It’s been quite a while on The Walking Dead since we ventured back to those first, panicky days of the zombie apocalypse. Certainly, I wasn’t really expecting to do so in “Omega,” but the tactic is used to unveil the backstory of the woman who would become Alpha, leader of The Whisperers. In the form of Lydia, her daughter, the show also experiments with a convention it’s never really used before: The unreliable narrator.
Lydia is immediately cast here as a somewhat pitiable figure; a girl who was so young in the days of the outbreak’s beginning that she barely has accurate memories of what it was like. Although in reality, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense—she’s meant to be the same age as either Henry (or Carl, whose comics story Henry has now inherited), and yet they play up how young she was when the outbreak first happened in a way that didn’t matter when it was Carl or Henry. Regardless, it becomes clear throughout “Omega” that she’s had her memories of those first days distorted and perverted by the influence of her mother, who is also to thank for the bruises on Lydia’s arm. Clearly, we’re meant to both empathize with her, as well as be intrigued by her budding romance with Henry.
If only Henry weren’t such a dolt, right? I was ready to look past some of the most idiotic moves that the kid made during the war with The Saviors—most memorably that time he went inside a cage with dozens of them in order to shoot one, rather than just shoot him through a chain link fence—but then he goes and pulls some Classic Henry shit like briefly letting Lydia out of the cage in this episode, coming inches away from being murdered by her in the process. It’s a move that is so monumentally unintelligent—so heedless of his own obviously-in-danger welfare—that it makes it genuinely difficult to like the character. How can you root for someone in this world when they’re so dumb that it seems like natural selection should surely have picked them off by this point? The fact that I assumed Henry was acting under Daryl’s orders to observe Lydia’s behavior once released is only testament to how bad this writing was—I had to invent my own headcanon just to rationalize a way it could make sense.
Other than these various, obvious gripes, there’s less to talk about in “Omega” than in last week’s “Adaptation.” It’s clear that not having Negan (or lil’ asskicker Judith Grimes) on screen hurts the engagement level of these episodes to a degree, to the point that half of what we’re seeing immediately feels like filler. Magda’s group in this episode serves very little purpose—they get told to come back to the Hilltop, come back, decide to go back out looking for Luke, and then immediately decide to abandon THAT plan and split in half, leaving their little band in worse shape (and more potential peril) than they were facing before deciding to disobey orders. Everything they did was essentially pointless, and it will all be immediately forgotten once parlay with The Whisperers begins next week. I just want to point out that we spent 15-20 minutes of this week’s episode on them for no good reason. Even following Tara around would have been preferable, and I can scarcely believe that I just typed that.
A few stray thoughts:
— It sure was convenient that someone kept marking up “Day 23” or “Day 43” in Lydia’s flashback basement, eh? Really helpful, should a TV audience be watching those events 10 years later.
— Just what kind of pills is Daryl giving Lydia, exactly? Wouldn’t ALL pills have essentially lost their potency now, 10 years after their prescriptions were originally filled? It’s not like The Hilltop is manufacturing pill bottles.
— Lydia sums up The Whisperers credo pretty effectively: “My mom walks because the dead do. This world changed, and you’re all acting like it will change back.” Of course, she can repeat it, but it didn’t take much for her to lose all faith in it.
— I really can’t say it enough: Henry truly is dumber than a bag of rocks.
And, lest we forget, I will for the second week in a row be assessing a standardized, one-point reduction from this review score, for the fact that The Walking Dead refuses to answer the most obvious questions raised by the first half of the season, such as how relationships between Alexandria and The Hilltop fell apart, and why Michonne and Daryl have shared “X” scars on their backs. Because The Walking Dead shows no inclination of ever giving the audience the basic information it needs to process what is happening in its fictional world, I will continue to assess this one-point deduction to each and every review score, until such time as they actually bother to fill us in on information that all the characters already know. I’ll just be repeating this block of text at the end of every review, so get used to reading it!
Unweighted Score: 7.0
Weighted, Get-Your-Shit-Together Score: 6.0
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident horror guru. You can follow him on Twitter for more film and TV writing.