This The Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 10 Episode 7
How do you convince someone who has been brainwashed that they’ve been brainwashed? Alpha has complete authority over her subjects on The Walking Dead season 10. We’ve seen just what kind of pull she has on her people, and just how skilled she is at getting them to do the things she wants, even when they don’t want to do those things. Gamma killed her own sister; Gamma’s sister left her baby to die in front of Hilltop. Nobody thinking rationally or logically would want to do either of those things, and yet, Alpha asks, and they do. She’s their savior, in more ways than one, and she’s not hesitant to remind them that they owe their continued existence to her largess and leadership.
It took a long time, and special effort by Henry, to break Lydia of her loyalty to her mother, and it appears that it’s going to take a similar effort by Carol, Daryl, and Gabriel to get Carol’s captured whisperer (James Parks) to open up and realize that he’s better off helping than he is standing in the way. Like Gamma, he’s a true believer, and he believes everything that Alpha has been telling him about how the survivor communities are doomed and the only way forward is the Whisperer way. Like Gamma, he believes that Alpha sacrificed her only daughter for their collective safety. It’ll take more than bread and jam to change his mind about that.
Carol has the right idea, and while she asks Lydia for her opinion on how to get the Whisperer to cooperate, when it doesn’t work, she goes back to her own way of doing things by using Lydia as a weapon, or trying to. She suggests using Lydia’s presence on the Whisperer to break down Alpha’s house of lies. Daryl resists, because he’s Daryl and he has a soul, but Carol persists, and it’s part of the growing divide between the ruthless Carol and the more civilized people around her. Carol has always been ahead of the curve—remember when she was a proto-Whisperer rescuing Rick and company from cannibals in Terminus—but she’s reaching a new level now, and others are starting to push back.
Lydia isn’t a tool, she’s a person, and it’s unsurprising that she resents being used in such a manner. Corey Reed’s script does a good job of establishing that without question. She might be useful to the cause, but she’s still a person. Like Siddiq, she has a breaking point, and being manipulated in a way not unlike the way her mother used to manipulate her is enough to push Lydia beyond that point.
She lashes out at Carol, marking her as manipulative, and she’s not wrong; Carol has proven herself to be a similar sort of ruthless to Alpha, though she’s more willing to make her own sacrifices in the process and Alpha seems less willing to do so. Siddiq, for his part, is sacrificing his health in the service of helping others, having pushed himself to the point of exhaustion and beyond to try and help others survive just a few days longer.
It’s impressive performance from all of the actors thus mentioned. Melissa McBride remains one of the show’s not-so-secret weapons, though the bulk of the episode’s solid work is down to the three crucial Whisperers, Lydia, Gamma, and the nameless kidnappee. James Parks in particular does a great job in the role, and the sequence where he eats the bread and jam rapturously only to turn on a dime and spit it back into Carol’s face was worked over brilliantly.
Cassady McClinchy and Thora Birch also excel in their roles, as both are hurt and betrayed by people they had grown to believe in, the two sides of the Carol/Alpha coin. Birch has always been a good actress, but her work, particularly her work under the Whisperer mask, is doubly impressive for the amount of expressiveness she’s able to evoke with a glare and a scowl.
Ditto Avi Nash, of course. Nash has had one of the more difficult things to portray concerning Siddiq’s post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s something that, even now, isn’t especially understood outside of the military and those who have had very traumatic experiences. He’s doing a good job with his performance, and his nightmare sequences are appropriately shocking in their attempt to put across the depths of his troubled state. Michael Cudlitz makes them appropriately shocking, and traumatic, and the little touches he has where Whisperers just kind of show up in his periphery, or reflected in glass behind him, are enough to help put across his mental state when combined with his haunted performance.
Siddiq is living in a world in which pretty much everyone has some kind of huge trauma in their past (he spills his guts when talking to someone who watched her boyfriend get his skull caved in by Negan, after all) and he feels like he’s something lesser for struggling to come to terms with what he witnessed, but unlike the rest, he’s not had time to process his grief, and he’s not had a chance to get some sort of space from the trauma he witnessed if only because he doesn’t share it with anyone except when pushed by Rosita or Dante.
Siddiq is exhausted. Eugene is distracted. Everyone is sick and tired and working too hard, and the difficulties, the intrigues, the little tests keep coming from the Whisperers, in the form of walkers or accidents, and the general difficulties of maintaining a community in the post-apocalypse are well known by this point; every group is one bad harvest away from hunger, and two bad harvests away from death or worse, and despite being able to share resources, there are only so many times a community can bail out another community with food before the price becomes too heavy to pay.
People are a resource in this world, but people need food, fresh water, and rest to be useful (and, let’s be honest, no one wants to be treated like a resource no matter what side of the good/bad divide they might be on). No matter how necessary a person’s role to a community is, without proper rest they’re only going to hurt people. See Carol’s pill habit. See Siddiq’s exhaustion. See, well, just about anybody who works too hard and sleeps too little. In this world, any little mistake, like trusting the wrong person or trying the wrong tactic to win over an enemy, can have fatal consequences.