“Ghosts” played tricks on its characters and the audience, facilitating a couple of tense encounters in another well-crafted episode of a rejuvenated The Walking Dead.
This recap of The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 3, “Ghosts”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
You know how it is — it takes months to build communities in the post-apocalypse, but it only takes a few hours for them to be on the brink of being overrun. “Ghosts” stamps its opening scenes with a running tally of the hours that have elapsed. It doesn’t seem like many. The dead are flooding in from the border, falling on the knives and swords and arrows, piling up outside like its bin day. There’s no respite from their assault. Everyone is exhausted. Michonne (Danai Gurira) tries to snatch a moment with Judith (Cailey Fleming) but is quickly summoned away. She can’t sleep until it’s safe.
The impression you get from The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 3 is that it isn’t going to be safe for a while — perhaps not ever. Gamma (Thora Birch) delivers a message to Michonne and Daryl (Norman Reedus), telling them to go to the northern border and surrender their weapons and wait for “her”. She claims the influx of walkers isn’t the doing of the Whisperers, and in an emergency meeting, Lydia (Cassady McClincy) agrees with them. She says if her mother wanted to destroy them she’d just use the horde. There’s dissent in the group; the Highwaymen want vengeance, and I’m reminded that there are too many splinter groups in these communities to realistically keep track of. Not that it matters, anyway, since they’re all saying more or less the same thing. Michonne reasons that it’s safer to meet with Alpha and talk rather than risking her unleashing the full extent of her herd. In the meantime, Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) is tasked with leading the defense against the waves of walkers coming from the north. Aaron (Ross Marquand), with a screw-in mace fastened to his go-go-gadget hand, will lead troops against the waves coming from the south — and those troops, plucked from severely depleted ranks, will include Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
Meanwhile, Michonne, Daryl and Carol (Melissa McBride) — the latter with a hidden revolver — go to meet with Alpha (Samantha Morton). This scene is a real stand-out in “Ghosts”. The sight of the Whisperers lurching out of the fog-shrouded horizon is a great, spooky visual. Alpha’s odd tics and jerks are unsettling. But more to the point, she’s genuinely intimidating. After the horrifying pike scene from last season, her threats have merit. You understand why the good guys — such as they can be called that at this point — would be petrified of her. When she suggests that, as punishment for their trespassing, that she expands her borders even further, cutting off their hunting grounds, Daryl and Michonne are quick to agree. Carol, though, is not. She has been in self-imposed isolation for a long time, she’s constantly popping pills, and she’s still dealing with the guilt and trauma of Henry’s death. She believes that Alpha and The Whisperers can and should be treated the same way Negan and his Saviours were. But they can’t. Alpha picks up on her resistance and starts to antagonize her: “You should fear me.” “I don’t,” replies Carol, and I believe her, but it’s naive not to. When Alpha mentions Henry, Carol pulls the gun, but Michonne swats it away.
Negan and Aaron also have a great, tense exchange in The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 3. Aaron is understandably suspicious of him, and Negan is utterly unimpressed by his reinvention as a tough guy. It’s easy to forget that before he descended into complete ridiculousness, Negan was a great villain. There’s still a glimmer of that here; he’s genuinely unhinged enough that Aaron’s posturing just amuses him. He’s so unconcerned that it’s intimidating. When Aaron squares up to him about Eric’s death and blames Negan for the death of his wife, there’s a whiff of fear in his performance. He can sense what we already know; that in the crazy game, he’s outmatched. His tough talk causes him to lose focus and get ambushed by walkers. The ones they’re fighting are knotted with poisonous weeds. In the scuffle, he’s blinded, and Negan vanishes.
Nobody’s mental state can be trusted in “Ghosts”. In the same way that Negan and Alpha might do anything, so too might Carol, who is so sleep-deprived and hopped up on drugs that she’s liable to cause a war. She insists she can see Whisperers following them through the woods. When they take temporary shelter, Daryl tells her a story about his trucker father who would often drive through the night; in his exhaustion, he imagined he had mangled a girl under the wheels, but it turns out she was never there. Though Carol insists that she isn’t the same as Daryl’s meth-snorting father, he retorts that just because she’s right doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s wrong. She later wakes up after experiencing more visions and mentions this to Daryl. He says his father was never a trucker. She imagined the whole exchange.
The Walking Dead has dealt with the wavering mental state of its characters plenty of times before. But under the stewardship of Angela Kang, I think this is the most effectively the show has ever done so. The lines between reality and imagination are so cleverly blurred in “Ghosts” that it’s easy to imagine Carol has totally lost it, right until a last-minute reveal suggests at least an element of truth in her recounting of a Whisperer trap. There will, inevitably, be a price to pay for that.
This theme of trauma and instability continues elsewhere. Siddiq (Avi Nash) is so crippled by his PTSD that he is virtually incapable of treating Carol’s injuries when she returns. Rosita (Christian Serratos) is so exhausted that she lays into Eugene (Josh McDermitt) about how he’ll never be her boyfriend or the father of her child, which he doesn’t take well. I still despise how Eugene is written — he says their entire friendship is predicated on the idea that one day he might be deemed worthy enough to be “rezoned in a love town” — but I felt for him here, as much as I could understand Rosita’s position. The good guys are falling apart. Old relationships are collapsing, and new ones, most of convenience or desperation, are taking their place.
When you break it down, nothing much happened in The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 3. It was another building block for the upcoming Whisperer War, which is terrifyingly close, and if the available evidence is to be believed seems to be following a similar direction to that of the comics. If that’s the case, there’s some great stuff coming. And for once, I actually trust the show to deliver it.