"Guardians" is the twelfth episode of the ninth season of AMC's The Walking Dead. It is the one-hundred and twenty-seventh episode of the series overall. It premiered on March 3, 2019. It was written by LaToya Morgan and directed by Michael Satrazemis.
In the woods, Alpha questions Lydia about her time at Hilltop. She talks about their farmland, supplies, and weapons, but leaves out their dealings with other communities like the Kingdom. Alpha’s disappointed over her lack of intel so Lydia asks if that’s the only reason she came for her. “What a stupid question,” Alpha says.
In Alexandria, Michonne scolds her council for keeping her in the dark about their radio mission. Gabriel argues they should be more open to new communities, but Aaron reminds him about the Whisperers and how they should trust Michonne’s discretion. Siddiq argues that she's not always right and her decision to cut ties with The Kingdom proves it. Michonne draws a hard line and asserts she’s not willing to sacrifice her people to save the Kingdom.
Later, Gabriel briefly laments his problems at the council with Rosita. He doesn’t elaborate so she brings up her pregnancy, saying she wants him to stay despite the fact that she's carrying Siddiq’s baby.
Elsewhere, Henry catches up with Lydia and the Whisperers and watches them from a close distance. A Whisperer asks him to put down his staff but Henry knocks him out. Suddenly, Beta grabs Henry from behind and tosses him in front of Alpha. He says he’s been tracking Henry for a while, but Henry’s been tracking them for longer. Alpha questions him as Beta threatens to break his arm. Henry relents and reveals he came alone to get Lydia. She calls him stupid and punches him in the face. Alpha decides Henry is coming with them.
Back at Alexandria, Eugene shows Gabriel his extensively documented risk/reward calculations if he should stay with Rosita or not. Gabriel brushes it off but Eugene warns him he’d be a fool to let her go. He then offers him a new pair of sweatpants for him to give Rosita as a peace offering.
Back in the woods, Alpha asks Lydia why she didn’t mention Henry but she says he wasn’t worth mentioning. Alpha reminds her that he just risked his life to save her, so she must be lying. They arrive at the Whisperers camp, which is full of people without their walker masks. Alpha instructs Beta to tie Henry to a tree and to get Lydia a new mask.
In Alexandria, Michonne visits Negan at his cell to ask why he came back. He tells her how he could have bashed her head at her home but chose not to. Michonne surmises he actually tried to give the outside world a shot but was spit back out when he found nothing. He confirms her theory and suggests she start trusting him if she doesn’t plan to kill him and that he could help with her counsel problems. She shuts him down and then sees Judith watching them from his cell window.
At the Whisperers' camp, Beta skins a walker head to use for Lydia’s mask. Meanwhile, Alpha taunts Henry when a man and woman Whisperer approach her and question why she broke her own rule of leaving people behind if they get taken. They then point out that they gave up two people for her daughter. “I don’t like that math,” Sean whispers. Alpha reminds them she did it to get information. Sean issues a challenge for her leadership role. Alpha laughs in his face, and Beta grabs the man from behind and holds a long knife to his throat. “You’re changing the rules again,” he says calmly.
Alpha confirms he has the right to challenge her position, but she has the right to defend it. She then turns her attention to Helen and suggests it’s actually her who wants to be the new leader. Helen tells Alpha she failed everyone by putting them in danger. Alpha tells her that her people voluntarily follow her because she keeps them safe. Alpha then wraps a wire around Helen’s neck and decapitates her as Henry looks on in horror. Alpha then hands the head over to Sean, tells him crying is for the weak and stabs him in the stomach.
At their house, Michonne questions Judith on why she was spying on her earlier. Judith says she was actually there to see Negan, revealing she sometimes talks to him out of sympathy. Michonne calmly explains why that’s a bad idea but Judith argues he actually listens to her. Michonne firmly demands she not go near him because he’s a monster and if he got out he would continue to be a monster. Judith reminds her he did get out and wasn’t a monster, proving he has changed. Michonne says people don’t change but Judith responds, “You did", leaving her speechless. Michonne sends her to her room and then starts crying.
At the Whisperer camp, Lydia shows Henry she still has the wooden coin he gave her on a necklace, signaling that she secretly supports him. In her tent, Alpha tells Beta about the time before the apocalypse when she hit Lydia hard for almost suffocating in a dry-cleaning bag. She tells him that people do whatever it takes to protect those they love. “We need to be ready when they come for the boy,” Beta says. They both agree Henry can be useful and they need to find out if Lydia truly has feelings for him. On a field, some Whisperers draw a herd to devour the couple's corpses as Daryl and Connie watch nearby.
In Alexandria, Gabriel visits Rosita to talk things over. Eugene watches them from afar and smiles. Meanwhile, Michonne visits Aaron to announce she has decided to let the council send a delegation to the Kingdom’s fair. Aaron pushes back but Michonne says the people should be allowed to decide for themselves. “I hope we don’t regret this,” Aaron says. Later, Alexandria prepares a caravan of food and supplies to send to the Kingdom for the fair.
At night, Beta takes Henry to Alpha. She makes Lydia pick up a knife and tells her to kill Henry with it to prove her loyalty. Lydia begins to cry as she approaches Henry. Alpha warns her not to be weak like her father and that if she doesn’t kill him, Beta will kill them both. Suddenly, a small herd of walkers show up and begin eating the unmasked Whisperers. Alpha and the others quickly put on their masks to try to lure the herd away as Daryl and Connie arrive disguised as Whisperers to rescue Henry. They grab Henry, who grabs Lydia, and together they escape.
- Anabelle Holloway as Gracie
- Tamara Austin as Nora
- Benjamin Keepers as Sean
- David Ury as Zion
- Antony Azor as R.J. Grimes
- Allie McCulloch as Helen
- Ethan Patterson as Rasmus
- Evan Cleaver as Whisperer Guard #1
- Kristin Erickson as Lookout Whisperer
- First appearance of the Whisperers' Camp.
- First appearance of Zion.
- First appearance of Beta.
- First (and last) appearance of Helen.
- First (and last) appearance of Sean.
- Last appearance of Rasmus.
- The title of the episode, "Guardians", refers to how the Whisperers refer to the undead.
- As of this episode, Tom Payne (Jesus) has been removed from the opening credits.
- This is the second episode since "The Key" to feature a full nude walker.
- Interestingly enough, both this episode and "The Key" are the 12th episode of their respective seasons.
- Starting with this episode, an additional walker and a Whisperer are featured at the end of the show's opening sequence.
- Lydia flat-out lies to Alpha about what she learned about the communities and claims that the Hilltop doesn't trade with any other communities. Henry had told Lydia about the Kingdom at least during "Omega."
- It's also confirmed by Lydia that the Hilltop has been reduced to mainly melee weapons with only a few guns still in existence.
- It's explained that Alexandria is ruled by its council led by Gabriel Stokes, but they gave Michonne the power to veto their decisions based off of security concerns. However, Michonne has been vetoing everything they decide based off of security concerns.
- The council is revealed to have approved the relay project but kept it from Michonne because they knew she'd immediately veto it.
- It's confirmed that Alexandria has taken in many residents after the Sanctuary fell with Michonne commenting to the council on how they opened their doors to the people of the Sanctuary.
- The Kingdom's situation is confirmed to be dire with Ezekiel having downplayed it in his letter asking for Alexandria to come to the fair. Michonne admits that she is willing to take in the Kingdom residents if need be. She later changes her mind and allows a delegation to be sent to the fair.
- Eugene confirms that he is in fact in love with Rosita while her pregnancy by Siddiq is now common knowledge.
- It's revealed that there are in fact hundreds of Whisperers.
- As of this episode, Marvin Lee, who has been a core Alexandria extra since Season 6 has finally been given a name in the show; that being Kyle.
- Eugene talks to Gabriel about what they've been through, and how Gabriel believed in Eugene when Eugene himself didn't, and "even with bad peepers" saw things Eugene couldn't. This is a reference to their time with the Saviors, when Gabriel continued to see the good in Eugene despite him being one of them.
- Dog not letting go of Daryl's arrow and breaking it was originally not meant to happen, but Norman Reedus improvised and kept that scene going by adding his line "bad dog."
- This is the third episode where a member of the antagonist group challenges the main antagonist for leadership then is immediately killed by the main antagonist.
- The first was O'Donnell in "Coda." He confronted Dawn Lerner, who, with the help of Beth Greene, defeated him. Beth ultimately killed him by pushing him down an elevator shaft.
- The second was Simon who had an actual fist fight with Negan, only to lose the fight by Negan strangling him to death in "Worth."
- The third, which is in this episode, it's Sean and Helen. Both are killed by Alpha.
- Several Savior extras were seen as Whisperers at the Whisperers' camp, however it is unknown if there's any correlation between the characters.
- This is the first episode to feature only one member of Magna's Group.
- Henry being found by Beta is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 139, where Carl is discovered by Alpha instead.
- Henry being taken to the Whisperers' camp is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 139, where Carl is taken instead.
- The reveal of the Whisperers' camp is adapted from Issue 140.
- Alpha stabbing another Whisperer to death is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 148, where Alpha slits a Whisperer's throat instead.
- Negan taunting Michonne about how he could've killed her when he escaped from his cell is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 141, where Negan taunts Rick instead.
- Negan telling Michonne she should trust him and that the real reason he is locked up is to prove that Rick Grimes is a merciful person, not because he deserves to live, is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 141, where Negan tells this to Rick instead.
- Negan telling Michonne he can help her with her leadership issues is a reference to Negan helping Rick with his leadership issues in Issue 149.
- Daryl and Connie using Whisperers' masks to infiltrate the camp is a reference to Dwight and the Militia doing the same in Issue 159.
- Russ appears in this episode despite that fact that he died five years prior, as revealed in "Scars". This is due to the filming order of the episodes.