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The Walking Dead - Morning Star - Review

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The Walking Dead “Morning Star” was written by the team of Julia Ruchman and Vivian Tse and was directed by Michael Satrazemis. While there were some really good, satisfying scenes in this episode, but it felt a bit slow and choppy even though it leaves our heroes in real peril at the end. Clearly, they were trying to increase the tension, but after the last two episodes which were quite fast-paced this one felt like a bit of a filler episode.

There’s a great scene at the beginning which looks like Beta (Ryan Hurst) is having a temper tantrum on a tree, but then we see bags all over trees collecting sap, and the shot pans out to Whisperers carrying bags full away. At first, I thought, ‘is it pancake day? Are they making maple syrup?’ But of course, they are collecting pine resin, not sap, because the resin is highly flammable…

Next we cut to Alpha (Samantha Morton) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). She’s now letting him whip her, taking Beta’s place. Negan asks if he’s graduated to the “next level of kinky, Whisperer shit.” He seems reluctant at first to do it, and he certainly doesn’t seem to enjoy it at all. She then turns the whip on him, and he has no problem letting her do it. Again, he doesn’t seem to enjoy it, but he asks her if it means that they are bonded for life. She answers that it depends, but he’s clearly hoping this is moving him up the ladder.

The final scene of the teaser is Beta in the midst of the horde whispering that they are dead. Negan is walking with Alpha – and has a mask now! FYI - the mask was taken from a cast of Norman Reedus' head! Alpha is clearly enjoying herself and whispering ‘we take them all.’ Negan just keeps his head down, saying nothing. But Beta is glowering at him from behind.

We catch up with Eugene (Josh McDermitt) chatting on the radio with Blue Weevil (Margo Bingham). The two are clearly getting along well and enjoying their talks. Eugene is looking for a particular song to play her. She tells him to sing it, and he refuses – in typical Eugene fashion. When she mentions having seen the satellite fall, they realize that they saw the same one and are close to each other – a few hundred miles.

Eugene assures her that he hasn’t told anyone about her, but the satellite is what gave him the boost to be able to talk to her. She tells him that her people are uber-cautious, but Eugene can’t help himself and he tells her that he’s in Virginia. He finally suggests a meeting. He tells her that he’ll suggest a location. She can stay out of sight and if she doesn’t like the look of him, she can just back away. McDermitt is terrific in this episode as we see just how far Eugene has come. He waits anxiously for her answer, and is delighted when she says that she’ll talk to her people. Eugene is going to tell his people, but she asks him to wait until she talks to hers.

We join Alden (Callan McAuliffe) and Earl (John Finn) on the wall at Hilltop. They are using metal to re-enforce the wooden palisade – no more trees will take it down… They see the group from Alexandria approach and speculate on who Mary (Thora Birch) is.

Earl immediately asks Aaron (Ross Marquand) who she is once they’re inside. Aaron tells him that she ran away from Alpha and that she’s been helping them out. Earl wants to know why she’s there, and Aaron tells him that Adam is her nephew and she wants to see him. Earl if furious and says no. Alden goes after Earl. He tells him that just because they came to Hilltop wanting something doesn’t mean that they’ll get it. They can see Alex – who I presume is the new doctor – and that’s it. Alden tells Earl that he’ll handle it – hopefully preventing Earl from doing something else stupid.

We finally get a terrific scene – actually several – between Carol (Melissa McBride) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton). Does anyone think that Ezekiel is getting out of the upcoming fight alive? At least we see Ezekiel and Carol make up as Ezekiel comes to her in the woods at Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) old camp. Jerry (Cooper Andrews) and Kelly (Angel Theory) made it back from the caves, and of course, he knew exactly where to look for her.

McBride and Payton have great chemistry and are both terrific in this episode. Carol is finally contrite. Ezekiel wants her to come back with him, and he wants to offer her some comfort. Once again, Carol is unwilling to budge, and Ezekiel uses humor to get through to her. He says fine, if she doesn’t want to leave, they’ll both sit there and get eaten by mosquitos… He gets a tiny smile out of her as she finally really looks at him.

Kelly (Angel Theory) has got Jerry, Luke (Dan Fogler) and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) ready to go back to the caves. Yumiko thinks they are already dead. It seems about to escalate into a fight when Daryl arrives back on his bike with Lydia (Cassady McClincy). He tells them that they have to talk. Lydia tells them that they can’t go out there – Alpha is coming!

Rosita (Christian Serratos) goes to see Eugene and steps right into the middle of a conversation with Stephanie. Rosita picks up the mic and demands to know who it is because Eugene is upstairs from the radio. It immediately goes silent and Eugene is furious as he comes back down. Rosita is shocked to see Eugene legitimately furious with her. She quickly assesses the situation though and it’s clear she realizes what’s been going on. I loved that he even told her she looked terrible! Rosita looks contrite as she leaves – does she also regret that she may no longer be the one who Eugene pines for? Eugene apologizes and tries to get a response from Stephanie – to no avail.

Negan takes a moment to give Alpha some unsolicited advice – which gives me hope that he hasn’t totally gone over to the other side – or maybe he’s just trying to save Judith (Cailey Fleming). He tells Alpha that a slaughter would feel great, but getting Alexandria and Hilltop to join them would feel even better. Get them to ‘bend a knee.’ She tells him to explain.

Yumiko sends out scouts – Felix (Gianni Biasetti Jr) and Penny (Kristin Reyelt) to watch for the Whisperers – and we’ll get to see them later. She then goes back in to the strategy meeting. Lydia is telling them to flee, but Earl refuses. Maybe she’s going to Alexandria. Daryl points out that Hilltop is right in the way. Earl suggests that she’ll go around them. Lydia insists that she doesn’t need to do that. Jerry insists that he’s not running again. Dianne (Kerry Cahill) insists that they can rebuild anywhere, but Earl asks Aaron if he’s seen anywhere like Hilltop in all his scouting missions and Aaron says no.

Yumiko points out that they only have a few dozen fighters. Aaron doesn’t want to fight. Earl wants to fight for where they live – it would be a good way to go. Aaron refuses to sacrifice the children – and that’s it for Daryl too. He calls it. Send the children first. They’re going to Oceanside.

As Daryl is loading up the kids, Judith tells him that she wants to fight. I loved that RJ (Antony Azor) is wearing Daryl’s vest and Rick’s hat as he climbs into the wagon. Rather than dismiss her, Daryl acknowledges that she wants to fight, even as he helps her into the wagon. Carol and Ezekiel arrive at Hilltop, and Daryl is not happy to see her.

Daryl leads the convoy on his motorcycle and recognizes Negan’s handiwork in the tree across the road. He realizes that he’s with Alpha now. Penny and Felix are hanging in the trees beside the road – it is the perfect Whisperer/Savior mashup. Daryl realizes that all the roads will now be blocked.

The group go back to Hilltop. The fighters who had stayed behind aren’t happy to see them. Daryl tells them that they missed their window to get out. Luke suggests calling Alexandria. Dianne breaks it to them – no one can get there in time. Earl is the one to tell them to stop panicking and get their heads on straight – this is going to be the fight of their lives (or deaths…).

Ezekiel is going through a box of Henry’s things when Carol turns up at his door. She finally removes the scarf from around his neck and he tells her it’s nothing. She tells him not to bullshit a bullshitter. He tells her that he wanted to tell her… and then she kisses him…

Mary takes the opportunity of everyone being busy to try to see Adam, but Alden steps in to stop her. She tells Alden that she understands that he hates her. Aaron steps in and says she’s not going to hurt the baby – and asks if Alden really wants to fight about it now. Alden insists that he does! It was nice to finally catch up with Alden and see that he’s clearly not even remotely over Enid. He tells Mary that Earl has been raising the baby for Tammy – and not her. Alden points out to Aaron that if he dies that night, it will be for everything that they’ve been trying to build for Adam – a Whisperer!

Ezekiel is spread-eagled in the bed as Carol gets dressed. Anybody else disturbed by how Christ-like he looks here? He declares that that was fun, and Carol replies that was never their problem. When he can’t get even an eye roll from her, he remarks that she’s changed. She’s lost her sense of humor. She denies it – and tells him that she left it on the dresser in the Kingdom and it burned down. Ezekiel adds to the metaphor and says he left his pride in the same place. I love how this scene demonstrates yet again why these two were perfect for each other. Carol tries to lighten the load and says that she always hated that stupid dresser – meaning his pride, of course, and that it didn’t mean anything to her – that she didn’t think he’d lost anything.

Ezekiel asks if they would have come together on any other night. Carol asks what he means and joins him on the bed. Ezekiel clarifies, if we weren’t going to die tonight. I loved the way Carol answers him teasingly, “We’re gonna die tonight?” And she gets him to laugh. She doesn’t answer the question, of course, but it does seem like Carol is putting her house in order, ready to take out Alpha and die for it.

Rosita comes to Eugene where he’s working on a brilliant defense for Hilltop. She’s brought water – or possibly moonshine to get him to talk. She tells him she called Gabriel (Seth Gilliam). Coco is fine and she didn’t tell him what’s happening. Eugene points out that it’s likely they are going to die, but Rosita won’t let him actually say it. Eugene tells her that he ceased transmissions. Rosita points out that he really likes this girl. I loved that Rosita asks how he could have known her for so long and still have no game! She tells him that Stephanie clearly likes him – even though he’s convinced himself that her silence says otherwise.

Rosita asks Eugene if he wants to kiss her. Eugene is stunned. She tells him to hurry up when he hesitates – and then we get that teaser we’ve been seeing – and he can’t do it! He realizes that he’d rather kiss Stephanie! He points out that this isn’t the time to be “mulling over matters of a forlorn heart.” Rosita tells him that they can’t just roll over for these skin freaks. She tells him that he likes this girl and he should get off his ass and go get her! He kisses her chastely on the cheek as he goes off to do just that! It was so nice to see Eugene finally get over her!

Carol joins Lydia where she’s sitting by the heart she drew with Henry. Carol tells her that she should hate her. Lydia tells her that Carol seems to hate herself so much – and we can add that there’s no point in Lydia piling on. Carol goes on to tell her that she’s going to kill her mother. Lydia says “to save us,” but Carol says because it will feel good and then asks if Lydia will hate her then. Lydia tells her that she won’t be thinking about her – and Carol laughs. She thanks her for telling the truth. Lydia tells her that she’s sorry her kid died and Carol hates the world, and she’s sorry that her mother is a monster. Carol finally shows a crack – she tells Lydia that she had a whole life – and we can remember that even before, when we first met Carol, her life was not “whole.” And Lydia says that she remembers – it’s the only glimpse of such a life that she’s ever had. Both McClincy and McBride are fantastic in this scene.

As the others make preparations, rats suddenly come out of the woods, signaling that the horde is coming. As the final preparations take place, Eugene finally resorts to singing the song he couldn’t find – Iron Maiden’s “When the Wild Wind Blows.” The lyrics about the world as we know it coming to an end are completely appropriate to the moment. McDermitt has a fantastic voice. We see Jerry’s kids wrapping his hands, Alden takes Adam from Earl, Rosita warms up with her new weapon, and Ezekiel brings Lydia Henry’s body armor. Aaron gives Mary a spear, Judith tries to call Michonne (Danai Gurira), and Daryl ties off his wound before watching the others head out.

Eugene is not disappointed as after a pause, Stephanie takes up the song. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Eugene quite so happy. She apologizes for disappearing, and Eugene apologizes. She asks who the girl was – and she sure sounds jealous. Eugene – so no game – admits that he’s very fond of her – and then he says she’s his BFF. He still has no clue, but thank God he put that out there! Eugene tells her that the last few days have been incredible, and suddenly Stephanie suggests a meeting in one week. Eugene promises to be there before signing off without telling her anything about the danger he’s in. Rosita comes to call him to the front lines. Eugene jumps up and says “Let’s get this over with! I’ve got a date!” Ah, Eugene. How far you’ve come! If he dies….

I adored the scene between Daryl and Ezekiel. Carol really meant that they couldn’t be friends, but I always really, really wanted them to be. Daryl sees the lump on his neck and asks if he’s ok. Ezekiel tells him flat out no and that he has cancer. No sugar-coating for Daryl. Ezekiel also tells him it’s ok – he’s come to terms with it. Daryl tells him he’s sorry, and then goes on to pay him a compliment – Ezekiel is stronger than most – and people look up to him. Daryl’s also glad that he’s there. Ezekiel thanks him and tells him that it means a lot.

I loved both Reedus and Payton in this scene as they bring so much to it – both verbal and non-verbal. Daryl, for once, intentionally brushes his hair away from his eyes so that he can look directly at Ezekiel, showing him respect and that he’s speaking the truth. I loved that they were both on the same page without Daryl having to completely spell it out. If one of them goes down, the other gets the children out. And the two shake on it.

As Ezekiel goes out the door, we see that Judith is watching. Daryl turns around and is right into another one of my favorite scenes from this episode. Judith again tells him that she wants to fight. Daryl apologizes for today – she didn’t have to see those bodies. Judith begins to deny it was a problem… they were just walkers. And at first, I was thinking, Dude, do you know this kid? But he’s right – and it’s why we saw them earlier too – Judith knew those people.

Judith still insists that she’s not scared. He tells her he knows, but maybe he is – just a bit. He gets Judith to admit that she might be scared – for RJ or her mom or that Daryl would get hurt or Aunt Carol. Daryl tells her that there’s no shame in that – it means she knows who she’s fighting for. And she’s fixed his vest!!! He now has a blue wing to go with the white! He gets Judith to promise to go with Ezekiel if he comes looking for her – and not to ask any questions about him.

There’s a nice shot of Carol in front of all the portraits that Jadis painted. We get a close up of Glenn. It’s a nice reminder perhaps of who Carol is fighting for – all those we’ve lost. Or is it that she’s become the moral center dealing justice to Alpha? Not likely the moral center, but is it an indication that she’s to be next up on the wall? Or is it an indication that we will lose what they fought for? Or is it an indication that they are about to be saved by the return of Maggie?

Daryl performs a similar ritual by the graveyard where he’s joined by Carol. She needs to make peace with him most of all. She asks him not to hate her. He turns and looks at her, telling her that he’s never going to hate her. We see Daryl grab a new weapon – a mace – woot! – as he joins the others outside, waiting for the horde. He goes right to the front. Kelly feels the ground for the vibrations of their coming, and the first walker comes out of the woods.

I loved the electric fence! It was a great new effect, but of course, the horde is too big for it to do more than make it pause. This was a terrific fight scene. Lots of crane shots and slow motion. Just as Luke realizes the barrier isn’t going to hold, Beta starts releasing his balloons of resin. And they have to be using some kind of skin or ligament, which make it even more disgusting and creepy. After the first fire arrow, Jerry realizes that it’s like gasoline.

Negan approaches Alpha as she’s about to shoot another arrow and says he thought she was going to get them to join. She tells him she is – as part of the horde. He smiles and tells her that she’s badass – but I’m not convinced he means it. It’s also got to be easier to lie to her with that mask on….

Aaron calls a retreat as the horde breaks through the barrier, but before they can get to the wall, a slew of fire arrows – one shot be Negan – light up the wall and the gate, blocking their retreat. And that’s where we leave them – with a terrific shot of Daryl’s new vest as he stares at the burning wall….

So in re-watching, I do have to say that this episode does feature a number of great performances and scenes. It still feels a bit choppy and like filler, but it’s satisfying, comfort food kind of filler. I suspect that with the next episode focusing on Michonne, we will have to wait for an answer as to how our heroes are going to get out of this one. Will Michonne send help? Will Maggie turn up? Eugene didn’t tell Stephanie, so that’s an unlikely quarter for help, and Rosita didn’t tell Gabriel. But let’s not forget that little ass-kicker is inside those walls… What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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