[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Walking Dead” Season 10, Episode 2, “We Are the End of The World.”]
“We Are The End of The World” is split into two distinct parts, one far more successful than the other. First there’s a flashback to seven years ago, where Alpha (Samantha Morton) and Lydia (Cassady McClincy) happen upon a certain hulking, masked man-beast. Then in the present, we finally get to know a few other Whisperers and learn that Alpha’s hold on her pack is more tentative than we realized. Those hoping for the season to gain a little more narrative momentum after last week’s pokey premiere will be disappointed, but good news for those who wanted to see that satellite re-enter the atmosphere again!
First let’s address the flashback, because there’s not all that much to talk about. Alpha and Lydia hide out in an abandoned hospital, only to find Beta (Ryan Hurst), who grudgingly lets them stay. Alpha immediately senses a kindred spirit, but Beta’s reluctant until Alpha kills the walker Beta was secretly protecting, someone who was close to him in the Before Times. We also get Alpha chastising Lydia to be stronger, in case you missed that from last year, although she’s much more protective of her here.
What’s frustrating is that we learn virtually nothing new about Beta from all this. We don’t learn his relationship to the walker Alpha kills, save for that it’s his face that Beta uses as a walker disguise to this day. Other than that, Alpha converts Beta to her cause so quickly that there’s almost no sense of who he was before he met her. It’s implied that he was simply an empty vessel waiting for someone like Alpha to come along and give him purpose, but that’s an idea that could be conveyed in a few lines, not half an episode. This could be a tease for further revelations, but as a standalone story, there’s just not enough to it.
Man Is the True Monster
Beta gets sidelined in the present-day story, which sees Alpha’s favor falling on two sisters who have a knack for finding new walkers for Alpha’s super-herd. The spacier of the two sisters is revealed to be the woman who Alpha ordered to abandon her baby last season, and her grief has finally caught up to her, leading her to wail to anyone who will listen that she misses her baby and that he’s in a better place (i.e. not in the woods wearing human skin). Uncharacteristically, Alpha takes pity on the woman, holding her close and allowing her to fully express her grief. It’s a moment of raw emotion, given even more potency against the backdrop of the deadly-silent Whisperer camp.
Unfortunately for Alpha, her rare moment of grace is turned against her, because the very next time the woman is reminded of the existence of babies (she sees a zombie wearing a Baby Bjorn), she freaks out and tackles Alpha right in the middle of the herd. Her sister pulls her off and tosses her to the walkers, earning Alpha’s praise and a promotion to Gamma, while stoking jealousy in Beta. Fortunately, he finds a way to reignite their bond.
A Shred of Humanity
Beta, realizing Alpha periodically sneaks off into the woods, follows her and discovers her secret. See, Alpha told the Whisperers that she killed Lydia, except she couldn’t bring herself to do so. As Beta quickly pieces together this lie, he also realizes that not only did she not kill Lydia, but she desperately wants her to return. But instead of using this knowledge for leverage or to take control of the Whisperers, Beta offers Alpha his hand, showing the same grace Alpha showed earlier. At that moment, Alpha finally disavows Lydia, smashing the shelter she had built for her and screaming how Lydia was not like her. It’s an interesting turn, proving that Beta isn’t a schemer like so many of the Saviors were; he’s a true believer, and he just needs to remind his messiah of her true path.
Which is all well and good, but let’s take a moment to address what Alpha built for Lydia out in the woods. Beta doesn’t say it outright, but it appears, for all intents and purposes, to be a big, human-sized nest. You know, like Big Bird has on Sesame Street. If you’re feeling generous, you could possibly interpret it as Alpha’s clumsy attempt to replicate the civilization Lydia chose over Alpha through Alpha’s natural selection-obsessed lens, but boy, is it ever goofy, and it’s a big distraction from what’s otherwise a perfectly solid climax.
Now that Alpha and Beta are on the same page again, Beta lets her know that their enemies have once again entered their territory. Alpha agrees that they need to be punished, and closes the episode out by staring down Carol, like the end of last week’s episode. Now that Alpha has made her intention of retribution known, maybe things can start happening next week?
- It’s downright odd that we don’t get to see Beta’s face. Does he have gnarly scars? Was he a celebrity in the “Walking Dead” universe before the outbreak? You can give us a peek under the mask, show. We know it’s Ryan Hurst under there.
- Between Lydia’s conversion last season and the sister this episode, babies are proving to be the Whisperers’ greatest weakness. Daryl needs to assemble a baby army, stat.
- How is Alpha planning on attacking our heroes without revealing Lydia to her followers? At least one other Whisperer is like, “Yeah, Hilltop looked dope. We should maybe go back there,” so Alpha already has a loyalty problem. A resolution where Alpha’s followers stage a full-on revolt does not seem out of the question.
- Alpha: “I like killing with you.” There are worse pickup lines, I suppose. Beta’s deadpan response of, “Well, you’re different,” is pretty hilarious. Ryan Hurst is doing strong work as Beta, even when the stories are weak.
- She seriously built a big nest. A true legend.
“The Walking Dead” airs new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.