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The Walking Dead - Stalker - Review

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The Walking Dead “Stalker” was written by Jim Barnes and was directed by Bronwen Hughes, whose other credits include Better Call Saul, The Resident, and Hawaii Five-O.” This was a beautifully shot episode – lots of call out to some classic horror films for sure. Lots of great performances in this episode – notably Thora Birch, Samantha Morton, Cassady McClincy, Seth Gilliam, and Christian Serratos.

The episode begins at the camper, which we haven’t seen in a very long time – I think since Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) hid in it? But I think that was, in fact, a different camper – I don’t think we’ve seen this one since Rick (Andrew Lincoln) was left lying on it by Negan…. At any rate, has anything good ever happened with a camper??? Here we see Beta (Ryan Hurst) on his mission to find Gamma (Thora Birch) and bring her to Alpha (Samantha Morton) enter the camper, which is guarded by Whisperers, and enter a tunnel via the camper that takes him right into Alexandria! I loved the cinematography of these first scenes – the perspective shot of the Whisperers opening the hatch and then giant Beta jumping down, followed by a close up of his face as he lights a match and then a lantern…

This episode focuses to a large extent upon Rosita (Christian Serratos) and her fears for Coco. The episode begins with her nightmare that plays on our expectations of Beta entering Alexandria: she gets up to change the baby only to find a Whisperer standing over the crib about to stab the baby! She’s woken by Gabriel calling her to the gate – Gamma is there with a message.

Thora Birch is really terrific in this scene. She’s clearly terrified, and this move is a commitment on her part. She can’t go back after this. She tells them what happened – after she takes off her mask. She tells them she’s just trying to help, but Gabriel doesn’t believe her. This is also a great episode for Gilliam as he gets to really showcase who Gabriel is now. It has to be a lot of fun for him to have taken this character on such a terrific character arc.

Rosita wants to know why she’s trying to help – and really, Gamma/Mary says the one thing most likely to elicit either sympathy or rage in Rosita – she tells them that the baby at Hilltop is her nephew and she would do anything to see him again. Mary still has to deal with her sister’s death and we get a flash to that as she tells them her sister is dead – and she begins to cry – but silently, of course. We get the first indication of the friction between Gabriel and Rosita here. Gabriel invites her in to show him the location of the cave on a map, and as she moves to come in and gets closer to Rosita, Rosita punches her, knocking her out and calls her a liar. She tells the others to put her in the cell.

We catch up with Daryl (Norman Reedus) as he finds the other entrance to the cave. He finds Alpha there with some other Whisperers. They are leading the hoard out – or at least part of it.

Mary wakes up in the cell, next to the dried blood of Dante. Rosita and Gabriel are waiting. Rosita tells her the blood is from the last Whisperer who they had in the cell. I love that Mary thinks Rosita killed him, but Gabriel corrects her, saying “No. I did.” He delivers the line as he appears out of the dark and gets right up to the bars.

Rosita tells her they’ve killed the one who was sent to spy on them – and that he killed the father of her baby. Mary doesn’t know anything about it – and we know that’s true – but Rosita doesn’t believe her. Gabriel tells her that she’s going to have to work very hard to convince them that she’s telling the truth. That she’s different from the others. Mary asks what happens if she can’t. Rosita tells her matter-of-factly – and I loved the way Serratos delivered the line: “Then you die. No torture. No games. No second chances.” Gabriel tells her that she’d be the third one.

I also loved how Gabriel points at his collar and tells her that it’s not for show. He’s a servant of God and can tell when people are holding things back – he’s taken many confessions. I loved the use of close ups in this scene as well – we get the full effect of the wonderful acting here. Gabriel remarks that her story at the gate tugs on all the right heartstrings, but she’s holding something back and that makes the whole thing a lie. He tells her that he’s spoken to God and He told him to hang her! Mary looks a little worried here. Either she believes or believed in God or she thinks he’s a religious nutbag – which is just as dangerous! Regardless. She confesses that she killed her sister. Now that she’s away from Alpha and has lost faith in her, I loved the way she can’t even believe what she did – she killed her sister for Alpha and Alpha didn’t even ask her. She asks if Gabriel believes her now, and he simply nods. She tells him he had better get a map.

Meanwhile, Daryl ambushes Alpha and her Whisperers. This was a terrific fight! Daryl takes out her helpers, and even though Alpha gets in some good shots, including slashing Daryl over his eyes, giving us some great shots shrouded in blood as Daryl tries to see, he manages to get the upper hand and has her pinned to the ground with a branch through her shoulder. Unfortunately, the walkers are still there and Daryl has to leave her to keep them back. She grabs a knife and drives it into his thigh. She staggers off and picks up her gun. Daryl sees and takes off.

Mary stands before a gathering of Gabriel, Rosita, Scott (Kenric Green), and Laura (Lindsley Register) giving them as much intel as she can. She tells them that the border is too long for Alpha to adequately patrol. There are lots of areas that aren’t guarded. Gabriel has her taken back to her cell.

      Gabriel starts making plans for two rescue parties. He and Rosita will lead the first. Rosita says that they don’t even know if any of it is real, and we see the fruition of the doubt that Alpha’s plan was set to sow. Scott suddenly doubts.

Gabriel tells them that they are all doubting because they are afraid. He tells them that he brought her in there to show them that the Whisperers are cowards. It was easy to break her and if they can break her they can break others. Rosita looks incredulous as Gabriel tells them that when they come across one of them, they should capture them and torture them until they drop the act! And that’s all it is…

Alpha tracks Daryl to an old gas station where he’s holed up and has pretty much collapsed. He’s lost a lot of blood. But then so has Alpha. She knows she’s too weak for a fight – and she has a better – or rather worse – solution in mind. She bangs on the wall to call walkers to take care of Daryl.

Gabriel and Rosita suit up for the mission in their dining room. Again, this is beautifully shot as Gabriel asks if Rosita is ok as she seemed a little off in the meeting room. We see the highchair behind Rosita – with an adorable stuffed pug peeking around from the seat at the camera… What’s holding her back now is fear for Coco. She denies she was “off” in the meeting.

Gabriel suggests it would be better for her to stay back and guard the gate. She insists it would be better for her to be out there – and that’s she’s not going to freeze. More to the point, he should worry about his own shit – he’s erratic! And she goes right for the torture – he’s itching for a fight. And he doesn’t deny it. Rosita tells Gabriel that she can feel that Coco is wondering where Siddiq is – and she doesn’t want the baby to lose anyone else.

Meanwhile, Judith (Cailey Fleming) is back and makes a visit to the new prisoner. She asks her name, and Mary tells her that no one has asked since she got there. She tells her Mary, and Judith asks what she was like before the Whisperers. She tells Judith that she’s from Santa Monica, her parents names, and that she went to school. And then she shrugs and says that she doesn’t remember. She tells Judith that Alpha has a way of making you forget. She’s left with only echoes and feelings. She tells her that she knows she was ordinary and when it all went down, she and her sister kept making bad decisions. They needed someone else to make the decisions and then they met Alpha – and made the worst mistake yet! Judith once again gets right to the heart of it. Mary met the wrong person first. If she’d met her parents, she wouldn’t be in that cell. Judith tells her that she doesn’t look like a monster to her. It’s what Mary needed to hear. Rosita breaks it up and sends Judith home. Rosita gives Mary a long look.

Back at the gas station, the walkers attack and Daryl has to defend himself. Eventually, he has to use the knife still embedded in his leg. And here the show and episode lost me. It was a great moment of peril and I really thought they might have lost their mind and were going to kill Daryl. When he pulled out the knife and the blood started spurting out? He SHOULD have been dead. It was one step too far. There is no believable way he didn’t bleed out. I could have bought it if he’d had a way to cauterize it or it wasn’t actively spurting. I realize that it’s a zombie show and not reality – but you have to have some basic physics and biology that still apply…

In Alexandria, there is now the herd on the way. They have to change plans. They get a message from a watch tower. Scott wonders why they’d send a herd now, and Gabriel says because they have a spy and they want to stop them from acting on Mary’s information. As Laura and Scott divvy up the party – some to go out and some to stay on gate duty – Gabriel sees that Rosita is now doubting. He interrupts with a new plan – he leaves Laura and Rosita back on gate duty. He and Scott will take a skeleton crew out to break up the herd and move on to the cave.

I loved that Gabriel didn’t have to ask Rosita before doing it – and then apologizes for speaking for her. This was a wonderful scene between the two. We really get a nice showcase of their relationship in this episode. Rosita assures him that it’s fine. She doesn’t really trust herself out there. She could get them both killed and leave Coco an orphan. She confesses that she’s been having dreams – and they’re killing her. Gabriel kisses her goodbye and tells her that he’ll see her soon. He leaves his hat with her – and I was sure that he was going to die – or possibly Rosita…

After night falls, we get a fantastic shot of Beta’s hand coming up through a fresh grave – and then him crawling out of it, stalking in silhouette as he pulls his two gigantic knives out. He then moves through Alexandria killing people in their homes and leaving them to turn, building an army of the dead as he goes. The first two include one of the idiots who bullied Lydia (Cassady McClincy). He echoes what Gabriel said that one on one they were a joke – right before Beta kills him…

Gabriel and Scott find the group at the watchtower all dead. They check with Rosita – no sign of the herd. Gabriel quickly realizes that it was a trap to lure them out. The attack is in Alexandria. Rosita takes charge. Beta goes to Mary in the cell. She’s pressed into the far corner as Beta opens the lock and door. She tells him that Alexandria and its people are nothing like Alpha said – she lied! Beta simply insists that these are not her people. He’s there to take her to Alpha. He tells her that she thinks she’s still alive but she was dead the moment that she came to them. Beta tells her that Alpha promised her death would be painless – but if she fights, it won’t be. Mary knows that all Alpha wants is her in pain. Mary tells him that she’s not afraid of him, and he insists she is. And then Laura is there. She tells Mary to get help – and doesn’t immediately kill him or put him in the cell. It really looks like Beta killed her! My fingers are crossed that she’s not dead, but it doesn’t look good. And Register’s Twitter would seem to confirm that this was it for her.

Mary goes out and calls for help, and Judith is right there. She tells her to come into the house – and she does. Beta leaves the cell and almost immediately decides she must have gone in the house? That was a bit of a stretch…. But he stalks upstairs – and we get lots of creepy shots of him creeping through in the dark, and almost looking under the bed. I was totally waiting for a Pet Semetary moment of Judith gashing him from there! But it’s just as great when she shoots him through the door! She’s protecting both Mary AND RJ (Antony Azer).

Naturally, Beta is wearing a vest and manages to grab Mary and knock her out in the process. And then Rosita is there, fighting Beta. Mary stops him in the killing blow by hold a knife to her own throat. She echoes his command – walk towards me.

Gabriel’s party comes on the two and open fire. Mary hits the ground and Beta runs away. She tells them she didn’t betray them. Gabriel believes her and they drop their weapons.

We get a tremendous scene back at the gas station. It would seem that both Daryl and Alpha are close to death. Alpha removes her mask. Daryl’s breathing is ragged. She asks him if he can see beyond the darkness to the light. It really does sound like she is fundamentally religious somehow.

        Daryl tells her no – because he’s not looking to die. She tells him that she is tingling with joy. She gives thanks for making her strong. Pain made her – and Daryl – and her Lydia. Daryl tells her that she lost Lydia and drove her away because she didn’t love Lydia. It’s the one thing that could make Alpha angry enough to try to get to him. Was that his plan? She collapses on the way to trying to get to him.

And then she sees the light – and Lydia in the light. We know it’s not an hallucination because Lydia is wearing the last thing we saw her in. Alpha asks if she’s really, and Lydia answers yes, momma – and Alpha immediately tells her not to call her that. But she’s still happy that Lydia came home to her – and then she sings that stupid song to her. Lydia cries over her as she seems to be dying. Alpha then pulls her knife and wants Lydia to help her push it into herself. Lydia tells her that she’s not giving up. The others aren’t perfect – but they are human and it’s all she ever wanted and it’s what Alpha never gave her. She leaves Alpha. Alpha wakes in the morning. She’s in pain but gets up. She finds her knife and a message: “Your way is not the only way.” And it’s bound to sting even more because her is evidence of something else Lydia learned in Alexandria.

Back at Alexandria, they’ve discovered that Beta came up through what was Dante’s grave – and I thought it was his grave – but why give him such a nice cross? The Whisperers have apparently sealed whole sections of the tunnels. Meanwhile, Aaron (Ross Marquand) makes it back. He tells them that he got separated on the trail from the others – and that not all of them got out. Rosita is injured and heading to Hilltop to see the doctor – apparently they still have one? Gabriel offers her Coco, but Rosita wants her safe in Alexandria.

Aaron has clearly found Mary and along with Gracie (Anabelle Holloway) is joining Judith and RJ and heading to Hilltop. I’m not entirely sure why he’s going with the kids but there it is. Mary gets in the back with Rosita, who immediately introduces herself and shakes hands. Nothing like saving someone’s life to gain forgiveness!

Daryl wakes up in the woods with Lydia tending him. He’s been asleep for most of the day. His knifes are sticking out of the ground. She tells him that she’s just been watching and trying to decide. He asks if she killed her. Lydia asks if he could have killed his father. It’s another great scene and McClincy has really grown on me as an actor.

Alpha has been found by her Whisperers. She tells them that she’s stronger than ever. She’s ready for the hoard to butcher and consume them. Screams will be song to her. She repeats her little mantra, “We bath in blood. We are free. We love no one. We are free. We fear nothing. We are free. Now is the end of the world. We are the end of the world.” Has she finally freed herself from Lydia? And the close up of her rising up off that surprisingly clean bit of cloth is a horrible parody of Rick waking at the very beginning of the series!

This was another fast-paced episode that really seemed to up the ante and keep characters in real peril. I loved the insight we got into Rosita and Gabriel’s relationship. Thora Birch delivered a terrific performance, as did Samantha Morton. Will Lydia come back now with Daryl? Where is Carol (Melissa McBride)? What about the two still trapped in the cave? Why are the kids all going to Hilltop? What did you think of the episode? Were you as disappointed by Laura’s death – assuming she is dead – as I was? I think that as we didn’t see her getting sent to the doctor in Hilltop, we have to assume that she is dead. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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