The Walking Dead referenced a long-dead character from its first season in Sunday's "Look at the Flowers," where Carol (Melissa McBride) is haunted by her past by way of recently murdered Whisperer leader Alpha (Samantha Morton). Killed by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in "Walk With Us," a slaying arranged by Carol as part of a secret deal made when she broke Negan out of jail, Alpha returns as a manifestation of trauma when Carol distances herself from Alexandria after reneging on her deal with Negan. "You're free now, Negan. You can do whatever the hell you want. Wait, don't wait, it's up to you," she tells him. "I need to be alone, and sh-t like that takes time."
But Carol isn't alone: a jeering Alpha follows Carol in her quest for solitude, reminding her she's "always watching," even after Carol avenged murdered son Henry (Matt Lintz). "No taking this head," Alpha says with a tap, "unless you take your own."
Carol spiked Alpha's decapitated and zombified head at the border marking Whisperer territory, leaving it to be discovered by Beta (Ryan Hurst). This imagined Alpha gives a voice to Carol's innermost thoughts: "You feel guilt. People were hurt in the name of vengeance, and now you can't go back. They won't accept what you've done."
"Being out on your own, you've tried it before," Alpha hisses, reminding Carol of the time she was banished by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), and when she distanced herself from Alexandria to avoid having to add to her growing kill count ahead of an unavoidable fight with Negan's Saviors. "They always pull you back. Always wanting more. Love... motherhood... death. But they don't know what you truly want. Admit it. What do you want? Say it."
Alpha disputes Carol's confession she wants to be alone. When Carol goes to retrieve a boat to once again sail as a sea dog, Alpha evokes Carol's abusive ex-husband Ed Peletier (Adam Minarovich), who was put down by Carol after he was killed by walkers in Season 1 episode "Vatos."
"Ed was right about you. You're just a brainless clam," Alpha says, drawing on Ed again when she calls Carol an "empty-headed slit" and a "stupid cooze."
The crass Ed butted heads with Andrea (Laurie Holden) in Season 1 episode "Tell It to the Frogs," Carol's first appearance, when he called Andrea an "uppity, smart-mouthed bitch," who he dismissed as a "college-educated cooze" before threatening her with violence. After striking Carol, Ed was beaten into submission by Shane (Jon Bernthal).
But there's no one around to help Carol this time.
Alpha's taunts continue when she brings up the trail of dead kids hanging over Carol's head: Henry. Her and Ed's daughter Sophia (Madison Lintz). Mika (Kyla Kenedy) and sister Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino), who was executed by Carol in "The Grove" when she told the mentally disturbed girl to "look at the flowers."
"You always knew how this would end. No one's coming to save you. Not Ezekiel, and certainly not Daryl. Not after what you did to Connie. You know what you did. You lose people," Alpha says. "Sophia. Lizzie. Mika. Henry. Ezekiel. And if you go back, Daryl could be next. ... You know what you gotta do. I could have been anyone, but you chose me. Because I get the job done."
"Just look at the flowers. Like you're supposed to," Alpha tells Carol as a gnawing walker closes in. But Carol fights it, using her knife to dispatch the walker. "It's never too late," Carol says to no one: Alpha is gone, leaving her alone.