AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 9, Episode 15: “The Calm Before”
Directed by Laura Belsey
Written by Geraldine Inoa & Channing Powell
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Scars” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 9 finale, “The Storm” – click here
In the woods, a couple people— Miles (Brian Sheppard) and Hilde (Caroline Duncan)— celebrate a “happy anniversary” while defending themselves from zombies. They’re right on the edge of the Hilltop. Cut to five years later, where they’ve made Hilltop a home. Hilde gives Miles a token she carved with an H in it as a symbol of what freedom and hope have brought.
And now, more time has passed. The fair stands as another symbol of freedom and hope and all the world has to offer. Hilde has carved more Hilltop tokens to bring with them to the Kingdom. Except, on the way, something nasty’s happened. Hilde’s beautiful face is being made into a mask by Alpha (Samantha Morton).
Happy anniversary, indeed.
At the Kingdom, Ezekiel (Khary Payton) speaks to his people. He mentions Rick Grimes and Carl, Jesus, and tells everybody: “We have always been bound to each other.” He instils them with more of that intended hope, to try and reunite themselves “for the common good” rather than against an external, violent force opposing them. Not entirely true, is it? There’s a violent enemy out there, even if they don’t all know it yet.
At the same time, Daryl (Norman Reedus) and the others return, along with Michonne (Danai Gurira). Henry (Matt Lintz) is brought back safe to his parents. Judith (Cailey Fleming) meets old faces for the first time since she was tiny. But also, Lydia’s (Cassady McClincy) presence brings worry.
Michonne and the leaders gather. She makes clear she wants to reunite the communities. Alexandria has agreed to take Lydia into their home. Tara (Alanna Masterson) doesn’t particularly like the idea. Regardless, even Michonne has had a change of heart. She reminds Tara of her time with the Governor and how times change. The communities have to come together as one against the Whisperers now. Ezekiel’s found the right time for the treaty to be signed. An official ceremony helps bring them all back together.
The fair is going strong. People get to laugh, eat candied apples, and enjoy music. Although many are enjoying themselves, Michonne and others are heading off to the communities. Daryl says goodbye to Ezekiel and Henry, who’d love him to make Kingdom home someday, and Carol also heads out.
Daryl’s crew come upon Ozzy (Angus Sampson) and the Highwaymen. There are signs of the Whisperers on the road and a convoy from the Hilltop are missing. The group split in two to cover more ground. Daryl, Carol, Michonne, and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) go together. They stumble onto a horde of walkers pouring from the trees and get surrounded. No choice left but to fight their way out. They mow down all sorts of zombies only to find they’re circled by Whisperers, all unsheathing their blades and pulling out guns. Beta (Ryan Hurst) orders the group to drop their weapons— a chilling moment for Daryl, to see his enemy still alive.
At the Kingdom, Alpha’s in disguise amongst the people at the fair. Nobody has any idea she’s lurking there under a wig and a sunhat. Too busy enjoying a day of fun to notice anything out of the ordinary. King Ezekiel himself speaks directly to Alpha, calling herself Debbie, acting as if she’s a part of Alexandria. “I have a feeling it‘s going to be a hard winter,” she says. What a downright spooky moment! The ease with which she talks to Ezekiel isn’t shocking, it’s just creepy to watch. At the very same moment, everyone’s at the theatre watching a kid’s movie. The place is full of laughter. Even Lydia’s able to crack a smile. That is, until her mother sits in the seat next to her.
“Strange times— strange ways to cope.”
In the woods, Alpha’s greeting Daryl and the others after the Whisperers have captured them. She’s prepared to teach their group a harsh lesson. She takes Daryl for a walk through the trees. They walk until the sun breaks and come to a cliff’s edge. Below is the sound of hundreds of zombies in a valley. Whisperers are “among them” keeping the undead army trapped in a loop. Alpha hates society, considering Alexandria and the communities as a “shrine to a long dead world.” She tells Daryl if anyone else comes onto their land again, she’ll unleash the dead on them.
At least Lydia’s safe. The insane mother couldn’t bring herself to do harm to her own daughter. Is Alpha really going to stand by while Lydia leaves? She takes a moment at camp by herself to cry. When a Whisperer sees her weeping quietly, she decides to plant a knife in him for some easy, brutal catharsis.
When Daryl gets back to Michonne, Yumiko, and Carol, they find Siddiq (Avi Nash) beaten by the roadside. They see a row of stakes, on which are planted several heads, zombified, including Ozzy and several members of the communities, like Tara, Enid, and poor Henry.
OH, MY GOD! One of the single most vicious acts EVER on The Walking Dead.
Suddenly the fair’s a day commemorating horrible violence. Back at the Kingdom, Siddiq recounts what happened: “What happened was evil.” He’s the sole survivor, a messenger for Alpha’s awful cause. He tells them how Ozzy and the men tried to rescue them and the whole group fought against the Whisperers, using every ounce of their strength. They fought together as one before they were murdered.
But where do the communities go from here?
“We live as nature intended”
The end of this episode made Father Gore shed tears. Sometimes the deaths on this series don’t measure up to how epic they’re made to feel— the weight’s not always there. This event certainly lives up to the emotion the writers were aiming at, and they were able to deliver a shocking blow. This is only the penultimate episode of Season 9!
“The Storm” is next and it’ll surely bring wild things.