes to see Negan the next morning – and finds his cell empty. I did like the way it was shot that we only get Gabriel’s reaction – it could have meant that Negan was dead – but then he’s pounding on Daryl’s door and tells him that he’s gone.

Naturally, they suspect Laura (Lindsley Register) – as one of Negan’s former followers, but Lydia tells Gabriel and Aaron that she did it – before walking past them and putting herself in the cell. Daryl comes to her and insists that she didn’t do it and doesn’t deserve to be in the cell. She tells him that she did do it. But Daryl was keeping watch all night and knows she didn’t leave the house. She insists that it doesn’t matter because everyone wants her in the cell anyway.

Lydia blames herself and wonders what would have happened if she’d never let them take her alive, or never left the cell at Hilltop, or never left with Henry, or never said what she said to her mother. Daryl tells her not to give any credit to what her mother said, but Lydia insists that Alpha was right – and the conversation turns brilliantly back to masks. She tells him that Alpha said that they all put on these polite faces, but they’re just masks because when things get bad, when you get scared, you pick a target, aim and shoot. Me, Negan, as long as it’s not you. Daryl insists that Negan is different than her and that she didn’t know him before. And maybe that’s the point. The Negan she knows stood up for her when he didn’t have to. Lydia tells him that she tried fitting in because she wanted to be like him. He insists she doesn’t belong in a cage, but she tells him that she feels safe – and he closes the door.

The end of the episode in another musical montage. This time Ezekiel tells Jerry that he’s good – really. Luke says goodbye to his friends and heads off with Michonne and Judith. Carol looks out from the roof while Daryl scrubs the graffiti off the door. But there’s more graffiti and the music fades to sounds of the dead and then shushing to silence.

I liked that the themes of bullies and masks runs throughout the episode. It was also nice to take some time to look at how far the characters have come and appreciate how different so many of them are. Great performances from Gurira, Payton, Fleming, Morgan, McClincy, and Reedus. What did you think of the episode? Who let Negan out? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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