Jeffrey Kopp

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Jeffrey Kopp is the Community Editor of the Niner Times. He is a senior double majoring in Communication and Political Science. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead."

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘The Hurt That Will Happen’

Spoiler Warning for Season 5, Episode 2 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.

“You can’t put a weapon between you and losing people, and you can’t even run away from them either.”

After a thrilling return episode, “Fear the Walking Dead” keeps the momentum going by furthering the mysteries presented last episode. With a plethora of new threats and moving pieces, this season is already quite impressive.

The cold open is a tape recording of Strand, warning that he may not survive much longer. He urges Sarah, Wendell and Charlie to finish what he started, and save the rest of the group. He leaves the SWAT truck on the side of the road and begins walking toward what seems to be El Paso. He ultimately arrives at a complex with a series of walker traps outside, quite similar to those Morgan utilized during his “Clear” days. He’s welcomed by a cat, a walker and the sound of a gun cocking. Worried for his life, Strand urges the person pointing the gun at him to take a breath and not act on the Pavlovian response to fire. “You still talk too much, Victor,” Daniel states. The cat is named Skidmark and Daniel says that he likes Strand, but he also “licks his own ass,” so there’s that. After killing a walker that comes close, Daniel invites Strand inside to talk where it’s safe. It is revealed that Daniel has a warehouse of many different vehicles, something that Strand asks about. Strand also asks about the plane and states that Althea told him about it, letting Daniel know that they have a mutual friend. Daniel asks who is still alive that he used to know, and Strand notes that they lost Madison and Nick, but that Alicia is still alive. Just like their dynamic in Season 3, Daniel refuses to believe that Strand is actually trying to help others. Daniel does allow Strand to use his radio to contact the truck stop, but there is no response. There’s further questioning of Strand’s actions, and Daniel throws it back to the Gonzalez Dam exploding and him being shot in the face. Strand manages to make contact with Luciana and they update one another on what they’ve been through. Mentioning that he and Alicia both know Daniel, Strand guarantees that he will get the plane to them. Rather than give Strand the plane, Daniel kicks him out to prevent him from making the situation worse. He notes that Alicia and Althea are both survivors and will be fine without his help. And just like that Strand is left without a plan or way to help his friends.

Karen David as Grace, Lennie James as Morgan Jones – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

John and Alicia return to the crash site, along with Morgan. John is confused when he can’t find the walker that Althea was so curious about. They’re also suspicious about the fact that the weapons they brought along with them are now missing. Deciding to take back supplies, John heads to the truck stop while Alicia and Morgan keep looking. Alicia feels regret for not being able to predict that Al would do this, but Morgan states that they can’t play the blame game here. While venturing away from the crash site, Alicia and Morgan come across a roadblock warning of radiation. The possibility of Al being on the other side of the roadblock causes Alicia to further doubt her leadership. They spot a truck that Alicia notes is still warm and was running recently before hearing the noise of birds cawing. They walk into the woods to investigate before splitting off to cover more ground. There’s a creepy scene that Morgan wanders into involving two crows trapped in a box with walkers snarling and reaching for them below. Morgan kills one, but his legs are suddenly lassoed and bound causing him to impale the other with his stick and struggle to not be bitten. A mysterious figure wearing a full hazmat suit arrives and shoots the walker in the head before turning her gun on Morgan and ordering him to remove his clothes. The woman, later revealed to be named Grace (Karen David), lowers her gun and tells Morgan to try and not speak or breath much while untying himself and slowly moving away from the body. Grace grabs Morgan’s stick and tosses it as he asks for it back, prompting her to pull the gun on him again. Suddenly, Alicia tackles her to the ground, removes her mask and demands to know where Al is. It is here that the some answers are given about the radiation mystery…and it’s just as dangerous as it seems.

A piece of vital information regarding the show environment is revealed. Grace explains that one of two pressurized water reactors 13 miles away had a meltdown. The meltdown killed several people and radiation is now being carried by their walkers, and may have just gotten on Morgan. Back at Grace’s truck, Morgan is given a decontamination shower to remove any radioactive particles that may be attached to him. Grace gives him careful instructions on how to clean himself, including the fact that he needs to remove his wedding ring and clean under it. There’s a solemn moment in which Morgan removes the ring, seeming to take a moment to think back on his wife Jenny. Alicia asks about objects that Grace is removing from the dead, to which she explains are dosimeters used to measure radiation. She also asks about the walker roadblocks, but Grace isn’t the one who set those up. At the truck stop, June tends to Luciana’s wound and gives her painkillers. Luciana is concerned because she can’t feel her fingers, but June explains that it is normal and that her recovery period will be long. In a rather strange question, Luciana wonders when she will be able to play the accordion, something she is wanting to learn. John arrives with two surviving notebooks from Polar Bear, as well as the copy of “The Little Prince,” that survived both a hurricane and a plane crash. It is decided that John and June will head in the opposite direction of where Alicia and Morgan are going. Luciana will stay at the truck stop…alone, which is an especially odd decision. John gives Luciana one of his pistols for her just in case; she plans on trying to radio Strand to see if he got Al’s previous message.

Jenna Elfman as June, Garret Dillahunt as John Dorie – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

Alicia radios John to let him know to be careful about the walkers with the dosimeters on them. This news is a bit defeating to John, but June notes that this only stands to reason that they should keep their mission going. The two end up making it to Camp Cackleberry, which was seen on the side of the van Annie drove the group in the last episode. John posits that the children most likely don’t want to be found, but June points out that when she ran away, she hoped that he would find her. They find bullets inside the camp and deduce that some sort of battle for the locale erupted and they likely won due to the fence seeming to have been repaired. They hear banging noises and go to investigate, finding several walkers locked in the cabins with warning signs written on the outside. Grace asks to be brought back to the crash site to investigate the walker bodies that Alicia and the others killed. Morgan asks if he will ever be able to get his stick back, but Grace explains that the wood is porous and therefore cannot be cleaned. After a full inspection of the walkers, Grace notes that the ones killed are clean, but the fence she put up to keep them from venturing away from contaminated area was knocked down by the crash.

A collection of walkers stumble out of the trees and one of them is radioactive. Grace prepares to go through her protocol of safely killing it, but Alicia is prepared to stand her ground and take them all down. The walkers stumble into a pit of mud and become covered as Morgan and Grace collect her killing supplies. Alicia kills several before Grace suits up and uses a geiger counter to check the remaining three. Not wanting to get potentially contaminated blood on her, Alicia struggles to hold off one of the walkers as Grace does her work. It’s a tense standoff, but Grace finds the infected walker and shoots it, forcing it to land on a tarp; Alicia is able to kill the walker in front of her. As night falls and the site is cleaned up, Grace lambastes Alicia for being so reckless. We learn more about Grace as she explains that she ran operations at the plant and when things started falling apart, she called in all the shifts and eventually their families to hunker down and keep things running. When cities started falling, the plant’s power was no longer needed and the plant melted down. According to Grace, there are 63 radioactive walkers still out there. She believes it is her responsibility to take care of those she couldn’t protect when they were alive.

Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark, Karen David as Grace – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

John radios Alicia to let her know that he and June have found a collection of walkers with the dosimeters, although they are corpses burned in a pile. Grace, Alicia and Morgan head over to Camp Cackleberry and they come to find out that these bodies are in fact radioactive. By burning the corpses, the particles were simply released into the air and June points out that the walkers locked in the cabins are probably the ones who burned them. The additional dead that are found just add to Grace’s guilt as the radiation keeps spreading and killing people via her walker coworkers. After successfully radioing Strand, Luciana ventures outside of the truck stop after hearing noises. Outside, she notices that the long-range antennae has been knocked down by “wind” and she radios John and June to let them know. A number of walkers emerge from the trees and Luciana suddenly becomes dizzy, attempting to fire John’s pistols but missing. She manages to make it inside as the walkers close in and bang on the doors.

As John and June head back to the truck stop, Morgan and Alicia wait for Grace to finish up at the camp. We get an excellent moment between the two characters as Morgan opens up to Alicia about his past, specifically the time in which all he did was kill. She feels that her contribution to the greater good is killing as many walkers as possible. “You are not locked in. A door opens. There is a way out,” Morgan tells Alicia, echoing precisely what Eastman told him in “Here’s Not Here.” Morgan tried to run away from people on many different occasions, and at the time, it seemed like the best move, but it wasn’t. He needs people. And so does Alicia. The pain that they experience comes as a result of them opening themselves up. It hurts, but it is part of life. Morgan’s life started over again because he found the door and went through it. This is exactly what Alicia needed to hear right now. Outside, they find Grace packing up her truck, preparing to leave to go to caverns near the plant to dispose of the bodies…and Morgan’s stick. Morgan and Alicia offer to help and invite her to join the rest of the group at the denim factory, but Grace explains that she can’t do that. When the plant was melting down, she went inside for days to look for survivors and was exposed to massive amounts of radiation. They part ways, but keep open the line of communication via radio. Everyone returns to the truck stop and finds Luciana. Outside, they discover a grim sight: the heads of the walkers that chased Luciana are now hanging from a billboard next to the truck stop, similar to the roadblock. The group believes that they are getting close to something, and that whoever is doing this, is trying to scare them away.

Rubén Blades as Daniel Salazar – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

The good in “The Hurt That Will Happen”

  • Daniel Salazar being back…and having scenes with Strand right off the bat. Plus, he has a cat!
  • Morgan acting as a mentor of sorts to Alicia. This is especially important, given the pasts of both characters. They have shared trauma and both have piles of loss.
  • Alicia being in a dark place, similar to how Morgan used to be, shows that she is still deeply affected by the deaths of Nick and Madison. She is allowed to mourn, which is sometimes skipped over in this franchise.
  • Strand pleading with Daniel, trying to show that he has in fact changed, but not being believed because of his lies in the past.
  • Luciana’s drug induced humor is a welcome break from the gloom and doom.
  • More John and June time is always welcomed, especially with the references to their spectacular standalone “Laura.”
  • Grace is a strong new character right out of the gate, providing fascinating backstory and context for the exciting environmental changes. Her radiation mission is something unique and has the potential to shake things up a lot.
  • The tone and cinematography is both eerie and frightening.

The iffy in “The Hurt That Will Happen Here”

  • Morgan not naming Eastman, Rick or any of the people from his past. This feels a bit like the writers are trying to avoid directly referring to characters and events from “The Walking Dead,” and simply want viewers to know who is being talked about. It would be epic to have Morgan talk to Alicia about Eastman and Rick directly by name.

The bad in “The Hurt That Will Happen Here”

  • Luciana’s skirmish with the walkers outside of the truck stop is such manufactured tension. She has survived long and is far smarter than to just wander outside alone like this when she is fully aware that there are mysterious threats all around. Also, the fact that she suddenly becomes dizzy as walkers approach her feels like more drama to create tension.
Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

Top performances in “The Hurt That Will Happen”

  • Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark
  • Lennie James as Morgan Jones
  • Danay García as Luciana Galvez
  • Rubén Blades as Daniel Salazar

Lingering thoughts and predictions

  • The fact that one nuclear reactor melted down is concerning. The fact that there is another that hasn’t melted down is even more concerning. Could our group have to avert a nuclear disaster this season?
  • Is Grace being totally truthful about what happened? Is it worse than what she is saying? For some reason, her story feels like it has shades of Father Gabriel locking his parishioners out of his church. Did she actually do something similar?
  • The plant was equipped to survive terrorists attacks and other disasters similarly to the CDC as described by Dr. Jenner. No one could have predicted a walker apocalypse though.
  • This episode has a tone that feels similar to “Friday the 13th,” mostly because of the creepy summer camp.
  • What happened to Daniel since the last time we saw him? Will we get flashbacks or a bottle episode dedicated to showing his time after the Dam explosion?
  • Morgan makes several clear references to the analogies made by Eastman, specifically “opening the door.” Will there be more references later in the season?
  • Has Morgan really lost his stick forever? It has been with his character since the start of Season 5 of “The Walking Dead,” so it would be a massive gut punch to lose it all these years later.
  • Morgan’s taking a moment to look at his wedding ring while taking it off shows that he still carries his love for Jenny. It would be touching to have him talk about her and Duane to someone at some point.

“The Hurt That Will Happen” is a solid follow up to an excellent start to the season. There are a ton of moving pieces in the story, which is precisely what was needed after Season 4. Hopefully, the season can keep this momentum as the mysteries unfold.

Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m.

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘Here to Help’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 5 Premiere (Season 5, Episode 1) of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.

“You’re trying to help other people. Now…looks like you’re gonna have to help yourselves.”

The world of “The Walking Dead” is always evolving. The fifth Season Premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead” is further proof of this as the series universe expands and also shrinks. It’s an exceptionally strong return after a rather lackluster and disappointing previous season. The hiatus is over and the dead are finally back!

The opening scene follows two young brothers named Dylan (Cooper Dodson) and Max (Ethan Suess) hunting a deer. Max teaches his younger brother how to fire a gun in a scene that parallel’s the main series’ episode “The Grove” in which Carol instructs Mika in the art of hunting. Unlike that moment, the duo is actually successful and manage to bag a deer. A new name for walkers is added to the ever-growing list as a “growler” stumbles forward at the brothers. Max attempts to fire his gun, but it jams. Suddenly, an airplane flies overhead, crashing through trees and slamming into the ground nearby. The walker is sliced in half as the boys rush to see where the plane crashed. They wander through a field of flaming wreckage, a location that becomes ever more dangerous as walkers file into the area. Once again, Max’s gun jams, but fortunately for the brothers, a heroic figure appears from the smoke with a broken plane propeller in hand to save the day. It’s Alicia Clark and she is ready to take down some walkers. Dylan and Max enter the plane fuselage and find Morgan dangling upside down and still strapped in his seat. He regains consciousness and is immediately forced to fight off a walker, thankfully being saved by a quick gunshot by John. Luciana calls Morgan’s name, and he discovers her with a metal pipe impaled in her shoulder. Talk about jumping right into the action. This opening scene hits the ground running and throws us right back into the chaos of the world.

Cooper Dodson as Dylan, Ethan Suess as Max – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

It isn’t entirely clear from this episode as to how the group found this plane, but we do see that Althea was the pilot and June rode shotgun in the cockpit. The plane is on it’s side after crashing and both June and Althea are knocked unconscious as walkers bang on the windows and try to get inside. They both regain consciousness and unstrap themselves from their seats as John comes through and kills the walkers that are attempting to get in the cockpit. With June now exiting through the door, John is grabbed by some walkers, but June takes a page out of her boyfriend’s book and uses one of his guns to save him. Inside the fuselage, Morgan tries to comfort Luciana, but realizes Alicia needs help with the walkers and puts Dylan in charge of applying pressure to the wound; he orders Max to stand guard and kill any walkers that get inside. Joining walker-slayer Alicia outside, Morgan notes that she has a bloody cut on her arm from slicing and dicing so much. A static ridden voice comes over the radio, asking Morgan where he and his group are. It’s a man named Logan (Matt Frewer), who the group is attempting to help, but Morgan explains that they’re running a little late. Walkers continue to pour into the area due to the sound and fire, so Alicia and Morgan come up with a way to kill them more efficiently. They set up a metal cable that causes the walkers to trip before they stab them in the heads. Still in the cockpit, Althea tries to radio Strand and alerts him to their crash. She tells him that he needs to find one of her tapes labeled “Skidmark,” because the person on that tape has a plane he can use to come pick up their group. What is going on? Where did all these planes come from?

This is a very active scene with many different moving parts. While Morgan and Alicia kills walkers outside, June rushes to Luciana’s side and commends Dylan for doing an excellent job at applying pressure. Frighteningly, Alicia falls onto a mangled fence with a sign that reads “high radiation area.” What exactly this means for the future is unclear, but it seems to be a tease of a threat for the season. June explains that the pipe will have to be cut so Luciana can be removed from the plane. John and Althea rush out to the debris trail in search of one of the hacksaws that was left in the supplies boxes. Thankfully, Althea’s tapes and camera survived the crash, and she manages to find them in the wreckage. This is most certainly a story that needs to be told. A bizarre walker wearing an all black uniform and a helmet attacks Al, causing her to struggle to stab it in the head before throwing it onto a piece of rebar in a shot that is quite reminiscent to another scene that now directly ties to this one. Al documents the strange walker, because it really stands out to her as being unusual and unlike anything she’s seen before. With the hacksaw, Luciana is safely removed from the plane, although a large metal pipe is still sticking out of her shoulder. With everyone out of the plane and Luciana being carried on a makeshift stretcher, Al hands Alicia her signature weapon before the last standing Clark takes charge and leads her people. Suddenly, a van pulls up to the team and a young girl yells for them to get it. Her names is Annie (Bailey Gavulic) and she is Dylan and Max’s sister. Just in the knick of time, help arrives.

Garret Dillahunt as John Dorie, Jenna Elfman as June, Danay Garcia as Luciana, Maggie Grace as Althea – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

While driving away from the crash sight, Annie issues several eerie warnings about the danger of this area. Alicia asks about the radiation signs, and while Annie doesn’t know exactly what they mean, she does note that there are more of them in the area. Dylan asks if Al is a pilot and she states that she is a journalist, something that Max states is likely the reason they crashed. Some information is provided as Al explains that one of the engines was lost and that she was supposed to have a co-pilot, who was presumably Strand. Luciana groans as the van hits a bump, but she proclaims that they cannot stop because Logan’s group needs their help. Max wonders how they know Logan, and the group explains that they got in contact with him over the radio and that their location is surrounded by the dead. The fact that they are headed to a place filled with walkers causes Annie to slam on the breaks and for Dylan to angrily question why they are just going around and helping random people. Morgan states that the siblings helped people they didn’t know by protecting Luciana and evacuating them from the crash site. Annie ultimately continues driving and pulls up to an eerie sight that has been seen before in the franchise. It’s a roadblock of walkers, strung together by rope and guts, not all that different from the Savior roadblocks seen in “Last Day on Earth.” Morgan, Alicia, Al, John and Annie exit the vehicle to inspect, and notice several walker heads that are dangling from an above tree. Annie states that she isn’t sure who created this, but that there are several others all around the area. She is not willing to drive through the roadblock, and questions Morgan as to why they are so determined to help Logan. The group has been trying to help people for a good while now, but hasn’t had any real luck at all. Alicia explains that everyone is either dead, missing or simply doesn’t want help, and Logan’s crew is the first who are reachable. Alicia and Al clear the walker roadblock as the journey continues forward…and the chattering heads continue to chatter.

There’s a worrying shift in tone as the group arrives at the truck stop that Logan’s crew directed them to. It isn’t surrounded by walkers like he stated. Alicia goes to inspect and see if any of the dead are inside before giving the all clear sign for the crew to enter. Luciana is carried in by Morgan and June while John does a sweep of the perimeter outside. Alicia finds a generator and manages to get it running, providing power to the truck stop. Morgan uses the radio to try and get in contact with Logan, but there is no response. June and John gather supplies and prepare to remove the pole from Luciana’s shoulder. Noticing that she is in pain, Dylan tries to distract Luciana by asking about a toy truck he finds. It is here that Luciana explains the story of Clayton AKA Polar Bear and his system of distributing boxes to help people. Morgan adds to the conversation by inviting Dylan, Max and Annie to come live at the denim factory. It doesn’t sound like the best place to live, but John points out that they have movie nights. Annie simply doesn’t believe safe places exist anymore, and June shares in her apprehension, but explains that she has seen that good places do in fact exist. Alicia returns from the backroom and alerts everyone to the fact that the generator hasn’t been used in a long time, and therefore no one has likely been at the truck stop in some time. This update causes Annie and Max to panic and they decide to leave, even pulling a gun on the group as they gather supplies. They don’t want to stay around to find out what’s happening, and can you blame them? There’s no time to stop the siblings from leaving as June tells everyone that the emergency operation on Luciana needs to happen NOW. The group gathers around Luci and holds her down while Alicia comforts her and June pulls out the pole. OUCH.

Matt Frewer as Logan – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

The Premiere seems to introduce the new big bad. A grey-haired man walks from the treeline and sets his sights on the Wittington Denim Company, the homebase of our characters. He walks to the gate and enters lock combination to gain access to the factory. He strolls through the premises and discovers one of the supply boxes with the phrase “take what you need, leave what you don’t” scribed on it. He also comes across a room that has been repurposed into a brewery where Sarah is making Jim’s beer recipe. We see some other parts of this home that the characters have built, including a movie request sheet, Althea’s tapes and a list of people that the group has tried to help. This episode also follows the members of the group that were not on the plane. Strand and Charlie drive the SWAT truck while Sarah and Wendell drive the C & L Freight semi truck. It turns out that Strand actually did hear Althea’s radio message about the Skidmark tape. Sarah and Wendell question if Victor is ready to fly an actual plane, something that he seems to be confident about.

While fortifying the gates of the truck stop, Alicia claims that the siblings are the same as everyone else they’ve attempted to help, but Althea points out that the kids are at least still living. Morgan continues to try and contact Logan, but Alicia reiterates her fear that something is very wrong. Suddenly, Logan’s voice comes over the air and everyone realizes that Alicia was 100% right. Logan explains that his crew is currently looking at Morgan’s crew, referring to Strand, Charlie, Sarah and Wendell. He himself has an amazing view of the river. Logan is the man that entered the factory. He mentions the C & L name on the semi truck the group is driving; Clayton was the “C” and Logan is the “L.” The entire call for help was just a way for Logan to regain control of his factory without any violence. In addition to not harming our survivors, Logan even gives back nearly all of the group’s belongings. Alicia absolutely snaps and threatens to kill Logan when he refers to her as “sweetheart,” but he reiterates that he doesn’t want to see them dead at all. He just wants his property back. It isn’t an entirely unreasonable move, and while he is clearly being set up to be the villain, he hasn’t harmed anyone just yet.

Alexa Nisenson as Charlie, Daryl Mitchell as Wendell- Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

Following being kicked out from the denim factory, the survivors that didn’t leave on the plane must now reassess what to do next. While drinking a beer she brewed, Sarah talks to a beer magazine cover with Jim’s face on it. Her and Wendell talk about their anger at Logan for kicking them out, prompting Charlie to step forward and state that she can sneak and find a way in. Strand finds the tape that Al told her to watch, telling the group that they will get the mill back after they get their people back. While sitting alone, Strand watches the “Skidmark” interview tape and sees none other than Daniel Salazar on the screen before him. The look on Victor’s face is nothing short of shock and fear. They did NOT end on good terms the last they saw one another. At the truck stop, Al watches the recording from the crash site. She focuses in on the strange walker wearing a black uniform that she impaled through a pole. Morgan finds her and tells her to go get a cut on her head looked at, simultaneously stating that it isn’t her fault that the tapes haven’t helped much in their mission. She notes that what she recorded today may change that though. Meanwhile, June and John have a heart to heart about a VHS movie that was found. Feeling somewhat hopeless about their mission, John wants to wait until later to watch the film, but June remains totally hopeful that they will be successful. She points to herself as clear proof that he and the others are able to help people find their way again. A similar conversation happens between Morgan and Alicia, who have different takes on whether or not the risk they are taking is worth it. Alicia is angry about the fact that the group risked their lives and Luci nearly died. She points out the sacrifice Madison made to keep her standing, but Morgan turns around and questions why that matters if Alicia isn’t doing something important with her life. Morgan thinks that this mission should be difficult, because it is the group making up for the things they’ve done. They ultimately don’t agree entirely, but Alicia seems to agree to keep the mission going.

The ending of the episode is a complete game-changer for the entire franchise. Against the word of Morgan, Al returns to the plane crash site and relocates the impaled walker. She removes the helmet of the walker and kills it before inspecting it closely as rain pours down hard. Recording, she notices a strange wire sticking out of the uniform. She also finds a zipped baggie on the body, which she opens and sees that it contains a map with the word “CRM” written on it. In addition, there is a clear booklet with shapes on each page, possibly states or counties. On the map and booklet is a tri-circle symbol that viewers may have seen before elsewhere. She radios Morgan and lets him know that her suspicions were founded. Suddenly, a mysterious figure dressed in the same creepy uniform appears behind her and tases before turning the camera to his/her’s covered face. Who are these mysterious people? What is that symbol? Where have you seen it before? It’s rather missable, but the symbol actually appears on the helicopter that Rick Grimes is evacuated in after blowing up the bridge in “What Comes After.” Yes, the two shows are now connected even more by a mysterious group that rescued and/or kidnapped the protagonist of “The Walking Dead.” This goes to show that the helicopter organization has hands across multiple parts of the country. The mystery of where exactly Rick was taken is going to be unfolding partially here on “Fear.” It’s a shocking move that further links the two stories and potentially sets up future crossovers that may spill into the upcoming Rick film trilogy. Things are changing…and it is exciting.

Maggie Grace as Althea – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

The good in “Here to Help”

  • The tone is an excellent mix of mystery, bleakness and hope. There are a ton of moving parts in this episode that serve to balance the various moods.
  • The opening plane crash sequence is the perfect way to kickstart the season and provide some thrilling action right out of the gate.
  • Alicia taking charge and getting to be a leader is exactly what she deserves after four seasons of stellar development.
  • The new characters are interesting additions to the story and will surely provide some unique perspectives to things, especially the children.
  • Luciana being injured raises the stakes and adds an additional layer of danger to the episode.
  • Morgan and Alicia’s dynamic continues to be fascinating and their varying viewpoints helps to create tension.
  • Morgan needing to make up for the things he’s done in the past is a fitting culmination of his past on both shows.
  • John and June’s relationship is a warm and moving bit of hope and heart that the story desperately needs.
  • The “surprise” return of Daniel via Al’s tapes is an exciting way to bring back a fan favorite while also teasing his reunion with Victor.
  • The radiation signs teases a possibly large threat that could shift the environments into some really terrifying and interesting ways.
  • The introduction of the helicopter into the “Fear” canon further links the two shows while also setting the stage for the Rick trilogy.

Top performances in “Here to Help”

  • Lennie James as Morgan Jones
  • Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark
  • Danay García as Luciana Galvez
  • Jenna Elfman as June
  • Matt Frewer as Logan
  • Cooper Dodson as Dylan
Colman Domingo as Victor Strand, Daryl Mitchell as Wendell  – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

Lingering thoughts and predictions

  • With the introduction of the helicopter crew in “Fear,” it could be possible that Season 5 is setting Morgan up to depart the series for the Rick film trilogy. It would be extremely fitting for him to reunite with his day one friend as Rick’s story comes to an end once and for all.
  • The placement of the impaled walker on the piece of debris directly mirrors Rick’s near fatal injury in Season 9.
  • Alicia doesn’t seem to be in the best mental state, and after Season 4, you can’t blame her. Hopefully, she continues to mention Madison and Nick, so their losses are still felt.
  • Althea going out into the world to get her story shows her dedication to being a storyteller, even in this world. Could she also be taken out of the “Fear” story to transition to the Rick film trilogy?
  • It was teased last season that Al interviewed Daniel. In addition to him, one of her tapes hints that she also interviewed Abraham Ford and Eugene Porter. Will we see their interviews ever?
  • Victor’s reunion with Daniel is going to certainly be bumpy. The last time they saw one another was in Season 3’s “Things Bad Begun” in which Strand shoots Daniel in the face while facilitating the Proctor invasion of the Gonzalez Dam.
  • Luciana is injured once again, something that seems to be a recurring element of her character. This is similar to Tara in “The Walking Dead.”
  • Charlie offering to sneak into the mill is something that is very much in line with her character as seen in Season 4 when she tricked the residents of the Dell Diamond Stadium so the Vultures could gain information.
  • Logan is an interesting character who will surely devolve into violence as our crew pushes back against his takeover.

“Here to Help” is an exceptionally strong season premiere and episode overall. It feels great to jump back into this world, which is now more connected with the main series than ever. There are a ton of solid character moments and bits of intrigue that will surely help to drive the story this season. Cheers to Season 5!

Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

Making an Impact

Elissa Miller

If I’ve spoken to you in the past two years, there is a 99% chance I have mentioned the television show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” to you. It tells the story of Rebecca Bunch, an unfulfilled attorney in New York City who happens to run into her first boyfriend on the street. She subsequently quits her job and moves to the suburban mecca of West Covina, CA in an attempt to win his heart. However, that doesn’t even begin to grasp the emotional depth and skill behind this masterpiece of television. I’ve completely fallen in love with it and was nervous to see how it would pull off its fourth — and final — season this year. Operating at such a high level and finding a satisfying conclusion can be hard.

Image courtesy of The CW

However, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” completely nailed it. Its final season was just as funny, heartfelt, musically-gifted and special as before. Its final two episodes left me utterly speechless. Over the course of four seasons, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” tackled a number of story-lines and themes, from coming out to abortion to mental illness to women’s sexuality. All were treated with incredible empathy and respect. I’ve never seen a show that featured a character coming out as bisexual in the form of a massive song and dance number. I’ve never seen a show that focused, essentially, on the main character’s journey to loving herself and overcoming mental illness (especially one that told her “Anti-Depressants Are So Not a Big Deal”). I’ve never seen a show that was so obviously created by (and understanding of) women. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” also truly nailed the concept of character growth. The show built a city and a cast that I completely cared about; it gave even the smallest of characters a personality and a story-line (and often, a song as well).

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” was a unique, special and innovative show. I feel lucky to have even been able to witness it. I’ll miss you, Rebecca Bunch. I hope you’re thriving out there.

Image courtesy of Nintendo

Noah Howell

Since its full reveal at E3 in 2018, “Super Smash Bros Ultimate” was at the forefront of my hype up until its release in December. Despite releasing at the halfway mark of the school year, much of my first semester was spent speculating over who would be added as newcomers which made me keep up with the Nintendo Directs that showed off all the new stuff coming. “Smash” is a culmination of some of gaming’s biggest and longest running franchises, and not just Nintendo’s either. The game is great both as a party game with friends and as a title to be competitive in. Through my classes in computer science and at some of the school’s tournaments and meet-ups, I have met a lot of cool people through “Smash” as well. Even as I dove deep into the competitive scene at UNC Charlotte with some intense singles tournaments, I am continually reminded each time I’m hanging out with friends that “Smash” is at its best when simply played as a group.

Image courtesy of BANDAI NAMCO

Aaron Febre

As a long time fan of the “Tales of” series, I was looking forward to buying this new remaster of “Tales of Vesperia.” I finally got around to buying it during Spring Break and I was glad I played it this semester. Playing this game was a reminder of an amazing time period of JRPGs (Japanese Role-Playing Games) in the 2000s. This was the same era of games such as “Tales of the Abyss,” “Kingdom Hearts II,” and “Persona 4.” Yuri Lowell is one of the best protagonists in the series. His snide yet caring personality was relatable that complemented an amazing cast. Combined with a solid story, a great combat system and the iconic art style from Kōsuke Fujishima‎, “Tales of Vesperia” has quickly become one of my favorite video games of all time.

Image courtesy of Heist or Hit Records

Tyler Trudeau

While I could’ve just as easily put something like “Avengers: Endgame” as one of the most impactful things I witnessed this semester (as it surely was), the first thing that came to mind was the band “Her’s”. With the Liverpool-based pop duo of Stephen Fitzpatrick and Audun Laading first piquing my interest last year when I stumbled upon their vibrant 2016 singles, “Marcel” and “What Once Was,” I was introduced to yet another phenomenally dreamy pop group to follow along. It was in March of this year unfortunately that the duo’s musical talents were cut short, as both Fitzpatrick and Laading, as well as tour manager, Trevor Engelbrektson, were killed in a head-on traffic collision in Arizona. With their sudden deaths, I was encouraged to turn my ear to their music again. As their 2018 sophomore album “Invitation to Her’s” perfectly encapsulated the duo’s love for peculiar, sardonic lyricism and off-kilter craftsmanship, Her’s represents yet another budding talent taken from this world much too soon. Some of my favorite tracks include “Harvey,” “Breathing Easy” and “Speed Racer.”

Arik Miguel

Image courtesy of Warp Records

Every once in a while, some piece of media will come along that stops me in my tracks and forces me to reassess my understanding of music or cinema. Yves Tumor’s 2018 release, “Safe in the Hands of Love,” is a series of experimental songs that are fluid but at the same time incredibly abrasive. These songs are tied together by elegantly crafted threads, but at the same time, these songs are often decorated with ugliness. The first time I listened to this album I was left gasping for air, I had never heard anything like this before. All of my preconceptions about music were ripped to shreds, doused in gasoline, and set aflame. Thematically, the album deals with the concept of freedom, but it is the albums freedom from music norms that has brought me back to it again and again, and changed my understanding of what music can and should be.

Image courtesy of Netflix

Jeffrey Kopp

The zombie genre is nothing new. There have been countless takes on the un-dead over the years, but people are still fascinated and moved by the dead rising and taking over the world. Back in January, Netflix released “Kingdom,” a zombie outbreak story set in Korea during the Joseon dynasty. As someone who loves history, politics and zombies, this was right up my fit and quickly became my favorite discovery of the year. It is terrifying, gripping and emotionally powerful, and is definitely worth a binge.

TV REVIEW: ‘Game of Thrones’ – ‘The Long Night’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 8, Episode 3 of “Game of Thrones,” as well as all previous episodes of the series.

“What do we say to the God of Death? Not today.”

It has all been building up to this. The first episode teased the power and mystery of the White Walkers, but this episode culminates their threat into one epic battle that will define the scale of this series forever. Problems are present, but this is an episode for the ages.

Winterfell

Fear. That’s the general feeling in Winterfell as the fighters prepare for what very may be their final battle. Sam’s hands shake as he walks into the center of the bustling town. Unsullied march and those not fighting head down to the Crypt. Lady Mormont orders her men into their positions as Theon pushes Bran’s wheelchair toward the godswood. Davos, Arya and Sansa stand ready at the battlements, looking toward the horizon for the approaching army. Drogon and Rhagael fly overhead with Daenerys and Jon riding them away from Winterfell as part of their plan. The Dothraki are on the front lines with trebuchets lined behind them, and the Unsullied following suit. Brienne leads the flank with Podrick, Jaime and many others under her command. Tormund, Beric, The Hound, Gendry, Edd and Sam stand on the frontlines of another flank; Jorah and Ghost stand alongside the Dothraki. A mysterious horseback rider crosses the no man’s land and approaches the Winterfell front line. It is none other than Melisandre, who approaches Jorah and asks him to order the Dothraki to raise their swords. Stepping forward to one Dothraki rider, Melisandre places her hands around his sword and recites a spell. This causes the swords of the Dothraki fighters to ignite in a wave of flames that lights up the battleground. Melisandre then enters the gates of Winterfell and reunites with Davos, telling him that there is no need to carry out his promise to execute her seeing as how she will be dead by dawn. The intensity and feeling of dread present in these opening minutes is nothing short of incredible. This is a series that is no stranger to battle sequences, but these first few minutes are proof that this will be no ordinary battle.

There’s no going back at all. The Dothraki charge forward onto the battlefield, their lighted swords and battle cries breaking through the darkness. From atop a ridge, Jon and Dany watch as a vast swarm of light sweeps across the field before colliding with a force of darkness. Those remaining at Winterfell see a truly eerie sight as the lighted swords die out one by one on the horizon until there is nothing but darkness and silence. A handful of surviving horses and fighters charge back, including Jorah. The terrifying moans and screeches of the wights can be heard as they charge forward toward the new frontline. A literal wave of undead collide with the Unsullied and the two flanks, leaving all of the soldiers overwhelmed and many dead. Brienne is tackled to the ground, but Jaime manages to kill the wights stacked on her as a flood of fire envelopes across the screen. It’s Drogon and Dany unleashing hellfire on the Army of the Dead. Jon and Rhaegal do the same, creating a chaotic mess of death and fire. Jon and Rhaegal charge toward the opposite end of the battlefield where the White Walkers stand, attempting to wipe out the command. A gigantic blizzard tears in from the treeline, leaving Jon and his dragon lost in the wind and snow. This also creates problems for Dany and her dragon, and Arya notices this. She orders a reluctant Sansa down to the Crypt, handing over a dragonglass dagger and telling her to “stick ’em with the pointy end.” The blizzard overtakes the battle on the ground, creating visibility problems for those fighting, but not the dead obviously. This was all part of their plan.

Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark and Maisie Williams as Arya Stark.

This episode is chaotic in the sense that there is literally so much happening at once that it is almost impossible to recap it all. Jorah is tackled from his horse by a pair of wights, but he doesn’t miss any beats as he continues fighting. There are numerous characters also being tackled, including Sam who is saved at the last minute by Edd. Sadly, a knife of a wight plunges right through Edd’s throat and mouth. The insanity above ground is juxtaposed by the relative calm in the Crypt as Sansa joins those trying to ride out the storm. She doesn’t need to say anything at all. Everyone knows how hopeless things are. Tyrion chugs wine, feeling that his life is about to come to an end. Things are also hectic in the air as Jon and Rhaegal struggle to fly through the blizzard, eventually colliding with Dany and Drogon. Back on the ground, orders are given for the fighters to retreat back inside Winterfell and Lady Mormont commands that the gate be opened. A flood of terrified soldiers rush into the center of Wintefell as Grey Worm and the Unsullied protect the retreat. Once the retreat is completed, Grey Worm and a small number of Unsullied retreat also, but most stand their ground. It is here that Grey Worm gives the order to light the trench, prompting Davos to signal for Dany. With almost no visibility, Dany doesn’t see the signal, so Davos orders the archers to fire their burning arrows to light the trench. This is completely unsuccessful, so a plan is hatched that includes the Unsullied creating a path for Melisandre to step forward to the trench. The Red Woman recites her spell, but it doesn’t seem to be working and as the undead grow closer, she becomes visibly worried that the Lord of Light will not come through. Suddenly, the trench engulfs in flames, surrounding Winterfell entirely and keeping the Army of the Dead from reaching the castle walls. Melisandre did THAT.

This isn’t really a respite from the battle, but the dead are kept back for a moment; their blue eyes stare down those in Winterfell from across the burning trench. As the last few retreat inside, those in the Crypt are left totally in the dark as to what’s happening. Tyrion wishes to be upstairs helping in the fight, but both Sansa and Varys posit that he would be dead if that were the case. Sansa notes that everyone in the Crypt is there because they would be a liability in the fight. Tyrion gets nostalgic and points out that perhaps he and Sansa should have remained married. She points out that Tyrion was certainly the best of her relationships, but that it wouldn’t have worked out between them because of his allegiance to Daenerys. Missandei pipes in and states that Dany is the reason they’re all not dead already. In the godswood, Theon attempts to apologize for all the things he did to Bran, but the Three-Eye Raven states that “everything you did, brought you to where you are now…where you belong, home.” If that isn’t the perfect line to encapsulate the arc of Theon and the overall story itself. Bran then lets Theon know it is time for him to go, and he wargs into some ravens that fly over the mess unfolding at Winterfell. Bran finds the Night King and Viserion hovering high up in the sky. The brief break in battle comes to an end as the Night King raises his hand and silently commands his army. One by one, a few lone wights throw themselves onto a single spot on the lighted trench, creating a bridge of sorts as the fire dies down. This rare phenomenon where wights interact with fire occurs all along the trench, allowing the army to flood over and reach the walls. And just like that, the Battle of Winterfell returns to chaos.

Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark.

With Winterfell having the high ground, it would seem that they would have the advantage, but the wights are relentless. Evoking a feel similar to “World War Z” and “The Walking Dead,” the wights slam against the wall and begin climbing. Those positioned on the wall must slice and dice, knocking bodies back down into the climbing horde. Once a few wights make it through the line of defense, everything falls apart. Brienne comes to the rescue of Jaime, who is being overwhelmed by undead, giving the two the advantage to fight back to back. Arya swings into battle mode with her handy new weapon, and slices and stabs invaders. While trying to flee away from a cluster, Arya slams her head against a doorpost. A dead giant storms through the gate and slams Lady Mormont with his hand. In a final act of heroism, Lady Mormont stands, raises her weapon and charges straight for the giant, letting out a battle cry. The giant picks the young warrior up and squeezes her, crushing her bones, but Lady Mormont isn’t done fighting; she plunges her weapon straight in the eye of the giant, killing it before the behemoth drops to the ground. Hiding behind a wall, the Hound freezes up as he realizes how hopeless the situation is. Beric tries to rally him to continue fighting, pointing at Arya as a lead they should be following. Above the clouds, Jon, Dany and the dragons hover as they try to get a sense of their location. Viserion’s blue flame sparks a dizzying aerial battle that catches the living dragons off guard completely. There is seriously so much happening that mini battles break out in various locations, adding to the overall scale.

Through and through, this is Arya Stark’s defining hour. Managing to make her way inside, Arya silently creeps through the halls of Winterfell before finding her way into the library. A number of docile wights wander around, leaving Arya to maneuver around shelves in a scene that feels reminiscent to “The Last of Us” and other zombie video games. Using her quick thinking and ingenuity, Arya manages to escape the library, but finds herself on the run from an entirely different collective of wights. Down below in the Crypt, those hiding can hear the scattering of undead and men just above. Some of the soldiers desperately try to enter the Crypt, but that just isn’t going to happen. The Hound and Beric wander the halls and eventually cross paths with Arya being attacked by numerous wights. Beric throws his sword to save Arya, but is stabbed multiple times. Knowing his time is likely running out, Beric throws himself at a handful of wights and is stabbed more times as he fights to give Arya an opening to get away. The Hound has to pick Arya up and pull her away, knowing that Beric is on his way out. Holding back the wights, Beric blocks a doorway and is stabbed even more times, but manages to rejoin Arya and the Hound as they lock themselves in the dining hall. Before he can say any final words, Beric slips away, dying a true heroic death. Melisandre appears and states that the Lord of Light brought Beric back to serve a purpose, and it has been served. Arya recognizes the Red Woman from their encounter in Season 3. The prophecy that Melisandre told Arya she would fulfill is coming true; Arya will “shut many eyes forever”: “brown eyes, green eyes, and blue eyes.” As Melisandre recites Syrio Forel’s old saying, Arya knows exactly what she must do and she leaves to do it.

Richard Dormer as Beric Dondarion.

The fight comes to the godswood as Theon and the Iron Born are forced to fight off the wights; “make every shot count,” Theon commands. Meanwhile, the aerial battle rages on as the Night King charges toward the wall of Winterfell and has Viserion unleash blue fire, creating an opening for his army. Jon and Rhaegal collide with the attacking dragon and the siblings engage in a fury of bites and thrashes. Drogon and Dany arrive and manage to throw the Night King from his dragon, sending him falling to the ground. Rhaegal crash lands to the ground, throwing Jon tumbling across the snow. Dany spots the Night King standing on the ground and utters “Dracarys” giving Drogon the order to unleash hellfire on this sinister force. Emerging from the flames with a creepy grin is the Night King, unharmed and immune to the fire. He picks up a spear and throws it at Dany, missing narrowly as Drogon flies away. After that little showdown, the Night King walks toward Winterfell, passing through the piles and piles of corpses left in wake of the battle. Jon charges at his rear, but the Night King catches onto his plan and slowly turns around, raising his arms in a power move that adds all of the deceased to his army. Those fighting inside Winterfell take note of what is happening, seeing the dead rise up. The eyes of Lady Mormont, Qhono, Edd, and many others open up as they rise from the dead. An especially terrifying turn of events unfolds in the Crypt as the coffins housing those buried begin to move. There’s mass panic in the Crypt as the dead reanimate and break free of their final resting places, forcing those seeking shelter to run through the darkness. This was a popular fan theory of many, and it just so happened to come true. The Crypt is NOT safe.

Jon has already died once, and just when it seems he might die once more, Dany swoops in with Drogon and burns some undead pricks. As Jon charges to the godswood to save Bran, Dany strangely leaves Drogon parked, allowing dozens of wights to climb on board and attack. It’s a rather contrived scene that REALLY makes it seem like Dany and/or Drogon will meet their end here. This is especially true as Dany tumbles to the ground and Drogon struggles to take off and shake the wights off him. With no melee battle experience, Dany is defenseless as wights charge toward her, but fortunately, her saving grace is there for her as always. Jorah defends his Khaleesi just as he has done sine day one. Jon fights his way through the castle, seeing countless wights toppling in as his friends make their final stands, barely holding on. He can’t stop to help them. His mission to help Bran is the priority here. At the godswood, Theon becomes the final human left alive to defend Bran; he doesn’t even have any more flaming arrows left. It’s here that the episode takes its most hopeless shift into the final act.

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen and Iain Glen as Jorah Mormont.

The final act is some of the most beautiful material “Game of Thrones” has ever produced. Set to a musical score called “The Night King” by Ramin Djawadi, the characters fight for their lives in what seems to be their last moments. Sansa and Tyrion hold their weapons in their hands and embrace for a moment while hiding behind a coffin before charging out into the madness. They’re ready to die together. Viserion recklessly burns the remnants of Winterfell. Jorah is stabbed multiple times as he defends his Queen, but Dany uses a weapon to fight by his side. Jon hides from attacking wights while simultaneously dodging the blue flames that shoot at him. At the godswood, Bran returns from warging as the Night King and his White Walkers make their final approach. Theon realizes they are surrounded and he sees the Night King step out of the snowy haze. The silence is broken by Bran telling Theon, “you’re a good man. Thank you.” He needed to hear this. Turning to face the Night King, Theon makes his last stand and charges straight at the invader with his spear. It’s a hopeless act, but surrender is not an option here. Theon has to try. The Night King uses Theon’s spear to stab him through the stomach, dropping his body to the ground. In his usual dramatic fashion, the Night King walks toward Bran and the two lock eyes. The Night King reaches for his weapon, ready to extinguish the Three-Eyed Raven forever. Suddenly and silently, a girl named Arya Stark flies into frame behind the King and is grabbed by the neck. She drops the iconic Valryian steel dagger and grabs it with her other hand, plunging it straight into the cold heart of the enemy before her. The Night King shatters into a cascade of ice, followed suit by his White Walkers. En mass, the wights fall to the ground. Viserion, just seconds away from burning Jon, dies in a final screech. It’s over. The threat is put to rest after eight seasons of terror.

The aftermath of all of this isn’t easy. This was a hard fought battle that no one really expected to win. Those in the Crypt emerge from their hiding places, surprised to still be alive. Brienne, Jaime, Podrick, Grey Worm and the other fighters take their first breath after fighting nonstop. Dany holds Jorah in her arms as he slowly bleeds to death, but not before attempting to utter a final word to his queen. She cries over his body as Drogon arrives and shelters his mother and her sworn protector. Melisandre exits the castle, walking through the pile of bodies into the field of snow. Davos watches from behind as she takes off her necklace and drops it on the ground. She ages drastically as she stumbles and collapses in the snow in a bundle of bones. She served her purpose and just as she stated at the start of the episode, she died before dawn. The Lord of Light used her to help win the battle before ending her time in this world. In an episode of fitting character deaths, this ends an epic episode with one final conclusion to a long-standing character’s story.

Kit Harington as Jon Snow.

The good in “The Long Night”

  • The scale. Prior to this episode, this battle was teased to be the biggest battle in cinema history…and it sure was. Nothing like this has ever been seen.
  • The cinematography. Pretty much ever shot is beautiful and looks like a painting.
  • The musical score is simply so powerful and is on the same level as that of “The Winds of Winter.”
  • Characters dying heroic deaths. Each of the main and recurring characters went down fighting and had fitting deaths entirely.
  • The hopelessness. Seeing these characters at their lowest point ever shows just how relentless and deadly the Army of the Dead is.
  • Arya killing the Night King is shocking, but totally fitting of her overall character arc.

The iffy in “The Long Night”

  • Characters have extremely THICK plot armor and surviving this battle when they realistically shouldn’t have. To be fair, there has always been plot armor for characters on this show and many others.

The bad in “The Long Night”

  • The Night King and the Army of the Dead being destroyed this earlier into the season. After being the looming and impossible threat since the opening scene of the first episode, one battle in one episode is the full extent of their role in the final season. It feels almost too easy and anti-climactic for them to be wiped out here.
  • Ghost charging full steam ahead at the wights…only to survive? What is the point in having him on the frontlines?
  • Daenerys parking Drogon in the middle of the wight mass…for her to fall off and be saved by Jorah.
Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister.

Top performances in “The Long Night”

  • Maisie Williams as Arya Stark
  • Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen
  • Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
  • Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark
  • Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy
  • Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm
  • Iain Glen as Jorah Mormont
  • Carice van Houten as Melisandre
  • Richard Dormer as Beric Dondarrion
  • Bella Ramsey as Lady Lyanna Mormont

Lingering thoughts

  • How the hell was all of this filmed?
  • Jorah died protecting his queen. Theon died protecting Bran. Their characters had exceptionally fitting conclusions. This is character development done right.
  • All of Arya’s training built up to THIS. She did THAT.
  • HOW WILL IT ALL END?

“The Long Night” is simply incredible. Sure, it does have some small issues and the end of the White Walker threat is strange. That being said, this is a television episod that needs to be watched by everyone, even those that don’t even watch “Game of Thrones.” Give this episode all the awards.

Be sure to tune into “Game of Thrones” Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on HBO.

Letter from the Editor: A Most Difficult and Trying Time for the UNC Charlotte Community

To the students, staff, faculty, alumni and greater UNC Charlotte community,

The last day of classes is meant to be a joyous and exciting time where students celebrate the end of a a lengthy school semester. Sadly, a mere matter of minutes changed everything forever as a former UNC Charlotte student opened fire on a classroom in Kennedy.

The focus of this letter will not be the perpetrator of this horrific act. He will not be named. At the Niner Times, our coverage will not serve to sensationalize or rationalize said perpetrator. As a campus, we are mourning the loss of two fellow students while trying to support those that were injured in the act. That has been and will continue to be our focus. The victims of this act are what matter most here.

Ellis “Reed” Parlier, 19

Riley Howell, 21

Those two names will be ingrained in our memories as two of our fallen friends, classmates and fellow Niners. Two innocent students were killed in a place they should have been safest.

Drew Pescaro, 19

Sean DeHart, 20

Rami Al-Ramadhan, 20

Emily Houpt, 23

Those four names will also be ingrained in our memories. They are the injured victims in this unspeakably tragic event. It is up to us as students of UNC Charlotte to support and be there for those four students as they recover and try their best to move forward.

It’s a matter of fact that this type of violence is recurring in our society, but this should never feel normal. Students should not have to run across campus in fear for their life. Professors should not have to barricade their students in classrooms and sit in silence while waiting for police to arrive. Parents shouldn’t have to clutch their phones, awaiting word of if their child is safe or not. Sadly, this is the world we live in, and UNC Charlotte experienced it firsthand.

The fact that a shooting occurred on campus should not be the defining trait of our school and community. We are a vibrant and diverse collective of people from all around the world. What has been seen in the moments, hours and now days after the event occurred is nothing short of powerful.

In the immediate aftermath, the unity and support seen on and around campus really demonstrates the bond of this college community. There were numerous occasions in which strangers banded together to ride things out and share information. Even those just checking in on others means the world. On a personal level, I am massively grateful to a handful of students who gave me a ride off campus to safety as I was running away from the scene. There are surely several stories such as this where people just wanted to help in any way possible.

In times such as this, it is difficult to comprehend and process everything that is happening. It is undeniably important to rely on your support system. Reach out to friends and give your parents and family a call. Also, be sure to make use of the assistance that the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services is providing. More information can be found here. However you may be feeling is totally valid and there are plenty of people that will listen to you and help you process what you’re going through. This is a communal effort and we all have to help one another get through this.

The staff of Niner Times is dedicated to providing coverage of this event and its aftermath. Our mission is to tell the story of what happened to our campus as accurately, responsively and respectfully as possible. As journalists who are also students, it is our obligation to report information to the campus community even as we ourselves process and mourn. I have to take a moment to commend the Niner Times staff for doing their jobs and providing exceptional coverage in the face of an unspeakable tragedy. It is especially difficult for us as our colleague Drew Pescaro is one of the injured victims. The staff of Niner Times stands behind Drew and wishes him the absolute best on his road to recovery.

As difficult as the coming days, weeks and months will be, we will get through it. Niners are resilient and strong. We will continue to honor our fallen and try to pick up the pieces to find a way forward. It won’t be easy, but the heroism, bravery and courage that was seen from faculty, staff, students and first responders should serve to inspire us to keep up the fight and march forward. Without those heroes, things may have continued to spiral out of control. We are forever indebted to them. Moving forward, take some time to reflect. Be there for yourself and be there for others.

Best wishes,

Jeffrey Kopp, Editor-in-Chief of Niner Times

Correction: This letter originally misidentified Ellis Parlier as “Ellis Parker.” This error has been corrected and his preferred name of “Reed” has been added. The Niner Times deeply regrets this error. 

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, Rami Al-Ramadhan’s name was incorrectly spelled as Rami Alramadhan. The Niner Times regrets this error. 

TV REVIEW: ‘Game of Thrones’ – ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 8, Episode 2 of “Game of Thrones,” as well as all previous episodes of the series.

“We’re all going to die, but at least we die together.”

Here we are at the end of the great game…and maybe at the end of the world. On the eve of a showdown between the living and the dead, the characters of “Game of Thrones” make their peace with one another and conclude many of their long-standing arcs. This much needed calm before the storm is a rewarding and emotional character study of the warriors before they defend Winterfell.

Winterfell

Following his arrival and the cliffhanger stare down with Bran, Jaime is brought before Daenerys and the other leaders at Winterfell for a trial of sorts. Dany speaks to him and explains that her brother used to tell her stories of how they would kill the man who killed their father once they made it back to Westeros. She also questions why Cersei has not sent her army, something that she promised last season in the finale. Tyrion steps forward and defends his brother, but Dany makes an assumption that he may be secretly conspiring to sabotage and kill her. Sansa adds to the conversation by noting that Jaime betrayed Ned in King’s Landing and also worked to destroy House Stark. Jaime makes it absolutely clear that the things he did were the result of him trying to save his own house during a time of war. Bran follows that up by repeating Jaime’s iconic line from the first episode when he pushed Bran out the window, “the things we do for love.” The look on Jaime’s face is one of shock and worry that Bran remembers what happened in that tower all those years ago. There’s a massively powerful moment as Brienne steps up and addresses the leaders and vouches for Jaime, citing the fact that he has saved her life and defended her multiple times. She also mentions the fact that he sent Brienne to go and protect Sansa because he swore an oath to Catelyn. Because of her faith and trust in Brienne, Sansa proclaims that Jaime should be allowed to stay in Winterfell. After Jon provides some input in Jaime’s favor, Dany makes the decision to grant him permission to stay. After leaving the throne room, Dany begins accusing Tyrion of being either a traitor or fool in regards to him not predicting Cersei’s betrayal. It is abundantly clear from Tyrion that he realizes the error of his ways in trusting Cersei, and even suggests to Varys and Jorah that they may be replacing him as Hand of the Queen soon enough. This is just one case of many where Dany acts rather irrationally and seems to potentially turn people away.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister and Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Bran Stark.

Gendry and others find themselves hard at work producing weapons forged out of dragonglass for the coming battle. Arya stops by to check in and see if Gendry has made the weapon she requested in the premiere. There is some mild flirting that turns to discussion of Gendry’s experience fighting the wights during his excursion “Beyond the Wall.” The best word Gendry has use to describe the soldiers in the Army of the Dead is “death.” In a truly badass scene, Arya throws dragonglass knives at a post while talking about how she knows about death and “its many faces,” a reference to her time training with the Faceless Men. Under the weirwood tree, Bran sits and stares as he does. Jaime slowly approaches him before apologizing for pushing him out the window, noting that he has changed significantly over the years. Bran states that had that not happened, neither of them would be where they are now. He doesn’t outright say it, but since Bran is now the Three Eyed-Raven, he doesn’t feel the anger that he once did and now is fully aware at how important it is to have Jaime fighting on the side of the living. In the center of Winterfell, Jaime also checks in with Tyrion and they discuss the fact that they really aren’t welcomed here and neither is Dany. Tyrion questions if Cersei was also lying about being pregnant, but Jaime states that it is the truth. There is a fantastic line from Tyrion in which he states that Jaime always knew what kind of person Cersei is, but yet he stood beside and loved her anyway. There’s an excellent callback as Tyrion repeats his line ” I always pictured myself dying in my own bed at the age of 80 with a belly full of wine and a girl’s mouth around my cock.” Tyrion gets introspective here as he notes that even though he will likely be dying, at least Cersei won’t get the satisfaction of killing him. He even suggests that after he is killed and turned into an undead soldier, perhaps he will travel down to King’s Landing and kill his sister himself. This is a rather unsettling statement as it definitely could end up happening with how things are going.

Outside the walls of Winterfell, the countless soldiers train and prepare for the coming battle. Brienne observes as Podrick spars with another fighter, clearly having improved significantly over the years. Jaime joins Brienne and she goes over her combat strategy for leading a flank of soldiers. She notes that it is unusual for them to have conversation without him insulting her. In a truly touching moment, Jaime offers to fight under Brienne’s command, clearly trusting of her to lead them through battle. In the castle, Jorah comes to speak with Dany about Tyrion being Hand of the Queen. In a rather surprising development from Jorah, he actually defends Tyrion to Dany and states that she should forgive his mistakes just as she did for himself. This is especially interesting considering Tyrion and Jorah have their own bumpy past as they traveled from Volantis to Meereen in Season 5. Dany then goes to speak with Sansa, interrupting a meeting she is having with Lord Yohn Royce (Rupert Vansittart). The two discuss Sansa’s trust in Brienne, and Dany expresses her desire to be able to trust her advisors as much as Sansa does. This prompts Sansa to defend Tyrion against this bizarre pettiness from Dany, noting that she herself never should have trusted Cersei’s word. There’s another odd line from Dany about her putting aside her lifelong dream of taking the Iron Throne to come and fight “Jon’s war” thousands of miles away. This line is problematic, because she still doesn’t seem to acknowledge that this is also her war seeing as how she has witnesses the Army of the Dead in action and even lost a dragon, one of her children, to them. Why is this not more personal for her? There’s a great little bit of dialogue in which Dany states that Jon is the second person in her life that she can trust with her life, the first being someone taller, a reference to Khal Drogo, but also an inside joke about Kit Harington’s real life height. While their is a brief moment of solidarity between the two leaders, it quickly unravels as Sansa advocates for the North to be free once Dany take the Iron Throne. This doesn’t seem to be in Dany’s plans even though she previously said that she wouldn’t force people to bend the knee to her.

Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark and Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen.

In a string of many moments of pure emotion, Dany and Sansa enter the throne room to find that Theon has arrived at Winterfell. He updates them on the fact that Yara is headed to the Iron Islands to reclaim them for Dany. He pledges his complete support to Dany and offers to fight for Winterfell. A tearful Sansa rushes into his arms, allowing the two to have a much-needed moment of reunification since they parted ways at the start of Season 6, just after escaping from House Bolton’s controlled Winterfell. There’s another brilliant emotional moment as Davos serves food to many of the new fighters, one of which is extremely reluctant to join in the battle. Davos inspires the man by stating that he survived the Battle of the Bastards, even though he himself is not a fighter. Nearby, Gilly instructs several women to the Crypts and suggests that they will be the safest place to be. A young girl steps up to be served by Davos and asks where she should be during the fighting. Rather than direct her, Davos asks what she wants to do. Both her brothers were soldiers and she wants to fight as well. Gilly steps in and explains that she and Little Sam would feel far safer if she is defending the Crypts. This brief moment really highlights the importance of honor and sacrifice that those living in this world carry, as well as the price of war and the inclusion of children in the fight. The sound of a single horn blast sends word to everyone that rangers are returning, and Jon rushes out to reunite with some old friends. He spots Edd and the surviving members of the Night’s Watch arriving, walking over to greet them only to be interceded by Tormund who hugs his “little crow.” They update Jon on what they saw at the Last Hearth and that the Army of the Dead will be arriving before the sun comes up the next morning. With a solid timetable, things get even more dire as the undead closes in.

In the war room, Jon gathers with each of the leaders and battle commanders to discuss strategy over a map of Winterfell. It is clear to everyone that they are completely outnumbered and cannot defeat the entire army, but Jon posits that they try to go for the Night King seeing as he is the one who turned everyone. Bran joins in an explains that the Night King will try to kill him, seeing as how he did so with many previous Three Eyed-Ravens as a method of wiping away humanity and history. Noting that the Night King can track him via the mark he left on him, Bran states that he will be used as bait to lure the leader out into the open. Bran will be in the godswood during the battle, and Theon offers to protect him alongside the Ironborn. This is truly an incredible way for Theon’s story to come full circle as he points out that he took Winterfell from Bran and now has the opportunity to defend it for him. Additionally, Dany basically resigns Tyrion to the Crypt, where she believes his mind will be safest; he obviously counters this by stating that he has battle experience. There’s a huge unknown factor as Arya questions if dragon fire will kill the Night King, but even Bran doesn’t know seeing as how no one has ever tried. Jon suggests that everyone try to get some sleep before the fighting ensues, leaving Tyrion alone to listen to Bran tell the full strange journey he has had up to this point. Outside, Missandei tries to speak with some Winterfell children, but they scatter, clearly distrustful of outsiders like herself. Grey Worm comes to speak to her about their plans for after Daenerys takes the Iron Throne. Rather than staying in Winterfell or Westeros at all, Missandei wishes to return home to Naath and see the beaches where she grew up. Grey Worm promises to bring her there and protect her when it’s all said and done. This is truly a sweet moment between the two, but the fact that this conversation happened at all means one or both is likely to meet their end in the battle. It’s not fair, but when has this show ever been fair?

Night falls and Jon stands atop the wall with Sam and Ghost (who makes his first appearance in who knows how long). Edd joins them and chillingly says “and now our watch begins” as the trio reminisces about where their stories began, mentioning their fallen friends Grenn and Pyp. It’s down to the three of them and they’re ready to fight for one another, even Sam who is offered a spot in the Crypt to protect Gilly and Little Sam. This is not what Sam wants though as he reminds everyone that he is the first person to kill a White Walker and needs to be out on the battlefield. Elsewhere, the Hound sits by himself before being joined by Arya. This scene also allows for great reflection on how much these characters evolved as the Hound points out that Arya used to talk nonstop, but is now silent. Citing the fact that the Hound has been helping numerous causes lately, Arya questions when he decided to start helping people. Beric joins the two and there’s an interesting moment in which Arya mentions that he was once on her list, but only temporarily. Realizing these two are too depressing to be around in her final hours, Arya leaves to practice her archery; a callback to her excellency at this skill in the first episode. Gendry spies on her from the darkness before presenting her with the weapon she requested, a dragonglass spear. After asking what Melisandre did to him, Arya learns that Gendry is the bastard son of Robert Baratheon. Things get…heated as Arya begins questioning him about his body count and experience with women before telling him that she doesn’t want to die a virgin. They ultimately begin making out before stripping off their clothes to have sex off screen. In a series that has many instances of rape and forced marriages, this is one case of purely fun and consensual sex between two individuals who believe themselves to be at the end of their lives.

A superb dynamic forms as Tyrion and Jaime sit before a burning fireplace. Tyrion expresses his wish that their father were here to see his sons about to fight for Winterfell. The two discuss just how far they’ve come since they first set foot in the Winterfell castle all the way back in the first episode. Brienne and Podrick join the brothers, as does Davos and Tormund. It is with this unexpected band of pals that Tormund decides to tell the story of how get got his name Giantsbane. When he was ten, Tormund killed a giant, slept with and was breastfed by the wife. He posits that giant’s milk is what made him so strong before proceeding to chug milk in a hilariously awkward moment as Brienne and the others look on in confusion. Tyrion points out the fact that everyone in the room once fought the Starks, but are now here defending their castle. He makes a strong point that the number of battles everyone has survived is some reason to believe they might make it out alive here. The conversation turns to the fact that Brienne is not a knight due to the tradition of women not being allowed that title. Tormund literally says “fuck tradition,” and Jaime notes that a knight may make another knight. The absolute best moment of the episode comes as Jaime pulls out his sword and tells Brienne to kneel, formally bestowing the title of knight upon her. It’s an undeniably powerful moment as Brienne rises with tears in her eyes as everyone in the room claps and cheers for her. After everything she has been through, she is so deserving of this.

Meanwhile, outside of the castle Jorah desperately tries to convince Lady Mormont to ride out the battle with the others in the Crypt. We all know that is never going to happen and Lady Mormont declares loudly and proudly that she will be fighting alongside everyone else. Sam steps forward to speak with Jorah and offers him his family’s sword, mentioning Jeor Mormont as an integral figure in his life. Considering the fact that Jon now wields Longclaw, it is fitting that Jorah is given another treasured sword to wield in this battle. The episode transitions into a montage of the characters in their final moments before the battle kicks off with Podrick singing “Jenny’s Song.” Sam and Gilly lay in bed with Little Sam, Theon and Sansa share a meal together, Arya and Gendry lay in bed with one another, Grey Worm kisses Missandei goodbye before joining the Unsullied, and Jorah looks at the treeline for the approaching Army. In the Crypt, Dany finds Jon standing in front of Lyanna’s statue. Jon tells the story of how Lyanna and Rhaegar were married in secret, having a baby together after Rhaegar’s defeat at the Trident, and Ned Stark being entrusted with protecting the baby. He tells Dany his real name is Aegon Targaryen, which radically shifts her face and she’s left bewildered with this new information. She brings into question the validity of this secret, not seeming to trust Bran or Sam. Suddenly, the sound of three horns rings out, alerting everyone that the Army of the Dead has arrived. The episode concludes with a chilling shot of the massive army staring down Winterfell, ready to make their charge and kill our favorites.

The good in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”

  • Jaime not sugarcoating or apologizing for his actions in the past is very much in line with his character. As is his apology to Bran.
  • All of the Tyrion and Jaime scenes.
  • Theon’s reunion with Sansa is so rewarding and is really what this show is all about at its heart.
  • Davos and Gilly speaking to the brave young girl who wants to help defend Winterfell. This is an amazing take on the price of war.
  • Jon’s reunions with Tormund and Edd, as well as the last remaining Night’s Watch trio scene.
  • The war room scene involving so many important figures in the series, discussing the coming battle.
  • Arya and the Hound making peace with one another.
  • Arya taking charge of her sexuality and having a powerful consensual hookup with Gendry.
  • The fireplace squad hanging out with one another at the end of the world.
  • Tormund being Tormund
  • Jaime knighting Brienne is PERFECTION.

The iffy in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”

  • Daenerys continuing to act higher than thou in an especially dire situation where titles genuinely don’t matter. Her attitude is extremely frustrating, although it seems that this may be part of her development into more of an antagonistic figure for the endgame.

Top performances in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”

  • Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth
  • Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy
  • Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark
  • Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister
  • Kristofer Hivju as Theon Greyjoy
  • Maisie Williams as Arya Stark

Lingering thoughts and predictions

  • Bran’s line “how do you know there is an afterwards?” is quite chilling and may serve as foreshadowing for how everything will end.
  • Sansa tells Lord Royce to keep the gates of Winterfell open for as long as possible to assure that those fleeing from the countrysides can seek shelter in the walls. How many people actually made it to Winterfell and will those that didn’t be part of the Army of the Dead now?
  • Is it possible that the White Walkers will actually be defeated and the threat will shift to Cersei for the final episodes? That might be too anticlimactic.
  • The little girl that vowed to protect the Crypts had a burn/greyscale mark, clearly meant to remind Davos of Princess Shireen.
  • With how much talk of the Crypts being safe, they probably won’t actually be.
  • HOW WILL IT ALL END?

“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is a much-needed calm before the storm. In many ways, this serves as the conclusion to the character arcs of pretty much everyone. In the battle to come, anyone that dies should likely be fitting due to this episode, which is the culmination of years of storytelling. The dead are here. Get ready for the Battle of Winterfell.

Be sure to tune into “Game of Thrones” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.

TV REVIEW: ‘Game of Thrones’ – ‘Winterfell’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 8 Premiere of “Game of Thrones,” as well as all previous episodes of the series.

“We must fight together now, or die.”

Winter is here. After seven full seasons of duels, dragons and daring power moves, the final season of television’s most popular and beloved series is here. This is the first episode of the concluding adventures of “Game of Thrones” and no one is quite ready for it to end. This premiere is a solid transition that sets up the endgame and gives viewers much needed character moments before the inevitable carnage begins.

In order to recap and review this episode as coherently as possible, events will be discussed by location rather than in chronological order.

Winterfell

An epic and powerful sequence opens the final season premiere as a young boy rushes to the main road leading into Winterfell to see dozens of Unsullied forces marching into the Northern city. Arya stands among the crowd and spots the curious child. This perfectly parallels back to the very first episode of the series as King Robert Baratheon and his royal court arrived at Winterfell much to the fascination of Arya and Bran, who watched from prime viewing locations. In fact, the same exact musical score even plays here in this scene. Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow ride on horseback side-by-side into Winterfell, giving Arya her first look at her big brother since they parted ways in the second episode of the series, “The Kingsroad.” Additionally, Arya sees the Hound for the first time since she left him to die after he was gravely injured by Brienne of Tarth in Season 4’s “The Children.” Finally, she sees Genry for the first time since he was taken by Melisandre in Season 3’s “The Climb.” This is just a few of many instances of characters coming back together after years of being separated. The residents of Winterfell line the streets as the army marches in and Jon tells Dany that Northerners are not too welcoming of outsiders. The two dragons suddenly arrive, inspiring awe and terror among all those in Winterfell who have only heard stories of such creatures. Both Arya and Sansa are left stunned after seeing the gargantuan flying soldiers for the very first time. It’s truly a sight to behold as Drogon and Rhaegal soar over the wintery town. Also paralleling the King’s arrival in the first episode, Jon and Dany ride into the center of town to find the Starks awaiting them. Jon rushes over and kisses Bran, their long-awaited reunion after seven seasons. Jon officially introduces Dany to Sansa, and the two exchange pleasantries, but Bran notes that they have more pressing business to attend to. He shares that the Night King has turned Viserion and the Army of the Dead has breached the Wall to move south. This is a recurring theme of the episode wherein characters continue to act normally as if a massive army of ice zombies aren’t headed straight for them.

In the throne room, a meeting of the Northern lords and ladies is held to discuss the current threat. Sansa announces that she has called the banners to retreat to Winterfell to defend against the approaching army. Lord Umber (Harry Grasby), just a child, is tasked with evacuating his people from the Last Hearth. Jon also suggests that ravens be sent to the Night’s Watch to relieve the brothers of their duty to protect the Wall, requesting their presence at Winterfell instead. The discussion quickly shifts back to Northern politics as Lady Lyanna Mormont sternly questions the fact that Jon basically relinquished the title of King in the North that was bestowed upon him by the Northern lords and ladies. Jon vehemently defends his decision to bend the knee to Daenerys out of necessity to protect the North. Tyrion takes a moment to praise Jon’s decision making, and also announce that the Lannister forces are headed to Winterfell to fight alongside everyone else. This is not well-received at all due to the atrocities House Lannister has committed against the North. Sansa poses an excellent question of how exactly Winterfell can possibly sustain this many soldiers during the winter, when food rations are already stretched thin. This isn’t the only prep underway for the approaching battles as Genry oversees the dragonglass, which will be forged into weapons to fight the Army of the Dead. In an episode full of reunions, there is yet another as Tyrion seeks out Sansa and the two discuss their new roles in the years following the sudden end of their marriage. These two haven’t seen one another since Joffrey’s wedding to Margaery in “The Lion and the Rose” when the aforementioned King met his end via poisoning. This resulted in Sansa having to rapidly flee the capital to avoid being implicated in his assassination plot. All this time later and Sansa is able to poke fun at the fact that the wedding wasn’t totally miserable, seeing as how Joffrey died a gruesome death. Sansa questions the fact that Tyrion would trust and believe in Cersei’s word to send the Lannister army to Winterfell. The viewer is fully aware that Cersei doesn’t intend to keep her promise, but Tyrion really seems to believe his sister. Sansa knows that nothing Cersei says can ever be trusted.

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister.

At the iconic Winterfell weirwood tree, Jon takes a moment to reflect and connect with his ancestral roots in midst of the chaos. The voice of Arya causes him to turn and see his beloved sister for the first time in years. Arya questions how he survived being stabbed in the heart, to which he states that he didn’t. The two embrace in a hug of tears and smiles, a rare happy moment in the show. Jon is surprised to see that Arya still has Needle and wonders if she has ever used it. The audience clearly knows she has used it more than a few times, but Arya plays coy about it. We also see Jon pull out Longclaw and show it off to Arya, a rewarding moment of two warriors comparing their weapons of choice. The discussion turns to Sansa, whom Arya claims is the smartest person she has ever met. There’s a poetic moment in which Arya tells Jon to remember that he is a Stark also, and that Sansa is just looking out for the family. In the center of Winterfell, Tyrion watches alongside Davos and Varys as House Karstark arrives. Davos notes that it was Jon that brought together Houses Stark and Karstark after they previously fought one another on the battlefield. Having been in the North for quite some time now, Davos really understands that the trust of the Northerners has to be earned and that Jon has done just that. From atop the castle, the trio observes Jon and Daenerys speaking amongst the temporary encampment of soldiers just outside of Winterfell’s walls. Davos proposes a future wherein Westeros is led by two similar and stable rulers in Jon and Dany. The two lovers stroll around and discuss Sansa, whom Dany notes is not to keen on her Queenship. In a rather strange moment, it almost seems as if Dany threatens Sansa to Jon if she cannot come to respect her as Queen. This is one of many instances throughout the episode, and of previous episodes, in which it really seems as though Dany is letting some of the power she has get to her head.

A collection of Dothraki riders approach Dany to alert her to the fact that the dragons are not eating as much as they should be. This prompts her and Jon to go check on them, finding them nibbling on the burnt carcasses of goats and sheep; Dany flat out tells Jon that the dragons do not like the North. A popular Internet theory comes to fruition as Dany climbs on top of Drogon and invites Jon to board Rhaegal. It was predicted by many fans that Targaryens would ride the other two dragons, and we are finally getting to see some form of that happening. Initially hesitant, Jon climbs on the back of Rhaegal and takes off as Dany and Drogon follow close by. The two soar over the snow-covered lands in a beautiful and light-hearted scene that really boasts the grandiose production scale of this series. After a quick learning curve, Jon manages to take control of the steering and leads Dany to a spot where he used to hunt during the days of his youth. The show allows for a moment of calm to build on the relationship between Jon and Dany as they talk about spending eternity together at this waterfall. They embrace in a kiss that really solidifies them as the most badass power couple the series has ever known. This scene in particular hearkens back to the love between Jon and Ygritte, specifically their fling in the waterfall caves back in “Kissed by Fire.” There’s a pretty cringey line that Dany says to Jon about “keeping your Queen warm.” Drogon and Rhaegal don’t exactly seem too pleased to see Jon kissing their mother and a hilarious stare down erupts. It’s not entirely clear what message this behavior from the dragons is meant to convey, but it is probably in Jon’s best interest to stay on their good side.

John Bradley as Samwell Tarly.

As mentioned earlier, Gendry is hard at work forging the dragonglass into weapons for the many soldiers at Winterfell, including an axe for the Hound. Arya arrives and two more long-awaited reunions come to fruition as the child soldier meets two of her traveling companions. The Hound notes that Arya left him to die, and she doesn’t deny it; she adds the fact that she stole from him beforehand. The Hound acknowledges that she has survived this long because she is a “cold little bitch.” The Arya and Gendry reunion is far more light-hearted as she asks him to make her a weapon before admiring Littlefinger’s dagger, which she now possesses. There also seems to be some mild flirting going on between the two, possibly hinting at a future relationship…if they survive. Meanwhile, Sansa speaks with Jon after receiving a scroll from Lord Glover stating that he will be keeping his people at Deepwood Motte. Jon is angry about Lord Glover not keeping his word to stand behind the Starks, but Sansa points out that Jon has seemingly renounced his Kingship for Daenerys. Titles and whatnot simply do not matter to Jon and he explains that he has brought forth two powerful armies and two dragons to fight the Army of the Dead. Sansa questions whether Jon bent the knee to save the North or because he is in love with Dany. This is an important question that Jon doesn’t answer. Elsewhere, Dany and Jorah come to speak with Sam to thank him for treating the greyscale that no one else would bother to treat. Dany wants to offer a reward and Sam decides to ask for a pardon after stealing a few books from the Citadel and for stealing his family’s sword. When Sam mentions the name of his house, her face shifts dramatically and she confirms the family name. She then explains that she burned him and Dickon alive after they both refused to bend the knee following their defeat at the Reach last season. Sam excuses himself, clearly distraught from the disturbing information she has given him. Outside, Sam finds Bran just sitting in the middle of Winterfell’s courtyard, claiming to be waiting for an old friend. With everyone now at one place, Bran states that it is the time to tell Jon the truth about who he is…and Sam needs to be the one to do it.

After years and years of speculation, the truth comes out. Jon lights candles at his father’s statue in the crypts of Winterfell. He hears Sam tumble around a corner and goes to investigate, elated to find his fellow brother at his home instead of at the Citadel. The two discuss Dany’s decision to kill Sam’s father and brother, with Sam describing it as a radical move. Jon doesn’t give a clear answer if he would have done the same, but Sam points out that he has spared lives, such as the Wildlings. The conversation shifts as Sam explains that he used a High Septon’s diary and Bran used his abilities to figure out that Jon is the true King of the Seven Kingdoms. “Your mother was Lyanna Stark. And your father, your real father, was Rhaegar Targaryen. You’ve never been a bastard. You’re Aegon Targaryen, true heir to the Iron Throne,” Sam explains as Jon’s face slowly shifts and he processes this world-alerting bombshell. Jon seems to be bothered by the insinuation that his father would lie to him, but Sam explains that Ned was simply keeping the promise he made to Lyanna to protect Jon at all costs. Jon points out that Dany is Queen, but Sam refutes this entirely and questions if she would give up her title to save everyone like he did. In the second episode of the whole series, Jon and Ned part ways, but not before the most honorable man in the world tells his “bastard” son that they will talk about his mother when they see each other again. Sadly, Ned would be executed just seven episodes later and would never see his children again. Still, Ned is here in spirit in this very moment as Jon finds out about the truth of himself. Yet another major plot point ties back to the start of the story and everything comes full circle here at the end. That’s not the only full circle moment of the episode. A mysterious rider arrives in Winterfell, revealed to be Jaime moments later. A single shot of a wheelchair with Jaime in the same frame leads to a stare down between the Kingslayer and Bran. Nothing needs to be said by either. Years after it happened, Jaime is coming face-to-face with the huge decision he made in the first episode to push the young Stark boy out of the Winterfell tower, thus kicking off the events of the entire series.

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister.

King’s Landing

The mood in the capital city is starkly different from that in the North. Qyburn brings Cersei news that the Army of the Dead has breached the Wall. This seems to bring her elation as opposed to fear or concern. The camera turns to reveal the Iron Fleet sailing into the harbor, commanded by Euron as he escorts the mercenaries of the Golden Company. Below deck, Euron speaks with his captive Yara about the fact that they are the last two Greyjoys left standing…with balls at least. Yara proclaims that Euron has picked the losing side of the coming war, but his sole mission in all of this is to “fuck the Queen.” In the throne room, Euron and Captain Harry Strickland of the Golden Company (Marc Rissmann) confirm the official number of mercenaries (20,000) pledged to House Lannister. Although, Euron did kill some of them in transit…because “someone cheated at dice.” Cersei was under the impression that elephants would be part of the army, but Captain Strickland notes that those animals are not equipped for long sea voyages. Being as bold as he is, Euron asks if he deal with Cersei still stands. In a truly epic line, Cersei states “if you want a whore, buy one. You want a Queen, earn her.” After more theatrics from Euron, Cersei changes her mind and invites Euron to her quarters. This is rather surprising, but Cersei seems to understand that Euron is needed in this conflict. Also, it isn’t totally unreasonable to think Cersei is feeling alone now that Jaime has left King’s Landing. After a hookup, Euron asks Cersei how he compares to “the fat King,” a question that she doesn’t totally seem to mind, but also notes is an insult to her late husband. If there is any phrase to properly describe Euron it would be “ready to risk it all,” and Cersei basically tells him that. Building off of that, Euron rubs Cersei’s stomach and tells her that he will put a prince in her. Viewers know that he is TOO LATE for that as she is already pregnant with Jaime’s child.

The episode also checks in with Ser Bronn of the Blackwater as he tries to enjoy a well earned night of pleasure with some local ladies. However, they simply want to gossip and chit chat about those left in the wake of the dragon attack involving Bronn in “The Spoils of War.” Qyburn interrupts with quite the interesting proposal. Cersei has offered Bronn a significant amount of gold ahead of time if he is willing to kill Tyrion and Jaime. The real twist of “poetic justice” is that Qyburn brings forth the crossbow that Tyrion used to kill Tywin. We know that Bronn really appreciates the riches of life, but is he really willing to kill two men that he has fought beside and actually values as friends? Onboard one of the Greyjoy ships, several of the soldiers standing watch are brutally killed. Theon barges into the room that Yara is being held captive and the siblings reunite after their separation during the battle with the Iron Fleet in “Stormborn.” Yara knocks Theon to the ground as a retaliation for him jumping ship and abandoning her during the aforementioned battle. Taking their own ship, the Greyjoy siblings set sail away from King’s Landing and discuss their new plans. With Euron focused on helping Cersei, the opportunity is now open to retake Pyke. Yara notes that Daenerys may need a place to flee if she isn’t able to stop the Army of the Dead. Respecting his sister as Queen, Theon is fully ready to follow her wherever she goes, but Yara urges him to follow his heart and go to Winterfell to fight for the Starks. The words of House Greyjoy, “what is dead may never die,” are uttered by the siblings in a powerful moment of unity as they both embark on their own important missions at the end of this story. “But kill the bastards anyway,” Yara encourages Theon as he faces a threat that won’t die. The fact that Theon is headed to fight alongside his Stark family is an excellent callback to Jon telling him that he is both a Stark and a Greyjoy in the Season 7 Finale.

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister.

Last Hearth

In this location never before seen in the series, Tormund, Beric and other survivors from the destruction at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea make their way into a castle for shelter from the cold. There is a clear hesitation as the collective moves inside as they are very much aware that the Army of the Dead has passed them and is likely wreaking havoc on Northern strongholds. While walking through the halls, they run into Edd and the men of the Night’s Watch after evacuating due to the Wall no longer needing protection. There’s a hilarious moment as Edd panics after seeing Tormund’s blue eyes, thinking him to be one of the dead. In the dining hall, the combined groups find a disturbing sight, Lord Umber has been impaled on the wall with arms and legs spread around him to create a circular symbol. Beric notes that this is a warning from the Night King and that the Army is now between the Last Hearth and Winterfell. Terrifyingly, Lord Umber reanimates and begins screaming and flailing around. Beric uses his fire sword to set the boy and the symbol ablaze in a chilling scene as Lord Umber continues screaming while slowly burning away. Interestingly enough, this symbol has been seen before in the series, most notably in the opening scene of the very first episode, being discovered by the Night’s Watch rangers.

The good in “Winterfell”

  • Keeping the plot focused on three main locations as the majority of the characters are now together instead of being spread out all over the world like before.
  • The numerous parallels to the earlier seasons, specifically the callbacks to the first episode and season.
  • Characters meeting for the very first time, such as Dany, Sansa and Bran.
  • Characters reuniting for the first time in years, specifically Jon, Arya and Bran.
  • Old ways dying hard. The Northern lords and ladies not being able to move past titles and past events is realistic. As is their distrust of outsiders that have now taken over their home.
  • Sansa really being given the opportunity to lead as an individual rather than just alongside Jon.
  • Jon and Dany flying on the dragons together is cinematic gold and really showcases the impressive budget.
  • Jon finding out his true parentage now rather than at the end, thus allowing for some potential drama over the claim for the throne.
  • Theon rescuing Yara from Euron before they part ways to take care of what they need to take care of. The mutual respect between the two that has developed is really rewarding.
  • The difficult position that Cersei has placed Bronn in really has the potential to demonstrate his immense character development.
  • Cersei’s ruthlessness continually being heightened.
  • The introduction of the Golden Company as another factor in the war to come.
  • The flaws of characters being highlighted and called out by other characters rather than shielded, specifically Dany and Jon.
  • The element of horror and dread established by the Last Hearth scene, specifically what happened to Lord Umber.
Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth and Daniel Portman as Podrick Payne.

The iffy in “Winterfell”

  • While totally stunning to watch, the scene of Dany and Jon riding on the dragons is a bit odd considering the Dothraki soldiers had literally just told them that they weren’t eating as much. Is it smart to use up their energy…to go look at a waterfall?
  • There’s a strange calmness in the air even though everyone is fully aware that the Army of the Dead is quickly approaching.

The bad in “Winterfell”

  • Dany’s line to Jon about keeping his Queen warm is so out of place for the usually high quality writing that this show boasts. Keep those painfully cheesy lines on the teen dramas where they belong.
  • There is no explanation given as to how Tormund and Beric survived the destruction caused by the Night King and Viserion. How they got out of that alive is a complete mystery.

Top performances in “Winterfell”

  • Kit Harington as Jon Snow
  • Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister
  • Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
  • Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen
  • Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark
  • John Bradley as Samwell Tarly

Lingering thoughts and predictions

  • With Jon finding out that he is the true heir to the Iron Throne, it seems that a power struggle might erupt between him and Dany. It doesn’t seem in her character to give up what she has been fighting the whole series for, so she may not accept this revelation as truth.
  • The reaction of Jon bringing Dany and her armies to Winterfell is eerily similar to that of the Night’s Watch after he aligned with the Wildlings. We all know how that ended, so hopefully history doesn’t repeat itself here.
  • Dany seems to be following in many of the footsteps of her father. Her power is clearly getting to her head, but is it possible that she will become “The Mad Queen” and kill people, even Sansa perhaps?
  • Jaime not only has to face the consequences of pushing Bran out the window, but he will also have to deal with Dany seeing as he killed her father.
  • Bran having his powers is EXTREMELY crucial in this final season as he will be able to track where the Night King and the Army is before the reach Winterfell.
  • Is Cersei actually pregnant? While last season, this seemed to be the case, her interactions with Euron, plus the fact that she was drinking wine, is a bit suspicious.
  • Is this the last we will see of Yara? While it is entirely possible that she will be seen before the finale, this seemed like a conclusion of her story as she made peace with Theon before heading home.
  • Will Bronn actually accept Cersei’s offer? Will there even be anyone for him to kill with Jaime and Tyrion both on the frontlines of the Dead’s march?
  • HOW WILL IT ALL END?

“Winterfell” is an excellent transition episode from the hectic Season 7 Finale to this final set of episodes that will also surely be pure chaos. This premiere places each of the characters where they need to be for the last push of the story and for the coming endgame. “Game of Thrones” is finally back and these next five weeks are about to be emotional and thrilling.

Be sure to tune into “Game of Thrones” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘The Storm’

MAJOR Spoiler Warning for the Season 9 Finale (Season 9, Episode 16) of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed. Minor spoilers from “Fear the Walking Dead” will also be discussed.

“Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.”

Season 9 is one the best seasons of “The Walking Dead” ever. That’s a bold statement, but the first year of Angela Kang’s tenure as showrunner has breathed new life into an aged show. While this finale may not be as energetic and earth-shattering as the previous episode, it still has a refreshing feel and experiments with a whole new element that has never been seen before. Winter is here and it brought with it a TON of snow.

A truly powerful and emotional monologue from King Ezekiel opens the episode. Some months have passed since the Fair and the pikes. He speaks into the radio that Eugene set up to allow the communities to communicate with one another. Somber music plays as he narrates the downfall of the Kingdom. Everyone tries to hold things together, but there’s no saving it. The pipes burst and fires burn the once vibrant community. A stunning shot shows one of Ezekiel’s quotes on the wall with a literal crack through it, also splitting the screen between Carol and Ezekiel. The time has come to leave. Members from the other communities are present to help escort the Kingdom residents to the Hilltop. Daryl brings Lydia a plate of food and urges her to eat, acting as a parental figure in her life. Carol goes through a box of cards that were given to Henry on his birthday each year. Also inside the box is a Shiva pendant, serving as another emotional punch. In the theater, Ezekiel looks over the charter, placing his hand on Tara’s name as he continues to mourn her loss. A caravan of all the Kingdom folk exit the gates as Michonne, Aaron, Daryl and several others act as escorts. The King takes one last look at his beloved home, a place he worked so to build and that so many people died to keep standing. A light snow begins to fall as a wide shot shows the dreary state of the Kingdom. It’s hard to say goodbye to the community, which has been a regular location in the series since the start of Season 7. All good things must come to an end.

Issues have arisen in the time since the pikes were discovered. Michonne speaks to Yumiko about the challenges faced by the Hilltop without a central leader. It’s revealed in their dialogue that a council has formed, similarly to that of Alexandria’s. Losing Jesus, Tara and so many others is weighing heavily on the community. Yumiko shares with Michonne that the Council sent Maggie another letter, but there has been no response from her. In a field next to the road the caravan is traveling on, a small collection of walkers wander around. They don’t turn to the caravan, so everyone is on high alert and concerned that they may be Whisperers. Alden questions Lydia as to why her former people won’t leave them alone. He’s clearly angry at Lydia for her former connection to the antagonist group, but she hasn’t been with them since the Fair. Daryl tells Alden to cool it and really shows how much he’s willing to stand up for Lydia. He also sticks up for her to Carol, who is having an especially difficult time with her being here as she explains that she can’t look at Lydia without seeing Henry. This episode really highlights the importance of Carol and Daryl’s friendship, but there seems to be some confusion and/or jealousy as Ezekiel notices the two of them talking. Jerry warns that the temperature is dropping fast and a huge storm is coming. Snow continues to pile up on the roads, changing the environment drastically. Two snow covered walkers emerge from the tree-line, allowing Carol and Daryl to have a double epic arrow kill. Daryl goes to retrieve the arrows and Ezekiel decides to join him to talk while the caravan continues. Ezekiel asks Daryl what his plans are for after the caravan arrives at the Hilltop. Daryl is unsure, but Ezekiel proposes that he not stick around so that he and Carol can work on their relationship alone. Daryl doesn’t respond at all to this incredibly awkward interaction between two of the most important people in Carol’s life. Ezekiel is mourning the loss of his son, but him speaking for Carol is a strange thing and doesn’t really seem in line with his character.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Khary Payton as Ezekiel – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 16 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

This season has done wonders with the character of Lydia and this episode is no exception. She separates herself from the rest of the caravan and stumbles upon a walker that is half-frozen in an ice-covered pond. She approaches it and sits before it, staring into the lifeless and frozen eyes. She removes her gloves and places her arm right in front of the snapping mouth of the walker, holding it there and mentally preparing herself to be bitten. Carol appears and while no words are exchanged and there is no attempt to stop Lydia, the two end up returning to the caravan. It’s really a powerful moment between two victims of abuse that serves to showcase Carol’s outlook and mental state at this particular moment. Jerry and Aaron proclaim to everyone that they can no longer continue on the roads as night is falling. Michonne tmakes a suggestion of a shelter for the night…but it is rather surprising. The team charges into a barren and empty factory with their weapons drawn. Magna is completely stunned to find out that people once lived in this damp and dirty place. “Welcome to the Sanctuary,” Michonne states, giving double meaning to the former headquarters of the Saviors. Everyone desperately triesth to stay warm as Daryl finds Carol to talk to. The two have a heart-to-heart about the fact that Ezekiel only blames Daryl because he can’t let himself blame Carol for Henry’s death. For the first time in quite a while, Carol feels like she is losing herself again and while she is still trying to hang on, it’s incredibly difficult. Daryl proposes leaving with Lydia to make things less painful for Carol, but even she can tell that he doesn’t want to leave. This is a huge turn from where he was at just after the time jump in “Who Are You Now?” and “Stradivarius” in which he was living on his own and Carol had to convince him to rejoin everyone. Lydia overhears their conversation, adding even more weight and guilt to her already fragile state. It’s quite interesting that Carol and Daryl are able to talk about what they want to do in the future while Ezekiel circumnavigates Carol to ask Daryl to take a step back. They’ve both know her for so long, but asking Carol what she wants directly is clearly the best move.

The collection of main characters realize that staying at the Sanctuary while the blizzard rages on might not be the best decision. While looking at a map, Aaron points out that Rick’s bridge would have cut their travel time in half and would have saved their lives. With no real other alternative, Carol states that they can travel over frozen rivers just as long as they don’t all walk across at once. The only problem here is that they would need to cross through the Whisperer territory, a huge concern that Ezekiel raises. This is a legitimate concern considering Alpha literally established this border with the heads of TEN of our people. Michonne, Daryl and Carol suggest that the Whisperers won’t be able to see them crossing in the cover of darkness, but this is of no comfort to Ezekiel as a literal war could be triggered. It becomes totally clear that the only option here is to abandon the horses at the Sanctuary and to traverse the rough terrain to make it to the next way station. There’s an excellent scene where Michonne checks in on Ezekiel after the group discussion. He’s really having a difficult time as the guilt of not evacuating the Kingdom sooner hits him, but Michonne proclaims that none of his people would be alive without him. She also notes that Alpha was able to walk around the Kingdom unnoticed because theo communities had become strangers. She makes an excellent point that the Kingdom hasn’t fallen because the Kingdommers are still alive and that since the charter was signed, they are no longer just Ezekiel’s people. A chilling sequence follows in which the caravan arrives at the now snow-covered hill of the pikes, and cross over the border. Ezekiel and Lydia both take a moment to look at the place where Alpha cruelly left Henry’s head. This is truly hallowed grounds.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 16 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

We have three major active threats this episode that all overlap: the walkers, the Whisperers and the blizzard. While the caravan travels through the forest, the low visibility stops them dead in their tracks as they spot three figures just feet ahead of them. The downpour of snow makes it difficult to tell if these are Whisperers or walkers in front of them. Daryl shoots one in the head with his crossbow, but the other two are still a threat. He and Michonne inspect them closer and find them to be two walkers that are frozen solid, although their eerie groans can still be heard. These walkers are easy to kill as their heads basically explode when Michonne slices them. They ultimately make it to the river crossing and Daryl steps forward to make sure the ice is frozen enough for people to walk on it. Lydia slips away from the rest of the group and Carol decides to go find her. The creepy factor is increased as some walkers begin emerging from the snow, posing yet another risk as Daryl, Ezekiel and Michonne must dispatch them before the caravan crosses. As more walkers close in on the location, Ezekiel, Aaron, Alden, Yumiko and others assist people in crossing over the lake. In the meantime, Carol manages to catch up with Lydia in a shed. Knowing that getting to the Hilltop won’t solve any problems, Lydia wants to just die. She blames herself for the ten people dying on the pikes as the result of her being accepted as one of the group. Lydia tells Carol that she should just kill her and let it all end. She raises the end of Carol’s spear to her chest and tells her to “do it for Henry.” Carol instead uses her spear to kill a walker before tell Lydia that she isn’t weak and urging her to take her hand and come back.

The other prominent storyline of the episode is set at Alexandria. The snow is falling hard already and Father Gabriel and Rosita have a moment of awkward hugging to stay warm. Eugene arrives to report that the solar panels have ceased functions and that he recommends initiating “Winter One Ice-Storm Protocol” as a means of keeping everyone warm and safe. Gabriel comes up with a plan to split Alexandria’s residents between the church, Aaron’s house and Barbara’s house, which all have the largest working fireplaces. He also notes that Negan cannot be left in his cell as he will freeze to death. The storm rages on at Alexandria as night falls and visibility lessens. At the church, Negan is chained to a cot and decides to poke fun at everyone taking shelter with him. Some of the people in this group include Gabriel, Eugene, Rosita, Siddiq, Judith, RJ and several other background Alexandrians. Negan finds the “love quadrangle” to be akin to Christmas. Being locked in a cell for years really makes everything funny it seems. He questions if Gabriel is ever suspicious of Rosita being treated by Siddiq, who is also her baby daddy. This doesn’t affect Gabriel and he professes that nothing will be able to break up the trust and friendships of the people here right now. Judith is greatly concerned because Daryl asked her to watch over Dog while he helped move the Kingdom to the Hilltop, but she is unable to find him now. Negan points out that something smells funny, and Eugene rushes over to the fireplace to pull away Siddiq and Gabriel before an explosion erupts. Eugene inspects the chimney and discovers that the blizzard has rendered it unsafe to use the fireplace. While speaking in his usual technical talk, Negan expresses how much he has missed Eugene during their time together in Seasons 7 and 8. The group discusses the problem a bit before Gabriel announces to everyone that they will be moving to Aaron’s house. It seems as though the group is going to leave Negan behind with even Rosita proposing that they tell Michonne he died on accident. Ultimately, they decide to bring him along and link everyone together with a rope to assure that no one is lost in the storm.

Cailey Fleming as Judith – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 16 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

This is not an easy storm to walk through and Alexandria is a massive place. The sound of Dog barking in the distance immediately prompts Judith to let go of the rope and go running to save him. Siddiq, Gabriel and others yell for her to come back, but Negan is the one to chase after her into the dark unknown. Negan finds himself lost in the blizzard as he calls out for Judith before being struck in the leg by a piece of flying debris. He follows the sounds of Dog’s barking and manages to locate the two, picking Judith up and carrying her to shelter. He takes off his coat and wraps Judith up in it before telling her that she ran off to get “a little extra Negan time.” She notices that his leg is injured and he takes a moment to make a tourniquet before picking her back up and rejoining the rest of the group. Who ever would have guessed that Negan would be the one to rescue Judith? While others did help search for her, it is rather strange that Negan was the first to run out in the blizzard for Judith as opposed to someone like Gabriel, Rosita, Siddiq or Eugene. Still, we’ve seen the growth of Negan’s character this season as he has been locked in the cell. He’s interacted with Judith on several occasions and they have formed this unique friendship. This seems to be the basis for what appears to be a redemption arc for Negan that will likely take more of a focus in Season 10.

Thankfully, the storm subsides and the Kingdom caravan manages to arrive at the Hilltop. A frozen solid walker awaits the group at the entrance, to which Daryl smashes in a cascade of frozen blood. Inside Barrington House, everyone gathers around the fireplace and Jerry proposes that the community be renamed “Kingtop.” Daryl checks in with Lydia who is now looking up at the portraits of Glenn, Hershel and Beth that Anne/Jadis painted for Maggie. He tells her that they will be heading to Alexandria in the morning and she asks why he would leave that community with it being so nice. He gives a small smile to the paintings and tells Lydia that he will tell her more one day. Ezekiel finds Carol and expresses his relief that they made it to the Hilltop, but Carol isn’t content. “Did we?” she asks before telling her King that she will be going to Alexandria with the others in the morning. Ezekiel is understanding and professes his eternal love for her. Carol states that she will never “regret the fairytale” that she lived with him and Henry before taking off her ring and trying to return it to him; something he rejects. At Alexandria, the sign is cleared of snow as the Hilltop arrivals are welcomed in through the side gate. Judith runs to embrace her mother in a hug and the family embraces RJ who is playing in the snow. In a much needed scene, a snowball fight breaks out with Judith, RJ, Daryl, Michonne, Aaron, Carol and Lydia. At the infirmary, Michonne checks in on a now unchained Negan and thanks him for saving Judith. He expresses his admiration for her helping Ezekiel with the evacuation, claiming he understands what it’s like to lose a kingdom. “No one ever thinks they’re the evil one,” Negan makes a point about his current redemption arc. The episode concludes with a radio conversation between Ezekiel and Judith, where they share in their hope that the Kingdom will rise again one day after winter has passed. Ezekiel leaves the radio and a static-ridden voice comes on the air saying “Hello? Hello? Calling out live on the open air. Is anybody out there?” before the episode cuts to black. Who is this mysterious voice on the radio?

Cailey Fleming as Judith Grimes, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 16 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The good in “The Storm”

  • The blizzard is handled exceptionally well. It adds a whole new element of danger and really serves to make the usual set pieces even more stunning to look at.
  • The Daryl and Carol interactions really solidify just how important their friendship is, especially in regards to their deep understanding of how much trauma the other has experienced and how they deal with it.
  • The Michonne and Ezekiel interactions allow for some much needed respite from Ezekiel’s guilt. Plus it allows two leaders to share in their commitment to protecting the overall group.
  • Carol and Lydia’s scene really serves as some amazing parallelism between two victims of abuse. It’s important that Carol was able to accept Lydia as a member of the group, even after all that she has lost.
  • Negan being Negan, while also stepping up to the plate to save Judith and Dog. This redemption arc has been in the works all season, and it is finally really starting to come to fruition.
  • Ezekiel’s opening monologue is a chilling and emotional farewell to the Kingdom.
  • The snowball fight scene is highlight of the episode and is one of the most necessary lighthearted scenes in the whole series.
  • The snow walkers are further proof that this series is nowhere close to running out of creative ideas and gags for the undead.
  • The ending radio mystery is a cliffhanger done right. Unlike the Negan kill cliffhanger, this is a mystery that allows fans to speculate while not going insane for seven months over an unseen character death.

The iffy in “The Storm”

  • The scene of Beta whipping Alpha’s arm to prepare her for what is to come in the upcoming conflict felt rather out of place in this finale.
  • Negan rushing after Judith who went rushing after Dog felt contrived and manufactured, especially since no one else immediately went after her. That being said, his arc all season has built up to this.
  • Ezekiel’s line to Daryl about how he and Carol needed time alone felt out of character, especially since he knows how important Daryl is to Carol. To be fair, he is mourning and people say things they don’t necessarily mean whilst mourning.
  • Alden of all people speaking to Lydia makes it seem like his entire backstory was forgotten. He started off as a Savior and became a trusted member of the group. Is he really the best person to be lecturing Lydia about the bad guys? To be fair, he is also mourning.

The bad in “The Storm”

  • Tara not being mentioned in this episode, aside from Ezekiel touching her signature and the line from Yumiko, is strange. Why is no one shown mourning her, especially Gabriel, Rosita and Eugene, all of which were quite close with her?
  • The same is true of Enid, although we do see that Alden is clearly mourning her. Would it be that difficult for the characters to talk about two of their long-term loved ones?
Cooper Andrews as Jerry, Nadine Marissa as Nabila – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 16 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Top performances in “The Storm”

  • Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier
  • Cassady McClincy as Lydia
  • Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon
  • Khary Payton as King Ezekiel
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan
  • Cailey Fleming as Judith Grimes
  • Samantha Morton as Alpha

Lingering thoughts and predictions

  • Daryl using an icicle to kill a walker is added to the list of the coolest ways to kill a walker.
  • Carol’s parallels to Lydia also serve as parallels to the former’s comic counterpart, specifically in the suicide attempt involving the walker. In the comics, this is actually how the character of Carol dies.
  • Eugene’s radio system is really an excellent way to allow the communities to communicate. Each season, he comes up with another way to show just how useful he is.
  • Due to the time jump, Rosita is now several more months pregnant. If only Maggie’s pregnancy would have progressed like this, maybe we could have seen more of Hershel before they left.
  • Ezekiel having to abandon the Kingdom is yet another loss he has had to experience during his three seasons on the show. How many more losses can he take before he snaps?
  • The fact that there was no snow in the scene with Alpha and Beta highly suggests that they have migrated south to avoid the winter cold and storms. Even showrunner Angela Kang confirmed that this is a major possibility. Where exactly did they go?
  • Now that Negan has saved Judith’s life, what will his role in Alexandria be? Will he still be locked in jail? Will he be given a job?
  • Thank GOD that Jerry and his family survived this wintery trek.
  • The most likely identity of the person on the other end of the radio is Maggie, considering the voice has a southern accent and Lauren Cohan is likely to return in Season 10. It could also be Anne/Jadis, giving the group a possible location of where she and Rick were flown off to. A whole other possibility is that it is someone from “Fear the Walking Dead,” although the current timelines of both shows do not line up.
  • The walkers or Whisperers that are shown in the field next to the caravan seems to be a callback to Season 2’s “18 Miles Out” and the famous lone walker that Shane sees. It’s also important to note that Rick and Shane discuss the approaching winter and wonder how walkers will be affected by snow and cold. All these years later, we finally see it.

“The Storm” isn’t the best Season Finale “The Walking Dead” has ever done. It has some issues and may not be as eventful as the previous episode. Still, it serves as a much-needed transition that also serves to finally deliver a element of nature that has been highly desired. That’s a wrap on Season 9, and Angela Kang’s first year as showrunner. If this season is any indication, Season 10 should be amazing.

“The Walking Dead” will return for Season 10 in October. Season 5 of “Fear the Walking Dead” will return on Sunday, June 2 at 9 p.m. on AMC. Stay tuned to Niner Times for complete coverage! 

(Living Guide) Surviving roommates

Living with other people is not an easy thing. Even if you’ve shared your living space in the past, trying to balance your school and work life with the intricacies of keeping the peace with roommates is tricky. Following a few simple tips might just save you from the headache and awkwardness of feuding with your roommates.

1) Talk it out

Communication is key in any situation, but especially when sharing a living space with one or multiple other people. It is very wise to sit down and lay down your expectations and listen to those of your roommates when you first move in together. That way everyone is fully aware of each other’s wishes. It might even be a good idea for everyone to write things down just so everything you all agree upon is documented.

Communication isn’t just important when you move in, but also the entire time you and your roommates are living together. If an issue arises, talk it through and try to come up with a resolution. Having tension go unsaid can really damage your relationship with your roommates in the long run and will likely cause even more issues to pop up.

Sharing a space with people links you and them together, but that doesn’t mean you have to be best friends. In fact, you may not see each other outside of your living space. With that being said, keeping an open line of dialogue is crucial. You should be able to feel comfortable bringing up issues you have with your roommates and they should feel comfortable talking to you.

2) Respect one another

Much like communication, respect is HUGE when it comes to any situation, including sharing rooms with other people. Respect comes in many forms and it is massively important to be constantly aware of how you are respecting those you live with. You should also be conscious of how your roommates are respecting you and your space.

Say your roommate has a huge test in the morning. It would not be respectful for you to have a ton of friends over for a loud party that lasts into the night. Like yourself, your roommates are struggling to balance their school, work and social lives. Being unnecessarily disruptive of that is incredibly disrespectful and will likely cause a rift in your relationship. If you don’t want to be kept awake by a blaring party when you’re trying to sleep, it would be wise not to put your roommates in that situation.

Some other ways you can respect your roommates include cleaning up after yourself, keeping your belongings organized, and doing your agreed upon chores. Staying on top of all of these things really assures conflict doesn’t arise over such miniscule issues. It’s always good to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you feel if your roommate didn’t clean their dishes or left trash all over the counters?

3) Realize that disagreements are going to happen

When you have two or multiple people living together, peace is not going to be possible 100% of the time…and that’s okay. You’re human and so are your roommates. People fight, but the most important thing is to find a way back from the fight to return to a place of relative peace.

As noted, communication is undeniably important. Something else that is important is space. After a conflict happens, allowing everyone time to cool off is a smart play so that everyone can collect their thoughts and calm down. Rushing into a discussion immediately a conflict arises might just result in a talk devolving into an actual fight.

Space is something that is also important outside of conflict management. Your shared living space should be viewed as a place of sanctuary and respite from the stress of the outside world. If you’ve had a long day at school or work, returning to your room and being alone might be the best thing in the world to you. The same is likely true for your roommates, so it is important to give them the space to decompress after a long day.

Living with other people is going to be stressful, awkward and even exhausting at times. It can also be incredibly rewarding and may allow you to forge some of your most cherished relationships that can last a lifetime. Problems are going to come up, but knowing how to handle them can save you the headache of unnecessary tension existing between you and your roommates until the time you move out. These tips aren’t an exact science and each situation is different, but taking a few steps such as these will benefit you in the long run.

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘The Calm Before’

MAJOR Spoiler Warning for Season 9, Episode 15 of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed. Minor spoilers from “Fear the Walking Dead” will also be discussed.

“We’ve always been bound to each other. We always will be.”

This hurts. “The Walking Dead” has done huge game-changing episodes all throughout its run, adapting major comic moments. One of the most significant panels of the comic story finally makes its long-awaited adaptation in the television universe, sparking fear and panic among fans. It’s shocking, it’s haunting, it’s devastating. Nothing will ever be the same again.

The episode opens rather unusually, but serves as an awesome set up for the entire episode. A man named Miles (Brian Sheppard) and a woman named Hilde (Caroline Duncan) are shown to be fighting walkers in the forest before wishing each other a happy anniversary. Hilde discovers the Hilltop and the two become residents after clearly having a hard time out in the world. Time passes and Hilde’s hair grows as she makes a coin out of wood with the letter “h” on it for Hilltop and home. More time passes, and Hilde and Miles prepare to head to the Kingdom for the Fair. It’s their anniversary again and they couldn’t be happier. They travel with two other Hilltop residents…but they never make it. Hilde’s dead body is show laying on the ground as Alpha scalps her to remove the long-hair from the rest of her body, all the while singing “Lydia the Tattooed Lady”. Blood covers the stack of Hilltop coins that she was transporting to the Fair, a deadly bit of foreshadowing for the events to come. In just a few moments, the story of Hilde and Miles really made them solid characters. Rarely does this show do happy moments, and their short arc (until the end) was just happy and cheery. Of course, Alpha just had to go and fuck it all up.

Khary Payton as Ezekiel – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The Fair officially kicks off with an inspirational speech by King Ezekiel from atop the Post Theater, standing next to the Shiva memorial. He notes that this unification of the four communities is only possible because of the sacrifices of the many people who died over the years. This was the vision of Rick Grimes and Carl, and he also mentions Jesus as being the one to introduce all of the communities to one another. The physical bridge that they were all trying to build may have been destroyed, but they still came together to honor Rick’s sacrifice, albeit years later. Jerry steps forward to officially open the “First Annual Inter-Community Reunification Fair,” although Ezekiel thinks the name is far to long. Jerry’s son releases doves and medieval music plays in one of the more cheery scenes the show has ever done. The mood shifts as Ezekiel looks over to see Carol and Magna’s group looking grim and preparing to head out in search of Daryl, Henry and Connie. Ezekiel wants to go out and help with the search, but Carol makes a good point that the King and Queen can’t both leave. Thankfully, before the search party leaves, the missing team arrives at the gate with Michonne and Judith. Emotional reunions are all around as Henry hugs Carol and Ezekiel and Connie runs into the arms of Kelly. Carol tearfully tells Henry to never run away again, a lesson he probably should have learned years ago from the events of “Still Gotta Mean Something.” There’s also a heartwarming hug of relief between Carol and Daryl as Ezekiel is stunned to see Michonne has decided to attend the Fair. A bittersweet moment comes to fruition as Carol steps forward and looks at Judith, her first time seeing her in six years. Carol tearfully asks if Judith remembers her and Ezekiel, to which she explains that she has been drawing pictures of them since she was little. They’ve been broken for a while, but the family is finally together again.

As this show normally goes, happy moments don’t last long as the threat of the Whisperers comes back around. Tara is angry to find that Lydia is not with the Whisperers. This prompts the community leaders to hold a meeting to discuss the future. Michonne explains that while she may have cut off Alexandria from the rest of the communities, she never stopped loving and caring for anyone. Father Gabriel shares that he and the Council have voted to grant Lydia asylum in Alexandria, something that she is extremely grateful for. Tara is concerned that Alpha will retaliate against the Hilltop for what has gone down, but Michonne makes a solid point about how Rick didn’t trust her when she arrived at the gates of the Prison and also how Tara was not trusted being aligned with The Governor. An aged up Rachel (now played by Avianna Mynhier) speaks on Oceanside’s behalf and shares that she planned on killing Tara when she washed up on the beach in “Swear.” Tara understands what they’re saying, and Michonne continues by stating that Lydia made a choice to be part of this group, just like everyone else. Each community agrees to send fighters to the Hilltop to defend against an attack. To solidify the united defense, Michonne proposes a Mutual Protection Pact that proclaims that an attack on any community is an attack on all of them. To make it official, Ezekiel brings forth the charter, much to Michonne’s confusion. Tara apologizes for taking it when she left Alexandria and the two put their differences behind them. King Ezekiel and Queen Carol sign for the Kingdom, Rachel signs for Oceanside, Tara for the Hilltop while Michonne states that Gabriel should sign as head of the Council. And with that, the communities are united once again.

Nadine Marissa as Nabila, Cooper Andrews as Jerry – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Henry gives Lydia a tour of the Kingdom and the Fair in a most impressive shot without any cuts. They stroll past Enid and Siddiq teaching CPR, Earl trading blacksmithing supplies, Tammy Rose holding her baby, and Eugene playfully taunting Judith in a dunktank…and then being dunked by the ten-year old. Lydia is overwhelmed by everything she sees, having spent most of her life living as a Whisperer. Both Lydia and Henry feel as though they should be helping to defend the Hilltop, but Ezekiel and Carol shut this down. Lydia feels uncomfortable with the prospect of watching a movie later, but Carol notes that they all deserve it. Carol and Ezekiel discuss the fact that their son is taking a girl on a date to the movies, something that seems totally impossible. Elsewhere at the Fair, Luke attempts to enlist Alden to perform alongside him like they previously stated in “Adaptation.” Enid is totally on Luke’s side, wanting to hear her boyfriend sing. Alden is taken aback by being called her boyfriend, but they both agree that they want to take things to the next level. There’s a revealing and emotional conversation that takes place between Kelly and Connie. Expressing her fear and concern about Connie leaving to chase after Henry, Kelly notes that any goodbye could be the last. Connie discusses the fact that she had to rescue the Whisperer baby when she did and that it has brought up a lot of feelings that she thought she had dealt with. Similarly to the hints that were dropped about Michonne’s past at the start of Season 4, it seems as though Connie may have lost a baby at some point. Hopefully, Connie’s backstory is explored in depth, likely in Season 10.

In a conversation while walking through the Fair, Michonne tells Siddiq that she will be heading out with the group to protect the Hilltop. They pass by Judith playing with Jerry and his kids, seemingly pretending to be Shiva. Meanwhile, Addy speaks to Henry and apologizes for her involvement in Lydia being brought back to the Hilltop in “Bounty.” Lydia notices the two talking, and Gage and Rodney arrive to stir the pot a bit by telling her that Henry and Addy like each other. At the Kingdom gate, Tara speaks with some of her soldiers, including Oscar, Kal, Marco and also Dianne about her plans to follow along the next day and return to the Hilltop. She thanks and fist bumps them for all of their hard work and willingness to defend the community. Judith and Michonne hug goodbye and Magna’s crew say their farewells. Connie tells Daryl to stay safe, which leads into him asking her to watch over Dog while he’s gone. Henry thanks Daryl for helping out with Lydia, and Ezekiel offers Daryl a permanent home at the Kingdom, an offer he will consider. Before the group departs the community, the Royal Family has a final moment to say goodbye. These moments are so important considering what’s to come. Outside the community, Ozzy and his right-hand man Alek (Jason Kirkpatrick), along with DJ clear some walkers as the caravan headed to the Hilltop arrive. Ozzy shows the team the mess that viewers know is where Alpha ambushed Hilde and Miles. Daryl finds some tracks moving away from the ambush and they all decide to split up. Yumiko wants to help out, so she bids farewell to Magna and joins Carol, Daryl and Michonne while the others continue to the Hilltop. There’s a growing tension as these small moments set the stage for the thrilling conclusion.

Cassady McClincy as Lydia, Matt Lintz as Henry – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

The timeline is played with moving forward as Daryl’s crew continues their search at night. Daytime at the Fair is also shown as Carol departs the Kingdom, but from Ezekiel and Henry’s perspective. While looking at some of the booths, Jerry and Nabila discuss the fact that Michonne led Alexandria to the Fair. The element of danger is inserted as a woman wearing the same hair, hat and dress as Hilde is shown to be listening. It’s Alpha in disguise. She snuck into the Fair and is now wandering around doing recon. We get a great scene between Rosita and Eugene as they tinker with radio equipment that Eugene has traded for. He hopes to set up a communication system between the three communities. There’s some initial awkwardness, but Rosita really wants them to be able to still be friends and talk. They’ve been through so much together, and it would be a shame if they let their mixed feelings ended their friendship. Outside, Tara, Gabriel and Rachel propose trading fighting techniques as a means of furthering skills and allowing the communities to learn from one another even more. Gabriel notices that Tara is stressed about not being at the Hilltop, and he expresses his upmost belief in her leadership. Thankfully, the teen drama does not spiral out of control as Henry speaks with Lydia about the fact that he isn’t romantically interested in Addy. Henry and Lydia both like one another, that much has been clear, but they actually talk it out and find themselves on the same page about the matter. There’s a chilling moment as King Ezekiel speaks with Alpha in disguise, who claims she is “Deborah from Alexandria.” Putting on a fake accent, she pretends to be just a normal person, but she does mention the tidbits of information she overhead such as Michonne deciding to come to the Fair. Ezekiel had not met Alpha up to this point, nor does he know what she looks like…which turns out to be a fatal fact that benefits her.

Movie night has finally arrived and excitement is in the air. Popcorn is passed out and everyone takes their seats. Something is very wrong though. Henry is missing, and so is Ezekiel, which is worrisome to Jerry. Judith and Jerry’s children are thrilled when the lights go down and they begin watching their first ever movie. Even Lydia gets to smile for a moment before shit hits the fan. A familiar face sits down beside her. It isn’t Henry…it’s Alpha. Back out with Daryl, Carol, Michonne and Yumiko, they cross paths with two of the Hilltop resides that traveled with Hilde and Miles, now as walkers. Soon the entire area is overrun with the dead as the team desperately tries to get away. They end up standing their ground and slaughtering dozens of walkers in an epic bit of editing that feels reminiscent of the final walker-killing spree in “No Way Out.” Suddenly, the Whisperers emerge from the treeline and surround them. Beta steps forward and demands that they drop their weapons. He also criticizes Daryl for not handing over Lydia when he had the chance in “Chokepoint” as that would have prevented anyone else from dying. Alpha shows herself with a machete and claims that she ran into trouble on the road. Daryl and Michonne both tell Alpha that Lydia will not be returned to her, but this isn’t about her daughter. This is bigger than Lydia. Alpha tells Daryl to come with her and forces him at gunpoint. What is important to note here is that Alpha chooses Daryl specifically to take on this little excursion.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Samantha Morton as Alpha – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The world our characters inhabit change in many aspects this episode. You might question why the survivors don’t just go in gun blazing and kill Alpha and all of her people. As the sun rises, Alpha leads Daryl to a cliff that shuts down that possibility entirely. A herd with more walkers than can ever be counted is shown to Daryl. Alpha notes that her people are within this horde and can steer it wherever they please, including straight at the communities. Having walked through the Kingdom, Alpha states that the world they believe in is long gone. Still, she tells Daryl that his group will be left alone so long as they don’t cross into her lands. She states that she has marked a border to the north and that he will see it as he leaves. Carol, Michonne and Yumiko will not be harmed and will be waiting for him in a field nearby. Worried about Lydia, Daryl asks Alpha what she did with her daughter. There’s a flashback to a confrontation between Lydia and Alpha after exiting the theater. Citing the fact that she is now has new people, Lydia states that all she needs to do is scream and Alpha will be killed. Instead, she gives her mother a choice to leave and never come back. Playing her abusive old games, Alpha slips back into her manipulation, but Lydia sees right through it. She knows who her mother is and she is standing up for herself now. Alpha leaves as Lydia breaks down in tears. In a strange twist, Alpha actually shows some care as she basically tells Daryl to take care of Lydia. Later, Alpha is shown crying at the Whisperer camp and a single follower of hers spots her. Too bad for him, because Alpha doesn’t want to be seen as weak…so she kills him. This is an evil woman if you couldn’t already tell.

The final moments of the episode cause unimaginable pain and trauma. Daryl reunites with Carol, Michonne and Yumiko before heading back to the Kingdom. They find Siddiq tied to a tree and nearly delirious. He isn’t even able to speak; only point at the horizon. Everyone looks and sees something peaking from beyond the top of a hill. They walk forward and up the hill to get a closer look and it becomes clear that it is ten pikes with heads atop them. Somber, eerie and epic musical score kicks in as the characters step before these pikes, their faces stunned, horrified and heartbroken. Starting from the left, the identities of the first three heads are revealed. Ozzy, Alek and DJ. Their heads have reanimated into walkers and their faces have looks of death, but are still recognizable. Prior to each of the rest of the victims, the narrative flashes to the Kingdom to show the confusion of their loved ones. The next head is Frankie. Eugene tries to help Frankie’s daughter Alice locate her mother…but she’s gone. Connie and Kelly speak with Earl, who is now holding the baby. The head of Tammy Rose is revealed. Gage asks if anyone has seen his missing friends. Rodney and Addy are two more victims. Luke and Alden perform together on stage, but Alden searches the crowd for his girlfriend who is nowhere to be found. The head of Enid is shown with her long hair blowing in the wind. Father Gabriel speaks with Eugene, clearly looking for someone. Cut to the head of Tara snarling on top of a pike. At the theater, Lydia rushes up to Ezekiel terrified because her mother was there and the boy she likes is no where to be found. In the field, Daryl rushes to Carol, trying to shield her eyes and prevent her from looking at the final victim. It’s too late. We’ve been through this before. The camera pans past each of the heads to reveal Henry at the very end. Ten characters brutally killed as a show of force and a declaration of war by an evil woman.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

What follows the pike reveal is somehow even more sad and haunting, but also inspirational. Everyone returns to the Kingdom and gathers to listen to Siddiq give a speech explaining what happened to himself and the victims. His belief is that Alpha kept him alive to tell the story of what happened to those she killed to scare and drive the survivors apart once again. Instead, Siddiq chooses to tell a story of absolute heroism. Flashbacks to the fateful night are shown as his narration continues. The victims were kept bound in a barn, but Ozzy, Alek and DJ found them and charged in to try and rescue them. This gave everyone an opening and they fought back, defending one another as a family. The scene has so many layers to it as this group of people give it their all to fight and kill a handful of Whisperers. Rodney is unable to free himself from his bonds, but Tammy Rose uses a shovel to defend him. Tara pulls a Whisperer off of DJ while Addy and Frankie team up to kick and ram into their attackers. There’s a powerful shot of Enid standing armed with a knife, ready to go down fighting to protect all of the people in the barn. Henry looks at the entrance and sees Alpha slowly walking in. He knows that this is the end. No matter how hard they fight back, these ten people aren’t leaving alive. To see such bravery and selflessness in their final moments really says a lot about how tight knit our survivors are. As Siddiq notes, some of these people had never met before and the communities had been split for years, but that didn’t matter here. Ozzy and Alek had just aligned with the Kingdom, but here they gave up their lives to save strangers. DJ literally fought in a war against these people, but he literally died trying to save their lives. The ten people that died are nothing short of heroes and Siddiq’s speech serves to present that fact to those left behind. The final scene of the episode shows Daryl and Lydia visiting the pikes. The heads have been removed and Lydia stands before Henry’s pike to lay down the “H” necklace he gave her. A light snow falls, showing that winter has come. A strangely hopeful end to a devastating series of losses.

The good in “The Calm Before”

  • The upbeat nature of the Fair gives at least some positivity before everything falls apart.
  • The opening sequence with Hilde and Miles allowed for two minor characters to be developed excellently before being killed off to set events in motion.
  • Ezekiel’s speech, including the references to Rick, Carl and Jesus is just perfect.
  • The leaders of the communities finally gathering to sign the charter and reunify after all these years is a rewarding moment.
  • The brief character interactions scattered throughout the episode really help play up the pike mystery, but also provide development for a multitude of characters. This is most notable with Connie, Tara, Enid, Magna, Yumiko, Henry and Lydia, Carol and Judith.
  • Alpha showing Daryl the herd and having a strange moment of emotion about Lydia really has a lot of depth.
  • The slow and painful build up of the characters walking up the hill, followed by the pike reveals is some damn near flawless execution.
  • Siddiq’s story and the barn scene of everyone fighting is some of the most emotional material the show has ever done. That is a scene that will stick with you long and hard.
  • Bear McCreary’s musical score. Is there anyone better than him? Nope.
  • The performances. The list of top performances of this episode is so long, because this is a case of the ensemble being a powerhouse of acting. There are so many instances of the actors giving small subtle looks that say so much with zero dialogue, particularly in that final barn scene.
Avi Nash as Siddiq, Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler, Katelyn Nacon as Enid, Matt Lintz as Henry, Kelley Mack as Addy, Elyse Nicole Dufour as Frankie, Brett Butler as Tammy Rose, Joe Ando-Hirsh as Rodney – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

The iffy in “The Calm Before”

  • Even with everything going on and the full awareness that the Whisperers are out there, people still insist on splitting up and traveling in small groups.
  • While the reveals of the pike victims was excellent, it does feel a bit strange that both Tara and Enid were not given more proper final arcs in the lead up to their demise. They should have both been featured far more prominently in this second half of the season. It’s also strange that these two long-term main characters were given off-screen deaths. Still, the reveal was meant to be shocking…and it was.

Top performances in “The Calm Before”

  • Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon
  • Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier
  • Danai Gurira as Michonne
  • Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler
  • Katelyn Nacon as Enid
  • Khary Payton as King Ezekiel
  • Samantha Morton as Alpha
  • Avi Nash as Siddiq
  • Eleanor Matsuura as Yumiko
  • Lauren Ridloff as Connie
  • Angel Theory as Kelly
  • Matt Lintz as Henry
  • Cassady McClincy as Lydia

Lingering thoughts and predictions

  • The use of foreshadowing in this episode and previous came to fruition at the pikes. In “Omega,” Tara kills a walker with a spear in a way that resembles a pike. In “Chokepoint,” Henry is stabbed in the leg in the same place his big brother Benjamin was fatally shot during “Bury Me Here.” In this episode, Enid eats a candy apple on a stick…which resembles a head on a pike.
  • Alpha’s disguise is a bit more reasonable in the television canon as opposed to the comics. In the latter, she infiltrates the Fair simply without her Whisperer mask.
  • The callbacks to Tara’s past with The Governor serve to mix a little bit of the series history with the present before killing off one of the long-term characters.
  • In the comics, the pike victims are extremely different, sans Tammy Rose. TV Rosita and Ezekiel have now out-lived their comic-counterparts who died via Alpha at this point.
  • It would be great to have Carol and Judith develop a bond moving forward now that they’re reunited. Carol did so much to keep her alive back in the old days, so it would be nice for the show to mention that also.
  • Daryl rushing over to Carol when Henry’s head was on the pike directly parallels him doing the same when Sophia stepped out of the barn. Two of her children have died and reanimated, leaving her to have to see them in such a horrific state.
  • What must have the pike victims gone through in their final moments as Alpha brutally decapitated them? There’s no way she killed them beforehand. They likely each had to watch as she slowly cut the heads of their family off knowing that fate awaited them. Without any doubt, Alpha probably saved Henry for last just to make him suffer for Lydia.
  • Eugene’s radio might serve to set up some of the story for Season 10. Is it possible that he will get in contact with someone or another group? Or maybe even someone we know?
  • Daryl will hopefully form a fatherly bond with Lydia. If anyone can give her the parental love she needs right now, it’s him.
  • Also, please let Daryl, Connie, Lydia and Dog form a family and live happily ever after.
  • The snow is about to change things majorly. This is something that has never been seen before in the show.
Matt Lintz as Henry – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Honoring the dead

Henry: He came to us just a young kid, played by Macsen Lintz. We first saw him riding on a horse being guided by big brother Benjamin as Morgan toured the Kingdom with Carol. Who knew that all these years later, Carol would end up being the Queen and he would be her Prince? At first, it didn’t even seem like he would be more than a background character to serve as motivation for Benjamin. Slowly and surely he began training with Morgan in the ways of aikido, becoming young master Henry. After the death of his brother, Henry was justifiably angry, but found himself on his own personal warpath to bring justice to those that wronged him. One of his biggest moments was sneaking into the Kingdom while it was occupied by the Saviors before stabbing Gavin through the throat with his staff. Following the time jump, we see that Henry has made it his mission in life to repair his beloved home. He embarks on the Hilltop to learn from Earl, but his plans change drastically when Lydia is brought as a prisoner. Say what you want about him, but Henry is someone who just wanted to help people. All he wanted to do is to give Lydia a better life. Carol told him to make her proud, and while he may have been reckless and naive, he did something that should make her proud. He saved someone from the cycle of abuse and gave her a family that will care, love and fight for her. Rest easy, Henry. Lydia is in good hands now.

Katelyn Nacon as Enid, Angel Theory as Kelly, Lauren Ridloff as Connie – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Enid: Another child soldier of the apocalypse. We first saw her just outside of the gates of Alexandria when the group first arrived. She was mysterious and disappeared, only to be formally met by Carl while hanging out with the Alexandria teens. She was quiet and closed off, clearly having lived through some shit. In Season 6, we learned that her parents had been torn apart by walkers right in front of her. The “just survive somehow” mantra would go on to become synonymous with her character and had a major impact on fans. Her personality was attractive to Carl, but she just couldn’t stay in Alexandria, fearing that she would lose more people. It was Glenn who really changed her outlook and made her feel like family. They fought together to save Maggie from a herd, and she finally felt at home. Her move to the Hilltop to be with Maggie really showed how much she had changed. Long gone were the days of running away. She was committed to contributing to the greater good. She became a hardened fighter and trusted confidant of Maggie during the events of All Out War. Losing Carl was a huge blow, but she kept going and became even stronger in Season 9 when she trained with Siddiq to become a doctor. Because of this, she was able to save Aaron’s life and countless others at the Hilltop. When she was first introduced, who would have guessed that she would go on to become such an important and crucial member of the family? She was able to stand on her own as her own character. Thank you for becoming one of us, Enid.

Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Tara: She’s been on the show so long as this point that she feels like one of the OGs. Being introduced in the first Governor flashback episode, Tara’s journey started off rough. Over the course of just three episodes, she was betrayed and lost her father, niece, sister and girlfriend. Even though she was on the opposite side of battle, Tara regretted her role and Glenn saw that. The two united in search of Maggie, which became Tara’s mission to redeem herself. Following Terminus, she was accepted by all of the group, including Rick and Maggie. She became a friend and confidant, with her quirky nature and hard past being an avenue to connect with others. After arriving at Alexandria, Tara developed a confidence that she previously struggled with and even managed to find love again with Denise. Her arc was endless loss and pain, losing so many loved ones right after one another. During Season 7, she found Oceanside and brought them into the fold. We saw her struggle with the ramifications of involving Cyndie and her people in the Savior conflict when they didn’t want to be part of it. Ultimately, Tara always looked out for her people and tried to do what was best for them. She lost her way a bit while conflicting with Dwight over his killing of Denise, but she eventually made peace with it all. Following the time jump, Tara was given the opportunity to showcase just how much she had learned from Rick, Maggie, Michonne and all the leaders that came before her as she took the reigns of the Hilltop. Her time leading the people was short-lived, but there’s no doubt that both Jesus and Maggie would be proud. She fought long and hard, defeating all expectations fans had placed on her over the years. Her humor and charm will be missed dearly, as will her determination and strength. Fly high, Tara.

“The Calm Before” is a phenomenal episode all around. It shows that the series is doing so much right and can still shock and devastate, even nine seasons in. What will “The Storm” and the arrival of winter hold? Hopefully not more death.

Be sure to tune in to the Season 9 Finale of “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

(Living Guide) Staying organized, stay sane

Keeping your living space organized and clean is not always the easiest thing in the world to do. Sometimes you just have one of those insanely busy weeks where you are jumping between school, work and extracurriculars. Other times, you may have organizing on your list of things to do…but just never get around to it. Why is it so important to maintain a clean and organized living space?

1)  You’ll feel less stress. Have you ever been in such a rush to get to that 8 a.m. class that you simply cannot find what you’re looking for? Maybe it’s that textbook that you were using to study late into the night. Maybe it’s the jacket that you planned on wearing out for a chilly day. Maybe it’s the banana that you just set down for a second to get dressed before heading out the door and having breakfast-on-the-go.

Whatever the case may be, this stress can be resolved with some simple organization of your room and just a bit of cleaning. When you’re aware of where all your belongings are, you won’t have to scramble to find things at the last minute. You might not even think this is something causing you stress, but trust me, we’ve all been there and felt the pressure of the clock.

In the back of your mind, you probably know that you need to do a better job of organizing your space if things are a mess. This in itself is likely causing you unnecessary stress. It’s rather similar to the stress associated with procrastinating and can end up putting more on your plate that you realize.

2) You’ll be more productive. When doing work, it is important to have an area that is clean and organized so that you are productive and are actually able to come up with solid ideas. When your work area is a mess, you might find yourself fiddling with whatever is near you rather than actually doing the work you need to do. It’s really easy to be distracted when you have a massive stack of clothes on your desk or an assortment of papers that you don’t even need anymore.

A clean and open work environment is important to assure that you have plenty of room for all of your materials and so that nothing important has to take a backseat to the clutter in your area. If your primary work space happens to be your desk, a good habit to maintain is to only house items related to studying and work on the desk. This way, when you sit down ready to study, you won’t have distractions all over the place and can stick to your work.

3) It will help you stick to your routines. Have you ever had a messy room that really just throws everything in your life into a state of disarray? Perhaps the disorganized room itself isn’t causing that, but it certainly doesn’t help. By having a cluttered room, you may feel less motivated to stay on track with your responsibilities, such as attending class and doing homework.

A good solution to this is to regularly clean and organize your room. By fitting this into your schedule, you’ll have specific time set aside to declutter your space and keep things on track. If you don’t set aside some time for your organization efforts, the odds are that your space will only get messier and you will only get more stressed and out of whack.

Staying organized is not always the easiest thing in the world. Life comes at you fast and you may find yourself overwhelmed with all of life’s responsibilities. With that being said, maintaining a clean and organized living space is HUGE. By just setting aside a small amount of time to clean and organized your living area, you will surely find that you have a major weight off your shoulder that you didn’t even fully realize was there to begin with. It may not seem like much, but the simple act of maintaining your living space is crucial for holding onto some semblance of stability in your life.

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Scars’

Spoiler Warning for Season 9, Episode 14 of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed. Minor spoilers from “Fear the Walking Dead” will also be discussed.

“Loving someone means doing whatever it takes to keep them safe.”

“The Walking Dead” is a dark show. It always has been. It’s no stranger to taking risks and putting the characters through absolute hell. Since the six year time jump, a looming darkness has been present in the story. Something bad happened, but it was only just danced around…until now. The latest episode gets dark to show just how far a parent is willing to protect her children.

Due to the fact that this episode switches back and forth between timelines, events will be discussed in chronological order.

Rick Grimes took his last stand and blew up the bridge that was meant to unite the communities. Fans know that he was whisked away in a helicopter to star in a film trilogy, but the family he left behind received no real closure. They were left with that chilling image of him heroically pulling out his colt python before disappearing in a fireball. Soon after his disappearance, Michonne began coming out to search for him. She stumbles upon the embankment where his body washed up and where Jadis/Anne rescued him. Walkers from the blast litter the area, but that isn’t of interest to her. Instead, her focus is the colt python that she finds buried in the mud. It’s the only remnant she or anyone has found of him. Time passes and her belly grows to show the progression of her pregnancy with RJ, and she is still out searching. She carefully looks at the walker faces just to make sure none of them are her beloved husband. Daryl crosses paths with her and explains that he has followed the river all the way to the ocean and hasn’t found Rick. The two have a beautiful moment where they check in on one another, and Michonne asks Daryl to come back to Alexandria. He has to keep up the search and states that he won’t stop until he finds something. Michonne asks if he is okay being alone, to which he states that he is, but Michonne isn’t. This really says a lot about who they both are and how they have progressed in the series. In many senses, Daryl has always been better on his own, but he does still need his family to serve as his anchor. Michonne was alone for a long time and while she is a lone-wolf, she does need people around her and she always has; even keeping Mike and Terry as her walker pets before meeting Andrea was a way of not feeling alone. Such a seemingly simple opening scene says so much about these characters and their pasts.

The past blends with the present and future as Michonne is called to the gate of Alexandria to greet new arrivals. Scott tells her that this group, most of which are children, were found nearby. One of the members is injured and is propped up by Rosita. Michonne is stunned when she recognizes the woman named Jocelyn (Rutina Wesley). The timeline progresses a bit and Jocelyn is taken to the infirmary to be treated by Siddiq. She ultimately rushes out, causing a stir in the street as Michonne, Rosita, Aaron, Siddiq and others try to calm her. She claims that there are others out there that must be brought back. Michonne leads a group that includes Rosita, Aaron, Eugene, Father Gabriel, and some of the children arrivals to a location where the missing members of Jocelyn’s group may be hiding out. Inside are charts detailing the steps to skin a deer and cook a rabbit. The group ultimately finds a handful of additional children survivors to bring with them to Alexandria. The number of children suddenly at the community gives everyone a childlike persona as a campfire celebration is held outside the new arrival’s home. Gabriel, Siddiq and Rosita hang out with the children, showing that they were already equipped to be parents way back when. Michonne and Aaron watch from the porch with a happiness that they haven’t been able to have in a while. Wishing Rick was still here to see this, Aaron tries to comfort her, but it’s clear that his loss is still a touchy subject. While doing dishes, Michonne and Jocelyn reminisce about their college days, revealing how they actually knew one another. Jocelyn encourages Michonne to keep up the search for Rick, but to also enjoy what’s currently in front of her. The fact that Jocelyn and Michonne were able to find each other after not seeing one another for 15 years proves that nothing is impossible. The concept of finding someone you knew prior to the apocalypse is absolutely mind-blowing, but this episode proves that some things are better left in the past.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The fact that Michonne knew Jocelyn before the apocalypse gave her and the rest of the Alexandrians plenty of reason to trust her and the children. The morning after a kids sleepover at Jocelyn’s proves that this was the wrong move. Michonne goes to the new arrival house along with Scott and Frankie (who hasn’t been seen at all this season, but moved to Alexandria after the fall of the Sanctuary) to pick up their children. They find the house empty with Jocelyn, Judith and the other children nowhere to be found. Scott finds the pantry completely raided and the same is true of the infirmary. Michonne waddles in a panic through the community as she realizes what has happened. One of the guards is found dead and footprints of blood lead to the manhole cover that accesses the sewer. Jocelyn has kidnapped Judith and the children of Alexandria that were trustingly placed in her care. It’s the ultimate betrayal. Michonne immediately takes off to recollect the children, and she enlists Daryl’s help. They manage to track the traitors down to an old school, but Michonne needs to take a moment to rest and the two have a heart-to-heart. Feeling totally betrayed by what Jocelyn did to her, Michonne expresses the fact that she shouldn’t have been so trusting. Daryl comforts her by stating that it isn’t her fault whatsoever. Michonne and Daryl have such a beautiful friendship that goes back so far, and the fact that we are getting to see more layers of their dynamic after all these years just proves how rich it is. From this point, things get dark as the two split up to cover more ground. Michonne ends up coming across one of Jocelyn’s kids, but he takes off running and she follows after. Daryl hears this and enters the school to help with whatever is about to happen. He finds the children at the end of a hallway with their weapons drawn. Michonne is in front of them and begs for her children to be returned to her. One of the kids, a girl named Winnie (Elle Graham), fires an arrow at Daryl’s shoulder while another child named Linus (Luke David Blumm) knocks Michonne unconscious. One might wonder why Michonne and Daryl didn’t attack straight away…but fighting kids is surely something no one is ever prepared to do. That’s seen even further as the episode progresses.

The mystery of the scars on Daryl and Michonne’s backs is finally revealed. When they come to, our heroes have their hands bound to pipes on the ceiling and are gagged. The children prepare an iron and Linus brands Daryl’s back as Jocelyn eerily encourages him. Daryl screams out in absolute pain and Michonne lets out tears as her friend is put through this. Jocelyn gets in Michonne’s face and states that she is doing this to make the children stronger and to assure that they survive. Winnie then uses the iron to brand Michonne’s back, causing her to also scream out. It’s a disturbing sight to see these people we love, particularly one who is pregnant, go through this. Fortunately, Daryl is able to free himself from his binds after the group leaves, and he takes down one guard before freeing Michonne. For some reason, they decide to split up again and Michonne wanders the halls with a pipe as a weapon. She comes across Jocelyn, Linus, Winnie and some of the other children, and she demands that Judith be returned to her. Jocelyn orders two of the children to attack, and one does such with Michonne’s own katana. Linus manages to slice Michonne’s stomach with a knife before he and the other child soldier storm out to join their friends. Judith and the Alexandrian children are rushed outside in a hurry, making the viewer realize that Jocelyn has built up this group by kidnapping children. Screaming Judith’s name, Michonne rushes outside, but is slammed across the head with a piece of wood by Jocelyn. In another disturbing bit of events, Jocelyn repeatedly beats Michonne. Using a moment of distraction, Michonne grabs her katana and stabs Jocelyn in the leg, knocking her to the ground. She then uses the katana to stab her best friend straight in the chest, ending her life without any hesitation. Michonne then finds herself face-to-face against a small army of children. She states that they will be welcomed back in Alexandria if they surrender, but they instead charge forward and Michonne is forced to kill each and every one. She initially hesitates and begs for them to stop, but she realizes that they must be killed if she wishes to save her unborn baby and Judith. Winnie is the last child standing, having being given orders to kill the Alexandrian children. Michonne is able to talk her down and the child runs off before Judith steps out of the trailer she was being held in. There’s a chilling moment where it seems as though Judith doesn’t recognize her, but the young girl eventually runs forward in embrace of her mother. Daryl FINALLY arrives and comforts the rest of the children as the nightmare comes to an end.

Danai Gurira as Michonne, Rutina Wesley as Jocelyn – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

In many ways, the present timeline mirrors that of the past. Years after find Rick’s colt python and giving it to Judith, Michonne cleans it and places it in a box for Judith. Bringing news of Daryl’s arrival at the gate, Aaron has a grim look on his face and Michonne is confused as to why their friend is not being let in. Outside, Judith and Gracie teach RJ how to ride a bike; a rare singular moment of childlike innocence in the apocalypse. At the gate, Michonne questions why Lydia is with the group, but Henry stands up for her, as usual. Daryl explains that they only came to Alexandria because Henry is injured and this community was closest. There’s a great scene at the infirmary as Henry is being stitched up and Michonne is checking in with Daryl to learn that the group is headed to the Kingdom. Connie writes a note to Michonne explaining that she would do everything she did again…but in better shoes. Later, Michonne asks to speak with Lydia alone, prompting Henry to thank her for sending a delegation to the Fair. Without flat out saying it, Michonne basically tells Lydia to leave and go be on her own so Henry and the communities are no longer threatened by the Whisperers. While this may have been a valid option earlier, those days are long gone as this conflict has intensified.

For the first time since the time jump, we get a scene between Daryl and Judith. While it would have been nice for it to be a little longer, the content is great. The two discuss the trouble at the Hilltop and Lydia’s involvement in it all. Judith really wants to help and basically tells Daryl that she knows what the group has been through from the stories she has heard. Daryl tells her that she hasn’t heard all of the stories, but Judith questions what Rick would do in this situation…leaving both of them silent, knowing he would help. After taking the day to recuperate, Daryl and his group leave Alexandria…at night. Before leaving, he tells Michonne that Judith should probably hear the story of Jocelyn so that she can better understand why Alexandria is the way it is now. Judith isn’t a child anymore due to the apocalypse and Daryl sees this. We see how much Alexandria’s lack on involvement in the conflict is weighing on Judith as she sulks at family dinner with Michonne and RJ. Judith ultimately excuses herself, and when morning comes, she is no longer in her room. Michonne decides to stop by Negan’s jail cell to see if he has seen her lately, but he hasn’t. This is where yet another fantastic scene between Michonne and Negan unfolds as the former Savior leader explains that he has told Judith many stories of what happened between the groups. He has told her about Carl storming the Sanctuary in “Sing Me a Song” and about Rick slitting his throat in “Wrath.” Much to the surprise of Michonne, Negan has even told Judith about how he killed Abraham and Glenn after she asked about it. Once again, Michonne isn’t happy about Negan being so knowledgeable about herself and her children…but he makes several valid points here.

Danai Gurira as Michonne – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Michonne has to go after Judith. She’s already been through the horrors seen in this episode, and she lost Carl because he wouldn’t stay in the house. Michonne finds herself in an area with tons of walkers that she must dispatch on her own. The editing flawlessly intermixes between her killing walkers in the present and her killing the children in the flashbacks. Judith is also here and manages to get a badass kill in herself before a walker reaches for her, prompting for her to scream for her mother. After they’ve caught their breaths, Michonne talks to Judith about what happened with Jocelyn years ago. Judith states that she remembers it happening and that she hasn’t brought it up because she knows it makes her mother sad. Even though they both went through that horrible event, Judith still believes they are wrong to close themselves off from their friends. “When did we stop loving Daryl? Aunt Maggie? Carol? The King?,” she asks tearfully. It’s a good question about a complicated situation. For the first time, Michonne really sees Judith as more than just a child. Instead, Judith is someone who understands risks, but knows that love means risking it all for those most dearest to you. Because of this, Michonne and Judith decide to head to the Kingdom in a horse-drawn van. They cross paths with Daryl’s crew and provide them with transportation to the Fair. In a chilling end to the episode, two Whisperers watch from the treeline as the Hilltop’s delegation enters the gates of the Kingdom. “We must tell Alpha,” one of them states as the location of the Fair has been officially compromised. Mind ya business, Whisperers.

The good in “Scars”

  • The parallels between the past and present, as well as the editing between timelines, is flawless. This really shows that history repeats itself and that learning from mistakes is key to survival.
  • The darkness. This is always a dark show, but episodes such as this remind viewers that these characters experience trauma that influence future decisions. If this hadn’t happened, the entire season post-time jump would be different.
  • The concept of someone from the prior to the apocalypse reuniting with a friend YEARS into the apocalypse, only to turn out to be too far gone is just great.
  • The friendship between Michonne and Daryl has always been wonderful, but this is the best episode they’ve ever had together. They have such a sibling bond wherein they would literally kill for one another.
  • The references to Michonne and Daryl keeping up the search for Rick serves as some hopeful foreshadowing that they all may reunite one day in the film trilogy.
  • Judith continues to be amazing. She’s such an old soul, but still has that childlike innocence.
  • Michonne and Negan scenes are great, and really show that they are foils to one another. There’s incredible chemistry between the two that continues to get better.
  • The chilling tease of the Whisperers finding the Kingdom is the perfect segway between this episode and the next.
Luke David Blumm as Linus, Joey Simon as Mitchell, Jessi Goei as Gina, Elle Graham as Winnie – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The iffy in “Scars”

  • The complete mystery of why the communities were so split, particularly Michonne and Maggie, was not explained all the way. Either there are more flashbacks coming to fill in the missing pieces, or viewers are left to interpret for themselves why the split happened. It does make sense that the other communities would be angry at Alexandria for being totally isolated, especially if no explanation was given.
  • While it makes sense that Michonne needed to go through all of this for story-sake, it’s rather odd that a heavily pregnant woman was forced to be the savior of everyone while Scott, Frankie and the other Alexandrian parents just sat at home.
  • Daryl taking so long to tie up the member of Jocelyn’s group while Michonne was forced to fight off the children alone is similarly odd, but understandable.

Top performances in “Scars”

  • Danai Gurira as Michonne (This is one of her finest performances to date and is totally worthy of award recognition)
  • Cailey Fleming as Judith Grimes
  • Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon
  • Chloe Garcia-Frizzi as Judith Grimes
  • Rutina Wesley as Jocelyn
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Luke David Blumm as Linus, Joey Simon as Mitchell – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Lingering thoughts and predictions

  • Based on the conversation with Jocelyn, it seems like the story is already being set up for Michonne to depart the main series to join the Rick film trilogy either during/after Season 10 when Danai Gurira is set to exit.
  • Hopefully, more of the time jump is shown via flashbacks in the future, because SIX YEARS is a lot of time to have missing.
  • It’s remarkable to see how far Michonne and Judith’s relationship has come since they first met. Michonne arrived at the Prison with baby formula just trying to help. In Season 4, Beth literally had to force Michonne to hold Judith. She wasn’t ready to love another baby, but now their bond is stronger than ever.
  • This is also true of Daryl. He gave Judith the nickname “Lil Asskicker” and she has totally lived up to it.
  • Michonne telling Judith the story of her and Rick burying Carl is an emotional callback to “Honor.”
  • The fact that Winnie runs off without being given any closure may hint at her still being alive. Some fans have theorized that she is now part of the Whisperers, possibly even being the one at the end of the episode that spots the Kingdom.
  • Fun fact: that particular Whisperer is played by Emma Coulter, the daughter of Steve Coulter AKA Reg Monroe from Season 5.
  • This episode has major vibes of Season 3 and Season 4, mostly in terms of the tone and environments.
  • Rarely do the characters discuss their lives prior to the apocalypse, but there is actually significant backstory given for Michonne this episode. Who knew her mother died prior to the end of the world? It would be great if we could get more of this moving forward.
  • Much like Season 4 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” a filter is used to distinguish between the timelines. In this case, it is far less ugly and is far better utilized than that of its sister show.

“Scars” is an upsetting and disturbing episode for many reasons. It really allows viewers to understand Michonne’s rationale behind isolating Alexandria. That being said, we also see that no choice is perfect and Michonne is able to learn from Judith to chart Alexandria’s future. With that in mind, the Fair may just throw everything back into chaos.

Be sure to tune into the penultimate episode of Season 9 next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.