Aside from what seems to be the inciting incident in Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) final Walking Dead story (more on that later), “Silence the Whisperers” was an internal episode, focusing on the emotional and mental states of Lydia (Cassady McClincy), Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) specifically, and the increasingly paranoid and fearful communities more broadly. With the Whisperers not taking credit for frightening acts that may or may not be their doing — the horde at Alexandria last week, the tree falling on Hilltop’s wall this week — people are looking for scapegoats inside the communities. They’re taking out their fear on the resident aliens, Lydia and Negan, just as Negan predicted they would in the season premiere.
Lydia was being bullied by some former Highwaymen, who blame her for the deaths of Ozzy and Alek during the Whisperer massacre. That wasn’t Lydia’s fault at all, but they didn’t care. Lydia turned to Negan for support, since he was the only other person who understood what she was going through as a someone the community didn’t trust, and when the bullies attacked her under the cover of darkness, Negan came to her defense, accidentally killing one of them in the process. (The least believable moment of the season so far is that Negan is so strong he was able to kill someone by unintentionally throwing them into a wall so hard that they cracked their head open.) The sequence contained my favorite small moment of the episode, which was Daryl (Norman Reedus) trying to calm Lydia down by gently murmuring “I know” when his young ward cried that Negan didn’t do anything wrong.
Daryl was put in a difficult situation. Daryl still dislikes and distrusts Negan but could see that Negan was in the right here. He went to visit Negan in his cell, and Negan accurately deduced that Daryl was there because he didn’t know what to do about him. Negan said he was a sucker for starting to believe in the communities’ way of life and moral code. He had started to feel like maybe redemption was possible for him if he showed he was worthy of it, since that was part of the moral code. But now he could see that things were getting bad again and that moral code was going out the window. “You’re gonna get your chance to tell your side,” Daryl told him. Due process! Rule of law! America!
Daryl radioed to Michonne, who gave him some really good tactical advice. I love tactics! She told him to protect Lydia at all costs, because the fact that Lydia was safe in Alexandria was probably the only thing that was keeping Alpha (Samantha Morton) from killing them all. She told him to be her proxy vote at the council meeting to decide Negan’s fate, since she was away helping Hilltop rebuild and then was on her way to Oceanside to investigate a possible Whisperer sighting. But that ended up being a moot point, because the council tabled the discussion until the next morning after a deadlocked vote, and Negan escaped in the night.
Lydia took responsibility for letting him out, even though she didn’t. She just wanted to lock herself in his cell and hide, because she felt safer there, and it was where everyone wanted her anyway. “My mother was right,” she told Daryl. “She said you people put on these polite faces, but it’s just a mask. Because when things get bad, when you get scared, you pick a target, aim, and shoot. Me, Negan, anything but you.” She said she tried to fit in because she wanted to be like them. But they didn’t want her. She echoed Negan, in that as an outsider on the inside, she could see the limits of their optimistic, democratic ideology.
The Walking Dead isn’t a political allegory. Sometimes you can infer some real-world resonance from it, like in Negan’s “America First” speech last week, but most of the time when you look for the outside world influencing The Walking Dead, you come up short. Like I thought maybe the fear of the untouchable outside enemy being displaced onto vulnerable outsiders in their midst was an allegory for the Trump administration’s persecution of migrants, but that doesn’t hold up. Since the Whisperers are a real threat, the corresponding fear-inciter would have to be capitalism or Russia or something, and the Whisperers definitely don’t represent capitalism. The Walking Dead‘s reign as the most apolitical show on television continues.
Elsewhere in the episode, Ezekiel and Michonne kissed, but it wasn’t anything. It was something that got put in the trailer to make people go “WHAAAT MICH AND ZEKE ARE 2GETHER?” but in the actual show, it was Ezekiel, reeling from his depression and Michonne showing him kindness, kissing her and then immediately regretting it. She wasn’t into it. “We never would have worked out anyway,” she told him. “Both too damn stubborn.”
“Maybe in another universe,” he said, which was a cute little reference to the comics, where Michonne and Ezekiel did have a relationship.
She had just talked him off the literal ledge of the bridge that Rick blew up, and he opened up about the pain of losing everything. He lost his Kingdom, he lost Benjamin, he lost Shiva, he lost Henry. He didn’t lose Carol (Melissa McBride) in the same way, but he lost her, too. But now he’s said it aloud, and Michonne told him she could relate, because she used to want to die, too. She said she wanted to commit suicide by letting a walker bite her. By the end of the episode, the King was able to smile again, at least for a moment, for Jerry’s (Cooper Andrews) sake, but then he turned, and his smiled faded. The suicide-by-walker conversation may have been foreshadowing. I’m worried about him and Luke (Dan Fogler). Luke definitely seemed too happy. Happiness gets punished on The Walking Dead. Luke’s big, huggy, dramatic farewell to his friends as he set out with Michonne to Oceanside was basically a walk down the green mile. It was so telegraphed that it might be a fake out.
What this trip to Oceanside might actually be is the beginning of the end of Michonne’s Walking Dead story. I predict she’s going to sail away with Oceanside’s pirate crew in search of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln).
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.