The Hilltop faces Alpha's wrath in a fiery episode of The Walking Dead. The Whisperer's reinvigorated leader wants a massacre, while Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) tries to temper her fury. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) has gotten cozy with the mysterious Stepanie over the radio. Mary (Thora Birch) desperately wants to see her nephew. Carol (Melissa McBride) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) have one last fling. Earl (John Finn) wants to fight to the death, but Lydia (Cassady McClincy) thinks they must run.

"Morning Star" begins with Beta (Ryan Hurst) and other Whisperers filling bladders with tree sap. Negan sits with Alpha. She commands him to lash her arm with a tree branch. He gives her a few whacks, and is then surprised when she asks him to stick out an arm. The Whisperers lead a herd in their skin masks. We see Negan for the first time in his mask. They chant, "We are the end of the world. We take them all."

In the Hilltop radio room, Eugene talks to Stephanie about records and satellites. They saw four, including one at the same time during sunset. Eugene realizes they can't be far apart. He tells her they are in Virginia. Stephanie is still reticent to meet. Her people are "cautious." She asks him to keep their transmissions secret while she gets for permission to rendezvous.

Earl and Alden (Callan McAuliffe) are fortifying the Hilltop's defenses when the wagon from Alexandria arrives. Earl is furious at Aaron (Ross Marquand) for bringing Mary. She is an enemy. They abandoned the child to die and killed Tammy Rose. He won't let her see his "son."

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Ezekiel finds Carol at Daryl's (Norman Reedus) old tent. He comforts her by refusing to leave. At the Hilltop, Kelly (Angel Theory) wants to join Luke (Dan Fogler) and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) in the rescue party. She desperately wants to search for her sister trapped in the cave with Magna. The conversation is cut short when Daryl drives up on his motorcycle with Lydia, "My Mother's coming."

In the radio room, Rosita (Christian Serratos) hears Stephanie's voice. She answers the receiver before Eugene can stop her. The line goes dead. Eugene desperately tries to get Stephanie back, but she doesn't respond. He angrily tells Rosita to go away. "Blue Weevil, do you copy?" Eugene hears nothing but static.

Negan approaches Alpha with an alternative. She wants a massacre of the Hilltop and Alexandria. "It would feel good," but he has another idea. Get them to surrender. The Hilltop's leaders meet to assess the situation. "You can't stay here," warns Lydia. Her mother has thousands of walkers. "She can march right through you." Jerry (Cooper Andrews) and Earl want to fight. Aaron disagrees, they can run, "We go with my daughter's life intact." Daryl takes command. They will evacuate the children to Oceanside.

Daryl puts RJ and Judith (Cailey Fleming) on the wagon. Judith wants to stay and fight. He leads them out with his motorcycle, but they don't get far. Trees are blocking the roads. Their scouts have been hung. Daryl has seen this before. He realizes that Negan is now with the Whisperers.

Aaron is stunned at their return. Luke wants to call Alexandria, but it's too late. They are trapped. Earl rallies the group, "Do what you need to do to get your head on straight. This is gonna be the fight of our lives." Ezekiel goes to his room and opens up a floor panel. Inside is Henry's armor. Carol walks in. She sees the lump on his neck for the first time. They kiss passionately.

Mary sees baby Adam. She walks towards him, but is intercepted by Alden. He won't let her see the child, despite Aaron's pleas. Earl has raised that baby alone. He will never be hers. Alden takes Adam away.

Carol and Ezekiel get dressed after their romp. He wonders if it was one last time before "they die tonight." Carol quizzically responds, "Wait. Are we gonna die tonight?" In the woods, Eugene is preparing a defense using car batteries. Rosita comes over to apologize. She knows that Eugene has fallen for Stephanie. She asks if Eugene wants to kiss her. Stunned, he leans in, but cannot do it. He realizes, "It's a special kind of peculiar to hanker for a kiss from someone you've never met."

Lydia sits on the steps by the "H+L" engraving Henry made. Carol walks up, sits down, and starts smoking. She's going to kill her mother. "Will you hate me?" Lydia replies, "I won't be thinking of you." She apologizes for what has happened to Carol. That her mother is "a monster." Carol leaves. Lydia leans her head on the engraving and cries.

Outside the gates, Luke, Yumiko, and Kelly help wrap the electric wire. They see rats pouring out of the woods. The dead are coming. In the radio room, Eugene sings Iron Maiden's "When the Wind Blows" into the receiver. A montage follows of the Hilltop preparing for battle. Jerry's kids wrap his armor. Earl and Alden hold baby Adam. Rosita swings her club. Ezekiel gives Lydia Henry's armor. Judith calls "Daito" on her walkie. Daryl looks down on the group with a steely resolve.

Stephanie finally responds, singing back to Eugene. She "freaked out a bit." Eugene tells her about Rosita, his "proverbial BFF." He still wants to meet her. Stephanie replies, "Charleston, West Virginia, Southern Rail Yards, a mile south of the Kanawha River, one week." Eugene will be there. He's got a date.

Daryl talks with Ezekiel. He notices the lump as well. Ezekiel admits he has cancer. Daryl asks Ezekiel, whichever of them is left standing, "The other gets the children out." They shake hands and finally come to terms. Judith still wants to help. She's killed plenty of walkers. Daryl is upset at what she's seen. She's worried about her mom, afraid of losing her family. She gives Daryl his jacket. She's painted one of the angel wings blue. Daryl makes her promise, if Ezekiel comes for her. She and RJ must go with him.

Carol, with her bow and arrow, looks sadly at a painting of Henry. She pleads with Daryl as he looks over the Hilltop's graves, "Please don't hate me." Daryl could never hate her. He picks up a mace, then walks through the phalanx to the front of the line. Night has fallen. The front line has their shields up. Kelly puts her hands to the ground. The dead are here.

The herd comes streaming out of the woods. They hit the electric wire. It decapitates the first wave, but there are too many. The line buckles. Aaron splits the ranks in two. They bring their shields to the bramble barrier and start battling the walkers. The onslaught is unrelenting. The fence begins to buckle. Behind the walker line, Beta and his men launch the sap bladders. They splash on the Hilltop fighters, the gates, everywhere.

Alpha fires a flaming arrow. Luke screams, "It's like gasoline." Negan, in his skin mask, "I thought you wanted them to join us?" Alpha cruelly retorts, "They will...in my horde." Aaron yells to fall back inside the gates. The Whisperers, including Negan, launch a volley of flaming arrows. The walkers break through the fence. Everyone is in full retreat. The fire ignites the gates, trapping Daryl and the Hilltop fighters.

"Morning Star" leaves little doubt to the fate of the Hilltop. The characters are a different matter. I seriously doubt the primary cast is in jeopardy, but do expect some casualties. Alpha seems to be unstoppable on her warpath. But we still haven't heard from Michonne. She was en route to a naval base loaded with weapons. Will she arrive in time to save the survivors? Who was Judith calling on her walkie? Does Eugene make it to the meeting with Stephanie? The Walking Dead continues next week on AMC.

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Julian Roman at TVweb
Julian Roman