NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Walking Dead”, including a major character death, are present in this review
After starting off its 2020 run of episodes on a decent, if not spectacular note during last week’s midseason premiere, The Walking Dead picked up a little more during this week’s episode, even if the show once again kicked things off with a slow burn. “Stalker” spreads itself across several storylines, all emphasizing shock and subterfuge, as Daryl attempts to take the fight to Alpha himself, while Beta enacts his own plan, following Gamma/Mary disappearing. Mary, meanwhile, fully attempts to defect to Alexandria here, promising major intel related to Alpha and the Whisperers, though this raises the question of whether Alexandria is willing to risk information from Mary a second time.
The espionage-driven plotlines between Alpha, Beta and Mary all mostly worked very well, and eventually provided a good shot in the arm for The Walking Dead, which couldn’t really find a consistent rhythm last week. Upon Mary traveling to Alexandria, with an armed escort, she appeals to Gabriel and Rosita, only to get knocked out and thrown in the cell. Mary continues to plead her innocence to the distrusting community, but fortunately, Gabriel eventually believes that Mary may be telling the truth, after she confesses to killing her sister. As much as this character examination is a good use of Gabriel’s background as a priest, the subsequent Gabriel/Rosita debate didn’t work nearly as well, sadly. The two are supposed to butt heads over Rosita’s condition, and the loss of Siddiq, but all it amounts to is Gabriel making a last-minute plan change, which is only done so that the proper action of the episode can get going.
Fortunately, said action in Alexandria is pretty exceptional. This storyline involves Beta sneaking into Alexandria, undetected, thanks to Gabriel’s last-minute decision to change the gate staff, and leave a skeleton crew. This feels like too obvious of a tactical error, even though Gabriel is supposedly, “Itching for a fight”, but whatever. At least the Beta sequences in this episode are violent, bloody and action-packed, as the panicked citizens have to run and hide from Alpha’s lead enforcer. This was not only another excellent way to show off how brutal and terrifying Beta can truly be, but it also worked as a clever method to exploit Alexandria’s own increasing obsession with taking the fight to the Whisperers. Beta’s body count even leaves walkers for the community to deal with throughout Alexandria to boot, as Gabriel’s party must hastily double back to protect the town.
Fortunately, Laura and Rosita are at least present to help keep Beta at bay, at least for a little while. Even Judith manages to fire a bullet into Beta’s chest, though unfortunately, Beta is somehow wearing protective armour. Yeah, this feels like a pretty huge stretch for a Whisperer, but it’s forgivable when you consider that Beta is supposed to be this unstoppable, hulking menace, who could have very well had the armour outfitted before the Whisperers properly got started. In any case, after Beta tries and fails to get Mary out of her cell, Laura holds Beta off long enough so that Mary can escape, only to be violently thrown against the cell wall, snapping her neck and killing her instantly. Yes, Laura is dead, which is supposedly a big blow to Alexandria, but much like Jesus’ death last season, this death feels a little too convenient for the narrative, rather than truly dramatic or impactful. Laura is supposed to be an important character, and yet, she never seems to be all that involved in this show’s ongoing storylines to any serious degree anymore. She’s dead weight anyway, and she was taking up space on Alexandria’s council, frankly.
Outside of Alexandria, Daryl actually manages to successfully track Alpha, and after a brief encounter with some walkers, Daryl even temporarily gets the drop on Alpha, complete with stabbing her in the chest, and torturing her for information! Alpha nonetheless gets away in the confusion however, leaving a temporarily blinded Daryl to stumble around, and both Daryl and Alpha to collapse in a shed. After a brief, strangely intimate game of cat-and-mouse, Alpha then passes out trying to get to Daryl, and at this point, Alpha ends up being visited by none other than Lydia! Despite the show initially framing Lydia’s re-appearance as if she’s a dream, this is the actual Lydia as well. Again, like Beta’s armour and Laura’s death, this is a little convenient for the narrative, but I guess it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Lydia could have stumbled on Alpha and Daryl, even if it may be a bit unlikely.
In any case, Lydia tells Alpha that she’s not there for her mother. Alpha then wakes up the next morning to find Lydia gone, and a knife on the nearby wooden table, with Lydia having carved, “YOUR WAY IS NOT THE ONLY WAY” onto said table. Alpha’s resulting mixture of relief and anguish is a great payoff to this storyline, as is Daryl waking up, and finding Lydia next to him in turn. Lydia looking after Daryl provides a solid excuse to patch Daryl up, and get him ready for the next battle, even as Aaron only barely makes it back to Alexandria towards the end of this episode, just in time to learn that Laura has been killed, and that Beta had infiltrated the town. Carol, Jerry and Kelly are AWOL at this point, but I assume they went back to Hilltop off-screen.
Thus, Alexandria is left reeling from Beta’s attack, while the town also learns of Magna and Connie being trapped in the caverns, resulting in one hell of a bad day for the survivors’ biggest community. “Stalker” provides a strong example of The Walking Dead incorporating slow-paced, but rewarding storytelling, even though the strained narrative focus does result in a couple of conflicts being undercooked, most notably the tension between Rosita and Gabriel. Fortunately, Mary is nonetheless welcomed into Alexandria in the end, leaving Alpha down a lieutenant, while Beta is forced to flee into the woods, presumably to find the injured Alpha in time for next week. I’d argue that the Whisperers won this latest battle for sure, but at least Alexandria won’t be inclined to leave their borders so lightly defended again.
- Beta's vicious surprise attack on Alexandria
- Daryl and Alpha struggling to corner each other
- Lydia returning to bail out Daryl
- Gabriel/Rosita conflict is too underdeveloped
- Laura's death doesn't feel that meaningful