The Walking Dead season 10 was meant to be a return to form. After season 9’s time jump, we all expected things to quickly kick off between the Whisperers and the survivors, especially with Alpha being such an intriguing villain. Yet, the first three episodes were slow, edging on the unforgivable area of being dull. And episode 4 – “Silence the Whisperers” – does little to change the season’s trajectory. There are some good moments, sure, but if season 10 doesn't amplify its pace, stakes, and tension anytime soon, we might be in for a real slogfest over the next few months.
“Silence the Whisperers” opens, like so many other Walking Dead episodes, with a soap opera style, low-key musical montage. On this occasion, we catch up with everyone's beleaguered states of mind at Alexandria and Hilltop to the tune of Gordi's "Heaven I Know". Daryl, Michonne, Judith, and AJ are a happy nuclear family (with Carol playing the part of the moody teenager who stays locked up in her room for dinner); Yumiko and Magna are finally consummating their relationship; Lydia still feels like an outcast in her own home; Sadiq's PTSD refuses to subside; and Ezekiel is on the brink of suicide.
Oh, and on top of that, a tree that may or may not have been cut down by The Whisperers has destroyed Hilltop's defenses, leaving the settlement vulnerable to an all-night barrage of Walker herds.
Episode 4, despite its title, wants you to forget about The Whisperers for a second, and remember that these communities of people are just that: people, each with their own individual fears, desires, needs, and emotional baggage. Everyone's hurting – a message that is hammered home most surprisingly by Ezekiel's suicide attempt, which sees one dreadlocked leader being slowly talked down from a ledge by another, Michonne. It's tough to watch this once iron-willed and gregarious king acting as a shell of his former self but, annoyingly, the scene is mismanaged by the pair sharing an awkward, unearned kiss.
That embrace, which was the talk of The Walking Dead season 10's Comic-Con trailer, is written off soon after, with the pair admitting it as nothing more than a desperate grasp to feel something on Ezekiel's part. It's a moment designed to acknowledge the fact that these characters have been through some of the worst the apocalypse has had to offer, yet the scene feels designed to be a trailer talking-point rather than adding anything meaningful to their stories.
Speaking of characters bound by mutual respect, Lydia and Negan continue to bond over their shared pariah status in Alexandria, culminating in the accidental manslaughter of Margo at the hands of the former Saviour boss, who steps in to rescue Alpha's disowned daughter from an undue beating. Seeing Negan affectionately calming a terrified Lydia, before horrifyingly realising what he's done, is easily the episode's best scene, adding texture to two characters who have been difficult to truly empathise with until now.
More than that, Lydia now has two surrogate father figures to look up to in Daryl and Negan, fleshing out season 10's ruminations on parenthood and generational tensions. In any case, I'm fully on board with Team Negan at this point, and I hope his upcoming trial at Alexandria can officiate his full retribution in the eyes of both the show's on-screen characters and its long-term audience.
Yet, all of these moments are mildly interesting pieces of flotsam caught amidst a stagnant stream of inconsequential fluff. The entire siege scene at Hilltop falls flat, not least because it suffers from the kind of poor lighting that infamously ruined Game of Thrones season 8's most ambitious battle scenes. Not only does it scream of meaningless filler, but the pacing of the sequence fluctuates preposterously, interspersed throughout the episode without the needed context explaining where it's situated in the overall timeline. Then, suddenly, it's resolved off-screen without little fanfare.
You have to ask, what was the point of this entire sequence, other than to once again leave our characters questioning whether The Whisperers are playing a cruel game of shock and awe? Whatever the aim, it's hard to argue The Walking Dead achieved anything that's left the show better off. The episode ends with Michonne, Judith, and Luke riding off to Oceanside while Daryl begins the hunt for a now missing Negan, setting up the threads for the next few episodes. Unfortunately, I can't say I'm excited.
For more, check out our full Walking Dead recap to catch up before season 10, or watch below for our guide to everything else worth checking out right now.