SEASON 9; EPISODE 16
We've been treated to some full throttle Walking Dead season finales over the years but after the death toll of the penultimate episode, it always felt as if there would be a more subdued conclusion to season 9. And that's pretty much what we got.
Another little time shift takes place between episode 15 (The Calm Before) and the season finale. Instead of focusing on the immediate aftermath and reaction to the deaths of Henry, Enid, Tara and the others - the writers instead chose to show us the more medium term impact it has had on the communities. It's something they have done in the past - most notably with Rick's departure. The decision to accelerate the timeline and to not dwell on things has it's drawbacks - however it has felt at times as if the show has spent a bit too much time mulling things over in the past, so jumping ahead a bit allows us to explore a slightly different atmosphere and situation.
Speaking of different atmosphere, we got snow! Full sun and scorching temperatures are pretty much a given in The Walking Dead world, however the severe snow storms really gave the episode a new flavour and for the most part it worked really well. The bad weather has of course been an ongoing problem and a leading factor in why The Kingdom has fallen. It may appear that the communities are starting to establish more modern ways of living - but when a few weeks of freezing conditions can bring a settlement to its knees, you realise that things really are still quite fragile. Saying that, a bit of snow brings modern Britain to a standstill so they're not alone in their failure to cope with extreme weather conditions.
Ezekiel, Carol, Michonne and the remaining inhabitants of The Kingdom begin their march from The Kingdom - the aim being to drop half the gang off at Hilltop and half off at Alexandria. Of course the journey is fraught with risk and as the snow pelts down, they are forced to seek refuge in The Sanctuary. There, they work out that even if they could get to the next waystation, they blizzard could trap them inside for weeks. Bit of a problem when there are only a couple of days worth of supplies there. So they decide the only option available to them is to head straight to Hilltop. The big issue with that is that it involves crossing into whisperer territory...
Despite there not really being any whisperer action in the finale (which would have seemed almost unfathomable a few episodes ago), the episode was still a compelling watch and the paranoia every time a 'walker' appeared was palpable. If the walkers had lost a little bit of their scare factor, they've got it back now - mainly because you just never know if it's someone pretending to be one. The fight on the icy lake scene was particularly good, with walkers emerging from the snow like the dead emerging from their graves.
Speaking of frostiness, Carol and Ezekiel's relationship appears to have suffered a bit since Henry's passing (beheading). So much so that Carol appears to have effectively ended things with the King. However she has always been a bit of a sucker for lost causes and despite some initial issues (as you'd expect) with Lydia, she ends up accepting her as part of the group and you feel that over time, this relationship may develop even further. Which will further complicate issues when the time comes for Carol to face off with Alpha.
Elsewhere, the inhabitants of Alexandria were huddling together in houses that had fireplaces - a decision that meant bringing Negan up from his cell. Of course he wasted no time in cracking wise and laying into Gabriel and Eugene, but then you'd expect nothing less. When the fireplace blew up due to a clogged chimney (Eugene saves the day yet again!) they head out into the snow to find somewhere else to hole up. However, when Judith breaks away from the group because she hears Daryl's dog barking somewhere in the distance, Negan heads off after her. After getting a huge gash on his leg, he eventually finds Judith (and the dog) and being the gent he is, removes his own coat and wraps it around Judith and carries her off, hopefully towards safety.
By the end of the episode, Judith is returned safely and Negan is laid out on a bed getting his leg patched up. Michonne thanks him for saving Judith's life and the two of them actually start a bit of dialogue. For the first time, he seems to show an interest in the community and for the first time, she feels it right to level with him. It feels like a step in the right direction and although I doubt he will never be truly forgiven, he will be a useful ally in the conflict that is going to dominate series 10.
As mentioned before, we barely saw any whisperer action this week. When we did it involved Beta flogging Alpha - because she needs to be strong for what comes next, apparently. I think it's safe to assume that it's going to involve unspeakable acts of violence and death.
The episode closed Ezekiel and Judith talking on the radio. Once they both finish up we get silence and a crackle and then... another voice. Who is it?! I dunno for sure, but it'd be nice if Maggie was to make a return next season wouldn't it?...