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Saturday, November 23, 2019

[RECAP] Season 10, Episode 7 of The Walking Dead, "Open Your Eyes"

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C/o Undead Walking
To start, please forgive the lateness of this critical recap but it has to be said that I needed some time to marinate on all the events that transpired.  I think it's pretty safe to say that very few of us saw what was coming to us Sunday night via the seventh installment of "The Walking Dead" entitled "Open Your Eyes".  While many had their suspicions, we (or at least this TWD comic book fan) was completely thrown for a loop by how it all ended for Siddiq.  So let's just get the obvious out of the way shall we?  Let us have a moment silence for Siddiq, our resident doctor and sole survivor of the barn deaths that resulted in the heads on a pike Whisperer border.  Oh Siddiq.  I'm so glad you had a moment to bond with your daughter, as brief as it was, and that you didn't die in a malicious manner?  Kind of/Sort of?  Are we convinced that Dante is beyond redeemable and is a full on Whisperer through-and-through?  Ugh...I'm not so sure.  Let's get into it:

C/o TV Movie Fix
We have a few storylines going on in this episode with the most minor one being the continuing "meet ups" between Aaron (the man with the metal hand) and Gamma.  They seem to acknowledge that they both have been sent by their respective communities to get intel on each other but Aaron doesn't seem particularly interested in this.  He would much rather prefer to  About nothing in particular.  Nothing crucial.  Just talk.  Even talking about the daily bread production at Alexandria (daily bread???  That sounds like a little piece of heaven).  Gamma seems okay with this small talk until he seems to hit a nerve asking her about her family before all this and sharing with her a drawing from his daughter.  She scurries away, reminding herself on their Whisperer mantra and Alpha gives her few lashes on her arm to "toughen her up", keep her from weakening to Aaron's words and of course to remind her on how much Alpha "loves her".  It's classic abuser manipulation on a whole other level.  It does work however, and the next time Gamma meets up with Aaron she is having NONE of his small talk and even hold him at knife point for some REAL intel.  It's at this point that Carol shows up, putting an end to this stand off...with Lydia at her side.  

This COMPLETELY disables Gamma.  Remember: To all the Whisperers they are in a full worship mode of Alpha because of this fable that Alpha sacrificed her OWN DAUGHTER for the greater good of the pack (Kind of God-like if you will, very cultish).  To be confronted with that fact that Lydia is very much alive undermines EVERYTHING that Gamma believes and this leaves her crippled and sobbing in the woods, unsure of what her next move is.  After all, why did she sacrifice her OWN sister for Alpha if Alpha would NEVER actually sacrifice ANYTHING for THEM?  On the flip side, on Lydia's part, she is ENRAGED that Carol would use her as a pawn to freak out Gamma and the Whisperers and not even be honest with her on her plan.  She's tired of being manipulated by both Alpha and Carol and runs off into the woods.  Personally, I can't see running off into the woods as a good idea but we are talking about a teenager here so....Yeah.  Guess we'll see how far SHE gets.

I would be very interested to see if she DOES rejoin the Whisperers and Negan (don't forget he's at their camp) comes to witness the typical ritualistic "training" (ie, abuse), perhaps being inflicted from Alpha to Lydia, upon her return.  If this IS the case, this could set up the stage for Negan to decide to go after Alpha himself, since he has already come to protect Lydia once already.

But speaking of Carol and Lydia, let's discuss the Carol and Daryl storyline.  From the last episode, we know that Carol captured a Whisperer and they bring him to the cell at Alexandria.  Father Gabriel is VERY weary of all this since really, NO ONE consulted him on ANY of these decisions that put the community at large at risk.  Completely understandable but of no concern to Carol (of course).  Instead, Carol warns Daryl that this Whisperer will likely not easily bend during interrogation.  Daryl doesn't seem to want to deal with it and instead elects to spend some quality time with dog, shirtless in his room (I'm sure Norman Reedus fans were losing their minds during that scene).

C/o Newsweek
In any case, we ultimately get to the interrogation and we see that Carol is trying the kill him with kindness approach first.  She offers him a tray full of bread and all sorts of homemade fruit spreads (which is ALWAYS amazing).  We get a moment of hope where we think that perhaps this Whisperer is so starved for this kind of indulgence that he is going to take one bite of this food and fold immediately.  Unfortunately, that is not what happens and instead he chews...and spits the food right into Carol's face.  PERSONALLY, that would've been immediate fighting words (or actions, I suppose).  Rightfully so, Carol goes from killing him with kindness to holding herself back from just plain out killing him.  She pours salt on the wound (well, actually reaches INTO his wound but that's okay) and proceeds to "Bad Cop" questioning.  The Whisperer isn't budging though and even goes as far as make a disgusting comment to Carol, insinuating how if they were out in the wild he would "take her" (ie, rape her).  This is all she needs to hear to calmly put her wedding ring back on, reach back and beat the living hell out of this Whisperer (YES CAROL YES).  In his grogginess though, he does mention the same point that came up with Gamma: This Whisperer is ALSO under the mindset that Alpha sacrificed her only daughter for the good of the pack.  This immediately mobilizes Carol to want to go fetch Lydia and present her to this guy, in order to make his whole theology fall apart. But Daryl stops her, imploring with her that Lydia has been through enough, she doesn't also need to be used as a pawn by her.

Unfortunately, we learn that Carol didn't apparently listen, as evidenced by her interaction with Gamma (refer to passage at the start of this review).  Now we need to see if she's put the whole community of Alexandria (and Hilltop) at risk by not protecting Alpha's most valuable asset: Lydia.

C/o Indie Wire
Finally, let's get to the heart of the story and the topic of much discussion: Siddiq and of course, Dante.  We see from the start of the episode that the people of Alexandria are still sick and Siddiq is making the rounds of house calls to try and understand what is causing all of this illness.  Dante is still actively treating patients as well but Siddiq is taking notes of all their symptoms and referring to the journals and books he has at his disposal to try and "crack the code" if you will.  He especially of course makes sure to look after Rosita, who by the end of the episode, seems to be on the upswing and doing better.  They have a tender moment together where Rosita feels remorseful for her behavior toward Eugene (AS SHE SHOULD) and Siddiq marvels at the fact that they have a child together (awww).

Throughout all of these scenes, however, we keep seeing these brief and sporadic flashback moments that Siddiq keeps having.  These nightmarish flashbacks to that night at the barn.  But during these flashbacks, this time around, we get more tidbits of information.  We find that Siddiq is mostly plagued by not acting to protect ENID, his protege, who had to just stay there and watch her be killed right before she tells him goodbye (UGH, heart-wrenching).  We find out that Siddiq's guilt comes primarily from NOT acting during that evening's massacre (as opposed to what many of us suspected of Siddiq being a participant in the murders).  We also find out that there was a Whisperer that held him down and mandated him to "Open his Eyes" and witness these horrific murders happening in front of him.  This all happens after a failed suicide attempt by Siddiq, only stopped by a recovering Rosita, who jumps into the lake and pulls Siddiq out after he throws himself in, in an effort to stop these nightmares.  Rosita wants no more excuses and that allows Siddiq to finally talk about his PTSD openly and his feelings of shame and guilt that haunt him every single day.  Rosita gives him some tough love but also gives him loving reassurance that he is NOT in this alone and that he has the support of everyone around him, including her.

Before all this comes to a head however, we do get an element of psychological horror where we're not quite sure (as viewers) what's happening to Siddiq.  We see him awake from his sleep to being held down by a man's hands.  During his moment with Dante in the cell with the Whisperer prisoner (who assures Dante that "of course" he wouldn't dare do anything), he starts having flashbacks, since the prisoner can actually remember Siddiq from the barn.  Dante takes over from here, so Siddiq can have a moment outside.  When we return to the cell later, the whisperer prisoner is in very bad shape and eventually dies.  They come to find out that what was given to him was hemlock and not the appropriate medicinal herbs.  Siddiq questions Dante as to WHY he would administer this but Dante tells him that he only used the pack that SIDDIQ packed for him.

So is Siddiq's PTSD getting the best of him that now he's not functioning at the capacity where he should be?  We're not entirely clear as viewers at this point.  Eventually, after the talk with Rosita and his mind is clearer, we see him have a moment of epiphany and realize that the water filtration system had been tampered with and of course, water is the common thread among all the victims.  AH HA!  Problem solved!  Kind of.

C/o Talking Dead Podcast
In the end, we see Siddiq in his home staring out the window, pondering it all.  Dante comes into his home apologetic over the water filtration system and how he should've been more cognizant of that.  Siddiq takes full responsibility though and blames himself for not being functioning at full capacity mentally, to pick up on this.  Dante puts his hand on his shoulder and tells him he's his friend and proceeds to reassure him, explaining to him that this community works as a village and the blame is not on one, it's the fault of all.  Just as it's the credit of all, to get to the bottom of it and rectify the problem.  Then...he makes a little "tick" click noise with his mouth.  And that's when the pieces of the puzzle start to come together.

Siddiq goes into flashback mode and realizes the reason he has so many "moments" in Dante's presence is because it was DANTE that was also at the barn that night, it was DANTE that held him down and told her to "Open his Eyes", it was DANTE that was getting the townspeople sick.  DANTE is a Whisperer.  Siddiq comes to this realization and attempts to quickly get the best of Dante, only for the two men to tussle with Dante eventually overpowering Siddiq and tearfully and remorsefully pleading with him that he didn't want it to be him, not like this.  He holds him in a sort of sleeper hold and pleads with him to now "Close his Eyes".  Except that sadly Siddiq doesn't.  He dies in Dante's arms, eyes wide open, for the first and last time.

SO.  Where do we go from here?  The reason, at least partial reason, that this ending was such a HUGE shock is because many comic book readers are well familiar with Dante from the comic version of the show.  As soon as Dante came to light on the show, most viewers were deliriously happy because the actor on the show (Juan Javier Cardenas) epitomized the comic character of Dante to a T.  His look, his words, his attitude were VERY much in line with his comic counterpart and in the comics, he plays a huge role alongside our heroes.  This is why it was such an incredible shock to learn that TV Dante was apparently a Whisperer spy who seems to have infiltrated Alexandria to cause havoc and chaos from within.  But the question that still needs to be answered (besides the question of HOW did he get into Alexandria in the first place) is WHAT are Dante's current motivations?  He seemed completely gutted at feeling that he had to kill Siddiq, once he realized that Siddiq recognized him.  Does this mean that the time at Alexandria has changed his mindset?  Or was that just a brief moment of weakness?  Is he now on the fence like Gamma?  And can he ever be redeemable or will he be swiftly killed by our heroes?

From my personal perspective, I happen to think that if Negan is redeemable (after let's not forget, murdering dear Glenn and Abraham), then I would imagine so would Dante.  Also, the comics are not great at providing all that much depth to even the most vibrant of characters.  So that being said, giving Dante this complex background, while still perhaps positioning him to be an eventual hero, would be a very rich character development worth tuning in for.

I'll definitely be tuning in to see what will befall this newly discovered Whisperer spy during the mid-season finale on Sunday.  We have many storylines in motion at this point so it'll be very interesting to see how they will all converge and set the stage for the second half of the season.

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

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