Six different stories. One dead world. Tales of the Walking Dead is AMC’s episodic anthology series from The Walking Dead Universe, consisting of six original one-hour standalone episodes focused on new and established characters within the walker apocalypse. Each episode has its own distinct tone and point of view — but the stakes are high in each story, pushing new, indelible characters with relentless, life-threatening choices and situations. We get to see the apocalypse through different eyes, discovering more worlds, mythos, and mysteries of the Walking Dead. Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis and written by showrunner Channing Powell, Season 1 Episode 3 is Dee’s story.
A Time for Caution
“Let me tell you how I died.”
On a riverboat, Dee (Samantha Morton) and her nine-year-old daughter Lydia (Scarlett Blum) attend a fancy attire dinner party hosted by Brooke (Lauren Glazier). Dee is wary of the boat’s lights, but Brooke reminds her their guards have been trolling the swamps for weeks. They’re safe.
Sloppily dressed, Dee sits at the bar next to Mr. Langston (George Bryant), an older gentleman who’s had too much to drink. She’s out of place — and looks it. Dressing Dee down for dressing down, bartender Billy (Nick Basta) says he’s only been aboard for a few weeks, but long enough to see how it works.
“Brooke bends over backwards making everything nice, and people like you show up looking like drowned opossums, taking advantage of what’s provided,” he criticizes. “You know how many people would kill to be here? If you don’t want to participate, just go back to your room.”
Dee is there for Lydia, who is seated next to Brooke and her well-to-do dinner guests.
When the bartender steps outside to get more wine, Dee notices a flickering light blinking — almost like a signal. On the deck, Dee switches off the lights. Peering into the darkness across the foggy bayou, Dee sees predators lurking in the woods.
Turning the lights back on, Brooke tells Dee it’s just the dead. She doesn’t trust the bartender, but Brooke reminds Dee, “You don’t trust anyone.”
After more than a year on the boat, Brooke wants Lydia to acclimate to civilized living. With words that cut like a knife, Brooke tells her, “I feel sorry for you, Dee. You’re so caught up in all the things that could go wrong that you can’t enjoy the good stuff. It’s having a negative effect on Lydia.” She says there’s a time for caution and a time for joy, otherwise, “What’s the point? She deserves more than this.”
Just in Case
“I was nine when I killed Daddy.” Decapitated heads on pikes decorate the walls of a dark cave. The silhouette of a woman, bald and wearing raggy clothing, looms over us. She hisses, “Daddy deserved it.” She is Alpha, leader of the Whisperers.
Alpha narrates as Dee stirs awake to the sound of splashing water outside her window. “Things were fine after Daddy, I guess. I did what I was supposed to. What women like me are told. Then the world fell apart, and I got stuck in a basement with Lydia’s dad, Frank. I’m not sure if I meant to kill him. I’m glad I did.”
It’s morning when Brooke and her beau Nolan (Eric Tiede) learn that no one has seen Mr. Langston since cabin checks at midnight. Dee, working as a janitor, reports hearing a splash, but the swamp is always making noises. Last she saw Mr. Langston, he was at the bar being served by Billy.
Billy says he escorted Mr. Langston to his room after cutting him off, but if he fell overboard, Brooke and Nolan agree: If he’s gone, he’s gone. Mopping up fishermen’s muck from the deck, Dee eyes Billy.
Before dinner, Dee teaches Lydia how to set silverware. She pockets a knife with a whisper: Just in case. Lydia wants to be with Brooke and have dinner parties, telling Mama she can leave.
“You’ll die without me,” Dee reminds Lydia.
“You think I’ll die either way, don’t you?” she asks Mama.
Dee shakes her head. “I can save you. See, I won’t let it get you.” When Lydia reminds her mother she has Brooke, Dee’s face contorts into a scowl. She becomes stern. After chastising Lydia, Dee steps outside and suspects Billy of using a mirror to signal someone offshore.
Dee alerts Brooke of her suspicions, but Billy disputes her claims as the ramblings of a mad woman. “We don’t know him. He’s only been here three weeks,” Dee reminds her. When Brooke asks what she would have her do, Dee answers simply: “Get rid of him.”
Before Brooke can make a decision, Billy notices Dee’s pocketed knife and leaps into the swamp, swearing the crazed woman wants to kill him.
And just for a moment, a satisfied Dee smiles — but denies threatening the overboard bartender with a knife.
“So that’s why Lydia’s afraid of you,” says Brooke, who gets a scolding from Dee: “You liar! You liar! Do not talk to me about my daughter! You do not mention my daughter!”
“I went mad in that basement. And Lydia saw,” Alpha says in voiceover. “I tried to repent. I tried.”
Lydia saw a man jump into the swamp to escape her mother, too. Dee tries to talk to Lydia, but she’s nowhere to be found. Brooke tells Dee her daughter needs space and asks her, “What sort of terrible thing would frighten a little girl so much that she hides from her own mother?”
“Now, you listen to me. Lydia is mine, and everything I do is to protect my child,” Dee growls. “And I’m the only one who can keep her alive and make sure she keeps herself alive.”
“For what kind of life?” Brooke asks.
Dee moves in closer, knife in hand. “Tell me where she is, or the next time I swing this knife, it’ll be at your head.”
Dead on the Bayou
From below deck, Dee and Brooke hear screaming. Shhh. Wielding her knife, Dee shushes Brooke as they move to investigate the commotion. They find a dead guard, his gun gone, and someone barking orders on the top deck. Brooke recognizes the voice: it’s Billy. “Keep count,” he says. “We’ll need ’em all.”
Hushed, Dee demands Brooke tell her where to find her daughter. She’s hiding in the dinghy.
As Dee goes to find Lydia, Brooke goes to save her people. Billy and his men, wearing wetsuits, have forced the boat’s passengers to their knees. Mr. Langston was fed to the swamp to make room on the boat, and when they get rid of more passengers, there will be room enough for them all. Dee forced his hand, and there’s still “a few more of you who don’t deserve to be here.”
Waving his gun around, Billy threatens unkempt passengers. “Look at the way they’re dressed. Like they’ve given up. Brooke works so hard to keep this world alive for you, keeps the small things important, keeps your dignity intact!” To Billy, the slovenly survivors “don’t respect the rules. You act like the world is over — so for you, it should be.”
One man lies and says Dee took Lydia on a run. Billy wants them dead, but Brooke is not to be harmed. He won’t bring her “scraps.” It’s the survival of the fittest.
“If we’re gonna rebuild, we’re gonna need the best,” he tells Brooke, too soft to take care of the harder decisions. “That’s why old Mr. Langston had to go, and I thought Erika was aging out, too.” Billy shoots a passenger dead and demands they turn over Dee and Lydia.
Brooke pleads for Billy to spare her people’s lives, but according to Billy, “It’s them or me.” Shooting that man and rounding up the passengers “ruined some niceties,” he says, but he’s going to “keep this place safe so nothing like this ever happens again.” Billy executes another passenger and turns the gun on Nolan, who throws another worker under the proverbial bus.
As they bicker, Billy warns he’ll start choosing from the crowd if they don’t give up Dee and Lydia.
Almost all of the boat’s terrorized passengers turn on the mother and daughter. But not Brooke. Just then, Dee sneaks up behind one of Billy’s men and slits his throat, using his gun to open fire on the hijackers. Gunfire erupts in the chaos and Dee severs the rope holding the dinghy, sending the escape boat crashing into the swamp.
“I ran toward repentance,” says Alpha. “But you can’t run forever.”
Safe With Mama
Dee paddles the dinghy to land as chaos breaks out on the riverboat. Lydia calls out for Brooke but quiets down when Dee scolds her: “I am your mama! You be quiet, and you stay down! Those people turned on us! They turned on you! Now I’m gonna take us away from here, someplace safe, okay? Now, just close your eyes, baby.”
“No one’s coming to save us,” says Alpha.
On land, Mama protects daughter from walkers. One biter breaks from the pack and lunges at Lydia, so Dee stabs it in the brain — only for the blade to get stuck, sending the walker toppling over onto Dee. Trapped underneath, Dee guts the walker and smears its blood on a cowering Lydia. As they conceal themselves from the dead, Dee whispers: “I want you to pretend you’re somewhere else. Somewhere nice. I love you, baby. You’re safe now with Mama. I won’t let it get you. I won’t let it get you.”
Sometime later, Lydia holds Dee’s hand as they leave behind a gory scene of carnage, the freshly dead and the long-rotten littering the shore. Camouflaged in blood, Mama and daughter walk with the dead.
A Real Mother
In the woods, Dee finds Brooke broken but alive. Pressing her gun to Brooke’s head, Dee condemns her: “You promised my daughter the world. Then you took it away.” Brooke blames Dee, who responds, “I did what I had to do to save her. I did what a real mother does.”
“And everyone is dead,” Brooke replies.
Dee hisses, “And they would have killed Lydia, too.”
Lydia saves Brooke, putting herself in between her mother and the mother she wishes she had. “She took more from you than you’ll ever know, baby,” Dee says, shoving Lydia out of the way. The little girl cries and sings herself a song — ♪ ♪ Oh, Lydia, oh, Lydia ♪ ♪ Say, have you met Lydia? ♪ ♪ Lydia, the tattooed lady ♪ — bracing for the horror that never comes.
Dee comforts Lydia, placing earmuffs on her head and a stuffed bunny in her arms. She makes sure to show Lydia her hands are empty. No gun. She goes back to Brooke. Like an animal playing with its food, Dee strokes Brooke’s hair. Shushes her.
“See, Lydia was right. Death is too forgiving for you.”
Dee unsheathes her knife and slices Brooke’s flesh.
“This is my mark,” Dee whispers. “And everywhere you go, I’ll be there, reminding you of how you failed my little girl.”
Lydia wants to go back to the boat, but Dee reminds her there is no boat to return to. “It’s just us now.”
“This is what you wanted, isn’t it? For Brooke to be wrong,” Lydia asks.
“She was wrong, baby. She was teaching you a lie. It’s time for you to know the truth, and I love you enough to show you.”
Lydia doesn’t want to be with her mother. “Daddy says it’s safer with people.”
“You have to learn to survive without people. People hurt each other. They let each other down. People are chaos, Lydia,” Dee tells her.
“No, they’re not,” Lydia yells. “You are!”
She may not like Mama very much right now, Dee tells baby, “But I’m all you’ve got. And I will not fail you again.”
Still slathered in dried blood, Lydia wants Frank. “Where’s my daddy?” Dee reminds her: “Baby, your daddy was weak. Don’t be like him, okay? You don’t be like him.”
Dee and Lydia are scavenging for supplies at an abandoned RV park when a small pack of walkers shambles out of the woods. Dee orders Lydia to get behind her, and before she can run away, tells the girl it’s time: “It’s time to show you how to survive. Now, you’re gonna watch me. Watch and learn.”
Lydia resists and tries to escape, but Dee doesn’t let her. “You’ve got to be strong, or you won’t survive, baby.”
“I can’t,” Lydia cries, Dee growling back: “You have to!”
Dee gives chase as Lydia runs away into the woods. Says Alpha, “We are all we have. We do what we think is right. Even if it hurts the ones we love.”
Dee finds Lydia curled up under a tree. She scolds her daughter to never run away again, but this time, Lydia shushes her.
“I heard them,” the girl says. “The trees, Mama. They’re talking. The fairies. They want me, Mama. They want to take me away. Please let me go. Please. I want to go.”
As Lydia pleads to let her leave, Dee begins to cry. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, baby. For everything.”
Dee cradles Lydia. As Mama strokes child’s hair with a gentle kiss to the forehead, we hear the future Alpha: “You forget how little nine is. I must have been so small. Lydia was so small…”
“I’ve been so selfish. I’ve been so scared of this world without you that I never thought about you in this world,” Dee tells Lydia. “Oh, I love you.” She cries quietly, holding her daughter.
“What kind of life is this?” Dee asks aloud. “This ain’t no place for a child.” Dee soothes Lydia. She tells her to close her eyes and hold her bunny.
Dee braces herself for what she’s about to do. What she must do. Drawing her knife, Dee holds steady. She cries. “She was so small,” Alpha remembers.
“I’m sorry, baby. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you.”
Dee is sorry. Alpha was not.
“But I would have killed the both of us.”
Dee hears it. Whispers.
“We see you. We see you. We see you. Spare her.”
Lydia looks up to Mama. “See? The trees. They’re talking.” Dee — relieved and scared at the same time — roars. “Who’s there?!”
The voices come from out of the trees. A pack of the dead — no, the living. Walking and wearing dead people’s faces. In hushed tones, they speak: “Stop her. We’re here. We’re here. Spare her. Spare her.”
The Whisperer leader stands before the pack. She removes her fleshy mask made of dead flesh, revealing light blonde hair beneath.
“I’m Hera,” she says, her face unseen. “Don’t speak. Whisper.”
Hera hits Dee. Things go black.
Nature vs. Nurture
“I was keeping myself from my nature. But that, that was the end of Dee — and the beginning of me.” Dee is dead. Alpha lives.
Husks of human flesh hang in a Whisperer cave. Alpha steps out of the shadows, covered in blood. “And then I met you. And you showed me love.”
Alpha reveals the listener of her tale is her guardian: her sacred, skinned Whisperer mask made from Hera’s flesh. End of episode.
New episodes of Tales of the Walking Dead premiere Sundays on AMC and AMC+.