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: ‘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. 

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

Spoiler Warning for Season 9, Episode 13 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.

“It looks like violence is the only currency of this future, same as the old one.”

The latest episode of “The Walking Dead” sets the stage for the Fair to reunite the communities while also proving that our survivors are not all that equipped to defeat the Whisperers. With Daryl facing off against Beta in the long-awaited battle, we see just how skilled this villainous force is at battle. Some issues do persist, but this is yet another strong chapter of this season.

Following their infiltration of the Whisperer camp at the end of the last episode, Daryl and Connie speak to Henry and Lydia about the escape. Henry notes that they cannot return to the Hilltop, and Daryl states that Lydia will not be coming back with them at all. Henry proposes that he and Lydia just run off together, but Daryl shuts this down for being stupid and selfish. Connie decides to lead the team and directs them in a different way from Daryl, clearly not wanting to follow along with what he has planned for Lydia. Even Dog follows her, showing that Daryl isn’t right all the time and some other characters can have good ideas. At the Whisperer camp, a bitten member of the clan is inspected by Beta. There is a great pride in becoming a walker, so Beta comforts the man and notes that he will always be a Whisperer. He then speaks to one of the soldiers and learns that they have found the trail of Daryl’s team, and will follow it to retrieve Lydia and get revenge for what happened. A game of cat and mouse is beginning.

At the Kingdom, preparations are underway for the Fair to begin. Banners for the Kingdom, the Hilltop, Oceanside and Alexandria are unveiled, a Shiva statue is perched, storefronts are set up and electricity is unleashed. Carol and Nabila walk through the impressive layout and discuss the miraculous fact that this Fair is actually happening. Carol shares that she had doubts, but Nabila notes that because of everything they fought through to get here, she isn’t surprised it’s happening. Jerry, Dianne and some of the other Kingdom fighters have returned without theirh armor, alarming Carol and Nabila. They go before the King to explain what has happened as Jerry delivers a letter after stating that they were jumped while out on a run. The letter is from a group called the Highwaymen whom are claiming ownership of the roads surrounding the Kingdom and are demanding to be paid in order for guests to arrive. The letter has the same mark that was seen on a sign on a road traveled by the Kingdommers in “Bounty.” Everyone knows that the Fair is incredibly important to the community, and Jerry notes that the arrivals are counting on safe passage. It’s a troubling ultimatum, but King Ezekiel orders for all of the fighters available to be gathered.

Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

The Hilltop sends their first delegation to the Fair with supplies and a handful of fighters to clear the road ahead. Tara leads this group that also consists of Magna, Yumiko, Kelly, Kal, Oscar, Addy, Gage, Rodney, Earl, Tammy Rose and the Whisperer baby. Another group led by Alden is following behind. In the back of a wagon, Tammy Rose notes that she was up all night with the baby and Earl explains that they will find a younger couple to adopt it at the Fair. At the front of the convoy, Tara tells Kelly that Connie will be just fine since she’s with Daryl. Yumiko retorts this by stating that Daryl will be fine since she’s with Connie. Magna also comforts Kelly and guesses that they are already at the Fair. The convoy runs into trouble when a pack of walkers block the road ahead. Tara leads a crew to go and clear them, leaving the Hilltop teens to guard the wagons. Gage, Rodney and Addy get the chance to kill a few walkers while Earl attempts to hitch the horses. He is attacked by a walker and thrown to the ground, prompting Tammy Rose to place the baby in a box and run to the rescue of her husband. Equipped with a spear, Tammy lets out a battle cry before killing three walkers and saving Earl. Suddenly, the arrival of men on horses shocks the convoy as the Highwaymen dispatch the rest of the walkers and introduce themselves. There’s an odd moment as Tara and Ozzy stare at one another for a moment, almost as if they know each other.

Connie points out a tall apartment building that she suggests to be used as a chokepoint. Being that the Whisperers travel with walkers, they will have to break away from a herd to move up the building. Daryl is impressed with this idea, but Lydia worries that they will be trapped and that Beta will overpower them. Once inside, Connie reveals a secret stash of supplies from when she and the rest of her group took refuge inside the building previously. Daryl points out how smart it was for them to leave an emergency cache. Looking at a map of the building, he notes that there are two entry points that are blocked and that they should cut hole in them so Whisperers can make their way up. Connie wonders what will happen to Lydia once they are done here, and Daryl explains that their people will be killed if Lydia isn’t returned. While fortifying the defenses, Henry presents Lydia with a sharpened spear to use when the Whisperers arrive. Lydia explains that she doesn’t want to kill her own people and asks that Henry try not to also. There’s further dialogue from Lydia that makes it clear she finds Henry’s actions to be stupid and reckless. That being said, she also questions if he would really run away with him. They embrace in a kiss, but are interrupted by Daryl who wants them to get back to work. While standing lookout, Henry and Lydia give each other loving looks before shits hits the fan. The arrival of the herd puts everyone on high alert. Beta and his friends are here.

Lauren Ridloff as Connie, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 13 – Photo Credit:

With the threat of the Highwaymen now causing stress for the Kingdom, Ezekiel, Carol, Jerry, Dianne and the other fighters go on a reconnaissance mission to see what they can learn about this new group. They are armed, but Carol proposes that they try to speak with them rather than going in killing. The fact that the Highwaymen sent a grammatically correct letter is a good sign to Carol, and she convinces everyone to take her route. Entering into a warehouse, Carol, Ezekiel and Jerry are met by figures shrouded in darkness and intermixed with mannequins. The leader, a man named Ozzy (Angus Sampson), steps forward to declare that this meeting is only with the King. Ezekiel explains that the King and Queen lead together. The Highwaymen really aren’t wanting to listen and pull out their weapons, ready for a fight. A single arrow into the head of a mannequin from Dianne, followed by the swarm of Kingdom soldiers shows the seriousness of the royal army. Ezekiel offers the Highwaymen access to the Kingdom and the Fair for agreeing to keep the roads clear for the guests. Ozzy is not pleased by this offer and pulls out Jerry’s sword to kick start a fight, but Carol proposes an additional offer. Putting on her meek voice, Carol asks the Highwaymen when the last time they saw a movie was. This offer leaves the crew stunned and also curious. Carol ALWAYS knows just what to say and do.

As the Whisperers arrive, there’s a chilling shot of the member of the crew who was bitten earlier and has now turned. He’s a guardian, but a shot by a crossbow bolt from Daryl ends that quickly. The Whisperers lead the herd inside and realize they will need to separate from the walkers by climbing up a blocked stairwell. Upstairs, Daryl locks Lydia in a closet, noting that she will only get in the way if she isn’t going to help out. Dog is also put in the closet and Daryl tells Lydia that he will attack any Whisperers that try to get in. The Whisperers begin their attack, and Henry manages to fight off one with his stick as Connie uses her senses and takes down several with her slingshot and a knife. Inside the closet, Dog growls and Lydia panics, deciding to leave and try to help Henry. While distracted momentarily, Henry is impaled in the leg by a Whisperer, who is tackled by Dog. Lydia apologizes to Henry as Connie tends to his wound, which is spills out blood. Meanwhile, Daryl is stunned when Beta comes crashing into frame and a vicious fight erupts. This isn’t the typical fight where the hero has the upper hand. For once, it actually feels as though Daryl might meet his end here. Beta is an absolute beast and his fighting style is dirty. Using the supply cache that Connie showed him, Daryl is able to hide before charging forward at Beta and pushing him down an elevator shaft. For a fight that was hyped up like crazy, this one sure lived up to the expectations and surpassed them.

Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Following the arrival of the Hilltop convoy at the Kingdom, the new arrivals bask in the glory of the community. Ozzy and Jerry have a stare off, hinting a possible tension between the two in the future. The Hilltop teens are just happy to be somewhere other than the place they’ve been at since the start of the apocalypse. Nabila welcomes Earl and Tammy, stating that they will be wonderful parents to the orphan baby. Carol and Ezekiel welcome Tara with hugs and ask where Henry is. Tara is stunned to find out that he nor Daryl and Connie have arrived yet. Back at the building, Connie uses her slingshot to break nearby car windows and pull the rest of the walkers outside. Inside, Lydia tends to Henry’s wound as Daryl explains that they will head to Alexandria for the time being until his wound can be treated. After that, they will find some new place to go, citing Henry’s line about it being a big world out there. As the squad leaves the building, the camera eerily returns to the elevator shaft and zooms in on Beta’s lifeless body as he reawakens after a nasty fall. An elevator broke his fall, and he is clearly injured and PISSED. Daryl showed him up, and he is ready to get his revenge once and for all.

The good in “Chokepoint”

  • The Daryl vesus Beta fight is perfect. There needs to be fights such as this where the hero gets their ass beat from time to time. Beta is menacing and terrifying to watch, and this fight is the culmination of what we’ve seen from him so far.
  • Tara’s leadership continues to be one of the shining examples of excellent character development this season. Her in this role feels totally natural and serves as a necessary point for her character.
  • The relationship between Daryl and Connie continues to be fascinating to watch. They’re amazing on their own, but their dynamic together is simply so fascinating.
  • The disagreement over how to handle the Highwaymen allows for some really solid group discussion among Carol, Ezekiel, Jerry and Dianne. It’s also great to have coy Carol come back into the fold to attempt to prevent further bloodshed.
  • Tammy Rose getting the chance to be involved in some action. Who knew she was that skilled at killing walkers?
Brett Butler as Tammy Rose – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The iffy in “Chokepoint”

  • The Highwaymen are corny. That may be the intended way they are to be perceived, but with everything else being so serious…it kinda comes across as lame.
  • Tammy Rose and Earl bringing the baby to the Fair, across clearly dangerous territory is a strange decision to make.
  • Beta not being fully covered by walker skins (unless he is and it isn’t super noticeable) seems like a inconsistency in the walker rules. It appears that only his face is covered with a walker mask, so how is he being camouflaged?

The bad in “Chokepoint”

  • Beta surviving the fall in the elevator shaft is ridiculous. We are clearly meant to understand that he is superhuman, but a fall like that should have killed anyone.
  • Henry is willing to leave behind everyone, even his own parents, for a girl he literally met just days ago. He also continues to jeopardize the operation by not listening to what others are telling him.

Top performances in “Chokepoint”

  • Ryan Hurst as Beta
  • Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon
  • Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier
  • Cassady McClincy as Lydia
  • Khary Payton as King Ezekiel
  • Cooper Andrews as Jerry
  • Lauren Ridloff as Connie
Angus Sampson as Ozzy – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Lingering thoughts and predictions

  • The way Daryl pushed Beta down the elevator shaft parallels Beth making the same move against Officer O’Donnell back in Season 5’s “Coda.”
  • The Whisperers have such a deep appreciation and respect for walkers even after their own have been killed by them. They seem to acknowledge that they are just part of the world, and humans live and die by them.
  • Oceanside is confirmed to be attending the Fair, but will we actually see the residents, including Cyndie? Why haven’t they been shown up to this point?
  • The Shiva monument shows how much she meant to the community and it’s residents. All these years later, they still honor her.
  • Now that Jerry is a father, he seems to have developed a sharper edge. He is ready to do whatever is necessary to keep his family and Kingdom safe.
  • Dianne makes a reference to killing adversaries quickly and quietly before they know what happened. This is what she was forced to do during “The Damned,” before infiltrating the Savior satellite outpost.
  • The Highwaymen introduction feels similar to how the Scavengers were introduced in midst of the Savior conflict during Season 7.
  • The references to a larger world feel like some sort of nod to the extended universe, and possibly the upcoming spinoff that was announced by AMC.
  • Henry was injured in the exact same spot as his brother Benjamin back when he was fatally shot in the leg by Jared during “Bury Me Here.”
  • The characters that received more screentime that usual this episode may be on the chopping block as we head into this Fair; Tammy, Nabila, Hilltop Teens…look out.

“Chokepoint” is an highly entertaining piece that balances time among each of the stories nicely. As we head into this final stretch of the season, the lighthearted moments that were shown in this episode are going to be missed. Lots of people are about to die. Get ready….

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

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

Spoiler Warning for Season 9, Episode 12 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.

“They all follow me by choice cause I make ’em strong, cause I keep ’em alive.”

There is a lot going on in “The Walking Dead” right now. On one hand, we have a disgusting and horrifying new threat that may just wipe out everyone we love. On the other hand, we have a compelling love quadrangle between four of our main characters. Nothing is ever simple on this show and this fantastic episode within a fantastic season reiterates that long-known fact.

Lydia is officially back with her people after being returned to Alpha in the previous episode. The opening to this episode finds a mother questioning her daughter about what she went through while at the Hilltop. Alpha finds it suspicious that Daryl was ready to put up a fight to keep Lydia at the community. We really see Lydia show that she doesn’t want to give up information to her mother as she states that she lied to get Daryl and the others to trust her. There’s a few tidbits of details about the Hilltop that Lydia reveals to her mother, but she doesn’t say anything about the Kingdom even though she was told about it by Henry. Alpha is pissed that Lydia doesn’t have more information for her, especially considering she broke her own rules in retrieving her daughter. It’s hinted that even though Alpha has this hardened edge and doesn’t seem to care about Lydia, there are still parts of her motherly instinct that come through. Still, Alpha is winning no mother of the year awards at all.

This episode really dives deep into the inner-workings of the Whisperer way of life when they’re not in the midst of an active conflict. Stopping to rest while headed back to their camp, members of the Whisperers are watched by Alpha as she strolls through her army. Nearby, Henry watches and a Whisperer sneaks up behind him, but using his aikido skills, Henry manages to gain the upper hand. This doesn’t last long as a boot steps into frame, belonging to an extremely tall member of the Whisperers who grabs Henry, throws his staff and flings him to the ground. This is Beta (Ryan Hurst), the second-in-command of the Whisperers. Alpha questions who Henry is, and Beta reveals that he has been following them for a while. Henry ultimately reveals that he is from the Hilltop, but that he is alone and came for Lydia. This sets Lydia off and she steps forward to punch him to the ground. Fearing their location may be compromised, Alpha leads her herd out of the makeshift camp to continue on their journey. While traveling, Alpha questions why Henry would chase after Lydia. The full extent of their relationship is kept a secret from Alpha by Lydia. Once again, Lydia’s actions show that she isn’t willing to turn against the people who captured her.

Matt Lintz as Henry – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 12 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

For the first time, we get to see the Whisperers camp…and it is worrisome. They have NUMBERS. Countless members of the group are spread out through a mostly barren nomadic camp going about a variety of tasks. Some clean animals they have hunted, while others create new skins from walkers. Lydia needs a new mask after losing hers when she was captured, so Beta gets to work on making her one. The process is actually shown, and it may be the most disturbing and graphic thing shown this season. Beta uses a knife to cut away the facial skin clear off a walker as Henry watches with disgust. Two unmasked members of the group step forward, bothered by the fact that Alpha broke her own rules to retrieve Lydia. Alpha defends her actions totally and states that the boyfriend and girlfriend have the right to challenge her leadership if they wish. After a game of taunting the boyfriend, Alpha comes to the realization that the girlfriend is actually the mastermind of this wannabe coup. She shuts that shit down right away by taking a wire and using it to decapitate the girlfriend right in front of everyone. Henry is shocked and horrified as Alpha picks up the headg and places it in the arms of the tearful boyfriend. He’s gotta go too and she stabs him in the abdomen as a show to her people that she is still their alpha. The sudden and violent gore within these scenes really demonstrate the brutality and ruthlessness of the Whisperers. Gore has always been part of the series, but this is more graphic than usual to represent the danger Alpha poses.

This episode also follows Daryl, Connie and Dog as they track down Henry. They manage to come across the creek bed that he was captured by Beta in, and recollect his staff which was dropped. There’s a really fun scene as Connie notes to Daryl that she needs to speak while looking at her before they kill a pair of walkers with their respective weapons. In an unscripted moment, Dog is told to retrieve Daryl’s crossbow bolt, but snaps it in half. Later, Daryl and Connie watch as a handful of Whisperers drag out the corpses of the couple into a field to allow some nearby walkers to feast. Inside the camp, Alpha speaks with Beta after removing her mask. There’s a chilling moment where she almost shows some motherly love while detailing a frightening moment when Lydia nearly suffocated as a child. Any chance at her being seen as a good mother goes out the window as she states that after checking to make sure her three-year-old daughter was okay, she hit her as a warning to never do what she did again. The manipulation and abuse Alpha forced Lydia to suffer under can be traced to far before the apocalypse even began. Lydia has been living like this forever. After night falls, Beta retrieves Henry and brings him before Alpha and Lydia. In a stunning turn of events, Alpha presents Lydia with an ultimatum: kill Henry or Beta will kill them both. Thankfully, a herd of walkers passes through and causes chaos on the unmasked survivors. A familiar voice speaks to Henry and orders him to follow. It’s Daryl…in a Whipserer mask, and Connie is with him. They manage to retrieve the star-crossed lovers and head off into the darkness.

Ryan Hurst as Beta, Matt Lintz as Henry, Samantha Morton as Alpha, Cassady McClincy as Lydia – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 12 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The other primary story arc of the episode takes place at Alexandria following Michonne and the others returning to inform everyone about the new threat. At a Council meeting in the church, Michonne is angered to find out that Father Gabriel and others were secretly setting up radios to try and communicate with others survivors. This was first seen back in “Who Are You Now?” when Eugene and Rosita went out to the tower to set up one of the radios and were later caught among the Whisperers. Michonne notes that weren’t it for these two going out on this mission, Jesus wouldn’t have died. There’s a clear split among the Council as the discussion shifts to the upcoming Fair at the Kingdom. Michonne states that the issue has already been voted on and that they are not attending; Aaron agrees, citing the death of Jesus. Gabriel and Siddiq are on the other side and totally believe they should attend, stating that not going will only hurt their friends at the Kingdom. Based on her dialogue, it seems as though Michonne is completely willing to let the Kingdom fall. That being said, she does propose that Alexandria opens its doors to Ezekiel and his people if the Council votes to do so. More explanation to the operation of the Council is given as Gabriel explains that Michonne, as Head of Security, has the authority to veto any decision made by the group. This has worked for a while, but Gabriel is fed up.

It was revealed in “Adaptation” that Rosita is pregnant with Siddiq’s baby. This episode, we see her struggling to fit into her clothes before speaking to Gabriel about the fact that she wouldn’t blame him if he left her considering he isn’t the father of her baby. We really see excellent growth in Eugene as he speaks with Gabriel about the pros and cons of sticking with Rosita and helping to raise her baby. In typical Eugene fashion, he even has a numerical list and series of graphs to help explain. While he doesn’t understand why Rosita is in love with Gabriel, and he is disappointed she doesn’t love him back, he does note that they are good for one another. He basically tells Gabriel to stick with her through this IF she wants him to. At the end of the day, it is up to Rosita as to who she spends her life with. Later, Michonne pays a visit with Negan who is back in his cell after willingly returning to Alexandria. This scene is really amazing as the former and current leader read one another for filth. Now, they aren’t all that much different, but Michonne doesn’t see that. After explaining that he is aware of the problems the Council is facing, Negan proposes that Michonne and the community start trusting him more. He even goes so far as to offer to be someone who will listen and provide leadership advice to her. Michonne isn’t budging one bit and orders the guard to seal his window and bind him while the cell lock is reinforced. Before leaving, Michonne spots someone lurking near the entrance. It’s her very own daughter Judith, trying to pay a visit to her murderous friend.

Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel Stokes, Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 12 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Michonne really learns a lot this episode and showcases herself to be a leader who listens to her people, unlike the other highlighted leader of the Whisperers. At her apartment, Michonne checks in on RJ and catches Judith as she’s sneaking in from her training session. Wondering why her daughter was hanging outside of the jail, Michonne questions if Judith has been talking to Negan. The two erupt into a disagreement as Michonne forbids Judith from ever speaking to the tyrant again. Judith states that while Negan isn’t her friend, he is a human being and should be trusted. Michonne basically tells Judith that she didn’t have to witness the brutal killings of Glenn, Abraham and many of their other friends. In a line that is shut down immediately, Michonne tells Judith that people don’t change…but she herself did. Judith is a smart kid. She likely heard stories of how Michonne came to meet her father and be part of the group, and is therefore able to call out this discrepancy in her story. It’s here that things really take a turn. Michonne pays a visit to Aaron and is greeted by Gracie. The leader tells Aaron that she appreciates his support, but that she has decided not to veto the Council’s decision if they vote to attend the Fair. Neither she nor Aaron think attending is a good idea, but the people of Alexandria agreed to a charter that gave them the power; plus she actually does want to help the Kingdom. The episode wraps up as we see Gabriel make the decision to stick with Rosita and be a co-parent alongside her and Siddiq; from afar, Eugene watches with a huge smile on his face. The community packs up supplies and food into vehicles as they prepare to make the journey to the Kingdom. If you’re familiar with the comics, you know that some of these people will never make the journey home.

The good in “Guardians”

  • Alpha is the villain we need. She is EVIL. There is no gray area here. She is EVIL.
  • Lydia’s struggle to not reveal crucial information about the Hilltop while also trying to stay on her mother’s good side. It’s fascinating to see the child of abuse come to realize that her mother is a massive piece of shit…and also EVIL.
  • Beta is legitimately terrifying. He is massive, he’s loyal and he is here to kill.
  • The dynamic between Daryl and Connie is really interesting to watch. Many fans have pointed out that there seems to be some romantic chemistry between the two. There is definitely some there. Is it finally time for Daryl to get some?
  • The comparisons and contrasts between Alpha, Negan and Michonne. All have their similarities and each are just a few steps away from being each other, but Michonne is able to keep herself from slipping to the dark side by trusting in her own people.
  • Judith continues to be an amazing amalgamation of Rick, Carl and Michonne…and maybe Shane and Lori just a bit.
  • Eugene pushing Gabriel and his respect of Rosita really show how much he has grown as a character. He’s actually putting her wants and needs before his own.
  • The Council scenes are really great and show how effective group leadership can truly be.
Danai Gurira as Michonne, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 12 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The bad in “Guardians”

  • Henry’s antics continue to be infuriating. Even after nearly being killed by Alpha, Beta, Lydia in this episode, he STILL hasn’t learned to listen to Daryl. He really will die for his two-day old girlfriend. It’s noble, but it’s a hard to believe.

Top performances in “Guardians”

  • Samantha Morton as Alpha
  • Cassady McClincy as Lydia
  • Danai Gurira as Michonne
  • Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel
  • Ryan Hurst as Beta
  • Matt Lintz as Henry
  • Cailey Fleming as Judith Grimes

Lingering thoughts and predictions

  • Lydia not ratting out the Kingdom really seems to be a sign that she will join our survivors entirely once she has the opportunity. They actually treat her well…unlike her mother.
  • Alpha and Beta’s hushed speaking voices are genuinely frightening and help to fully explain the Whisperers’ name.
  • What must the Whisperers camp smell like? Death. Pure death most likely.
  • Seeing the Whisperers walk and talk is totally unsettling. Seeing what your mind thinks are walkers do human things hurts the brain.
  • The Fair is coming up really soon. We should be very afraid.
  • The love foursome, PLUS Rosita’s pregnancy, does not bode well for their future. At least one of them is probably going to die before the season is over.
  • Negan really seems to have this respect for Michonne. Would he actually get violent if they were to trust him and give him more freedom? Obviously, his past cannot be forgotten.
  • Alpha beheading the traitor in her group has to be some sort of sick foreshadowing. If you know, you know.
  • Will RJ ever get some proper screentime?
  • Daryl trying desperately to safely retrieve Henry parallels his quest to find Sophia in Season 2. He wasn’t able to bring her back to Carol, but he is making damn sure that his best friend doesn’t have to experience the tragic loss of a child again.

“Guardians” is such an entertaining and well-balanced episode. We’ve seen our main characters only in bits and pieces so far in this second half, so it’s refreshing to see several at once. The next episode looks to deal with the aftermath of Henry and Lydia’s escape, as well as the Kingdom’s discovery of the new threat. As we move into the final quarter of the season, things are about to get deadly.

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

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

Spoiler Warning for Season 9, Episode 11 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.

“You live with it by staying who you are, by not letting the bad things change you.”

War is brewing. Tensions are rising. In the latest episode of “The Walking Dead,” the conflict with the Whisperers takes a chilling turn as a hostage exchange is negotiated. We also check in with the Kingdom for the first time in quite a bit, adding much needed levity to the story while also setting up many important plot lines. Without any doubt, this is the strongest episode of the second half and serves as further proof that this is season is downright amazing.

We know very little about what transpired between the communities during the six year time jump. This episode opens up with a flashback to some period years prior to provide a small bit of insight. King Ezekiel, Jerry and Carol are shown to be waiting for some of their friends to arrive for a meeting. Jerry has an exciting bit of news to share in that Nabila is pregnant with his child. The trio are giddy from this reveal and Ezekiel congratulates his best friend with a hearty hug. Two familiar faces come riding up on horses; it’s Tara and Jesus. The Kingdom hands over supplies to Jesus to help assist with what appears to be an outbreak at the Hilltop. Jesus notes that Maggie is back at the community taking care of the crisis, but it is getting better. Mention of the tension comes in the form of Tara explaining that she has decided to leave Alexandria, taking extra supplies and also the charter that Michonne created for the communities in the process. It is clear from the dialogue that Alexandria has already isolated itself from everyone, but that not everyone agrees with Michonne’s leadership. Tara hands over the charter to Ezekiel in the hope that he will be the one to bring about the reunification of the communities. As Jesus and Tara depart, the trio open up the charter and take a look at it, seeing the various articles that are intended to bind the communities for life. The document is officially titled “Multi-Community Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” and is a clear example of just how hard Michonne worked to craft a basis for the future of all her people. Sadly, years have passed and the charter has not been signed and the survivors remain distant. What happened to cause this rift is still unknown, but that reveal may just be on the horizon.

Cooper Andrews as Jerry, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 11 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

All these years later and the charter is still in the possession of King Ezekiel. While looking over it, Dianne comes to alert him that a hunting party is about to head out. While walking, the two discuss some nearby herds that will need to be avoided while out on the hunt. There’s a great moment wherein Ezekiel notes how great it is for Dianne to be back at the Kingdom after she spent a significant amount of time at the Hilltop. Carol comes to let Ezekiel know that she will be joining him on the hunt, wanting to get away from her empty nest and to spend more time with her king. We get our first look at Jerry’s family after the time jump and it is revealed that he and Nabila now have three children. After a successful elk hunt, Ezekiel wants Carol to return to the Kingdom while he and some others go out on a side mission. Carol wants some of the action and insists on joining in what Jerry repeatedly calls “movie time” at a local theater. This mission is far less serious than what is going down at the Hilltop right now, but it’s still important. Ezekiel wants to retrieve a film projector light bulb to screen movies at the Kingdom. The community’s last bulb burnt out several years ago and as such, most of the young children don’t even know what a film is. Carol questions whether this is worth risking the lives of themselves and the Kingdom soldiers, but Ezekiel is adamant. The community needs this. The people need this.

Once inside the theater, the Kingdom army splits into groups and each has their own task. Some fighters guard the entrance to the screening room where debris is keeping a collection of walkers from entering the lobby. Ezekiel has another mission while at this theater. He collects a poster case to house the charter permanently before and after the leaders sign it. Carol remains a bit hesitant to believe that all of the communities, specifically Alexandria, will attend the Fair. She also raises the idea that if the Kingdom continues into disarray, that the residents move to the Hilltop with Jesus’ approval. Sadly, they are kept so far out of the loop that not only do they not know Jesus is dead, but they are also completely oblivious to the conflict with the Whisperers. Still, Ezekiel remains hopeful that everything will work out, but he does acknowledge that they must prepare for every outcome. From inside the projector box, Jerry works extremely carefully with Dianne to retrieve the bulb. He notes that any wrong move could render it unusable or could even make it explode. Once the bulb has been collected and placed in bubble wrap, the two go to exit the room, but are attacked by a walker. Dianne manages to dispatch it, however Jerry accidentally drops in into the walker-filled theater. After returning to the lobby and alerting the king to the accident, Jerry and the others must decide whether to go and retrieve the bulb or cut their losses and go home. Carol steps forward and makes a queen’s decree that they will get the bulb. In an epic walker-killing montage set to “It’s All Right Now” by Eddie Harris, the members of the Kingdom use their skills to take down dozens of walkers and recollect the bulb all before the herd arrives. Talk about efficiency.

Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 11 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The other prominent storyline of the episode deals with the immediate aftermath of the end of “Omega” when Alpha and the Whisperers rolled up to the Hilltop demanding Lydia. Before that, we check in with Enid, who plays a major role in the episode, as she treats Earl’s arm while Tammy observes and encourages her husband to retire from blacksmithing. Outside, there’s a great little moment as Tammy thanks Enid and encourages her to keep her faith alive that Alden will return. Marco alerts Enid and Tammy to the conflict brewing outside and the community goes into battle mode. From atop the lookout point, Tara tells Alpha that the Hilltop is more than prepared to defend itself and Daryl recommends that the group leave immediately. Alpha reiterates her singular demand that the community hand over her daughter. There will be no conflict if she is returned. Daryl decides to walk down to the barrier gate to speak with Alpha one-on-one. Realizing that the villain group is outnumbered, Daryl threatens to gun down Alpha and all of her people. The sound of a baby crying nearby chills Daryl to the bone as he realizes that the Whisperers have brought a newborn to what could be a bloody battle. Alpha orders Alden and Luke to be brought forward and their Whisperer masks are ripped off before they’re held with knives to their throats. “It’s a good trade,” Alpha explains, clearly believing she is in the position of power in this situation.

A decision has been made. The Hilltop must turn over Lydia or conflict will ensue. Daryl goes to collect Lydia from the jail, but Magna informs him that she is missing…and so is Henry. In a moment that proves Dog Dixon truly is Daryl’s dog, the canine manages to track down Henry’s last location at the Hilltop using one of his shirts. Daryl prepares to exit the community to go get him via the emergency escape route Sasha made, but Enid volunteers stating that she can make him come back and that she is responsible for Alden. Addy leads the way, realizing that he most likely took Lydia to the hideaway cabin that the Hilltop teens hung at in “Evolution.” At the shack, Lydia dresses in normal clothes rather than scraps and she notes that it feels nice. Enid and Addy arrive and Henry comes out to speak with them, vehemently refusing to give up his two-day girlfriend. It is here that Enid really shines as she explains that this life isn’t fair, and that they just need to look out for their own people right now. She also tells Henry about losing her parents, and also Carl. For the first time since he wrote it, the specifics of Carl’s letter to Enid are revealed by her; he told her that her life must be more than just surviving somehow. Since his passing, Enid has been working to follow the advice Carl gave her, but it hasn’t been easy. Lydia steps out of the cabin and states that she will return to her mother, citing the fact that she misses her people. It almost seems as if her decision was based more out of a desire to not want Henry to have to give her up. It’s been clear since her introduction that Lydia and Henry have feelings for one another, and this is further proof of that.

Lauren Ridloff as Connie – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 11 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

This episode takes a dark turn; dark for even “The Walking Dead.” In a series of events of that really highlight just how horrific this show can get a times, and also just how ruthless the Whisperers are, we hear the sound of the baby crying. Moments before, Alpha had sent some of her people to keep back a herd that was approaching the Hilltop. Now, the baby’s cries are drawing the real walkers toward the standoff. The mother and Alpha make eye-contact and the true nature of the leader comes to light. Giving just a glance, Alpha instructs the mother to lay down the baby on the ground and walk away. Alden is absolutely stunned to see this and calls Alpha out about it, but the Whisperer leader makes it clear that in order to move among the dead, you have to be quiet. In her words, the baby won’t be quiet, so natural selection will have its way. With his hands bound behind him, Luke manages to sign to Connie, who is still hiding in the cornfields nearby. She sees the baby laying on the ground and charges out of her hiding spot to the rescue, shooting a walker with her slingshot and kicking another one to the ground. She grabs the baby and runs back into the cornfields. Viewers are thrown right into Connie’s point of view as the sound is wiped away to highlight the fact that she must fend off walkers while not being able to hear them coming. The baby is crying, drawing more and more into the field, but Connie is all alone and manages to take several down. Thankfully, Daryl swoops in and kills one walker before it bites Connie. Kelly, Tammy and Earl help bring Connie and the baby back to the community. This scene is probably the highlight of the episode and really shines as a piece of genuine terror.

The episode wraps up as the hostage exchange comes to fruition. Daryl walks Lydia out of the Hilltop’s gate while Alden and Luke are brought forward. Once our people are returned, Enid embraces Alden and states that she never wants to let go of him again. When Lydia reunites with her mother it isn’t under happy terms. We see the abuse firsthand as Alpha slaps her daughter across the face before pulling her in for a warm hug. It’s clear from their dialogue that Lydia isn’t allowed to call her mother anything other than Alpha. When night falls, Henry stops Daryl and expresses the fact that he’s having a hard time with what they just did. Daryl flat out tells him that the world sucks and that some difficult decisions have to be made. A beautiful montage set to music shows where all of the characters are at the end of the episode. Magna’s crew celebrate Luke’s safe return in their trailer with booze, but Connie isn’t feeling it. Tammy and Earl hold the Whisperer baby, possibly revealing that they have adopted the newborn. Enid and Alden have romantic time in their trailer. Jerry inserts the new projector bulb as Ezekiel and Carol kiss in an absolutely stunning shot. Later, Jerry is shown taking care of his own baby while Nabila sleeps. This wouldn’t be an episode of “The Walking Dead” without something popping off in the final moments. Addy speaks with Daryl in the barn to show him a note Henry left behind. He left…to go find Lydia. As Daryl preps to head out in search of him, Connie steps forward and communicates with Daryl to let him know that she also can’t live with what they did and that she wants to come along with him. Daryl is hesitant at first, but Connie persists and the two head out with Dog to retrieve the prince of the Kingdom.

Samantha Morton as Alpha, Cassady McClincy as Lydia – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 11 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The good in “Bounty”

  • The ruthlessness of Alpha and the Whisperers in action. They really are animals that don’t act as normal humans do. Alpha rules by fear as seen in the glare given to the mother, ordering her to lay down her baby.
  • Daryl making the call to hand over Lydia solely to get Alden and Luke back. It isn’t the easiest or best decision, but it’s what needed to be done.
  • Enid really standing up and trying to make Henry understand why Lydia needs to be handed over. Her monologue about her parents and Carl really shows how much she has grown as a character.
  • Connie’s scene in the cornfields with the baby is some of the most intense moments the show has done in recent memory.
  • Connie teaming up with Daryl and Dog to go out and recover Henry. This is surely going to be an interesting dynamic that forms and could make for a fascinating friendship.
  • The opening flashbacks showing a brief moment during the time jump and revealing some insight into the
  • The juxtaposition between the intense conflict at the Hilltop and the lighthearted mission the Kingdom is really well done.
  • Jerry becoming a father is the good news we need in this world. What a wonderful father he must be. The excitement Carol and Ezekiel have for him is also great.
  • Carol and Ezekiel’s romance continues to be amazing. They really are made for one another. On the outside, Carol seems to be annoyed by Ezekiel’s campiness, but she loves it deep down.
  • The musical montages of the episode are simply too great to put into words.
  • Seeing Jesus again, even in flashback form, is very much welcomed and appreciated.

The iffy in “Bounty”

  • The interactions between Enid and Alden do still feel a bit forced, but that may just be because their relationship hasn’t received much screentime. It’s great that they’ve both found happiness, but we haven’t been able to witness the development together, so it still feels a bit stiff.
  • The same is true for Henry and Lydia’s relationship, but this is even more stiff considering they have only known each other for a handful of days. Henry risking it all for Lydia is pretty hard to believe.

The bad in “Bounty”

  • Again, Henry’s actions continue to paint him as incredibly naive and not all that equipped to survive long term in the apocalypse. It just isn’t believable that Carol’s child would act this foolish, even if his motivations are pure. After all of the children she has had to witness dying, wouldn’t it make more sense for Henry to be a hardened survivor like she is?
  • The fact that Carol and the Kingdom are still unaware of the conflict with the Whisperers is downright ridiculous. It’s pretty much exactly what happened during the conflict with the Saviors when Carol wasn’t made aware until MANY episodes after Glenn and Abraham were killed. Keeping Carol out of the loop is tiring and does not benefit her story.
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Matt Lintz as Henry – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 11 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Top performances in “Bounty”

  • Lauren Ridloff as Connie
  • Katelyn Nacon as Enid
  • Samantha Morton as Alpha
  • Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon
  • Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier
  • Callan McAuliffe as Alden

Lingering thoughts and predictions

  • There was something extremely worrying about how Connie was sitting by herself near the end of the episode. Is it possible that she was bitten during the scene in the cornfields? She’s seen writing a note, so could this be a goodbye letter?
  • Enid made reference to the death of her parents, which was shown in a flashback during the episode “JSS.” Her “Just Survive Somehow” mantra is mentioned once again, but it seems that Carl has inspired her to move past just surviving and instead build a life worth living.
  • Earl and Tammy made note of the upcoming Fair, and seem to be planning on attending. Who else plans on going from the Hilltop?
  • Earl and Tammy adopting the Whisperer baby parallels Aaron adopting baby Gracie after her father was killed by Rick at the Savior outpost. Now our group is raising two children that were orphaned by two villain groups.
  • Henry mentions that Daryl helped out at Alexandria when things went bad, but no specifics are given. Is this the unknown event that caused the separation of the communities and resulted in Daryl and Michonne having the scars on their backs?
  • Carol is the happiest she has been in a long time, but that probably means she is headed toward tragedy.
  • Once again, Tara gets to demonstrate her leadership skills, but Daryl is the one to step forward face Alpha one-on-one. It’s important to note that Tara had already made the decision to hand over Lydia before Daryl returned to the community to retrieve her.
  • The simple fact that Jerry has a family puts an immediate target on his back, as well as Nabila and their children. Please stay safe.
  • Ezekiel mentioned Oceanside in the present timeline so it appears that the community IS still standing, but is far removed from everyone else. We don’t know if all members of the community, including Cyndie, survived the time jump.
  • Ezekiel has a line about how Henry used to love movie nights. This is a direct reference to a great moment back in “The Well” in which Henry asks Benjamin if he can stay up late to watch movies.

“Bounty” is a wonderfully strong episode that really pushes the story in plenty of exciting directions. The conflict with the Whisperers continues to escalate and it looks as though we are headed straight for a deadly end to the season. Hopefully, the communities start to come back together, because we need everyone on the same page now more than ever.

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

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

Spoiler Warning for Season 9, Episode 10 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.

“When you stay soft, people die.”

Alpha is here. She’s dangerous. She’s ruthless. She wants her daughter back. After being introduced at the tail end of the Mid-Season Premiere, the villainous leader of the Whisperers is seen fully as the show provides viewers with backstory on how she became the person she is today. This chilling episode does a lot great, but does have some drawbacks and instances of just plain stupid character decisions. That being said, the horror is on another level.

This episode features a series of flashbacks scattered throughout and told via Lydia narrating in the present timeline. These flashbacks will be recapped at the end of this review while the current storylines will be discussed first. 

Still locked up in jail, Henry and Lydia decide to open up to one another and share their pasts. Lydia explains how much she misses the sounds and smells of the dead, something that is disturbing to Henry. While discussing their parents, Henry tells Lydia that his biological father and mother died and that Ezekiel and Carol are now his parents. There’s an interesting point made by Lydia that Carol sounds a lot like her own mother in that they are both not to be messed with. While the two teens talk, Daryl is sitting just outside, listening to everything. Henry states that he’s being nice to Lydia because someone (King Ezekiel) was kind to him and his brother when they were found. It’s here that Lydia starts prodding for information and manages to get Henry to not only reveal that there is another community, but he flat out states the Kingdom’s name and mentions that it’s a day’s ride away. From a strategic standpoint, this is one of the stupidest things he could have done. Daryl knows this and storms into the jail to remove Henry and lecture him outside. Rather than realize the error of his ways, Henry is angry to find out that Daryl, Enid and others have been listening to his conversations with Lydia to gain information. Storming off, Henry calls Daryl an asshole. Sure, Daryl is direct and blunt, but he’s just looking out for the safety of the community.

Angel Theory as Kelly, Lauren Ridloff as Connie, Eleanor Matsuura as Yumiko, Nadia Hilker as Magna – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The other notable story arc of the episode follows the Hilltop residents as they search for Alden and Luke, who were captured by Alpha. Tara leads a search party consisting of Magna, Yumiko, Connie, Kelly, Marco and Kal to a wooded area and they discover a cluster of walkers feasting on something. They realize they have to be careful upon approaching the walkers…as they might actually be people. In an action sequence that allows each of the characters to show off their skills, they take down multiple walkers before discovering the grisly sight of Alden and Luke’s horses mauled. Connie investigates and discovers that the horses were cut open and skinned, something that couldn’t have been done by ordinary walkers. This discovery causes Tara to reassess the search effort and orders her people to return to come up with a better plan. The fact that they have absolutely no clue as to how many Whisperers are out there is deeply concerning to her. Kelly tries to protest, but Tara doesn’t even give her a chance to fight her on this. They need to return. This is an excellent example of Tara’s leadership in action as she is forced to make difficult decisions that might not be the most popular. Throughout the episode, the ways in which Tara leads really make for impressive growth in her character.

This episode really hammers in parallels between Lydia and Daryl, and also sets up what should be a really fascinating dynamic between them. Daryl goes down to the cell and offers pain medication for Lydia’s injured ear, but she doesn’t accept it. The conversation shifts to Lydia’s past and she explains that the outbreak took over the world when she was around the age of six. Contrasting his “bad” cop persona last episode, Daryl tries to take a lighter approach and tells Lydia that the Hilltop has good people who could help her if she is willing to work with them. Daryl also hands over the pills and slides a ladle of water through the cell, but Lydia sees an opportunity and tries to fight back. Quickly disarming Lydia, Daryl spots a large number of bruises all over her arm and the two fall silent. Later, he returns with a switch to explain the tactics some fathers use to beat their kids. The flashbacks of Lydia’s past originally showed her father being abusive, but Daryl is able to determine that it was in fact her mother who beat her. Daryl was abused as a child, so he clearly understands and can spot cases of it happening to others. That’s such a crucial part of his backstory that shaped who he was in the earliest seasons, but he’s been able to come around from it to now help someone else in a similar situation. Something great about this particular relationship is that Lydia is also able to see the cracks in Daryl’s arguments. After he expresses the fact that society is being built back up, Lydia points out that Daryl doesn’t belong. To be fair, he has been living in the swamps and only recently returned to the communities.

Steve Kazee as Frank, Scarlett Blum as Young Lydia – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

In one of the trailers, Yumiko paces around and declares that her group needs to go out and continue the search for Luke. Magna is against that idea, citing the fact that she nearly made a move that would have ended things for them at Alexandria; she doesn’t want to do the same here and go against Tara. They hold a vote and after an emotional plea from Yumiko, Magna and the others ultimately decide to head out under the cover of night. When night comes, the foursome sneak out of the Hilltop via the emergency escape that Sasha created during Season 7; this was used by her and Rosita when they went on their rogue plot to assassinate Negan. Once outside the walls, Connie finds tracks in the dirt and realizes that they aren’t from walkers, but rather the mask-wearing adversaries. Yumiko expresses guilt over what went down in Coalport, a place that was referenced by the group when they first arrived at Alexandria. It seems as though they abandoned their posts in Coalport in order to survive when it was falling apart. A sneaky quiet walker manages to lunge for Kelly, prompting the group to realize that walkers are all around them. Yumiko, Manga and Connie all agree that they need to return to the Hilltop, but Kelly simply cannot go back. She tearfully explains that when things went bad in Coalport, the group was separated, but Luke found her. This is absolutely understandable that she would want to keep looking, but things get dangerous when Connie sends Magna and Yumiko back and states that she will stay with her sister. She assures her two friends that she and Kelly will be okay…but that is a risk that none of them should be willing to take right now. When two people are missing, why would you allow two more people to stay by themselves in clearly hostile territory?

Back at the Hilltop, Daryl’s finishes his chat with Lydia and comes to the conclusion that she is a broken girl. Henry had been sitting outside listening to the conversation and starts asking a million questions when Daryl clearly just wants to go to bed. There is some fantastic backstory provided via Henry as he explains that Carol used to have long hair when she was with Ed, but she cut it because he would grab onto it and throw her across the room. Now, all these years later, she finally feels safe enough to have long hair again; Ezekiel is the person she always deserved to be with, because now she gets to be the queen she is. Henry attests to the fact that Lydia is not a bad person, and that she’s just messed up and scared. Later, he goes and visits her in the cell and they get their first actual look at one another. Strangely, Henry admits to liking Lydia…even though he’s literally only known her for a day or so. In the most infuriating action taken during the episode, Henry actually releases Lydia to give her a tour of the Hilltop. The two exit the cellar and hide from the guards between the trailers. Being that she’s lived out in the world for so long and learned survival skills, Lydia picks a worm out of the dirt and eats it before offering one to Henry; this is something that’s absolutely foreign to him, but he does it regardless. In yet another naive move, Henry starts pointing out key areas of the Hilltop, including the medical trailer; he even names Enid and states that she is the community doctor. In yet another amateur move, Henry has his back turned to Lydia while revealing key information. This allows her to pick up a hammer, but the sound of a baby crying triggers her horrific memories and she has a panic attack. Thankfully, nothing bad came of this little excursion as Lydia asks to be locked back up, but it still was totally irresponsible of Henry to do this. Daryl was watching as usual, but even he wouldn’t have been able to save Henry if Lydia really wanted to whack him over the head. Henry locks Lydia up and per her request, stays with her overnight. The two hold hands under the cell and it becomes totally clear that Henry is madly in love with this girl he literally just met.

Scarlett Blum as Young Lydia, Samantha Morton as Alpha – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

When morning comes, Daryl arrives with food and finds Henry still outside of the cell. Lydia straight up tells them both that her people aren’t coming for her and that the group’s policy is to just leave their own behind when they’re injured or captured. She also reveals the existence of a temporary camp near the bridge. This builds up to Lydia coming to realize the truth of her past. Flashbacks sprinkled throughout the episode show the onset of the outbreak, but Lydia is an unreliable narrator and therefore the actual events are intermixed with lies her mother has been telling her. Set somewhere in or near Baltimore, a young Lydia (Scarlett Blum) is sheltered in a basement with her mother and father Frank (Steve Kazee) on day 23 of the global apocalypse. In these memories, Frank is erratic and panics in front of Lydia while her mother tries to comfort her. Other survivors in the basement listen to the Emergency Broadcast System, but quickly realize that help probably isn’t coming and propose leaving. On day 43 of the apocalypse, a survivor begins to panic and tries to break open a window, but Alpha throws him to the ground and suffocates him. Frank holds Lydia and comforts her, shocked by the drastic actions of his wife. In the next flashback, Alpha is bald and discusses the fact that the body of the man she killed needs to be disposed of. Frank comforts Lydia as Alpha creepily watches. In the middle of the night, Lydia awakens and stumbles upon the dead body. Suddenly, he reanimates and attacks, but Frank intervenes and has his throat ripped out. This is the memory Lydia has been living with; thinking that she is partially responsible for her father’s death. The real events finally come to her and she remembers the walker attacking someone else, causing chaos that prompts Alpha to hatch an escape. Frank doesn’t want to leave and stands up to Alpha, but the mad mother isn’t willing to lose her child and decides to kill her husband. In this moment, Lydia, Daryl and Henry all realize the sick mind game Alpha has been playing with her own daughter to keep her in line. The truth is finally out and things are about to change.

The final moments of the episode are downright terrifying. Henry and Daryl exit the cellar and discuss the fact that some people just aren’t meant to be parents. There’s a touching moment where Henry expresses his gratitude that Daryl and his mom are best friends. Outside the walls, Magna and Yumiko return and spot Tara on the lookout post at the gate. Yumiko speaks with Tara and personally apologizes as guards outside walk Kelly and Connie back to the community. Tara was aware that the group snuck out so she sent guards after them. This is another instance of Tara’s leadership shining as she makes it clear that she wants to hear feedback from her people and that not all of her decisions will be 100% right necessarily. Tara just doesn’t want anyone else to die, and Magna’s group are included in that. There’s a moment of panic as Yumiko spots something suspicious from afar. A large collection of Whisperers are approaching the community. For some reason, Connie is several yards back and must dive into the cornfields to hide as Kelly panics and is dragged into the walls by the guards. Tara alerts the guards and Daryl, and puts the Hilltop on high alert as the creepy collection of enemies march forward. The camera focuses in on a ouroboros belt buckle before turning and showing the back of a bald woman’s body as she marches through her soldiers up to the outer gate of the Hilltop. We see her face, dirtied and almost unrecognizable from the flashbacks. The two parties stare at one another before the woman opens her mouth and declares “I am Alpha,” in a frightening southern accent. Alpha wants just one thing: her daughter. This is our first look at current day Alpha without her walker skin. The fact that she is showing herself sans the Whisperer get up says a lot. She means business.

The good in “Omega”

  • The parallels between Daryl and Lydia are really excellent. It’s comforting to know that the writers haven’t forgotten about such a crucial part of Daryl’s backstory that made him into the person he is today.
  • Daryl’s lighter side coming to the surface as he realizes that taking a hard edge with Lydia is not going to work. He understands her, because he was once her. This is the start of what should be a great relationship.
  • Henry’s attempts to make up for his mistakes by citing Carol and her past, as well as her friendship with Daryl.
  • The backstory of Alpha and Lydia presented in a jumbled way so as to accurately showcase the horrific manipulation that a daughter has experienced from her own mother. Flashbacks on this show are typically clear, but this is a unique case of both the character and the viewer not knowing the whole truth and being fooled by an unreliable narrator.
  • Additionally, the flashbacks help to paint Alpha as a total villain that we shouldn’t have sympathy for. In the same regard, Lydia is shown to be a victim in this scenario.
  • Tara’s demonstration of her leadership shows just how much her character has developed since being introduced in Season 4, but also just from her reckless antics against Dwight last season. She’s really a formidable who should be able to lead the Hilltop through this conflict.
  • Magna’s group showing their absolutely willingness to risk it all in the name of saving their friend. That right there is some genuine loyalty.
  • The creepy factor. The Whisperers and Alpha are some of the scariest things ever shown in this series.

The iffy in “Omega”

  • Alpha and Lydia receiving backstory in the form of flashbacks when so many characters haven’t is a little odd. Negan has been in the story for years now, yet we only received snippets of his life prior to the Saviors. There’s also plenty of long-running main characters who have and will likely never be given backstory. Still, it was important for us to see Alpha and Lydia prior to the Whisperers.
  • Characters missing. It is very much apparent in episodes such as this that certain characters are not shown because that would require paying the actors. The fact that Alden and Luke aren’t shown is understandable, but is a noticeable result of this. Enid should have been shown even if only briefly. Additionally, while we are seeing the Kingdom next week, it is downright ridiculous that they are being kept totally out of the loop once again. Carol being separated from everyone is lame.
  • Magna’s group back-tracking and wanting to return to the Hilltop immediately after sneaking out feels extremely contrived. That being said, it would make sense for them to not think totally clearly in this situation.

The bad in “Omega”

  • Henry should not be this blatantly naive and reckless over someone he just met. It is in line with his character to be direct and careless at times, but some of his actions this episode are laughably ridiculous. From him giving up identifiable information about the communities to him releasing Lydia and touring her around the Hilltop, it’s really hard to believe Carol’s child would act this stupid. At this point, Henry is being treated more as a plot device to force things to happen rather than an actual character…and that’s a huge problem.
  • Connie and Kelly hanging out in the woods AT NIGHT when they clearly understand that they are in danger. Again, this can be chalked up to them not being in a great mindset, but this particular moment isn’t great.
  • Connie going on a leisurely stroll several yard behind Kelly and the guards while returning to the Hilltop. It is painfully clear that the plot calls for Connie to be trapped outside during this first interaction with Alpha…so they manufactured a way for her to get stuck.
Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Nadia Hilker as Magna, Eleanor Matsuura as Yumiko – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Top performances in “Omega

  • Cassady McClincy as Lydia
  • Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon
  • Samantha Morton as Alpha
  • Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler
  • Angel Theory as Kelly
  • Matt Lintz as Henry

Lingering thoughts and predictions

  • Transmission from the Emergency Broadcast System in the flashbacks revealed that the Army secured downtown Baltimore. It is unknown if that city was bombed as part of Operation Cobalt, which was explained in Season 1 of “Fear the Walking Dead” as the military effort to contain the outbreak. Los Angeles was firebombed fairly early into the apocalypse, but it is entirely possible that Baltimore may still be standing. It’s worth noting that Washington D.C. seems to have not been bombed, as seen in the Season 9 Premiere.
  • Young Lydia’s mention of Halloween may provide further clues as to when exactly the global apocalypse began. Small hints from both series place the theorized start of the apocalypse to either August or September 2010. This series of flashbacks helps with world-building and expanding the lore of the Universe.
  • Hopefully, Daryl opens up to Lydia more about the abuse he suffered. This could allow them to connect more and could provide some additional backstory for Daryl, while also allowing him to make reference to Merle and his family.
  • The current standoff between the Hilltop and the Whisperers is reminiscent to that between the Prison and The Governor, regarding Michonne. Rick really considered turning Michonne over…and thankfully he didn’t.
  • The circumstances surrounding the fall of Coalport and Magna’s group escaping could make for a really interesting series of flashbacks.
  • Luke and Alden being held hostage parallels the final showdown between the Prison and The Governor when he captured Michonne and Hershel.
  • Alpha and Frank sing the song “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” to young Lydia in the flashbacks. Fans of “Breaking Bad” will recognize this song from the series finale.

“Omega” is a solid episode even if it does have a handful of problems. Most of these problems relate to the recurring issue of characters making unbelievably dumb decisions that serve to move the plot forward. Still, the horror aspect as well as the flashbacks and handling of the new characters really serves to make this yet another worthy chapter in an amazing season. Just when we thought we had found peace, the living started walking with the dead.

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

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

Spoiler Warning for the Mid-Season Premiere (Season 9, Episode 9) 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.

“It’s about doing whatever it takes to not bury more.”

Do you hear those whispers? They’re deafening. After more than two months on hiatus, “The Walking Dead” is officially back and the stakes are higher and more terrifying than ever. Coming off the heels of a devastating loss at the hands of the newest villains, the series charts the course for the next story arc…and it is chilling.

When we left our survivors, they had just witnessed the shocking stabbing of Jesus in a dark and foggy graveyard. Picking up moments later, Michonne takes charge and orders her people to evacuate the scene before the mysterious force that surrounds them has a chance to strike again. A heartbreaking close up shot of Jesus shows his lifeless face, followedda by blood pouring out of his wounds. Aaron plunges a knife into his head to assure that the Hilltop leader doesn’t reanimate. As Daryl, Aaron and the others collect Jesus’ body, Michonne stands guard and takes down several walkers…and also Whisperers who attempt to strike again. The cold open comes to an end as the group exits the cemetery, locking the gate behind them only for it to be unlocked moments later by a Whisperer disguised as a walker. This is downright horrifying and really plays up the element of horror beautifully.

Danai Gurira as Michonne – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

There are two primary plots of this episode, but the most pressing one deals with the aftermath of Jesus’ death. The sun comes up and the residents of the Hilltop are wary when they realize that the rescue crew has not returned. Tara holds a meeting with Enid, Alden, DJ and Marco (who has been absent since the Season Premiere) to come up with a game plan to search for their missing people. Luke joins the discussion, wanting to pull his weight and show that he can contribute to the community; he offers to head out and search alongside Alden. In the meantime, the rescue crew stumbles up to where they left their horses. Magna, Yumiko and Eugene discuss the bizarre nature of the people wearing walker masks as Daryl and Aaron note that there are certainly more of the group still out there. There is an excellent moment between Daryl and Michonne whilst heading back to the Hilltop where they note the importance of bringing back Jesus’ body and both apologize to one another for not being able to do so with Rick’s body. Daryl and Michonne have always been a solid team and it seems as though the strange split between our survivors did not impact them. Magna expresses her regret to Aaron about the fact that she didn’t get to know Jesus. This prompts Eugene to blame himself, but Aaron shuts this down right away. As with all of Season 9, these moments of character interaction are vastly improved from the previous 2 seasons, specifically in regards to the dialogue feeling more natural and realistic.

The events in the cemetery change everything. For roughly eleven years, our survivors came to know and totally understand the workings of walkers. Now, they are forced to question everything due to the fact that humans are hiding among the dead. The team flips back into action mode when they come across a herd of walkers, and decide to redirect them to a covered bridge to dispatch the threats. Being the smart and resourceful guy he is, Daryl shoots the walkers in the legs to determine who is actually dead and who is faking. He shoots one Whisperer, who falls to the ground in pain and is devoured by the real walkers. Two others pick up on Daryl’s plan and turn around, but are confronted by Michonne. They pull out knives and prepare to attack, but Michonne slices one and disarms the other. Daryl angrily rips off the walker mask to reveal a teenage girl (Cassady McClincy) who pleads for her life. They are not playing games. Daryl and Michonne scream at her, demanding to know how many of the girl’s people are out there. She states that she is alone now, but that is obviously a lie. As more of the herd closes in on the bridge, the squad decides to roll out…with their new hostage. Michonne issues a stern threat that the young girl shall not try anything lest she wishes to actually end up as one of the dead.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Eleanor Matsuura as Yumiko, Nadia Hilker as Magna – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

The people left in this world are no strangers to death. It never gets easier though. The gates of the Hilltop open and the residents are thrilled to see the rescue crew back. However, the mood dramatically shifts when everyone spots Jesus’ lifeless corpse slung over the back of a horse. Tara and Enid are particularly shocked and heartbroken, stepping forward to learn the news from their family. Daryl and the others lower the body from the horse and carry Jesus to the cemetery. The fallen soldier has been brought home. It’s time for the people who loved him the most to honor him. Before the community can mourn the loss of their leader, they have to assess the current threat they face. The captured Whisperer is dragged to the entrance of the jail as Tammy Rose tells Tara that the Hilltop will demand justice for Jesus and that the people are looking to her for answers. Inside the jail, Henry is curious to find out what is happening. As Daryl informs him about the death of Jesus, Michonne and Tara throw the girl into a cell and begin their interrogation. This isn’t your ordinary questioning. Michonne really digs deep into the girl, demanding answers about the Whisperers. The girl seems genuinely terrified, but she also appears to be holding a lot back. Having not gotten anything substantial out of her, the team exits the jail and talks it through outside. Tara thanks Michonne for all she has done and states that Magna’s crew will be allowed to stay at the Hilltop, noting that Jesus would do the same. Michonne wants to get her people back to Alexandria and alert the others about the threat. She takes Daryl aside and makes sure he is aware of the risk that keeping the girl at the Hilltop poses. This is something he will have to deal with…and it’s incredibly tricky.

There’s a handful of other great character moments that take place in the infirmary as Siddiq sets Eugene’s dislocated knee back into place. Rosita is sitting right at his side, and when Siddiq steps away to gather more supplies, Eugene tries once again to open up. Eugene is torn up by the loss of Jesus, but he’s even more haunted by the thought that Rosita nearly lost her life during the altercation outside the walls. He takes this moment to try and express his love to Rosita, but she isn’t ready to hear what he has to say. She rushes out of the infirmary and vomits, prompting Siddiq to come and check on her. A MAJOR revelation is made as Rosita tells Siddiq that she is pregnant with his child. Before she and Father Gabriel were together, Rosita and Siddiq had a series of hookups that is now resulting in pregnancy. Eugene overhears the news and has a stunned and disappointed look on his face. And thus begins what will likely be a love square between Rosita, Eugene, Gabriel and Siddiq. Will tension arise among the foursome? Will it be a battle for Rosita’s love? Will this pregnancy also last three full seasons? It’s important to note that this reveal does tie back to a conversation Negan had with Gabriel in the previous episode where he mentioned overhearing Rosita speaking about someone else. That initially seemed like she may have cheated on Gabriel, but thankfully they didn’t go that route.

Avi Nash as Siddiq, Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

We have to talk about a drawback of an otherwise solid episode. It’s Henry. He’s given a few minutes of furlough from jail to talk to Daryl about his drunk and disorderly activities that resulted in him being locked up. Henry desperately wants to find his place at the Hilltop after spending nearly his entire life at the Kingdom. This conversation is actually really solid, and builds upon the relationship between Daryl and Henry that was established in the preceding episodes. It’s the events involving Henry later that are irritating. As Daryl heads back down to further interrogate the girl, she lets out screams of terror and continues her dishonesty about her group. Daryl is fed up with the games she appears to be playing and holds her against the cell door with a knife to her throat demanding answers. The girl mentions her weary mother who was at the cemetery, but was separated and is now apparently the sole survivor of the group. There’s also some dialogue from her revealing that the Whisperers always planned to attack and kill. Daryl threatens to literally drag the girl up to the residents of the Hilltop and let them string her up, but he ultimately backs down on this. All the while he is doing this, Henry is screaming for Daryl to back off, which results in the latter yelling back at the former about wising his ass up. After Daryl leaves, the girl thanks Henry and introduces herself as Lydia. This all seems to be part of Daryl’s plan as he eavesdrops on their conversation from outside. Here we have Henry talking up a clear adversary…because he likes her?

Michonne raises a massively important point about this new threat. Alexandria is completely in the dark about the danger lurking among the dead. Her decision to lead her people back is wise, and while packing up, Aaron seems to agree. He’s torn up about Jesus being killed and expresses his regret that he didn’t see Michonne’s point of view about the communities being separated. Even though he and Jesus were trying to reconnect Alexandria and the Hilltop, it seems as though the events that have just occurred have changed his mind. There’s another fantastic bit of dialogue between Michonne and Daryl that follows as the two joke about the hunter and his dog sleeping in the stables over night. Michonne tells Daryl that he should be co-leading the Hilltop with Tara as this is all too much for one person to handle on their own. This is an exceptionally good point as both Tara and Daryl have their own individual strengths that would make for an effective mutual leadership. Before Team Alexandria departs, they attend Jesus’ funeral along with the rest of the Hilltop. Tara, Enid, Marco and others pay their respects as the former leader is given a hero’s sendoff. Thankfully, the aftermath of his death wasn’t rushed over and we are actually able to see the majority of the character mourn this loss.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

A significant portion of the episode follows Negan after his escape from the jail cell in the Mid-Season Finale. Stepping out into the world for the first time in roughly seven years (presumably), Negan gets a look at just how much Alexandria is thriving. Under the cover of darkness, he walks to the gardens and snacks on a tomato before grabbing a shovel and claiming it as his new weapon. He oddly sneaks into the Grimes family apartment and enters Judith’s room, where he steals her compass. As the sun rises, he finds a spot on the wall to make his escape. The sound of a little girls stops him dead in his tracks. It’s Judith, armed with her colt python and still in her pajamas. She demands that Negan return to his cell, but he states that she will just have to shoot him. Negan promises that if she lets him go, he won’t hurt anyone ever again. Before he departs, Judith tells him that there’s nothing out there for him or anyone else, and that if she sees him again, she will shoot him. It’s extremely bizarre that no one managed to spot Negan during his early morning escape plot. Why is Judith the only one on watch? Who even is watching her and RJ while Michonne is gone? Much like her brother, Judith just can’t stay in the house…but with good reason.

A fact that is easy to forget is that Negan has been locked up for all these years. He hasn’t had to fight off walkers in this time, but now he is out in the world and must face the undead once again. He fights off two walkers and gets two really clever kills under his belt. Before being a prisoner, Negan had the Saviors around him almost constantly so he never really had to survive on his own. That changes now. He makes a rookie mistake right off the bat by drinking water straight from a creek without filtering it, causing him to vomit. The episode creates an incredible throwback as Negan finds himself in the famed clearing where he lined up Rick’s people on that fateful night and played a torturous game before brutally killing Abraham and Glenn. This time around, he is on his knees. He doesn’t have Lucille or his Saviors. He is alone. This doesn’t mean the Negan we know is gone. He decides to take a shopping trip and finds himself a new leather jacket to reclaim at least some of his old identity. Suddenly, a pack of wild dogs arrive and chase him around the store, leading him to make an escape that ends in a walker feasting on the canines. When Negan was first introduced a few years ago, who would have guessed that he would end up here…on the run from dogs? Again, this is a case of him being forced to adapt and grow as a survivor without the protection of the Saviors that kept him alive for so long.

Cailey Fleming as Judith – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

The Sanctuary used to be Negan’s own personal castle. It was where he reigned and commanded respect. Those days are long gone, but the building still stands. It was revealed via dialogue a few episodes ago that the Sanctuary fell apart, but this is our first time seeing it post-time jump. Negan arrives and strolls through the front yard, walking through the failed gardens that could have been used to sustain life at the community. He enters the factory and stands upon the perch from which he used to give speeches. Now he looks out at the trashed and abandoned shelter, still whistling that eerie tune that instilled fear in countless survivors. The look on his face makes it clear that he knows this isn’t his home anymore. He finds one walker that was once a loyal Savior under him, and he commends him for remaining when everyone else left. Negan exits and kills a few walkers outside in the main area before returning to the inside and realizing that he can’t remain here. He hops on the back of a motorcycle and speeds on the road, headed back to Alexandria. Out of nowhere, Miss Judith Grimes steps out into the middle of the road, pulls out her colt python and fires a shot right at Negan. He crashes and she holds him at gunpoint once again, restating her claim that there is nothing out in the world for him. She questions whether he is returning to Alexandria or not, and she ends up leading him home. And just like that, Judith quickly becomes one of the most fascinating characters on the show.

The other bit of the episode follows Alden and Luke on their search for the missing rescue team. Unbeknownst to them, the team has returned to the Hilltop, but they keep up the search. The two discuss Luke’s love for musical instruments and there is yet another mention of the upcoming Fair, which Alden suggests would be a good place for Luke to play music. There’s also a reference to Alden singing, which was first seen in “A New Beginning.” Luke spots one of Yumiko’s arrows and goes to investigate before being attacked by a walker…that has half a walker attached to it’s legs. The special effects team for the walkers never lets us down. Alden shows off his spear throwing skills as he saves Luke from being a walker snack. Luke finds another arrow and suggests that Yumiko left a trail for them to follow. The sound of a walker herd alerts them to the fact that they need to speed up their search efforts. Moments later, Alden and Luke are walking through the woods when they come across a walker in the foreground. They are confused when it suddenly stops dead in its tracks and just stares at them. Around them are similar walkers doing the exact same thing. The first suddenly flings an arrow in their direction before pulling out a shotgun, pointing it at Alden and Luke and stating “trail ends here,” in a chilling southern accent. This is Alpha (Samantha Morton)…and she isn’t here to play games.

Dan Fogler as Luke, Callan McAuliffe as Alden – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

The good in “Adaptation”

  • Judith and Negan are the standouts of this episode for sure. Each of their scenes showcase the hilarious and unique nature of their complicated relationship. Judith seems to have some compassion for Negan and vice versa. Still, she WILL shoot him if need be.
  • The horror element surrounding the Whisperers, particularly in the opening and closing scenes where their tactics and ability to be sneaky are shown.
  • Daryl and Michonne’s conversations really solidify their bond. They have been surviving together for years, and the trust between them is stronger than ever. Theya listen to one another and have developed a deep understanding for how each other operates. That is a deep dynamic.
  • Alden and Luke’s blossoming friendship allows for some levity in an otherwise dark and depressing story.
  • Jesus’ death was handled exceptionally well, particularly in the Hilltop’s reactions and at his actual funeral. Seeing Tom Payne reprise his role as the lifeless body of Jesus just really hurts. He’s actually gone.
  • The show not forgetting the deep bond between Rosita and Eugene. They have also been surviving together for so long, but have different takes on their relationship.
  • Lydia and Alpha’s introductions are top-notch.
  • The musical score is consistently amazing throughout the episode.

The iffy in “Adaptation”

  • Judith being a badass all over town is entertaining, but where are the other residents of Alexandria? Why does a ten year old child have to hunt down and capture the ONLY prisoner in the community? Where is Father Gabriel in all of this?
  • Why is the Kingdom not even being mentioned? Wouldn’t it be wise for them to somehow be informed of the current crisis so they are at least prepared to defend themselves?

The bad in “Adaptation”

  • Henry’s interruptions of Lydia’s interrogations are a clear sign that they are setting him up to take on a version of Carl’s comic arc, which isn’t the best material in the graphic novels. The whole situation feels pretty forced and already makes Henry look dumber than he should be at this point.
Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler, Brett Butler as Tammy Rose – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Top performances in “Adaptation”

  • Cassady McClincy as Lydia
  • Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon
  • Danai Gurira as Michonne
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan
  • Cailey Fleming as Judith Grimes

Lingering thoughts and predictions

  • Will Judith advocate for Negan to be given more freedom upon their return to Alexandria? This may be a point of disagreement between her and Michonne.
  • Negan handled several new weapons, but will he ever get Lucille back? Michonne did mention they never retrieved her, so it’s likely that she is still resting under that tree in the field.
  • The dogs attacking Negan is reminiscent to Season 5’s “Them,” when the group was stunned by a pack of wild dogs only to be saved by sharpshooting Sasha. It’s also worth pointing out that these dogs are likely the offspring of canines that lived before the apocalypse. Even though the world has ended, the rules of nature still apply. h
  • What happened to the surviving residents of the Sanctuary, including Negan’s wives? Did they die when the community fell apart or did they disperse and join other communities? We know Laura and DJ joined Alexandria and became active members among the residents.
  • Daryl and Tara co-leading the Hilltop could make for some really great material between the two. Hopefully Tara isn’t just thrown to the side so Daryl can shine. She deserves to be in the spotlight also.
  • Magna comforting Enid while Alden and Luke are missing really says a lot about her character. Perhaps this is the start of a new friendship. They would certainly make for a powerful duo.
  • When exactly did Alden learn spear-throwing? This is likely something he picked up from living at the Hilltop all these years.
  • Rosita being pregnant is concerning, especially because her comic counterpart undergoes a similar arc…and it doesn’t end well. That being said, this love “square” could really create an interesting dynamic with her and her lovers.
  • When exactly did Daryl/Michonne stop looking for Rick’s body? Do they truly 100% believe he is dead? Maybe this is already setting up Danai Gurira’s confirmed exit from the series in Season 10, which may serve to transition her to the upcoming Rick Grimes film trilogy.
  • What are Alpha’s plans for Luke and Alden? Perhaps she will use them in an attempt to get Lydia out of the Hilltop.

“Adaptation” is a thoroughly entertaining return to “The Walking Dead” that really hammers in the threat of the Whisperers and opens up all kinds of story potential. One survivor has fallen and more are sure to follow him as the next big conflict is officially underway. The world we know is changing, and it is downright scary to watch.

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

The Fyre Festival Phenomenon

Some people just like to watch the world burn. In April of 2017, that’s exactly what happened as the eyes of the Internet were on a small island in the Bahamas. The Fyre Festival drew the attention of everyone because it was an absolute disaster. Nearly two years later, attention has been turned back to the failed festival in two documentaries that give insider information into just how everything fell apart. Scratch that; nothing was ever together with this event.

In what seemed like an expert marketing power move, Hulu surprisingly released it’s documentary titled “Fyre Fraud” four days before Netflix’s “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened” released. With two detailed accounts of the breakdown dropping in such close proximity, there has been a renewed interest in the joke of a festival. The question remains: which film is superior? Honestly, that doesn’t really matter, because they both do a fantastic job at recounting the hellacious events before, during and after Fyre.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, there was a major social media push that included models, actors and other influencers using their influence to promote the luxurious and exclusive image of Fyre. Months later, social media exploded as live updates, photos and videos from those on the ground in the Bahamas trended and became the meme of the week. To watch it all unfold in real time was truly a remarkable experience that is hard to fully put into words. In all aspects, this meltdown is an example of millennial culture in its most raw form.

What the duo of documentaries reveal is something much more serious and difficult about one of the greatest days of the Internet. People were hurt because of Fyre Festival and the fraud committed by Billy McFarland and his team. Organizing and putting together a large-scale festival like this is no small feat. On site, many residents of Grand Exhuma in the Bahamas worked day and night, yet received no pay. Within the Fyre company itself, many lower-level employees were also scammed. These bits of information went largely unnoticed as the live disaster captivated those watching at home.

Thanks to these documentaries, people are finally taking notice. As such, the Internet has banded together in some respects to make right for some of those that Fyre wronged. A GoFundMe was set up to raise money for a restaurant owner who catered the event yet was never paid by festival organizers. At the time of this article’s publishing, the fundraising goal has been surpassed. Had it not been for these documentaries and the kindness of people on the Internet, this gross scam would have probably been overlooked entirely.

What both films do excellently is dive into the intricacies of why this particular event drew so much attention. What compelled people to spend thousands of dollars to attend a festival without any real knowledge of what it would actually be? Why were we all fascinated with seeing photos of concertgoers hunkered in hurricane relief tents? As entertaining as it all was to see unfold in realtime, these documentaries do shine a light on some crucial facts that transform what was originally a meme into an actual act of criminality. That being said, some of the twists in the films just contribute to the hilarity of the meme-side of things. You have to watch them. If you think you know how wild things got…you’ve got a big storm coming.

What these two documentaries on the festival show is that people love to see things devolve into a mess. People also love to help put things back together. There is no harm in having fun with the insane meltdown that was Fyre Festival. The memes and hilarity of it all brought the Internet together for a weekend, and to be perfectly honest…that’s a good thing. Two years later, we see the behind-the-scenes fiasco of it all and realize that actual people were left in shambles because of this mess. Hopefully through these documentaries, people will also take note of the hardships that have resulted from this large-scale fraud. No one could have ever predicted that a music festival such as this would become a worldwide phenomenon that is still being talked about to this day. This is one meme that will stand the test of time.

“Fyre Fraud” is available to stream on Hulu. “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened” is available to steam on Netflix.