SEASON 9; EPISODE 15
Well that was a fun little episode wasn't it? To be honest, it felt more like an episode of Game of Thrones than The Walking Dead - well the last few minutes did anyway. Viewers have had to endure a number of character deaths over the years, but none of those episodes quite matched this in terms of the sheer number of characters that were lost. Just to confirm; we lost ten characters tonight. And whilst most of them weren't 'big' characters, there were still a handful of shocking departures to contend with. The Walking Dead can be a cruel mistress. When you get fifteen minutes into an episode and think to yourself 'oh, this seems remarkably upbeat and positive as far as The Walking Dead goes', you know that you are in dangerous territory. Being lulled into a false sense of security is something they like to do from time to time and the longer the light-hearted stuff goes on for, the worse you know it's going to be when things go bad. And boy did things go bad.
But let's start at the beginning because although the last five minutes is what everyone will take away from episode 15, there was still some interesting stuff going on beforehand.
The opening scene showed a blissfully happy couple discovering Hilltop and then, after a few years of living there, meeting their end at the hands of The Whisperers whilst on their way to the fair. The scene ended with Alpha slicing off the face of a young woman. We assumed that she would now be wearing her face, but as it transpired, she was more interested in her clothes and long blonde hair...
At The Kingdom, Michonne, Daryl, Henry, Lydia, Judith and Connie finally arrived and there were some reunions in order. It's sometimes hard to do the maths but Michonne and her people have pretty much had nothing to do with any of the other communities for a couple of years now and this was perfectly illustrated when Carol spoke to Judith, but wasn't entirely if Judith would even know who she was. It's sad to think that after all they've been through, that divisions run so deep that the central core characters have been out of touch for so long, especially after enduring so much together. However Michonne wasn't just there to enjoy the toffee apples and CPR demonstrations that the fair had on offer. No, she was there to heal some wounds and to re-establish relations with her neighbours. Tara, Gabe, Ezekiel, Carol and that chick from Oceanside (will we ever get to see what those guys are up to?) all signed off on working more closely together. They also agreed that they would help each other out if one of them was attacked by The Whisperers - as well as agreeing to welcome Lydia into their group. It was a rare moment of unified thinking and you hope that this treaty will offer a chance for some form of coherent plan to be implemented against The Whisperers. Meanwhile, Henry squired Lydia around town and the rest of the people at the fair enjoyed themselves - as much as you can in a zombie apocalypse. If it all seemed too good to be true then...well, that's because it was. Because Alpha had infiltrated the Fair and although obviously outnumbered, it was obvious that she posed a real threat...we just didn't know what kind yet. Was she there to simply retrieve her daughter? Hmmm, it deemed doubtful.
Whilst all this is going on, some of the group head out to Hilltop. Daryl, Michonne, Carol and Yumiko broke off from the rest of their party after they encounter the busted cart from the opening scene. They are soon surrounded by walkers - and then by Whisperers and whilst the four of them were formidable fighters - even they didn't stand a chance against thirty or so assailants. They surrendered their weapons and Alpha led Daryl away from his friends to the top of a ridge where she showed him a gigantic horde of walkers. She told him that some of them were her own people and they could control where the horde moved. She also told him that she wouldn't harm any of his people if they stayed within a set boundary. When Daryl enquired where the border was she ominously told him 'you'll know'. Moments later we see Daryl and the others discovering an injured Siddiq. He leads them to 'the border' that Alpha was referring to - which happens to be a row of ten spikes adorned with human heads. Well, walker heads to be precise. As the camera pans along the severed heads we quickly realise that they are going to up the ante with each one. The highwaymen are first. Then Tammy. Then a few teenage jerks from The Kingdom who we saw earlier in the episode. And then...Enid! And then...Tara! And then...HENRY!
Shocking stuff. And a pretty ballsy move considering we've lost some big characters over the course of the last couple of seasons. Three big characters gone in one go. Yikes. It's always sad to see decent characters go but the show has felt a little bloated in terms of personnel recently so maybe it'll be a good thing going forward. How Carol is going to cope is another matter entirely.
The episode ended with Siddiq praising the heroism of the deceased and you leave with the feeling that the communities won't take this laying down. They have been here before - and they will fight back.
* Anyone else wonder how the hell Alpha managed to sneak out so many people from the fair? I'm hoping they explain that because it seems a tad ridiculous that she was able to do that without anyone noticing!