We Are the End of the World. We Are the Children.
The episode begins with, as you’d expect, more title cards. We jump back to seven years ago as a woman has crashed her car into a building. Somehow, it’s not Lori. Anyway, walkers soon approach the woman’s truck and she attempts to crawl under to escape, but the walkers catch and feast on her. Among this small group of walkers are Alpha and Lydia, who screams at the sight of the woman being torn apart.
Of course, you’re not supposed to do that, so the two are forced to flee when the scream gets the attention of the walkers. Like any typical horror movie, most of the doors are locked, but Alpha manages to get one open before one of the walkers can grab Lydia. Alpha chastises her daughter for almost getting them killed again, but then Lydia’s attention is drawn towards a masked man at the end of the hallway.
But who cares? Let’s jump back to the present, as Beta works on Alpha’s scalp. He tells her it’s time that the pack returns, but Alpha disagrees, saying that there’s more gathering to be done and guardians to be found. Beta believes that the survivors’ fear will subside eventually, though Alpha knows that the others will fear them no matter where they are, even if they’re far away.
She then tells Beta to take some nearby sisters when he departs, as they have a real gift.
Back in the past, Alpha tries to get the masked man to talk, but he says nothing. She does give him two warnings, though: if he’s going to kill her, know that she doesn’t die easily. Also, he must kill Lydia as well, as Alpha won’t leave this world without her. Tough break. Eventually, the man allows the two to stay for one night, but just in this hallway. He also points to where Lydia can wash up.
Lydia asks her mother if the man is a monster, but as far as Alpha is concerned, they’re all monsters.
In the present, Beta whispers to one of the nearby Whisperers to gather as many followers as they can. He then signs to one of the sisters, Frances, played by Juliet Brett who in turn whispers to her sister, played by Thora Birch, that they must split up. The sister trails off, but notices that the sun feels different today.
The sister tells Frances to focus and take her head out of the clouds. Otherwise, Beta will see that she’s not committed to the cause or to Alpha. The older of the sisters laments not leaving Frances one behind when she had the chance. Then Frances tells her sister that she can hear them.
We flash back to Alpha bathing Lydia, while still protecting her from the sounds outside. As Alpha searches for some food, she hums a tune. This gets the attention of the masked man, who demands that she stop. He asks if the woman has a name, but as far as she’s concerned, if the dead don’t have names, then neither should they. More like they should know each other on a primal level.
The dead fear nothing, but only want to feed. She asks how the man ended up here, and he explains that he got into a tussle with the dead a few months ago. Alpha asks why the man wears the mask, but rather than answer that, the man says that he likes the sound of the dead. It’s the only song he never wants to end.
In the present, Beta enters a parking garage where walkers are roaming. He rattles the gates to get their attention before opening the gate to free them.
This group of walkers soon joins up with the Whisperer sisters, with one of them focusing on the sun again. Then it’s revealed via flashback that Frances is the same Whisperer that left her baby as walker bait when the Whisperers came to the Hilltop. She begins to cry, thus attracting attention from walkers, but Beta kills them before they can attack her.
The older sister again asks what’s wrong with Frances, but Beta tells the Whisperer that she will pay.
Indeed, back at the Whisperer camp, Beta tosses Frances to her ground as she weeps over tossing away her baby, but she knows that he’s in a better place. Before one of the Whisperers can kill Frances, Alpha orders them to stop.
When the two are alone, Beta tells Alpha that the woman is not committed and her actions threatened the entire pack. Leaving her child broke her. Alpha tells Beta that he’ll never understand what it means abandon your child. Lydia was dead to Alpha long before she ended her. She then tells Beta to bring the Whisperer sister to her in the ‘deeper place.’ Hopefully no relation to the Sunken Place.
In the past, Alpha and Lydia settle down for the night, with Lydia wondering why there are pillows on the walls. Alpha says it’s so people there can’t hurt themselves. Lydia asks if that applies to the man in the building, but Alpha is certain that these walls couldn’t control someone like that. Alpha confesses that she likes the man.
She hands Lydia her stuffed bunny, but Lydia rejects it, saying she doesn’t want to be scared anymore. She wants to be more like Mom.
Like any parent, Alpha has been waiting to hear that. She hopes that Lydia can indeed keep up. Otherwise, Alpha will have no choice but to leave her behind. Lydia pleads for her mother to never leave her, saying that she’ll do good. That’s fine, but Alpha wants Lydia to stop calling her “Mama.”
Frances does indeed make it to the deeper place and is confronted by Alpha. Frances apologizes and promises to never speak of her son again, but Alpha simply tells Frances to remove her mask. She does, and then gets on her knees. Alpha cradles Frances’- causing her to scream- but it turns out that Alpha is merely bringing her in for a hug.
Everyone back at the camp is surprised to see Frances return alive and well, with Frances telling her sister that she’ll never stray again now that Alpha showed her grace. Another Whisperer tells Frances that she’s also been thinking about the Hilltop and how safe it looked, but the elder sister drags Frances away.
Beta demands to know why Alpha relented, but she reminds him to never question her. If Frances strays again, Alpha will skin her alive for all to see. They just need to keep a close eye on her to make sure she doesn’t unsettle the pack again. However, the others have already spoken of the enemy and the life they saw. The pack must learn again that what they saw was not a life, but a fantasy. When will they learn this? Soon.
Beta then asks if Alpha is content, as he’s seen her wander away from the camp at night. But Alpha tells Beta that she’s right here, as she’s always been.
We return to the past as Alpha stalks the hallways of the compound while again humming that familiar tune. She happens upon a walker and takes it down, but soon enters a hallway littered with the dead. Alpha is quickly outnumbered, but the masked man whisks in and saves her as the two dispatch of the dead. Alpha, noting how much she enjoys killing with this man, begins slicing off the face of one of the walkers.
The man notes that Alpha is different than most, and Alpha figures that people who knew her prior life would say the same. Right now, she barely trusts anyone. The same applies to the masked man. As the masked man rips open the walker’s guts, Alpha refers to him as Big Man, then Mr. B. It’s a start, I guess. He reminds Alpha that she said they don’t have names, but B itself is just a letter. That much is true.
So if he’s B, that makes her A. The man realizes that they can move among the dead when covered in their guts, but it’s not just about moving with them. You must become them and feel what they feel. So what do they feel? Nothing. Only two kinds of people remain in this world: the ones brave enough to walk with the dead, and everyone else. So Alpha asks B which one he is.
Alpha reaches out to stroke the man’s mask, but he grabs her hand and rebuffs her before leaving. As he does, Alpha goes back to humming her tune.
We jump back to the present. Night has fallen and we join the Whisperer sisters, unmasked, as the eldest asks Frances what it was like to be with Alpha. It’s just as you’d imagine. She calls Alpha powerful and calm. Now her head feels right again and she’s glad she made the sacrifice of giving up her child, just as Alpha did when she gave up her daughter. When she watched her die, she didn’t shed a tear.
But then, she’s Alpha. She doesn’t cry. Frances apologizes for risking what they have here- whatever the hell that is- but just don’t ever do it again. So now I’m betting good money that she will do it again. Frances asks her sister if she meant what she said before, about wishing she’d left her behind. Instead of acknowledging that, the oldest tells Frances to get some sleep.
That isn’t an answer.
Anyway, the next day, the Whisperers are leading some walkers, but everyone’s attention is drawn to the sky as a fiery object falls from space. This causes the walkers to scatter a bit, but Beta advises the Whisperers to not break. However, there are simply too many walkers to herd together all at once.
Now, my friends, we get some plot convenience. Frances spots a walker sporting a baby carrier- because what are the fucking odds of that happening- and has flashbacks of her becoming a Whisperer and later abandoning her child at the Hilltop. Frances removes her mask and tackles Alpha to the ground. The eldest rips Frances away from Alpha, forcing her to the ground as she’s soon devoured by the dead.
It’s unfortunate, but hey, life goes on. Now hands up, who else saw that coming?
Back at Whisperer home base, Alpha removes the eldest sister’s mask and asks if she regrets what she did. It takes a moment, but she finally acknowledges that her sister was not committed to the cause and no longer belonged with them. As such, she had to protect the Alpha, who acknowledges that she did just that. It’s just like a lion that smothers its own cub. It’s the purest, most honest way to bring order to chaos.
Alpha tells the woman that her purity will never be forgotten. Thanks, I guess. Alpha sees greatness in the woman, which might be the best thing she’s heard all day. She offers to repair the tear in Alpha’s mask, but then Beta tells the woman to leave them.
When she does, Beta asks Alpha if she’s hurt, but she’s never felt calmer than she does now. Beta finds that hard to accept, given that they lost three of their own and many of the dead as well. That back there was mayhem, but Alpha sees clarity amid the chaos. She acknowledges that the sister fears nothing. Well, that could be useful at least.
In the past, Lydia awakens and finds her mother sleeping next to buckets of blood and walker guts. She soon covers herself in it and stalks the halls while repeating, over and over, “We’re all monsters now.”
But enough about that. Back to the present, we get a Whisperer ritual ceremony of sorts- for the Whisperer sister. For her bravery, sacrifice, and putting the needs of the pack above her own, Alpha anoints the woman as “Gamma.”
There are only so many letters in the Greek alphabet, you know.
The next day, Beta goes to Gamma, who asks if he’s angry with her, given that he’s been gone for hours. Beta feels nothing for Gamma, and the feeling is mutual. As for where Alpha is, Gamma saw her moving towards the old camp.
But speaking of Alpha, let’s talk about Alpha. We flash back to the past as she awakens and starts looking for Lydia, who is approaching a door where we hear banging from the other side. As Alpha searches for her daughter, she happens upon a photo of two men, but their faces are missing and one of them is wearing a shirt with a smiley face- the same shirt that we’ve seen Beta wearing…
In the present, Beta indeed finds Alpha at the old camp, with both asking one another if they’ve lost their way.
While in the past, the masked man reminds Alpha that he warned her not to come to his side, but she’s only here to find her daughter. Still, Beta doesn’t care.
In the present, Beta is surprised to see that Alpha has kept Lydia’s stuffed bunny. He realizes that this space here is for Lydia, as she’s alive and not dead, like Alpha said. Beta just wants to know why Alpha lied to him. Not to mention the fact that Lydia’s never coming back, no matter how hard Alpha tries to replace her. True as that is, Alpha couldn’t bring herself to kill her baby girl.
As Beta beckons Alpha forth, she tells him that the rest of their clan cannot know that Lydia is alive. Beta assures her that they won’t. Lydia was dead to Alpha the moment she was born, as she was not like her mother. Alpha’s anger explodes, as she lays waste to the old camp while lamenting that her own daughter was nothing like her.
In the past, Alpha kills an approaching walker wearing the shirt seen in the photo, much to the masked man’s lament. As he rages, Alpha tells him that he’s not broken. He trashes the room, but before he can kill Alpha, Lydia yells for him to stop, saying that her mother is only trying to save him. The masked man finally calms down as Lydia reunites with her mother and tells her that she was strong.
For that, Alpha is proud…but still, she yells at her daughter to never leave her again. Fair enough. Lydia, you’re grounded.
As the masked man caresses the walker, Alpha approaches him slowly, saying that the world went dark so that they could see a new path. She wants him to walk with her in the darkness so he’ll never be alone again. As the man says that he’s the end of the world, Alpha corrects him, saying that they are the end of the world. Well, roll credits, I guess.
Alpha lifts the man’s mask and gets a look at his face, but we do not. He can’t leave his friend behind, but he won’t have to. As Alpha hands him her blade, the man tearfully begins cutting off the walker’s face.
With Alpha calmed down in the present, Beta informs her that he saw smoke by the border, indicating that the enemy has crossed. Well, it’s time to teach them a lesson, and the pack will watch. As Alpha dons her mask, she tells Beta that they’re going back. The two lock hands and remind one another that they walk in darkness. Together, they are free and bathe in blood. They love and fear nothing, but are free.
As the Whisperers make their way through the forest, something gets Alpha’s attention. She removes her mask and heads to a clearing, where she spots a woman standing on the cliffs across and staring back at her.
The Whisperers are an interesting bunch based on what we know about them which, when you get right down to it, isn’t very much at all. They wear the skins of the dead and roam around in order to attract a growing number of walkers, but what led them to this? What makes Alpha the leader? What keeps her followers in line?
We’ve touched upon this in doses, but “We Are the End of the World” is, in effect, the origin of how this group came to be. The episode does a good job showing how Alpha met Beta, how Alpha developed her philosophy, and how Lydia strove to be as strong as her mother. At the same time, we see how that rigidity is tested when, in present-day, one of the Whisperers begins to crack under pressure.
We’ve seen Alpha challenged before, yes, but here, we’re dealing with people who are starting to miss the world that’s right in front of them. That division is what threatens to tear the Whisperers apart, completely going against what Alpha is teaching. The central theme of this episode is about family and sticking together. That’s a constant with The Walking Dead, yes, but it takes a twisted turn when dealing with the Whisperers.
Alpha’s not merely looking for a familial unit because she wants one, but because the people in said unit will be strong while living and walking among the dead. Watching the past scenes play against the present gives us a nice contrast to who Alpha is now, and who she was becoming when still on the run. She’s more protective of Lydia, but starting to fall into the pattern of relying on primal instincts.
Still, we see the side of a mother that we don’t see in the present. It’s why she’s so resistant to showing any emotion whatsoever to anyone who isn’t Beta. When she allows Frances to live, for example, that’s a sign of her defenses being lowered. Before, when it was just her and Lydia, there was no need to hide what she felt. Now, she must be the stoic leader to set an example for the pack.
This also shows an interesting contradiction in that Alpha strove to be without emotions, but not when it came to Lydia. Even when she first met Beta, she lowered her guard when she removed his mask and sought to bring him to her side. She could’ve tried to kill him- not that she’d have much of a chance- but instead, she found common ground with her now number two.
Together they are indeed free, but even one of them could cause the herd to fall apart. Quite literally, as we see when Frances reminisces on giving up her child. Even though Frances’ death was very telegraphed, I do like that we’re at least somewhat familiar with her, given the flashback that reminds us that she was at the Hilltop.
It could’ve been a new face, but making this a previously established Whisperer, I feel, gives the Hilltop scene a bit more weight. While Frances remembering her humanity is what ultimately dooms her in the end, it also ended up saving her life. Alpha could’ve easily killed her, but as she tells Beta, he wouldn’t know what it’s like to abandon your child. Like the bunny, we see shades of Alpha’s humanity shine through her coldness.
But just as Alpha decided to part ways with Lydia, we see Gamma step up within the ranks and sacrifice her own sister in order to demonstrate her commitment. Like Alpha, Gamma has buried her emotions. It’s a nice way to show how the Whisperers rise in the ranks, but this sets up potential conflict with Beta, who may now see Gamma as competition.
After all, he had to leave someone behind as well. Like Alpha holding onto the bunny, Beta wears the shirt and skin of his former companion. The difference between Beta and Alpha, I feel, is that he’s better at burying his emotions. We know next to nothing about him, but Alpha at least has a daughter. All Beta really has is Alpha, and he’s her right-hand man. There’s no emotional attachment there.
He’s her support in ways that the other Whisperers can’t. Beta has shown to be an excellent fighter and field commander when he corrals the walkers and keeps the Whisperers in line. He did tell Alpha that the noise of the dead is a song he never wants to end, so perhaps he’s closer to the dead than even Alpha is.
Like Frances, Lydia couldn’t fully give up her humanity. Perhaps she could never be as strong as her mother, but it’s nice that she at least tried to prove her worth. She could bury her emotions for some time, but like Frances or the other female Whisperer talking about the Hilltop, she knows that there’s more to life than walking among the dead.
Of course, we know what became of Lydia now that she’s with the survivors, but Alpha did still hide that detail from the pack. It remains to be seen just how the Whisperers may react when they learn that Lydia isn’t dead. I wouldn’t rule out a Whisperer either challenging Alpha or rediscovering their humanity once they see that their fearless leader didn’t kill her own daughter.
Now that the events of this episode have lined up where things ended in the premiere, with Carol staring down Alpha, how will the Whisperers retaliate? We know that Alpha has a massive herd out there just ready to be unleashed upon the communities. How will the survivors combat the returning Whisperers? We shall see. Until then, see you next week for more of The Walking Dead.