AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 9, Episode 16: “The Storm”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Angela Kang & Matthew Negrete
* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 9 episode, “The Calm Before” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 10 premiere, “Lines We Cross” – click here
Things have been getting rough for our survivors. The cold’s set in and burst pipes, soaking everything and causing mould and rot to begin spreading. Fires burned up buildings. It’s also been hard after losing all their friends to the massacre Alpha (Samantha Morton) and her Whisperers committed.
The Kingdom is crumbling physically, and psychologically, to. Carol (Melissa McBride) has lost her second child in the post-zombie apocalypse. She and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) are left broken in the wake of Henry’s death. A stark image of the damage done: the cement wall with a Biblical quote written across it is split down the middle. Lydia (Cassady McClincy) is also damaged, feeling guilt for what her mother did to the people who took her in. Yet she has Daryl (Norman Reedus), who’s taken her under his wing like a surrogate father.
Everybody soon hits the road together, going towards Hilltop.
Things will never be the same again.
Cowards die many times before their deaths.
The valiant never taste death but once—
they were the valiant.
Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is still out there, somewhere, but the council isn’t getting any word back from her, wherever she’s gone. Michonne (Danai Gurira) does her best to keep people together. Everybody’s got their part to play. Poor Lydia can’t quite find her place, though. Even Carol has trouble being around the girl. Big wow when Ezekiel vaguely suggests Daryl shouldn’t stay with them because he wants time with Carol without any distractions. So much of the group dynamic has been altered.
Back at Alexandria, things aren’t as bad. Doesn’t mean they’re great. Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) brings up the touchy subject of what to do about Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). They can’t keep the big baddie locked up down in that cell or he’ll freeze to death.
Negan’s let out of his cell and he’s shacked up with the Alexandria crew. He fast annoys everybody being “such an asshole,” and Judith (Cailey Fleming) calls him on his bad language. Suddenly there’s a weird smell. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) saves everybody from a chimney mishap. They can’t light a fire and have to go stay with Aaron (Ross Marquand) instead. That means going out in a nasty storm they can barely see through.
The frozen landscape also changes things in terms of the series, giving The Walking Dead audience a slightly different aesthetic than before. We see Lydia go out on a frozen lake alone where a walker’s embedded in the ice. She holds her arm out near the zombie’s gnashing mouth. Before she can let it bite her she notices Carol at the shoreline watching.
Irony? Michonne and the rest of the crew wind up at the Sanctuary, where they’ll hole up for a while out of the weather. Daryl sits with Carol and she tells him: “I feel like I‘m losing myself again.” She’s beginning to revert to her old, wounded self, shrinking away from human connection. Daryl offers to take Lydia away and “keep her safe” by himself rather than continue letting it tear the group apart.
Meanwhile, they’ve got to keep moving or they’ll get trapped in who knows how much snow if the storm keeps raging. That means going through Whisperers territory. It also means passing those pikes on which their friends’ heads were mounted not long ago. Eventually they come to a clearing where they find zombies frozen, standing in the snow— still undead, just unable to move. Yikes! Could be a rough spring.
“That woman was able to walk amongst us
because we didn’t know each other”
At a lake, Daryl checks the ice and finds it sturdy. There’s a bigger issue: walkers emerge from under the powdery snow and surprise from every angle. More of them come from out of the woods, forcing people to cross the ice in small groups. At the same time, Carol goes looking for Lydia. The girl can’t stop blaming herself for what happened because of her mother. “There‘s only one way to fix this,” she tells Carol, essentially asking to be put out of her misery because she wants to kill herself. Despite all Carol’s pain she won’t do that. She takes Lydia by the hand to bring her back.
In the storm, Negan calls out to Judith. He winds up getting hit with a piece of debris in the leg but soldiers on. He hears Dog barking and finds Judith nearly passed out from the cold. He picks her up for a little “extra Negan time,” takes Dog by the leash, and makes his way back to the others. Regardless of the horrible things he’s done it’s hard not to find something beautifully human about his protection of Judith— slightly fatherly, and also oddly respectful in regards to his feelings about Rick.
No one ever thinks that they’re the evil one
Finally the crew get to Hilltop after venturing through the snow. They plan to head for Alexandria the next day. Ezekiel’s staying at Hilltop, whereas Carol is leaving their “fairy tale” to go to Alexandria. Back at Alexandria, the group are received with open, happy arms. Everybody’s survived the weather.
Michonne goes to see Negan, thanking him for what he did for Judith. They’re starting to discover a new relationship. Perhaps in the inevitable fight to come he’ll prove to be useful for her and the group. Because out there in the woods, Alpha and Beta (Ryan Hurst) and the Whisperers are lurking, biding their time.
And before the episode ends, a radio crackles: “Is anybody out there?”
Whose voice is that? A new community? An old friend? Is it the Commonwealth?
We’ll just have to wait and see. Father Gore’s super excited for Season 10. The show’s gained new legs with Kang steering the ship, so there’ll absolutely be interesting things happening next year.