NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Walking Dead” are present in this review
Alpha’s making her decisive move against the protagonists of The Walking Dead this week, with the so-called ‘Whisperer War’ officially having begun. For the most part however, “Morning Star” primarily deals with the day before Alpha begins to march her herd, with Hilltop realizing that they’ll be the first target of Alpha’s rampage, and that the community needs to arm themselves, quickly! Meanwhile, Eugene makes more headway with Stephanie, the mysterious woman that he’s been secretly speaking to on the radio, seemingly setting up a tease for another community, whether on this show, or one of its spin-offs.
The Eugene/Rosita storyline isn’t quite as strong as some of the others, but it did at least resolve the lingering romantic drama between these two characters, while priming Eugene for an interesting new character evolution. After Rosita accidentally spooks Stephanie by speaking to her on the radio, a furious Eugene has to try and make peace with his budding feelings for a woman he’s never met. This results in Eugene and Rosita nearly sharing a kiss, which naturally doesn’t happen, and is a giant troll move on AMC’s part, considering that this moment was all over the trailers for Season Ten’s back half. It’s fan-baiting, and I thought that The Walking Dead had grown out of that. Regardless, Eugene does manage to coax Stephanie back, arranging a date to meet her in a week, so, hopefully he doesn’t die before then.
Obviously though, the real pressing issue outside of Eugene’s love life is the fact that the Whisperers are coming. After several Hilltop characters survive their treacherous journey through the caverns (even if Magna and Connie remain MIA for now), the other characters prepare the defenses at Hilltop, which results in a good dose of strong character material. Among these many storylines, Carol learns that Ezekiel has cancer, and the two end up having sex. This possibly foreshadows a future pregnancy for Carol, because, let’s face it, this seems like something that The Walking Dead would do in the wake of foreshadowing Ezekiel’s seemingly inevitable demise. There’s actually a pretty nice moment shared between Daryl and Ezekiel as well, wherein they separately promise to save the children if the other man falls. Like Daryl says, the two haven’t had much reason to speak to each other, but their mutual respect is cemented here, and it’s a great payoff to these men initially sharing some animosity after The Kingdom fell.
Mary, meanwhile, who seems to have firmly shed her ‘Gamma’ identity now, also lands at Hilltop, with Aaron conveying her terms wherein she wants to see her nephew. As you can imagine however, Earl is less than inclined to let a former Whisperer near his adopted son, as is Alden, who has come to be Earl’s most loyal employee. Mary does almost get a moment with Adam, but she’s nonetheless driven off by Alden, who very aggressively reminds Aaron that their coming fate is a testament to defending what Hilltop has built for itself. Perhaps Mary does have a chance to earn respect in the coming Whisperer War however, since she does arm herself alongside Hilltop, preparing to defend the community alongside everyone else. I guess it’s even then, since Negan also seems to be firmly on Alpha’s side at this point.
Even then though, I’m not completely sold on Negan’s defection, and I doubt many other viewers would be either. To the show’s credit, it does everything in its power to try and convince us that Negan has indeed turned to Alpha’s side here, complete with Negan partaking in Alpha’s ritual pain, and even getting his own skin mask, but I still don’t buy it. Negan is far too proud to betray his own strength when he doesn’t truly have to, and if anything, I’d estimate that he’s probably taking a page out of Eugene’s book, and motivating Alpha to attack, simply so she can be vulnerable later. In fact, a twist like that would be a really cool way to show how much Negan has evolved since his time in captivity, while also demonstrating that he’s learned from his former defeat while leading the Saviors so many years ago.
Outside of this though, the rest of this episode’s drama feels a little disposable. Kelly and Yumiko squabble over the missing Magna and Connie, but they reconcile mere moments later, so this is pointless. Likewise, Judith tells Daryl that she wants to fight, but Daryl simply convinces her to go with the other children. Finally, even the initial marching of Alpha’s walker herd feels a little weirdly paced here. This episode’s climax shows the herd advancing on Hilltop, plus the first phase of the battle unfolding with Hilltop’s citizens, along with Aaron, Daryl and Mary. Ultimately though, Alpha’s forces quickly employ flammable tree sap, setting fire to Hilltop’s gates, and seemingly trapping Hilltop’s citizens against the herd, right as their defenses fail. It’s a decent cliffhanger to end on in concept, but it’s weird that this episode would cut out after the battle for Hilltop has already begun. You’d think that the show would instead want to devote an entire episode to this battle, rather than merely revealing a few minutes of it, before frustratingly demanding that viewers come back next week.
Overall though, The Walking Dead is maintaining a solid amount of momentum with the coming of the Whisperer War to Hilltop, thus kicking off the survivors’ decisive battle against Alpha and her faction. “Morning Star” does a strong job of catching up with Hilltop’s various characters, even if a few subplots lag behind, most notably Eugene’s and Rosita’s underwhelming romantic resolution. The fact that this episode begins a battle, only to end mere moments into it, also feels like a bit of a weird narrative choice, one that probably won’t sit right with every viewer. Still, it looks like there’s plenty of excitement to look forward to throughout the remainder of The Walking Dead’s tenth season, what with Alpha going on the offensive, and all of the communities being on her warpath. It doesn’t seem like Hilltop is having the best time against the first wave either.
- Ezekiel making his peace with Carol and Daryl
- Mary facing resistance at Hilltop
- Eugene arranging a date with Stephanie
- Eugene/Rosita romance resolution is weak
- Ending the episode minutes into a battle feels awkward