“The Walking Dead” Season 9 finally takes us back to Alexandria in Episode 12, and the supposedly diplomatic council is in shambles. Michonne (Danai Gurira) is furious about the radio tower mission that ultimately led to Jesus’ death. But other council members think their head of security wields too much power and want to reconsider the upcoming fair that The Kingdom and Hilltop will soon take part in. Interpersonal drama looks to weaken our survivors just as their new masked adversaries gear up for conflict. Here are the five best moments from “Guardians.”
Lydia (Cassady McClincy) is back marching alongside The Whisperers. Her mother Alpha (Samantha Morton) is solely interested in what intel her daughter gained. Lydia informs her of Hilltop’s farmlands and modest armory (“it’s not enough”), and notes that she spewed lies in order to gain trust. Apparently the only element of truth to her jail cell confessions was that Alpha is ruthless towards anyone who crosses her. When they rejoin a larger group of Whisperers, stubborn Henry (Matt Lintz) tries to save the day. He has been tracking Lydia but is quickly discovered. He makes quick work of one masked fiend, but is apprehended by the Beta (Ryan Hurst), Alpha’s imposing lieutenant.
Apparently Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) has been informed of the true parentage of Rosita’s (Christian Serratos) child. It’s refreshing to see a TV series put this out in the open, instead of keeping it a secret to manufacture drama. Still, Gabe is considering leaving Rosita and allowing Siddiq (Avi Nash) to raise the child with her. Shockingly, it’s lovelorn Eugene (Josh McDermitt) who talks the priest out of his plan. Eugene’s pitch comes complete with a detailed chart showing that while it may be difficult, ultimately his happiness will “trend upward” through the years. Gabriel reconsiders his dilemma and ultimately stands by Rosita, having a talk with her and Siddiq on how their arrangement will work.
Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is back in his cell and making a pitch to Michonne: “trust me.” He argues that his years behind bars have changed him. He was even in Michonne’s home and could have killed her during his jail break, but he had no such desire. He can also overhear fraught council meetings from his window. Noting that the great community she created is “slipping through your fingers,” he offers to be a sounding board for her. That’s too much for Michonne who orders his window sealed shut, only to find Judith (Cailey Fleming) spying on the conversation. When she later orders her daughter to stay away from Negan, Judith pushes back. “He’s done monstrous things” Michonne argues, and “people don’t really change.” “You did” Judith replies nonchalantly, throwing Michonne off guard.
Faced with her own gradual transformation into a dictator-in-the-making, Michonne reconsiders her authority. She meets with Aaron (Ross Marquand) and informs him that she will agree to a re-vote on sending a delegation to the fair. Aaron, who previously backed her veto is shocked given the menace of The Whisperers beyond their walls. “I think it’s a terrible idea” Michonne says of the fair, but she is adamant about protecting her people’s right to choose for themselves.
After arriving at a massive Whisperer camp, teeming with hundreds of savages, an unnamed man challenges Alpha’s leadership. Alpha studies him for a moment before grabbing his partner by the throat. “I know it was you” she hisses at the woman, “I saw you in the woods, plotting with your boyfriend. The challenge is yours.” The woman admits that she believes Alpha needlessly lead the group into danger when retrieving Lydia, and they were not able to exact any payback for the people that Hilltop killed in the cemetery. “You failed all of us” she shouts. Alpha asks the crowd if she failed them, but no one agrees. She circles the woman, who pleads that she isn’t interested in fighting. “Too late” whispers Alpha and wraps a garroting wire around her neck. She saws furiously until the woman’s head rolls off her neck and she presents it like a trophy to the boyfriend. He starts to cry, but Alpha hushes him. “Crying is weak” she coos, before stabbing him in the stomach.
Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Connie (Lauren Ridloff) are closely tracking Henry and the Whisperers, and witness them dumping the bodies of the murdered couple by a hungry zombie herd. Back at camp, Alpha wants to test Lydia’s loyalty. She unties Henry and orders her daughter to kill him. “Don’t be weak like your father” she commands, “you know what happened to him.” But Lydia now remembers how her father actually died, and this reference turns her against Alpha. Before anyone gets stabbed, a herd of walkers suddenly comes crashing through the trees, sinking their teeth into several Whisperers. The group scatters in the mounting chaos, but a man in a zombie mask grabs Henry. It’s Daryl, he and Connie having both disguised themselves and led the herd right into camp. Henry says he won’t leave without Lydia, so the four rush off into the night.