The Walking Dead dives deep into multiple subplots as Alexandria is brought back into focus. Rosita (Christian Serratos) comes to terms with Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) about her pregnancy by Siddiq (Avi Nash). Michonne (Danai Gurira) is stunned by Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) return and the effect he's having on Judith (Cailey Fleming). The council questions her veto power over their decisions. Henry (Matt Lintz) learns the hard way Alpha's (Samantha Morton) ruthlessness.

Guardian begins with Lydia (Cassady McClincy) walking with her mother and the Whisperers. Alpha wants to know everything that happened at the Hilltop. Lydia lies and gives her basic info about their farmland and minor weapons. She wants to know if that's the only reason why her mother came back for her.

In Alexandria, Michonne is furious with the council and Father Gabriel about their efforts to set up the radio. Jesus died, Negan escaped, and a dangerous enemy was alerted. Gabriel questions whether there should be a council if she can just veto anything they decree. Aaron (Ross Marquand) supports Michonne, but Siddiq brings up the fair at the Kingdom. Carol needs their help. The council wants to vote again on attending the fair.

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Rosita struggles to button her pants over her growing belly. She goes downstairs to discuss their dilemma with a frustrated Father Gabriel. He doesn't want to talk about the council. She understands if he wants to walk away from their relationship.

Lydia uncovers a yo-yo in the dirt. She tears off the cord and hides the string. Henry has caught up to the Whisperers. He takes out one with his staff, but is easily subdued by the hulking Beta (Ryan Hurst). He refuses to answer questions as Alpha orders Beta to break his arm. Lydia rescues him by punching him in the face. He was stupid for coming after her.

In Alexandria, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) has written a detailed breakdown of why Father Gabriel should stay with Rosita. She loves him over Siddiq, and has rebuffed Eugene. Father Gabriel is surprised by that revelation. Eugene gives Father Gabriel a gift of stretchy sweatpants for Rosita.

Alpha is curious why Lydia never mentioned Henry. She replies he was just someone she lied to. Her mother congratulates her on being a good liar and gives her an apple. Henry is aghast as they reach the Whisperers camp. They have over a hundred people. He watches as they skin animals.

Michonne confronts Negan at his cell. He has returned voluntarily and she wants to know why. Negan knows about her conflict with the council. He promises to help her keep them in line as the leader. He admits he was in her house and could have easily bashed her head in. She scoffs, he came back because it was too hard to survive on the outside. She's alarmed to see Judith listening to them outside the window.

In the woods, Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Connie (Lauren Ridloff) are tracking Henry. The dog finds Henry's staff. They take out several walkers. Daryl whistles for the dog to retrieve his arrow. The bad ass pooch brings it back, but bites it in half.

Beta slices off a walker's face to make a mask for Henry. Suddenly one of the Whisperer's comes up to challenge Alpha's rule. Why did they return for Lydia? They lost many of their people. Alpha orders Beta to grab the man. She approaches his girlfriend and accuses her of being the real challenger. The woman curses her for leading them into danger. Alpha takes a wire off her wrist and decapitates the upstart. She hands her bloody head to the terrified boyfriend, then stabs him in the femoral artery.

At their house, Michonne is horrified to find out that Judith has been talking to Negan. She explains that Negan is a bad person, that he killed her dear friends. Judith replies that she feels sorry for Negan, he has changed, and that he listens to her. She also says that her mother has changed as well. An upset Michonne sends Judith to her room.

At the camp, Alpha asks Beta to take off her mask. She washes the blood off, but is concerned that she was challenged. She tells Beta a story of three-year-old Lydia. The girl was in a closet, suffocating from plastic wrapped around her head. Alpha waited until she was blue before saving her, then viciously slapped her afterwards. Alpha says that you must do whatever it takes to save the ones you love, especially from themselves. Beta worries that keeping Henry is a mistake.

Daryl and Connie watch as the Whisperers leave the bodies of the challengers in a field for the dead. The Walkers amble over for an easy meal. In Alexandria, Father Gabriel walks to Rosita's house with the gift. She's talking to Siddiq on the steps. They go inside her house together, as a forlorn Eugene watches.

Michonne knocks on Aaron's door. Gracie answers, then is sent away by her father. Michonne says she will not veto the council if they decide to go to the fair. She knows it's a terrible idea, but she must support what the people want. Aaron is alarmed, but agrees. We then see the Alexandrians packing wagons of food and supplies for the Kingdom.

That night, Beta grabs Henry and holds him. Alpha brings Lydia before him, then throws a knife to the ground. Kill the boy. Lydia picks up the knife and starts to cry. Suddenly the camp is overrun by a herd of walkers. It's chaos as the Whisperers race to put on their skins. One of the dead grabs Henry. It's Daryl wearing a walker skin. Henry refuses to leave without Lydia. She decides to escape with them. They run away as the Whisperers fend off the dead.

"Guardians" moved the needle on several storylines. It's obvious the season nine finale will involve some kind of incident at the fair. Alpha will certainly be seeking revenge for the walker attack and Lydia's betrayal. The Alexandrians on the road to the Kingdom will probably face her wrath. A key scene was Alpha easily decapitating the woman. Anyone who's read the comics knows that's a bad omen. It's also important to remember that Lydia has that yo-yo string. That has to have some future importance. It's doubtful that Father Gabriel, Siddiq, and Rosita are going to have a happy ending. The action returns to the Kingdom next week on The Walking Dead, only on AMC

Julian Roman