AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 9, Episode 13: “Chokepoint”
Directed by Liesl Tommy
Written by Eddie Guzelian & David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Guardians” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Scars” – click here
Daryl (Norman Reedus), Connie (Lauren Ridloff), Henry (Matt Lintz), and Lydia (Cassady McClincy) flee in the dark. Daryl doesn’t dig having the girl with them. He knows Hilltop will take the blame if they go back with Lydia. In the Whisperers camp, Beta (Ryan Hurst) says goodbye to a wounded friend hurt in the chaos— “change is coming to him.” This leaves the group seeking vengeance. Beta’s determined to find Lydia again, or he’ll kill everyone he comes across. There’s a feral brutality about him, as if he’s literally dropped back on the scale in evolution.
At the Kingdom, everyone’s preparing for the trade fair. Carol (Melissa McBride) oversees things. Everybody’s excited. Except Jerry (Cooper Andrews) and Dianne (Kerry Cahill) have to report bad news to the Queen and King Ezekiel (Khary Payton). A group called the Highwaymen are looking to wet their beak off the other communities. Some rumours claim there are “renegade Saviors” in the area, yet Carol and Ezekiel don’t believe it’s Jed’s group. The Kingdom’s guard is now UP.
On the road, Tara (Alanna Masterson) has Magna (Nadia Hilker) and others along to help clear the road and make sure the route for the fair is secure. Kelly (Angel Theory) tries to keep busy because she’s worried about Daryl and Connie being out there. Nobody needs to worry about those two. They’re a damn good team, even if they don’t agree on every last little thing. Again: awesome to see a deaf character, played by a deaf actress (Ridloff‘s a former Miss Deaf America and also a Tony-nominated actress) included in the cast and especially at the fore of the last couple episodes alongside Daryl. Gets better now that they’re heading straight for Beta, to try taking out the biggest, baddest member of the Whisperers. They continue to have trouble amongst themselves. Daryl refuses to let Lydia stay with them at Hilltop, and Connie likewise refuses to back down on it.
Carol suggests to the King they go with words instead of attacking the Highwaymen. For his part, Jerry believes the letter they received is only a “grammatically correct death threat, yo” and not a sign of civility. Carol and Dianne believe talking could be the best solution, and, smartly, the men listen. Plus, like the Queen of the Kingdom says, if things don’t go well they can always, y’know, kill them. So the four of them go to the building with the Highwaymen’s mark. Inside, they meet a cowboy called Ozzy (Angus Sampson) and his well-armed buddies. The Highwaymen want a ransom in trade, except without any trade in return. Lucky for the King there’s backup nearby and the Highwaymen are subdued quickly. The King and Queen want to offer these people a job to keep the roads safe. Ozzy doesn’t think the deal’s all that hot. Carol then offers them the chance to “see a movie,” which entices Ozzy as a good deal.
Interesting to see how strong Henry’s morality is, given he’s such a young guy, and it isn’t naive optimism, either. He’s a good man, even if only young. Daryl worries the kid’s becoming too close to the Whisperer girl. He’s scared of what it’ll do to the rest of the group. At the same time, they ARE doing the moral thing by helping her escape her psychotic mother.
On the road, Tara and the women deal with a horde of zombies stumbling from the forest. Then the Highwaymen arrive to escort the group on down the road to the fair. Further down the road, Lydia sees a horde of walkers approaching the building where they’ve holed up and knows her people are coming. The zombies push inside, as the Whisperers amongst them move closer to Daryl and the others. This drives our group inward, hiding, and Beta hopes to use this against them. He and a few of his crew sneak through the building to surprise attack. Soon, our group are fighting for their lives. Daryl axes one of them to death. Another stabs Henry before Dog attacks and gives him the upper hand.
Daryl comes face to face with the brutal Beta. He nearly gets his throat cut on a table saw, managing to survive, planting a knife in his opponent’s chest. When Beta spends too much time talking shit he gets knocked over a ledge, falling who knows how far down. Father Gore bets he isn’t dead just yet. Before the episode’s over, we see him lying down what’s actually an elevator shaft. He’s still breathing and able to stand. Oh, shit.
“Your world is already dead”
A lot of interesting new dynamics to Season 9, and Father Gore, for one, feels that The Walking Dead actually does have a life post-Andrew Lincoln/Lauren Cohan/Danai Gurira. There’s merit in the argument this was a Rick Grimes story from the start, but there’s also merit in the concept that there are so many more characters who make the journey worthwhile. A few of those just so happen to include Daryl and Carol, so it’s great to see they’re getting to take centre stage right now.
“Scars” is next time, and Beta’s definitely going to be angry. Whenever he gets up out of that shaft, he’ll be gunning for Daryl and our group worse than before.