“Lydia, oh Lydia, say have you met Lydia, oh Lydia, the tattooed lady!”
The Walking Dead tried something different this week; it had flashbacks. It was the first time in a long time the show showed us the early days of the apocalypse and I’d say it mostly worked too. What was riskier but much appreciated was when it was revealed that our narrator Lydia, played by newcomer Cassady McClincy, is actually unreliable and had been mixing up aspects of her flashbacks. A bold choice, one that could easily confuse and confound more casual watchers, but for everyone else it’s good to see the show hasn’t become complacent in its old age.
The flashback portions were definitely the highlight of the episode as it’s where we began to see our new antagonist, Alpha, played by the wonderful Samantha Morton. She starts out as meek and quiet, under the thumb of her controlling husband Frank. So far, so Carol. But as the episode wears on we begin to realise that certain parts of this story don’t add up, something which Daryl points out to Lydia at one point. It’s only when Henry (in a real stupid move) lets Lydia out and she sees what people working together can do, that she breaks down and we realise she’s been an unreliable narrator all along. Her dad was the kind protective one and her mother, Alpha, was the controlling sociopath all along. Lydia becoming aware of the abuse she’s suffered at the hands of her mother is heart-wrenching but it’s perhaps Daryl’s own story of abuse which will stand out. We’ve heard snippets of Daryl’s childhood in the past but it’s not been since Merle was around that we’ve gone this deep into it. And why the hell not; he’s our protagonist now – it’ll be good to hear some more of his background. It’s good to hear him speak full stop even; after seasons of silence, it’s refreshing to actually have Norman Reedus string a full sentence together. I’m liking his growing friendship with Henry and Lydia also, it reminds us that Daryl has also strived to protect the kids (Carl, Sophia).
The performances this episode are top notch, especially from Samantha Morton and Norman Reedus. I look forward to a verbal showdown between the two of them and although it hurts to say, in this regard, I am glad Rick is gone. It’ll be nice for another member of team family to have a chat through a fence with the season’s antagonist. Morton is trying on an accent that I realise doesn’t work for some people (New Orleans I think?) but I think it’s cool. It fits the vibe of the show and a little bit of campy accent work is never a bad thing (see: American Horror Story). And her villain is genuinely scary! I’ve not quite put my finger on why yet, could be the voice, the bald head, the ruthless murdering of her own husband, but her introduction through creepy stories is second only to Negan for pure dread. Reedus is back on form as Daryl too, after much too long playing the damaged, silent type. A lack of Rick was a worry at first but it seems that void has been filled by a more talkative Daryl. Reedus is a fantastic actor too so letting him have more dramatic moments such as here, where he delves a little bit into his childhood, is the smart move. And I’m still holding out hope that we get a reluctant friendship between him and Negan at some point in the series.
Next week we’ll have some more Alpha, which can only be a good thing. Hopefully, Daryl and she will go toe to toe and we’ll learn a little bit more about her motivations. I’m hoping we’ll also see Beta at some point soon, played by Ryan Hurst (Opie in Sons of Anarchy). He’s a brilliant actor and Beta is one of the best comic characters of the whisperer arc. And trailers suggest a Daryl vs Beta fight at some point soon. I can’t wait.