A bit early to introduce white walkers into The Walking Dead, isn’t it?
The episode begins with Ezekiel delivering a message on the radio, saying that he kept trying to hold on, but things fell apart. Literally, as life became more hectic as cold set in all around them. The rot spread. It’s all about knowing when to keep fighting and when it’s over. Ezekiel and Carol remain torn over their loss as life at the Kingdom moves on.
Elsewhere, Daryl delivers food to a lonely Lydia, telling her that they still need to get folks to Hilltop. Ezekiel continues, saying that they will never forget the magic felt at Hilltop. Carol even looks over a birthday card delivered to Henry as well as other valuables.
Later, Ezekiel looks over the charter, his hand gliding over Tara’s name, as he talks about courage. He rolls up the charter as it’s time to load up. Indeed, everyone soon bids farewell to the Kingdom and exits the community without looking back. As they look to an uncertain future, they must stick together. All the while, snow begins to fall.
The cavalcade hits the road, Jack, with Michonne telling Yumiko that everyone can’t agree on how to move forward. Everyone is reeling from the murders. No word from Maggie, either, even after the council’s many letters. In the distance, everyone spots what appears to be walkers, though Alden is suspicious that these are Whisperers and Lydia is still working with them.
Daryl speaks up for her, but Lydia already knows how everyone feels about her. Lydia just doesn’t want to cause any more problems, but Daryl says that this is their problem, not hers. Plus, no one should have to talk to her the way that Alden did.
Daryl tells Carol that Henry wanted Lydia here when no one else did and that she’s a good kid. However, whenever Carol looks at Lydia, she just sees Henry. When she looks at Daryl, though, she sees him. Ezekiel tells Jerry that they’ll have to travel through the night to make it to the next waystation, even with the storm coming.
Over at Alexandria, Rosita informs Gabriel that the heaters are dead. Eugene enters and informs them that they need to go old school if they’re going to stay warm. They’ll divide up the three largest rooms with fireplaces, but Gabriel points out that they can’t let Negan freeze to death. They have to let him out.
On the road, Daryl and Carol take down some icy walkers. Ezekiel joins Daryl in the woods as they examine one of the walkers. Upon close examination, it doesn’t appear to have been a Whisperer. Ezekiel asks Daryl about his plans after this, as the past few months have been hard for Ezekiel and Carol. He would prefer it just be them at the Hilltop, and Carol apparently wants the same thing as him: to hold their son again.
Ezekiel doesn’t want to be the bad guy, but he just wants a piece back of what they lost. He hopes that after everything that’s happened, Daryl could give him that. For that, Daryl doesn’t respond.
As the storm intensifies, Lydia happens upon a walker frozen in a lake. She slowly approaches the walker and removes her gloves, as if ready for the dead to claim her. She holds out her arm and closes her eyes, ready for the inevitable, but then she snaps out of it when she sees that Carol is watching her.
With the storm growing, the survivors decide upon the closet location that can house them: the Sanctuary.
But back at Alexandria, Negan is free from his cell. Gabriel, Rosita, Siddiq, Eugene, and Judith, among others, entertain the former Savior leader, who toys around with Gabriel and his relationship with Rosita. Gabriel at least wants Negan to be less predictable. Negan asks if Judith is worried about Dog, as no one knows where he is. All of a sudden, Negan smells something funky.
As if on cue, a flame bursts from the fireplace and the blizzard has destroyed the chimney’s ventilation. They all contemplate moving before the temperature drops, so they will move to Aaron’s house. It’ll be tight quarters, but they can make it work. However, Negan points out that not one person offered to untie him. The doors open as everyone faces the blizzard.
Elsewhere at the Sanctuary, everyone tries to stay warm. Daryl joins Carol and assures her that they’ll make it, and he tells her that nothing happened back outside with Ezekiel. He only blames Daryl because he can’t blame Carol, who feels like she’s losing herself. She doesn’t know what she’s doing. Daryl offers to take Lydia away and keep her safe on his own, if that will help. He’ll do whatever Carol would want.
Michonne joins Ezekiel, who notes that they could last for days at the Sanctuary, but they can’t. They could head to the waystation, but they could end up caught. Michonne looks over Ezekiel’s map as a few members go over their options. Rick’s bridge would’ve cut out some time, but with the creeks and ponds frozen, they could walk across. Carol proposes a straight shot…right through Alpha’s territory.
They don’t know how to fight Alpha’s people, but it’s entirely possible that Alpha and her kind are already watching them. They’ll have to go by foot, even with the elderly, children, and animals. The storm could make the roads impossible to pass for weeks, so they either make it to the next way station or die.
Following this, Michonne apologizes to Ezekiel, wishing that there was another way. Ezekiel laments the fall of the Kingdom and how he didn’t see it coming. He bears full responsibility for what has befallen his people, but Michonne laments all the time spent apart. She thought it would make them stronger, but it didn’t. Alpha was able to walk among them because they didn’t know each other. They’ve come too far to give up.
As far as Michonne knows, the Kingdom hasn’t fallen. The charter means something, and the people of the Kingdom belong to all of the communities. Even if they cross Alpha’s border, they need to make sure that this doesn’t kick off something.
Indeed, as snow continues to fall, everyone leaves the relative safety of the Sanctuary and heads for Alpha’s border. One by one, they cross through and enter the territory.
The group from Alexandria heads out when Judith hears Dog’s bark. As she rushes off into the blizzard, Negan heads after her.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom caravan encounters a few roamers in the snow, but the ones that they approach turn out to be completely frozen solid. As Michonne decapitates them, everyone continues onward and soon arrives at the frozen lake. Daryl checks the ice to make sure it’s solid enough to cross. However, they still need to make sure it’s safe enough to cross.
Suddenly, Daryl notices that Lydia is missing, so Carol heads after her. Then walkers start emerging from the snow. Everyone takes care of them as quickly as they can while still making their way across the frozen lake.
Carol catches up to Lydia, saying that she can’t cross the river because she knows what’s on the other side: same thing on this side. As far as she’s concerned, it won’t change shit. Lydia acknowledges that if she hadn’t been brought in, everyone killed by Alpha would still be alive. Henry called Lydia a good person, but he was wrong. As long as Lydia is with them, the pain won’t stop.
There’s only one way to fix this, and Lydia knows that Carol knows what that is. No one else has to know.
But back to more walkers in the snow. One walker grabs a hold of Daryl and gets him to the ground, but before he can be bitten, he grabs an icicle and stabs another walker through the eye.
Lydia pleads with Carol to kill her, saying that things would be much better with her gone. It’s how she keeps the others from losing anybody else. She apologizes for being weak and that Carol has to be the one to do this. Rather than comply, Carol instead kills the approaching walker behind Lydia and then informs the girl that she’s not weak. So with that, the two head off.
The wind batters Negan as he searches for Judith. He’s knocked over, but he gets back on his feet as he searches for her. He soon finds her with Dog and hoists her upon his back. The three make their way back, with Negan giving Judith his jacket to keep her just a bit warmer. He then wraps up his injured leg and continues onward…with Dog, too.
The next morning, as the snow storm dies down, the Kingdom troop finally arrives at the Hilltop. Daryl tells Lydia that they’ll be heading to Alexandria, and she wants to know why he left there in the first place. He’ll tell her, but not today.
Ezekiel joins Carol, who tells her that she’s going to Alexandria with the others. He knows that she has to do this, but he won’t stop loving her. With that, Carol removes her ring and gives it back to Ezekiel.
So we arrive at Alexandria as Michonne reunites with Judith. The tension lightens up a bit as everyone engages in a snowball fight. How grand.
As Siddiq patches up Negan, Michonne enters and thanks him for saving Judith’s life. He remembers that the last time they were in this room, Rick had slit his throat, so this pain is nothing. He admires Judith’s will, and he tells Michonne that she’s been through enough. Negan then asks how the Kingdom group is doing, since they all got caught in the snow.
While Negan doesn’t know any of them, he knows what it’s like to lose a kingdom and see things fall apart. The Sanctuary is a shithole, and Negan knows that. He calls it ballsy that Michonne cut through Alpha’s territory, but Michonne doesn’t know if the Whisperers were there. The point is they came together. They have a common enemy and common goal, but Negan says that no one ever thinks that they’re the evil one.
We cut to the Whisperers’ camp as Beta removes Alpha’s mask and tells her that the time away has been good for the pack and her. Alpha admits that she has made mistakes that she can’t make again, and Beta acknowledges that she won’t. She’ll need to be strong for what comes next. With that, Beta starts whipping Alpha’s right arm over and over again.
Ezekiel settles in at Hilltop and relays his message on the radio. He says that when the snow melts, who knows what glorious summer may bring. The person receiving his message, Judith, tells him that maybe he can go back to the Kingdom in the future.
As Ezekiel leaves the radio, though, we hear some crackling transmission and, then, a voice asking if somebody else is out there as the ninth season of The Walking Dead comes to a close.
So, that was an ending. After “The Calm Before” left everyone reeling, “The Storm” doesn’t pause to give the characters time to breathe. There’s an opportunity for reflection and mourning, but if Alpha and her band of Whisperers aren’t the immediate threat, it’s the environmental threat in the form of the actual snowstorm, so let’s start there.
Snow is something that many have wanted in this adaptation, and there’s plenty of arguments in favor of it. Snow adds an extra element of danger in an already dangerous world, it’s a nice change of scenery since the show always seemed to jump past winter, and there’s an additional layer of atmosphere added with the snow that you can’t with something like a heat wave or thunderstorm.
Plus, it helps that there is some precedence with the source material. We didn’t get snow during “No Way Out” like we did in the comic, but it’s nice to get it here. During the right climate, snow is just pleasant to look at it and it really made the episode stick out for the right reason. Seeing everyone struggle through the harsh wind helped showcase the increased trouble facing their already disastrous situation.
Once more, the snow here may as well have been a tease for when Game of Thrones returns in a few weeks, given how the survivors are facing walkers in the snow. Just too bad that Michonne’s blade isn’t made of dragonglass. Joking aside, I greatly enjoyed the addition of snow and I hope it’s not the last time we see it in this universe, whether here or on Fear the Walking Dead.
As for the episode itself, I maintain that last week could’ve served as a season finale, but this works as far as allowing everyone to decompress. They’re still reeling from the border deaths and it doesn’t look like they’re in any rush to retaliate. The snow wouldn’t give them an opportunity to, anyway. They’re at an extreme disadvantage because the Whisperers could be anywhere.
This just added to the tension because the survivors were always on their guard even more than usual. When it comes to walkers, they can handle those no problem. But now that they’re fully aware of the Whisperers and what Alpha is capable of, they have to be extra cautious because any random walker off in the distance could easily be a Whisperer in disguise.
So of course everyone would be more wary if walkers. In addition, it makes some people even more distrustful of Lydia. Now depending on the character, you can come at this two different ways, but since Alden is the one who speaks up, let’s use him as the example. Okay, Lydia didn’t erect the border. The blood of the dead victims is not on her hands.
However, she was still one of the Whisperers. She left them, but Alpha came to the Hilltop because of her. That kicked off the chain of the events that led us to where we are now. Again, not Lydia’s doing, but from Alden’s perspective, I see his anger and distrust. Plus, he lost Enid. Why wouldn’t he give a side-eye at the daughter of the woman who killed Enid?
Though there’s a certain irony that I’m sure isn’t lost on you all: Alden himself is a former Savior. In the same way that Lydia didn’t kill Enid, Alden didn’t kill Glenn and Abraham. Hell, we don’t even how big of a deal he was among the Saviors. He reformed, but he was still one of them, so it’s a tad hypocritical of him to be distrustful, given his own past. But, again, I don’t blame him for not trusting Lydia.
Admittedly, yes, Enid offered to go back on her own, and she did. Hell, in a way, you could even blame Henry for what happened because he’s the one who went after Lydia and entered Alpha’s territory. I’m spending more time on this than necessary, but the point is I think this is a lot deeper than many may assume.
It’s also interesting to see how Daryl has come around on Lydia. Before, he told Connie that bringing her along would get them killed. In a way, his words were prophetic. But now, with everyone hurting and Lydia blaming herself, someone needs to speak up for her.
This episode, from a character development perspective, focused on a few characters, but Lydia gets a fair amount of prominence, even when others are discussing her. She feels responsible for what happened and knows what the others think about her. In her mind, she’s better off dead, which is why she pleads with Carol to kill her and why she tries to get a walker to bite her. Before Carol spotted her, anyway.
Oh, and even before Angela Kang confirmed it, you would be crazy to not spot the comic connection in that moment. In the source material, as you know, Carol killed herself by allowing a walker to bite her. In a clever, ironic fashion, now she finds Lydia attempting to do the same thing. It’s one thing that the Whisperers took Henry, and now Lydia is trying to take Carol’s comic book death.
I kid, but I think part of Carol probably did want to kill Lydia. Again, though, Lydia is already feeling enough guilt as is. Killing her wouldn’t bring Henry back, nor would it give Carol any real solace. It’d be a temporary relief, but that’s it. But Carol won’t allow herself to cross that line or she’d just be adding to the problem.
Like Alden, I like that we deal with how Carol is feeling after Henry’s death. This episode wouldn’t be as good if everyone had just moved on from the deaths and we focused on the storm. You need that tension to show that wounds are still raw and that some people still resent Lydia for being there. The storm may be raging, but that doesn’t eclipse that many of them are still hurting.
So I also understand why Carol would take this time to go to Alexandria and leave Ezekiel behind. She’s got to find herself- yet again- but she may not be able to do with alongside Ezekiel, who is also reeling. He’s not showing disrespect to Daryl by asking him to not be there with him and Carol, but at the same time, it is a bit odd for him to ask that. Daryl isn’t a threat to his relationship.
This isn’t like Gabriel, Rosita, and Siddiq where they seem to have an arrangement set, but you also have Eugene thrown into the mix because he has feelings for Rosita. No, not like that at all. Daryl has feelings for Carol, sure, but not a romantic interest.
Oh, and by the way, another brief mention of Maggie. I’m continually curious how The Walking Dead will deal with this moving forward. There are rumblings here and there that she could pop up at some point in Season 10, but Lauren Cohan’s availability could still be split since she’s off doing Whiskey Cavalier at the moment, so who knows? Still, the acknowledgement is appreciated.
Then we’ve got the group in Alexandria, who really do find themselves in a “No Way Out” situation. Negan’s slowly been turning a new leaf and him saving Judith’s life is a big step towards proving to Michonne that he can change. On an unrelated note, Daryl told Judith to take care of Dog while he helped move the Kingdom group to Hilltop? Not a great plan.
But I did like seeing Negan lighten the mood. He’s still a tough guy, but a lot of that edge is gone and he manages to get a smile out of Gabriel. For all he’s done, Negan is becoming a new man.
As for Alpha, I guess the Whisperers just relocated to get away from the cold, but given what we see happen between her and Beta whipping her arm, she’s not about to make any mistakes. That border may have just been the opening act. We know that she still has that massive walker herd in the wings, so you know it will be used at some point.
Then there’s the radio. While I know many speculated that perhaps we would hear Rick’s voice, it’s just some random person. Going off of the comic books, I wonder if this is setting up the community that we’ll see down the line, but it’s a nice tease. Admittedly, it’s a rather abrupt ending because we only hear the voice for a few seconds, but hey, I guess that’s what a tease does. We’ll see who will discover the voice next season.
This season brought a lot of change to The Walking Dead. Under Angela Kang’s leadership as showrunner, the season, from what I can tell, has been held in much higher regard than Season 8. The changes to the show, like Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan departing, have definitely been noticeable, but with the introduction of the Whisperers and Magna’s group, the show marches onward.
How will our protagonists combat Alpha and her Whisperers moving forward? Who will end up finding out that there’s someone else out there trying to establish communication? So many questions to answer, but all-in-all, this was a solid season of The Walking Dead. It started on a strong note and, for my money, continued on a good pace as we were introduced to the Whisperers.
With all that said, we still have the comic book from month to month to tide us over, so until then, I’ll see you next time when we return for Season 10 of The Walking Dead.