With so many moments of characters having big moments, I was convinced this week’s Walking Dead would either end just as the battle between the Hilltop and the Whisperers was beginning or with some kind of harsh death halting things entirely. It made sense from a structure standpoint, but then “Morning Star” went and pulled another cliffhanger move on me. That’s not upsetting though. I admire the show for times when it feels like it remembers it’s based on a comic book and shoots for suspense involving heroes trapped on all sides, leaving the reader (viewer) to see what happens next week. But how did we get here?
Much of this episode is about Daryl, or more specifically, how Norman Reedus has been tasked with carrying much of the show. As a character who has plenty of fans all over, I’ve been impressed with how the series has managed to bump him up in terms of screen time and dialogue, yet has still held onto what makes him work for this series. He’s not the Fonz, despite the cool jacket and motorcycle, because he’s not doing too many ridiculous things (creative kills aside). Instead, the series leans on what has made him work in a way that has him sorting out issues of many around him.
This week he has a heart to heart with Lydia, Carol, Judith, Alden, and Ezekiel. We hear what we need to as far as what they all need to prepare for, having differences settled and being on good terms with one another. Some are more significant than others, but I was happy seeing this show having done the work to move on from Rick without sacrificing too much in this way. As a result, regardless of how things end up, the build-up in moving everyone where they need to be has some semblance of character-based stakes.
That’s a good thing, as Alpha’s Lydia-motivated, wounded epiphany from last week has pushed her into battle-mode. “We take them on,” she chants, as she leads the horde toward Hilltop. Why Hilltop, in particular, is the destination of this particular battle, I’m not sure, but the plan is to take it down through some creative measures. As we see in the opening, Beta and his Whisperer crew are harvesting flammable sap from trees, making for a fire finale.
Negan, in all his wisdom, sees an alternate path. He believes Alpha making the others bend the knee to her would be enough to make her point. That’s not enough though, as Alpha’s plan is to not only make her enemies subject to her rule, but undead followers joining her ranks. It’s a “badass” move according to Negan, who has accepted his new face mask, with a suggestion that he’s not entirely on board with this next act, despite his participation (he went with the old ‘block the roads’ trick).
When not focusing on everyone preparing for battle (and a lot of this episode really does revolve around only speaking of plot-related activity), there is time for Eugene, Rosita, and the woman on the microphone. At this point, Eugene has developed a radio relationship with a mysterious person located somewhere unknown. Knowing this show, trust is a hard thing to build, so one has to merely rely on Eugene’s instincts to hope this subplot is going somewhere not terrible. Comic fans may be a bit ahead of this already, but I’m curious how things twist and turn to get to whatever may come during or after the Whisperers are settled (if they ever are).
Still, during this episode, Rosita randomly hears the woman (Stephanie) on the microphone and nearly blows everything up. That said, it allows for a scene where Eugene can finally realize he’s over Rosita, and make a full push elsewhere. That’s probably a relief to everyone, as romantic entanglements don’t have much to add to this zombie-infested series. Let people find some uncomplicated happiness in a show already teaming with nihilism. That’s just my thought.
As things come to a conclusion, the Hilltop-Whisperer battle begins. So far, it’s okay. I had trouble seeing the scope of things (possibly a cable issue more than a directorial one), but once the walkers got in close, it was good enough seeing all that training pay off to some degree. I like the idea of our heroes using some modified phalanx formation as a means to hold back walkers as if they had merely studied 300, and that was enough. There was also plenty of fun with slow-motion action moves. Of course, Alpha has her firebomb plans in place, so it leaves everyone in a curious position until next week.
“Morning Star” does what’s need to work as a goodbye episode of sorts, except we don’t actually lose anyone. Promises are made, things are about to take a major shift, but it all actually amounts to be prepared for possibly rougher times ahead. That said, I liked the character interactions, as they felt as though they made sense in the moment. Perhaps that seems too obvious, but a show balancing comic book antics with good dialogue is often trickier for this series than one would think. As it stands, let’s just hope all the kids make it out alive next week.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Seeing Eugene’s electric fence in action got at least one walker decapitation, so there’s a win for the week.
- Negan and Alpha give each other lashes on the arms because that’s what sweet couples do.
- “Celestial ordained meet and greet” – Eugene’s version of flirting is what you’d expect.
- “Get your heads on straight!” – We get a lot of Earl this week, which convinced me he was a goner, making it easier for Gamma/Mary to take her nephew back. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
- A lot of Alden, too, for that matter. He’s been here longer than the newer Hilltop crew, so also curious if he’s going to step up at some point.
- Daryl knows Negan is responsible for the roads being blocked. That should make for a great reunion.
- I’m still looking at Negan having a bigger game plan in mind.
- Carol gets some strong moments this week as well. Her talks with Ezekiel and Lydia have real meaning that further speak to the state she’s been in.
- Ezekiel owning his cancer, having a possible one-off with Carol again, and trading words with Daryl all made for excellent work on his character as well.
- Judith was more tolerable this week. She just wants to fight.
- “I’m never gonna hate you.” – Carol & Daryl forever.
- Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what me and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.