Not that I feared an episode like “Dee,” but it does more or less fall into the camp of less exciting episodes as far as the potential of Tales of the Walking Dead. Sure, it does deliver on being a tale set in this universe, but relying on Alpha means setting up an expectation to learn something new about her and the whisperers. Despite certain choices made to expand, I didn’t really get that, and the plot presented is far more akin to what I’m used to seeing on The Walking Dead, in a truncated amount of time. That’s not inherently bad, but it did feel less exciting.
Is this due to a lack of comedy compared to the past two weeks? I wouldn’t say so. As established, I’m expecting a range of episodes, given the premise of this series. Having an episode that’s more focused on boiling tension and violent outcomes is inevitable in a show based around the zombie apocalypse. But let’s go back a few steps.
This episode focuses on Alpha, aka Dee, before she became the head of the Whisperers. During the seasons of the prime show focused on her character, we were already given details of Alpha’s early life, so “Dee” focuses on a period of time in between events when she and Lydia were part of a group surviving on a riverboat.
I should note right now – a riverboat seems like a pretty solid place to maintain a living situation. Granted, this is The Walking Dead, so there must always be people with nefarious intentions not too far away. Still, in terms of setting up a group system where everyone works to literally keep things afloat, that’s a neat idea.
As alluded to, however, all is not well. Dee and Lydia are aboard the boat, but only one of them is appreciated. As the only kid, Lydia is treated as such, with attempts to create a sense of normalcy. That’s the intent of the ship’s captain, Brooke, but Dee is far more pessimistic about the whole situation. Having been onboard for a year, she doesn’t want to adjust, making her the least popular person aboard. On the night we watch how things are in this situation, a bartender, Billy, goes out of his way to tell Dee all she’s doing wrong.
Here’s the thing, though – Dee was right the whole time. While I can commend people for being optimistic in the face of the world ending, Dee was still right to be suspicious, cautious, and ready for action in case of emergency. Given this series, it’s not surprising. So the question is – are Dee’s actions later in this episode justified?
Once Billy reveals his true intentions by way of an absurd hostage situation (what was his goal after he killed off 6 people – they’d all just live in harmony?), Dee takes her chance to keep Lydia safe. This means killing two men, and unleashing pandemonium, as she escapes on a dinghy with her daughter in tow.
What is there to make of this? “Every man for him/herself” is not a unique phrase and certainly seems optimal for a world like this. Later, after making it ashore and surviving scattered walkers, Dee comes upon Brooke. The two blame each other for how things turned out (everyone on the boat died); only Dee is the more ruthless of the two. Lydia manages to stop her mother from shooting Brooke in the face. However, Dee still manages to carve a slash into her face as a reminder of how she put Lydia in danger.
It’s a strange message, as we’re supposed to understand Dee feels she’s been wronged by someone trying to keep a whole riverboat safe the best she could. But, understandably, Dee doesn’t have much patience or wiggle room for those who prove to be incompetent in her eyes. Granted, it’s not as though this show wants us to side with her, either. We know where things are going with Dee, so it’s not as though an episode like this will have us believe in her cause. It’s all just continued shading.
Perhaps it could prove to be more of a useful effort if there was more to take away from anyone else, but that’s just not the case. If this is a true one-off, we’ll never see Brooke again. We don’t see Beta at all. By the end of this episode, there are merely hints at how the whole Whisperer organization and Dee combined. Maybe another installment will expand a bit further, but there’s still enough here to have us fill in the gaps.
With all of this in mind, it’s not as though having another chance to watch Samantha Morton’s portrayal of this character wasn’t worthwhile. She clearly has this role down, and it is fun/interesting to see her interact with others during a time when she wasn’t the shaved-headed Alpha queen that she would become. The other performers provide what’s needed as well. Still, as a darker installment of Tales of the Walking Dead, I wonder if anything more could have come from this setup.
As it stands, this episode is fine. It’s trafficking in familiar territory and doesn’t reveal much compared to these previous weeks featuring entirely new characters. Still, the work is there, as it’s a unique setting and the show looks as good as needed (given the lower budget afforded to this series). “Dee” certainly doesn’t sink; it’s just a bit of a flat entry.
Zombie Kill of the Week: The gross old walker that ends up doubling as a tauntaun-like piece of cover for Dee and Lydia.
The riverboat casino night party, or whatever, did seem like fun.
I clocked Billy from the start as well, and this crew was way too gullible when Dee was getting pushback.
Hera and the Whisperers – good band name.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to hear what I and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.