While this week's episode of AMC's The Walking Dead "Omega" is actually the 11th episode of the ninth season, with the midseason break in play I pretty much view it as the second episode of a mini-season–and with that comes certain expectations. Usually, seasons have a two-episode build-up of action before we get a "slower, quieter" third episode to help reset the table in a way. The thing that impressed me overall about "Omega" is that it found a way to stay within that formula and still rewrite the script in some interesting and heartbreaking ways.
The Walking Dead s09e10 "Omega": A new arrival at the Hilltop opens up about the leader of a group of mask-wearing savages; a search party sets out on a daring mission to find two missing friends.
First, let's give director David Boyd and writer Channing Powell a righteous amount of credit for throwing us a complete curveball in so many ways with this episode. The episode was sold as being focused on Alpha's (Samantha Morton) origin and backstory, and it was–but not as the focus but as the backdrop for a powerful examination of the impact abuse can have on all of us. As powerful as Morton is on screen, this episode actually wasn't about her: this was about Daryl (Norman Reedus), Henry (Matt Lintz), and Lydia (Cassady McClincy)–the ties that bruise and bind them. As we learn how each of their family's had failed them, we see a new family unit forming–one that can't help but end tragically.
It's the dynamic we've seen recently and many times before: the "still-hopeful survivor" (Henry) sees a possibility of redemption in a "lost soul" (Lydia) and needs to convince the "hardened veteran" (Daryl) to give them a chance to redeem themselves. But while that may be the foundational theme, the approach is what sells it: these are three characters in pain who are reaching out in ways they've never done before. Now that they've actually found others, they don't know what to do–or how to be.
I joked during my live-blog that Daryl spoke more these first two episodes of the midseason return than he did the first two season combined, but Reedus deserves special mention for giving us a Daryl who's proven himself to be more than "Rick's sidekick"–who can show vulnerability to his backstory without it weakening his character. And as much as I'm a fan of good Daryl glare, Reedus has shown that the character can work the dialogue route pretty well, too.
After this episode, McClincy is now tied with Cailey Fleming (Judith Grimes) as best cast edition so far this season: watching as her character's entire mindset was forced to evolve as her mother's programming was stripped away–revealing the truth behind her father's death and how the Whisperers came to be–was painful to watch, but McClincy's performance kept my eyes glued to the screen and hoping she's part of the Walking Dead universe's long-term future.
I'm even throwing extra props to Lintz's Henry, who after last week (and part of this episode) had me wanting him going to the Carl route–but then he was brought into Daryl's plan and my views on him shifted a bit. His exchange with Daryl about Carol (Melissa McBride) and how he's glad his mom has a friend like Daryl in her life was the clincher for me, but I also respect his "sleeping next to Lydia's jail cell" move–though social media was not on my side with that one.
Two other areas of note:
● Morton's performance should not go unrecognized or unappreciated: being able to present the different versions of Alpha that Lydia was memory-processing was no small acting feat, one that could only be pulled off by an award-winning actress of her caliber. As for that first full-frontal, unmasked introduction to Alpha in the current timeline? Wow. I spent so much time concerned about how the masks would work that I forgot how disturbing Alpha looked underneath the skin–but Morton reminded me with a shockingly brutal visual.
And am I the only one who can't shake that feeling that we're going to get a Carol/Alpha face-off?
● I want to single out Angel Theory for an amazing performance this episode: her emotional explanation as to why Kelly needs to find Luke (Dan Fogler) is on par with Reedus, McClincy, Lintz, and Morton. That said, I could've done without the side-storyline involving Magna's (Nadia Hilker) group because it didn't make sense. I respect the need to find one of their crew, but Tara (Alanna Masterson) wasn't shutting the idea down completely–just go back out in the daylight with a plan. A sensible plan followed up by some pretty dumb decision-making–again, not something that was even needed since the main storyline could've easily been the focus of the entire episode. Even the exchange between Tara and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) was a let-down: after showing her strength as a leader earlier in the episode, it felt like Tara back-peddled in how she handled the newbies defying her orders–an act that's now put Connie (Lauren Ridloff) and more in danger.
AMC's The Walking Dead s09e10 "Omega" found a way to be intense, powerful, and action-packed; yet by having the strongest actions of the episode take place in our characters' minds – and not battlefields–the episode found a way to not just chill our nerves but also touch our hearts.
Here's a look at what's in store for next week's episode "Bounty":
The Walking Dead s09e11 "Bounty": The savage group led by Alpha confronts the Hilltop in a harrowing attempt to retrieve her daughter. A supply run for the Kingdom turns into a dangerous quest.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.
Now that AMC is done being all "nice and stuff" by letting AMC Premiere members get a week's head-start on the midseason return of The Walking Dead season 9, we're back to a little communal live-blog love on Sunday nights.
That's right! Bring Out Your Dead: Bleeding Cool's The Walking Dead Live-Blog is back each and every Walking Dead Sunday night – starting with a little "pre-game" at 8:30 p.m ET (live-blog goes live on our website) before charging head-long into our live-blog coverage beginning at 9 p.m. ET. After the show, hang out with us a little longer as we share our thoughts on the night's developments and offer up some predictions on what's still to come – and to see if Chris Hardwick has any news to break on Talking Dead.