A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 9, Episode 12: “Guardians”

How do the Whisperers live? Let’s find out in “Guardians.”

Guardians- Lydia tells Alpha what she learned about the Hilltop- AMC, The Walking Dead

The episode begins with Alpha and Lydia leading their merry band of walkers through the woods, with Alpha asking her daughter about the boy from Hilltop. More than that, Alpha wants to know if Lydia talked about her group, and she admitted that she lied in order to get Henry to trust her. Except for one thing: that they should not cross Alpha. Lydia updates Alpha on the Hilltop’s basic layout and supplies.

Guardians- Alpha upset about little information from Lydia- AMC, The Walking Dead

No signs of trade, though. Alpha isn’t pleased about the small amount of information, especially since she broke rules to rescue Lydia, who is just giving her excuses. But Lydia wonders if Alpha only rescued her for information, though Alpha considers that a stupid question. With that, the walker band continues shuffling through the woods. Though it’s worth mentioning that Lydia only talks about the Hilltop- not the Kingdom.

Guardians- Alexandria council goes discusses the fair- AMC, The Walking Dead

We return to Alexandria as Michonne and the council talk with Gabriel about the radio- the only others that know are Eugene and Rosita. Michonne believes that Gabriel was distracted because of this. Gabriel reminds Michonne that she can veto, but now it feels like everything has to be run by her. Also, who can they turn to when they need help, especially when Michonne cuts them off from the other communities?

Jesus is still dead. Aaron reminds them that this doesn’t change what happened. There is a new enemy and they’re what Michonne was afraid they would find. Aaron doesn’t regret his time with Jesus, and what happened could’ve happened anyway. But now, they know what’s out there and they can’t pretend otherwise. They put Michonne in charge for a reason- her judgment has saved them time and time again.

Guardians- Siddiq and Michonne talk about Carol- AMC, The Walking Dead

But, as Siddiq argues, at what cost? After all, they saw Carol at the Hilltop, and she tried asking for help with the fair, but Michonne turned her down. Apparently the trade fair is old business, but now they have new information. The fair starts the day after tomorrow and there’s still time to reconsider. Carol says that the Kingdom’s situation is far worse than Ezekiel let on in his letter. They need the trade that the fair will bring.

Guardians- Laura says that the Kingdom can handle itself- AMC, The Walking Dead

Laura argues that the Kingdom can take care of itself, but Siddiq believes that Carol wouldn’t ask a second time. Either way, Nora suggests a second vote, but Michonne would just veto it. She wants to help, and they could vote to open their doors like they did with the Sanctuary, but Carol made it clear that Ezekiel isn’t ready to give up the Kingdom. And Michonne won’t risk the Alexandria’s lives.

Siddiq wonders what it means for Alexandria to survive if the Kingdom falls. But to Michonne, it just means that Alexandria survives.

Guardians- Rosita and Gabriel talk about Michonne- AMC, The Walking Dead

Not far from here, Rosita gets ready for the day and meets up with a still-frustrated Gabriel, who believes that the council isn’t really a council anymore. He doesn’t want to talk about the meeting with Michonne and knows that he’s being difficult, but it’s a lot to take in right now. Rosita apologizes as well. They were just getting started and neither of them signed up for this, but this is what’s happening.

She understands if he wants to walk, but right now, the ball is in Gabriel’s court for how they handle their shit. With that, Rosita decides to head home.

Guardians- Alpha and Lydia arrive at camp- AMC, The Walking Dead

Alpha’s band of walkers arrive at a spot in the woods and decide to rest, while Lydia finds a yo-yo in the ground.

Guardians- Beta, played by Ryan Hurst, about to attack Henry- AMC, The Walking Dead

While Henry waits in hiding, he takes out one of the nearby Whisperers, but is intercepted by another who goes by the name Beta, played by Ryan Hurst. Beta brings him before Alpha and informs her that they’ve been tracking him for quite some time. Henry confesses that he’s from Hilltop, but he’s not here on their behalf. He’s just here for Lydia.

Guardians- Henry tells Alpha that he came for Lydia- AMC, The Walking Dead

For that, Lydia slugs him. However, he’ll still be coming with them, and she cautions the Whisperers to keep their eyes open. If Henry is here, there could be others.

Guardians- Eugene talks with Gabriel about Rosita- AMC, The Walking Dead

But back to that later. At Alexandria, Eugene brings two charts to Gabriel to talk about helping Rosita while she’s with child. Gabriel doesn’t see the need, but Eugene tells him that he’d be a damn fool to let Rosita go. He gets straight with Gabriel: Rosita is the best thing that happened to him. Gabriel can’t let his feelings get in the way of what’s best for the child, especially when he isn’t the father.

Eugene doesn’t get it, but he gets that Rosita loves Gabriel and not Siddiq. More than that, the decision is ultimately up to her. Eugene then gives Gabriel a peace offering: some clothes that Rosita can wear for when she becomes more…ahem, pregnant.

Guardians- Alpha gives Lydia an apple- AMC, The Walking Dead

In the woods, Alpha asks Lydia about Henry. Lydia tells her mother that she acted helpless and he fell for it, but Alpha figures that maybe her daughter is a good liar. Alpha then says that she trusts animals because they don’t lie. In Lydia’s case, she had to lie. They’re just words, nothing more, just like the air. Oh, and then she presents her daughter with an apple. Isn’t that sweet?

Guardians- Lydia and Henry arrive at the Whisperers' camp- AMC, The Walking Dead

Alpha’s group heads towards another group of the walkers as they arrive back at home where Lydia belongs. Indeed, Henry has his first look at where Alpha’s group sets up shop. While Beta leads Henry elsewhere, Lydia heads off.

Guardians- Michonne wants to know why Negan returned- AMC, The Walking Dead

Michonne pays Negan a visit to get some answers. Namely, she wants to know why he returned. What kind of dog does that make him? He tells Michonne that he was in her home and could’ve waited to kill her and other people, not because he’d be a dead man. Michonne figures that Negan went out, but it didn’t work out, so he dragged himself back to Alexandria.

Guardians- Negan offers to help Michonne- AMC, The Walking Dead

Negan concedes that the world has changed, and so has he. If he won’t be killed, then maybe Michonne could learn to trust him. He’s choosing self-preservation, but if he’s being kept in prison to remind everyone about how merciful Rick is, Negan offers to help. After all, what Michonne has is slipping through her fingers. He hears what the people discuss. All Negan is saying is that he knows about keeping people in line.

He could be a sounding board, leader to former leader. While Michonne maintains that she’s no leader, Negan knows about the constitution. It gives power, but she’s the one to make all the decisions. He calls it a racket and knows that a good leader uses everything to their advantage. Michonne tells Negan that he will be tied up while the locks are fortified, but then Michonne spots Judith heading inside…

Guardians- Daryl, Connie, and Dog follow Henry's trail- AMC, The Walking Dead

Daryl, Connie, and Dog follow Henry’s tracks in the woods, with Connie writing that Henry must’ve caught up to Alpha’s group. Daryl realizes that there was a struggle and Dogs is on the hunt with the scent.

Guardians- Alpha speaks with Henry- AMC, The Walking Dead

While Beta cuts the skin off of a walker’s face, Alpha goes to Henry, as she knows he has so many questions about why they hide among the dead. They aren’t dead, but as far as Alpha is concerned, the weak die. A few followers step up and say that they don’t go back for the lost, except two died just to go back for Lydia.

Guardians- Alpha receives a challenge- AMC, The Walking Dead

But Alpha figures that they have information on the communities. If someone has a problem with Alpha’s leadership, they know what to do. As such, the member challenges Alpha for leadership. Beta pounces on the man, and Alpha reminds the man that he can challenge her at any time. However, she has the right to defend herself.

Guardians- One of the Whisperers challenges Alpha- AMC, The Walking Dead

She grabs one of the detractors and tells her that she was plotting with her boyfriend. As such, the challenge does not go to the man, but to his lady friend. The woman contends that Alpha led them into danger. They deserve to get payback for losing two of theirs. For that, Alpha has apparently failed them.

Guardians- Alpha decapitates one of the Whisperers- AMC, The Walking Dead

Alpha maintains that the Whisperers follow her by choice and she keeps them alive. The woman does not want to fight Alpha, who is slowly circling her. She won’t have to, though, as Alpha decapitates her without a second thought. She then raises her head and shows it to the others, including the woman’s boyfriend, even going as far as making him hold the head in his arms.

Guardians- Alpha gives a head to one of the Whisperers- AMC, The Walking Dead

She slowly approaches the man before stabbing him. Tough luck.

Guardians- Michonne wants to know why Judith spoke with Negan- AMC, The Walking Dead

Back in Alexandria, Michonne confronts Judith on her standing outside the jail. She wants to know why she was spying, but Judith denies that. She went to see Negan, and she admits that she’s been talking to him because she feels sorry for him. Michonne tells Judith that Negan isn’t her friend, and she knows that, but at least Negan listens to her. Not everybody does.

Guardians- Judith tells Michonne that Negan listens to her- AMC, The Walking Dead

Michonne forbids Negan from talking to him again, saying he’s a monster who has done monstrous things. He’s killed people that Michonne and Rick cared about, and if he got out that could happen again, but Judith reminds Michonne that Negan already escaped. Michonne tells Judith that people don’t really change, but hey, Michonne did. With that, Michonne tells Judith to go to her room because she needs a minute.

Guardians- Beta removes Alpha's mask- AMC, The Walking Dead

Out in the woods, while Lydia reveals to Henry the necklace she’s still wearing, Alpha asks Beta to remove her mask. She realizes that it’s been years since she was challenged, but it felt different this time. Still, Beta tells her that it’s best to remind the pack. The people follow her because they trust her.

Guardians- Alpha and Beta talk about Henry and Lydia- AMC, The Walking Dead

Alpha remembers when she found Lydia tangled up in plastic when she was three years old, and Alpha just watched as Lydia’s skin turned blue. She finally tore the plastic off of her daughter and Lydia was fine. So then Alpha hit her hard so she remembered to never do that again. They have to do whatever it takes to protect themselves, and Beta reminds Alpha that they need to be ready when the survivors come for the boy.

But Alpha believes that having Henry gives them an advantage. Beta believes that Lydia feels something for Henry. So it’s time to find out what that is.

Guardians- Daryl and Connie observe some walkers- AMC, The Walking Dead

Not far from here, a few Whisperers leave the bodies out for the approaching dead to devour. Daryl, Dog, and Connie watch from a distance.

Guardians- Gabriel goes to Rosita and Siddiq to make peace- AMC, The Walking Dead

In Alexandria, Gabriel pays Rosita and Siddiq a visit and presents the peace offering from Eugene. With that, the three head inside while Eugene watches from a distance.

Guardians- Michonne tells Aaron that she won't veto a revote- AMC, The Walking Dead

Michonne heads to Aaron’s home and is greeted by both Aaron and Gracie. Michonne thanks Aaron for his support at the meeting. He’s fine with it. After all, they agreed to live on the rules and it was easy to forget why they had them. With the way things have gone down recently, it made him remember.

Guardians- Aaron and Michonne talk about the Kingdom- AMC, The Walking Dead

Michonne then tells tell him that if the council wants to re-vote to send a delegation to the fair, she won’t veto it. She knows that it’s a bad idea and risky with the skin-walkers out there, but the people have to make their own decisions. That’s what they swore to protect with the charter. More than that, it’s for the Kingdom. Aaron just hopes that they don’t regret it. Preparations are soon underway at Alexandria.

Guardians- Beta brings Henry before Alpha, who wants Lydia to kill him- AMC, The Walking Dead

As night falls, Beta brings Henry before Lydia and Alpha, who takes out a blade and tosses it on the ground. She commands her daughter to pick up the knife, and Lydia obeys, but then she tells Lydia to kill the boy. Alpha figures that Lydia may have been gone long enough to forget what side she’s really on, so it’s time for her to remember.

Alpha doesn’t want her daughter to be weak, like her father was, so she pushes Lydia to kill Henry. Otherwise, Beta will kill them both.

Guardians- Daryl comes for Henry, who still wants Lydia to come with him- AMC, The Walking Dead

However, the dead soon arrive, startling the Whisperers into putting on their masks and lurking off. While the dead feast on what living that they can, Daryl and Connie in hiding retrieve Henry, who refuses to leave without Lydia. Okay, so they’re forced to retreat with Lydia in tow as the episode comes to a close.

Sort of an abrupt ending there, but a good place to stop nonetheless. “Guardians” gives us our first big look at the Whisperers’ and their “home” out in the middle of nowhere. After being introduced to Alpha, we see how she and her ilk live when also staying on the move from both the living and dead.

Part of me thinks that we easily could’ve spent the entire time here, like a bottle episode, but the moments we get at Alexandria also push the story forward with how Michonne’s rule has alienated Alexandria from the other communities, as well as some of the residents.

Guardians- Alpha acknowledges that the Whisperers follow her by choice- AMC, The Walking Dead

But we’ll get to that in a moment. Sticking with the title of this episode, Alpha is more than just the outright Alpha of the Whisperers, but their guardian. She makes the rules and everyone follows. If anyone disagrees, as we see, they are well within their right to challenge her, but for the most part, it looks like everyone keeps in line with this twisted way of life.

Guardians- Alpha tells Henry about how her people live- AMC, The Walking Dead

Well, I say “twisted,” but I’m looking at it from an outsider’s perspective. That’s why we have Henry, who is the outsider looking in on how the Whisperers operate. I could’ve done with spending more time here, given how we see things like Beta skinning a walker for its face, the challenge, and overall just what the Whisperers do when they’re shuffling around.

At the same time, I also wish there was one aspect of the Whisperers that was brought over from the comic. I’m not sure if it will come up later, but we haven’t seen it yet. If we do get it, I’ll point it out, but right now, it does look like one aspect of how the Whisperers live has not translated to screen. At least not yet.

Guardians- Alpha cares for Lydia- AMC, The Walking Dead

Nonetheless, even with this weird way of life, Alpha has a very odd way of showing affection for her daughter. She seems to hit Lydia whenever she pleases to keep her in line, but she also broke the rules in order to save Lydia. Though it’s a fair question of whether Alpha only came for Lydia herself, or what Lydia might have learned.

Guardians- Alpha kills one of the Whisperers- AMC, The Walking Dead

Either way, it led to the gruesome moment when Alpha was challenged by two of her followers. Like last time we saw her, Samantha Morton has great screen presence as Alpha. She moves and feels like an animal lurking in wait to strike at her prey, which is exactly what she does when she kills two of her followers.

Guardians- Beta holds a knife to one of the Whisperers- AMC, The Walking Dead

The detracting Whisperers do bring up a fair point in that they supposedly do not go back for those who fell behind or were lost. But when Alpha chose to forego that for the sake of her daughter- or her information- and others died in the process, then the others have every right to be upset. Bold move to try and step to Alpha, but then, she did say that this time felt different from the others.

Guardians- Decapitated Whisperer- AMC, The Walking Dead

But again, brutal to watch Alpha just decapitate the woman without so much as a thought or emotion. Same with her stabbing the man after making him hold the woman’s head. Despite how simplistic the Whisperers may seem to the outside world, they are a brutal bunch.

Guardians- Ryan Hurst as Beta- AMC, The Walking Dead

That’s especially evident in the badass that is Beta, and Ryan Hurst did a fantastic job in his introduction. It’s like Beta stepped right out of the comic book, and I can’t wait to see him to toe-to-toe with Daryl next time. One great thing about Beta is that while he’s always loyal to Alpha, he isn’t a follower or someone who just takes orders.

He can take care of himself plenty fine and is able to carry his own weight, as we see when he tosses aside Henry like a rag doll.

Guardians- Michonne is not willing to open Alexandria's doors yet- AMC, The Walking Dead

Sticking with the word “Guardian,” we have Michonne pretty much walling Alexandria off from the rest of the communities. Like when Magna’s group arrived, she has every right to be cautious. But there’s more caution here when you factor in the Whisperers and what they’re capable of- not to mention that they’ve already killed Jesus.

Guardians- Michonne is fine with Alexandria surviving, even if the Kingdom falls- AMC, The Walking Dead

So in that regard, it’s easy to see Michonne’s point of view, especially when Gabriel hadn’t mentioned the radio before. But she’s going over the rest of the council and making decisions on their behalf not because it’s necessarily the right choice for everyone, but simply because she can. She goes through an arc this episode of being willing to open up Alexandria’s walls and let others go out on their own.

Guardians- Gabriel knows that Michonne would veto a revote- AMC, The Walking Dead

After all, they have this council for a reason. What’s the point of discussing things through when Michonne would just overrule them anyway? By episode’s end, she doesn’t want to do that anymore.

Guardians- Negan tells Michonne that she's losing control- AMC, The Walking Dead

I imagine her conversations with Negan and Judith had a big impact here. Like he told Rick, Negan is right in that the safety and security that Michonne has built will soon crumble. Hell, it’s already crumbling, but we’re just waiting for the powder keg to explode. The fact that Negan returned of his own volition and is offering advice to Michonne should show that he’s willing to change, but Michonne disagrees.

But you can tell that Negan’s words had an impact on her just based on how she reacted.

Guardians- Judith says that Negan isn't a monster- AMC, The Walking Dead

Same goes with Judith. While Michonne is not her birth mother, or even Rick her real father, she is the guardian and responsible for keeping a watchful eye on her. The problem is that Michonne has a lot on her plate as is and can’t be as attentive as she would want to be. That’s where Negan comes in. He’s in a cell and can’t go anywhere, so all he has to offer is his time.

It’s what makes the bond between him and Judith as strong as it has been. He’s not looking for anything in return or expecting her to free him. But he is willing to listen to her when others are not. Hell, he even helped Judith with her math homework. If that doesn’t prove that he’s willing to change, then I don’t know what will.

Guardians- Michonne tells Judith to go to her room- AMC, The Walking Dead

Plus, Judith had a real point. Michonne may feel that people don’t really change, but that’s a huge contradiction on her part. Lest we forget the strong, silent type that she was when she first came across Rick and company. Now she’s one of the pillars of the Alexandria Safe Zone. Whether it’s her, Alden, Tara, people can and have changed.

Though one wonders how Judith knows about Michonne’s past. That’d be sort of a weird chapter for Rick or Michonne to just randomly bring up about how Michonne used to be the silent type. But I digress. It’s not a huge deal.

Guardians- Eugene wants Gabriel to work things out with Rosita- AMC, The Walking Dead

Then we’ve got this weird love…square with Gabriel, Siddiq, Eugene, and Rosita. So Gabriel loves her, Eugene loves her but accepts that he probably will never have her, and Siddiq is the father. Confusing, I know, but that’s strange is Eugene making a big deal out of saying that it’s ultimately Rosita’s choice. Not only is that obvious, but it feels weird coming from Eugene.

Guardians- Rosita smiles at Gabriel- AMC, The Walking Dead

More than that, Rosita seems to have settled with Siddiq, but still may carry a torch for Gabriel as well. So is this going to be some sort of three-way thing? And what the hell is up with the charts that Eugene made? That’s a lot of time to devote to a woman who will probably never have you.

All in all, though “Guardians” was a pretty good episode. The moments with the Whisperers were great and it was nice to explore more of their way of life. But now that Daryl and Connie have whisked Lydia and Henry away, it’s only a matter of time before the Whisperers make their next attack. With the fair approaching, you can probably count on it being something big.

But we’ll find that out when we get there. See you then.

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