There have been plenty of major threats to our gang of survivors over the course of The Walking Dead's ten seasons, but pure delirium has never been one of them. Whether it's Carol popping pills and hallucinating all manner of apparitions, Sadiq drowning in his own PTSD-induced sweat, or Aaron quite literally going blind from an encounter with a walking drug den, the group certainly aren't feeling themselves in the latest episode of The Walking Dead season 10.
“Ghosts” makes for an interesting episode, then, since our usually trustworthy narrators are now completely unreliable vessels through which to view The Walking Dead's story, casting doubt over the events of each interweaving plotline. Did Carol really see all those Whisperers stalking Alexandria's territory? Was Negan genuinely about to bat Aaron's head in with a crowbar? And can I please have more visions of a domesticated Daryl, cooking pasta in a plaid shirt like a normal human being?
The downside to “Ghosts” is that, when the dust has settled, it's clear that nothing of significance has really happened, since most of our characters can barely walk, let alone move the plot forward. The episode opens confidently enough, with a cleverly structured siege sequence marked by Walker herds attacking Alexandria in steady waves. The episode amps up the tension by snappily flitting forward in time to increasingly intensified fights against the dead, while the sound of a constant ticking clock brings the pressure to boiling point in the background. The invasion is made only more interesting once we learn The Whisperers apparently have nothing to do with it, too...
Then, in a tense meeting at the borders, Alpha reveals that she knows about every instance of the enemy's repeated border violation. Her punishment, though, is surprisingly merciful, simply asking for more territory edging towards Alexandria's hunting grounds. Even when Carol pops a shot at her, the leader refrains from responding in kind, proving once again to be one of the more tolerant and even-tempered villains we've had the displeasure of coming across in The Walking Dead's long history. Following this tense diplomatic negotiation, however, episode 3's plot begins to slow down to an unrelenting, yet all too familiar crawl.
While some Walking Dead fans will care about Carol's state of mind in “Ghosts”, the the character's internal battle with her own mind could and should have been handled with more tact. She's a mother in denial over her grief, unable to sleep and hiding from her own trauma via a self-prescribed dosage of mystery pills. It's a rare window into the mind of this Walking Dead icon. Yet while the sequence has its moments, often blurring the line between fantasy and reality without warning the audience of the difference, the uneven rhythm of its storytelling and near pitch-black setting often veers into viewing tedium.
Meanwhile, Aaron and Negan's excursion to whittle down Alexandria's attackers serves mainly as another step on the redemption ladder for the former big bad, who – I have to admit – is becoming more and more likeable with every episode. That's largely thanks to the infectious charisma of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, especially when his gregarious performance is juxtaposed against the stoicism of Ross Marquand's world-weary Aaron. Nevertheless, if The Walking Dead can really pull off the impossible, and make us root for the guy who batted Glenn's face in with a barbed baseball bat not three seasons ago, it'll surely go down as one of the most impressive character arcs in recent televised history, and ought to be commended.
Back at Alexandria, however, new developments in the Rosita/Eugene (Rogene? Eusita?) affair continue to bore, even after the latter finally admits that their entire friendship is based on the presumption that he would one day be… *ahem* "rezoned into lovetown." With that hope of romance now firmly ruled out by Rosita, the pair's relationship is thrown back into hostile territory. Frankly, I'm still not sure where The Walking Dead is going with its Rosita soap opera, or why we're being subjected to it in the first place, but hopefully this episode's feud spells the beginning of the end of this sorry saga altogether.
“Ghosts” does mark an improvement over last week's flashback-focused episode, for sure, but it’s by no means a non-stop thrillride either. The episode develops The Walking Dead's ongoing themes of motherhood and grief, while evoking a new danger in the form of our heroes' self-imposed delirium, but achieves little else. Only the sharpest and strongest writing can make up for a lack of action, and while The Walking Dead has its moments of nuance and sophistication, it's script rarely justifies the constant deceleration of pace. Here's hoping things finally pick up when we reach season 10's quarter mark next week.
For more, check out our full Walking Dead recap to catch up before season 10, or watch below for a guide to everything else out right now.