Be warned! This review will cover aspects of the episode. Spoilers will lurk like groaning walkers…
If you were hoping that team Dead would provide more backstory for Alpha (as we in the TV-viewing world now know Samantha Morton’s character is named) than Negan ever really enjoyed, then the answer arrived quicker than expected. And actually helped build some of the intensity around her, rather than deflating the threat. Mostly, though, Omega is a showcase for Cassady McClincy to show what she can do as the woman’s daughter, Lydia.
In what could be an exposition-heavy episode, the backstory actually works, partly because McClincy sells it — both truth and lie, as the show deals with the fine line between memory and self-delusion – and because the material set in the past is a great chance for Morton to do what she does so well. She was already a solid choice for the show, and this is just one example of why.
There’s also the chance to learn more about why Alpha behaves the way she does, preferring to stay hardened against the apocalypse than the survivors of Hilltop and co., who, in her eyes, have gone soft by thinking that civilization can somehow be wrangled back from destruction. The dark behaviour is drawn from what Alpha and Kydia (we’re calling copyright on that one), played by Scarlett Blum, have experienced, which has caused Alpha to become a tough-as-nails sociopath and abusive mother, and Lydia to turn into a damaged young woman whose brain is playing tricks on her in self-defence. There was also a handy moment for Daryl to bond with the young woman, reminding us all of his crappy history with abusive relatives.
Lydia’s interaction with Henry (the series adapting a storyline that featured a still-living Carl in the comics) was less successful, even if it helped prompt Lydia’s breakdown and revelations about her real memories. It’s unfortunate that the plot still has to hinge on Henry making a truly stupid decision to let her out of prison, and the only thing that stopped him ending up as worm food instead of eating one is Lydia’s fragile mental state. The typical teen tropes with the rebel Henry had a whiff of stale ideas about them.
Also less than entertaining compared to the central plot was Magna and the gang sneaking out to go and look for Luke (and by extension, Alden). Another case of the show having to work suspect plotting to further the story along, it was mostly a chance for them to get some screen time alone and for the Whisperers to follow them back – Alpha demanding that the Hilltoppers hand over her daughter.
This was a definite uptick for The Walking Dead, taking chances with storytelling, the effort boosted by some excellent performances. Format-breaking is not something it often tries, but if the results are as impressive as this one, it’s something it might consider more in future.
Highlight: Lydia’s realisation about her mother. Actually, almost everything with Samantha Morton.
Lowlight: Henry being galactically dumb.
Kill of the week: Alpha offing her husband.
Quote of the week: “Not gonna lie. Walking around in dead people’s skins is pretty messed up” – Henry, finding something useful to say.
Zombie of the week: The walker slain by a slingshot. Ouch!
The big question: Can the show keep up this level of inventive treatment now that the Whisperers are about to truly interact with our regulars? Or will it fall into old patterns of threat-solution-threat-death?
Also: wither Luke and Alden? Could Alpha have offed them? We doubt it – they’ll probably be offered up in trade.
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The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC in the States and Mondays at 9pm on Fox.