This review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead has continued to deliver quality episodes throughout Season 9, and this is once again the case in Episode 12, ‘Guardians’.
While the episode, on the whole, was very good, it did have one main issue, pacing. To be fair, the show has worked hard on correcting it’s pacing issues, and this episode is the first time this season that it’s really taken a half-step back. While the main Whisperer story, including both sub-plots, were good, the third storyline in this episode is where it fell a little short. So that’s where I am going to start.
I’m sorry, but this four-way baby-love square really brought the episode down. It was clunky and poorly executed. The only positive to come out of this is that it looks like Eugene isn’t going to create a fuss. He’s made some maternity pants for Rosita and encourages Gabriel to fight for her. So hopefully this story is going to be dealt with pretty quickly and is inconsequential to the overall narrative. The story didn’t fit well with the rest of the episode, which is probably why I noticed it so much, in a negative way.
Again, this was only a minor issue with the episode so I won’t dwell on it too much. Instead, I will move to the main ‘meat’ of the story which focused on The Whisperers and Daryl and Connie’s pursuit of Henry and Lydia. This episode also gives us our first in-depth look at what it’s like to live life as a Whisperer.
Lydia briefs Alpha on some intel, but it’s clear that she’s not willing to spill all the details. She gives her just enough to appear still on side, but the show is clearly indicating that she is now an unwilling hostage. I can see her fully aligning with Hilltop. Henry manages to catch up with the group but is soon intercepted and captured by Beta. While it wasn’t the ‘OMG’ introductory moment I was expecting, to see this character finally make his small screen debut was an enjoyable moment. Ryan Hurst is perfectly cast, and as the episode played out we really got to see how menacing he was.
While Beta’s walker skinning was a totally gross, but awesome moment, it was actually Alpha who stole the episode, with what was one of the most gruesome deaths in a long time. Alpha is challenged for the leadership and so ends up decapitating the woman, throwing her head to her partner before gutting him like a fish. The show continues to build and develop her character very well indeed.
While all this is happening, Daryl, Connie and Dog are on Henry’s trailer. My ongoing worry for Dog’s safety continues to stress me out. I’m really enjoying this team-up, and Daryl continues to really step up his game. I loved him in the early seasons, but for the fast few years, they all but destroyed his character. It seems like this has finally been addressed.
At the Whisperer’s camp, a group of walkers attack, killing some unexpected members, but with the majority waking up and slowly putting on their masks. Thus avoiding a gruesome death. Thank’s to this distraction, Daryl manages to free Henry and Lydia. How? By wearing a Whisperer mask. Hell yes, this was a great moment. I fully expect them to be tracked down by Beta and can see some close conflict in the very near future. Alpha will see this as an attack on her people, and they will be out for blood.
This episode had a lot of stories to juggle, and this was evident when we had a fourth narrative running throughout the episode. This was back at Alexandria and focused around Negan. Michonne and a few others. The majority of people are pushing for Alexandria to participate at the fair, but Michonne is once again reluctant. She has grown cold, hardened by events that have yet to come to light. I get it, but at the same time, Michonne has really been going backwards since the time jump. She’s very frustrating to watch right now, and at the minute there doesn’t seem to be much of a payoff on the horizon. It was good to see Negan, with Judith having his back. But he is another one who is currently in limbo. I’m eager for them to pull the trigger on whatever they have planned for him, as at the minute he is being criminally underused.
Overall, another solid episode with some truly gruesome moments. All the positives are once again coming from the main Whisperers narrative. The pacing was an issue this week, but with the number of characters and stories they are setting up and juggling, that is to be expected. I always feel when there is too much going on, the episode suffers, and this appears to be the case here. With that said, it was still a highly enjoyable episode and you just get the sense that things are soon about to boil over.