This review contains spoilers.
10.4 Silence The Whisperers
The outsider is the easiest target for radicalisation. That’s a simple fact as old as anything. When you have a homogeneous community, particularly one that’s been through a series of disasters that have served to bring them closer together, and introduce a couple of people who haven’t (indeed, a couple of people directly responsible for a lot of the tragedies that have befallen the community), introduce outside pressure, and voila, an “us against them” mentality develops, with the us and the them easily spurred to violent action.
That’s the brewing powder keg in Silence The Whisperers, a tense episode of The Walking Dead in which the redeemed Negan and the abused Lydia are forced to band together for mutual survival against a radicalised faction of Alexandrians led by the last surviving teenager Gage (Jackson Pace), Alex (Austin Freeman), and Margo (Jerri Tubbs). These three are the physical and emotional agitators against Lydia, but they’re simply the point of a spear that is part of the community. Even with the three of them dealt with, after a fashion, there’s no denying that they represent a movement that is hostile to the survival of Negan, Lydia, and anyone else who isn’t an Alexandrian.
That’s not saying that Lydia and Negan don’t deserve suspicion, Negan particularly. The two, mostly because they have no other friends save perhaps Judith, are turning to each other for support. Negan, for all his faults, knows psychology, and he knows psychological warfare. His advice to Lydia, which runs counter to her whole life ethos, is kill them with kindness, rather than run and hide. Lydia somehow turns this into bringing a squirrel into the dining area, plopping it down on a table, and gutting it while the three Alexandrian tormentors are trying to eat. Not exactly the way to win friends and influence people, and not the best way to rehabilitate your reputation.
Still, director Michael Cudlitz does a good job with this scene, because it’s both horrifying and played for laughs without actually showing Lydia gut a stuffed squirrel. It’s told solely through sounds and a well-placed blood packet splattering on Gage’s face, and the horrified expressions of everyone around her sell the scene, as does Cassady McClinchy’s amused, victorious smirk. She’s not fitting in, and she knows that she’ll never fit in, but she has no other way to fight back without bringing pain upon herself, which she does despite herself.
That Lydia lost her only friend in the community, and that she has the support of Daryl, doesn’t seem to do much to help her make her case. Others who see her being picked on, like Gabriel and Aaron, turn a blind eye to the situation and refuse to lend a helping hand. Negan might be mentally tough enough to withstand shunning—though even he breaks now and then—but he knows that Lydia has done nothing to deserve the enmity of the group save be her mother’s daughter.
Those who can help her seem to be refusing to, and it’s highlighted further in the scenes involving the Alexandria council meeting to decide Negan’s fate after the horrible accident he causes while doing the right thing. Negan might be redeemed, or he might not be, but the council taking the night to sleep on things only makes the tension outside the community worse, and puts them in a even tougher spot once they finally do make a decision, if only because Negan escapes and Lydia decides to take the blame despite no evidence tying her to the crime.
Delaying on a problem tends to only make it worse, at least according to Geraldine Inoa, who is credited with the script. It’s not directly stated, and directly stating issues is saved for things like conversations and radio discussions. Just as much is not said, and Cudlitz trusts his actors to say things in expressions and body language, without the need to spell things out as much as had been common in the show’s previous seasons.
The big exposition dumps are smaller, more contained, and spread out through the episode. The Alexandria controversy is broken up with intermittent bursts of drama from Hilltop as their wall is breeched by a conveniently falling tree that also happened to land on their barn and trap a bunch of people while walkers, drawn by the sound and activity, come to investigate. At the same time, there’s trouble brewing at Oceanside, as well.
While Alexandria fights among themselves and Hilltop struggles to survive, Siddiq points out something Judith mentioned to Michonne previously (in a very cute scene). They’re running around putting out fires and ignoring the hurricane beating down on them. The Whisperers are out there, and they’re attacking in indirect ways, and Negan and Lydia won’t matter when they come bashing in the gates at the forefront of a horde of thousands of zombies. Judith would say they’re being led to run around, tire themselves out, and be easier pickings for the Whisperers when, not if, they come back.
Perhaps Lydia, who has no friends within or without, is smart to take the Negan route and lock herself in a cage and wait things out. She’s already been attacked by the people she’s supposed to be allied with, and her only real friend is the guy who everyone still kind of wants to hang now that Rick Grimes isn’t around to keep them in line (her other friend is a guy who’d rather live in a camp by himself than be surrounded by people, so he’s not exactly much help either). Given her past, she’d be smart to feel safer behind bars, at least then no one can sneak up on her in the dark and give her a thumping, or toss her off the top of the wall.
The leadership will know in time, but no one in Alexandria except Daryl knows that Lydia is the only thing between them and being wiped off the face of the earth. Beating her up and ostracising her isn’t a great way to make friends with the only thing keeping you from being overrun by walkers and becoming part of the next horde. Perhaps Lydia won’t be as quick to stop her mother next time Alpha wants to display her true power.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Ghosts, here.
Read Ron’s pick of the best horror TV shows currently available to watch.