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Sunday, November 10, 2019

[RECAP] Season 10, Episode 5 of The Walking Dead, "What it Always Is"

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Little pig, little pig...LET ME IN.  So after episode 5 of this season of The Walking Dead, are more fans FINALLY letting Negan into their black little hearts?  I certainly hope so!  This episode continues to follow Negan on his wild journey to redemption (with a sort of “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” vibe), albeit an unconventional one.  While this is certainly the main storyline, episode 5 is filled with substance from various storylines all happening at the same time, set on a sure fire collision course, and the repercussions are still very much undetermined at this point.

But let’s go through each specific storyline since we have quite a few to get through:

We get to see Gamma again and, via some conversations between Gamma, Alpha and Beta, we get confirmation that the Whisperers are indeed behind some of the various nefarious incidents that have occurred (the tree falling on the Hilltop’s border, the waves of walkers on Alexandria, etc).  Alpha is essentially playing the long game and is trying to wear down our heroes to a point of submission and/or to a point where conquering them will be an easy feat.

As an additional point of wearing down our heroes, Gamma has been tasked with essentially poisoning the water supply by spilling walker guts and blood into the river.  Biowarfare is a very real thing folks.  We do see however cracks in the membrane as Gamma has a momentary breakdown and lets out all her pent up frustration over the ways of The Whisperers, the death of her sister, all on her walker “Guardian” (a fellow Whisperer that was brutally murdered by Alpha by offering their democracy here).  In her stabbing ferocity, she accidentally gives herself a pretty bad gash on her hand...only to be thrown some gauze by a hovering Aaron (who shares that he’s from Vermont...interesting right?).

Like a little timid mouse, Gamma silently takes the gauze and scurries away back to the Whisperer camp.  She seems almost afraid to show Alpha her bandaged hand, in fear that Alpha might see that as a betrayal.  Instead, Alpha sees this as another calculated opportunity to potentially entice Aaron and find yet another way to attack Alexandria and the Hilltop via another source.  But who’s side is Gamma ultimately on?

The start of the episode focuses on Kelly wandering in the woods, roaming around in a bit of a muffled daze, further illustrating the deterioration of her hearing.  And why was she out there?  Apparently to hide goods and supplies, in conjunction with Magna, who has been in on this whole thing for some time.  Ultimately they are found and retrieved by Daryl and Connie (more on that later) and when Yumiko finds out that Kelly and Magna were swiping supplies, she’s not surprised.  It’s at this moment that we find out that Magna had been in jail for seemingly acting in retaliation toward an attacker of her niece (it’s not clear if the crime toward her niece was a murder, a rape, etc) and she still seems to harbor a sense of mistrust of everyone in general (hence the secret stockpiling).  Magna also seems to have a bit of chip on her shoulder that Yumiko was this (apparently) fancy pants lawyer with fancy degrees before the world fell apart and throws that back in her face, which seems to really hurt her.

So where do we go from here with this information?  I’m not quite so sure...getting all this backstory would make one think that it has to be relevant for a reason but what the reason is yet is still not quite clear (at least not to me).

Ah, Connie and Daryl.  Or “Donnie” as many wishful fans call the two.  They go out in the woods to find Kelly, once it’s known that she’s gone missing.  During the tracking in the woods, these two continue to get to know each other more by way of sign language and writing in Connie’s notepad.  It’s a very interesting dynamic to say the least.  Connie seems to blame herself for Kelly’s disappearance but Daryl is supportive and ensures her that she shouldn’t go that route.  He even shares an old memory of his brother Merle (man, that’s a name we don’t hear often right?) that makes Connie laugh...and even go as far as take Daryl’s hand (*gasp*).

Ultimately, they end up finding a wounded Kelly and a hovering (didn’t she kind of look like a walker in that moment??) Magna along with the stolen goods.  Daryl is livid at this revelation but Connie tells him that they’ll bring it all back to the camp and tell them that they “found” the goods while they were out looking for Kelly.  She’s apologetic later to Daryl for the behavior of Kelly and Magna but Daryl understands and says, hey, they’re family: I get it.  But I mean, you know, in his own Daryl way.

Poor King Ezekiel.  He’s already been having a tough go of it what with the loss of...well everything that he’s had right?  We saw in last week’s episode that he’s been borderline suicidal as of late and we attributed it to all the loss, already discussed.  What we DIDN’T realize is that in reality, there’s another reason altogether for King Ezekiel’s behavior: Turns out that he has a significant growth on his throat/neck that seems to be an indicator that he is going through thyroid cancer (a disease apparently hereditary in his family).  Before the apocalypse, the survival rate from this type of cancer was quite high actually but sadly during these new times, Ezekiel essentially knows it’s a death sentence.  Siddiq is the one who uncovers all this and he tries to console him and gave him some sage advice which boils down to not going through this alone and sharing this information with his loved ones.

He comes close to doing this on the ham radio when he’s almost connected with Carol to speak with her but before that can happen, he opts to end the connection.  In truth, how do you have that conversation with anyone and let them know if your fatal diagnosis (apocalypse or not)?  And more importantly how in the world is JERRY going to take all of this??

And finally our main attraction: Negan & Brandon.  Who is Brandon?  Apparently a sociopathic teenager that was Negan's keeper and has been OBSESSED with him, since his father's former Savior days.  Important to note however is that Brandon was NOT the one who freed Negan, since Brandon at one point in their journey asks him if he'll ever tell him how he got out of the cell (Negan ignores him of course).  No, Brandon is just an obsessed sociopath that follows Negan's footsteps and even went as far as to bring to him his leather jacket and a makeshift Lucille, as an offering, if you will.  Negan refuses to handle either, saying that it'll make him an easy target for anyone trying to find him.

Instead, Negan and Brandon come across an adorable little boy named Miles and his mother trapped in what appears to be a Greyhound bus.  Negan goes into high gear and goes in and saves both mother and son from peril, even having some light hearted, one-on-one uncle type chat with young Miles.  This moment made me incredibly wistful for what COULD HAVE BEEN with Carl, but at the same time, we are least getting glimpses of these moments with Negan and Miles and obviously between Negan and Judith.  Negan however, wants NOTHING to do with Brandon since he can very easily tell that he is a complete psycho.  After he basically tells him to get lost and has a great heart to heart with Miles, he goes off to scavenge for wood, knowing that it'll be dark soon and he'll need to start getting a fire going quick.

Sadly, when he returns, he comes to find Brandon back, whistling the old familiar Savior tune, and standing over the bodies of both little Miles and his mother, having killed them both to "prove" himself.  P-S-Y-C-H-O.  Before Brandon can finish uttering the famous line "I am Negan" Negan beats his face in with a rock and brutally kills him, letting out all his grief for what this deranged teen did to this innocent family.  He then picks up his leather jacket, puts it on, takes his Lucille 2.0 and walks off into the unknown.

After dark, Negan roams the woods, in the hunt for...perhaps the Whisperers?  Knowing that they're out there...baiting them?  He confidently strolls and talks loudly trying to draw them in, even stating the phase "Little Pig, Little Pig..." just as he did when banged on the gates of Alexandria asking them to let him in.  This finally does draw some walkers in a great scene in the dark, but under the gaze of moonlight.  He immediately begins taking down walkers with his new Lucille, just as old Negan used to do until...he is violently thrown to the ground and he turns and notices that he isn't surrounded by walkers anymore.  He's surrounded by Whisperers.  Including a hulking, angry Beta.  GAME ON.

For me the biggest curiosity, will be how the show handles the interaction between Alpha and Negan, because it'll be a HUGE indicator of what direction the show will now go in.  Will the show stay true to the comic material?  Or will it diverge from it and let Carol (potentially) be the one to enact her revenge on Alpha?  

What happens next on the show will surely set the stage for some heavy material to come...

The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9:00pm EST on AMC.

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