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Episode 15 marked the end of the series for a while. Whilst the final episode of the series has already been filmed, the work that is normally done in post production has been stopped due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst there is a genuine hope that the series finale will be aired in a few months time, it's all kind of dependent on getting on top of the virus.

So Episode 15 was about laying the groundwork as anything else. Fortunately us viewers are used to series finales actually acting as more of set up than being a proper climax or resolution and by the time we view the last episode it's going to feel a bit like the beginning of a new series.

Still, I'd be lying if I said It wasn't all a tad sterile. It really feels like the Whisperer storyline has now passed its use by date and stringing it all out for another episode feels a little pointless. Sure, Alpha...I mean Beta!...Beta is going to take down a couple of the gang in the upcoming siege but there's no real doubt as the outcome of it all. It all feels rather inevitable. The other thing is, and I've said this a number of times before, I just don't really care that much about the vast majority of the characters on the show. I just feel a bit fatigued at this point. Series 9 has, on the whole, been all right but the fact remains that we have a group of largely uninspiring characters (obviously there are few exceptions) and the rural community setting has become a bit jaded. There is hope that we will get to adventure to other places very soon (indeed we got some of that this episode) but it does feel like the show needs to make a shift in another direction after the Whisperers have been despatched.

So what actually happened in this episode? Well perhaps the most engaging story thread was spending some time with Eugene, Yumiko, Ezekiel and Princess. I'll admit, her introduction in episode 14 left me feeling a little cold but it's clear that Princess is going to bring something new to the show, a new dynamic. There's an energy there and an intense vulnerability and the writers did a solid job of fleshing her out and making her feel real. A character like that can feel absurd and cartoonish but in essence what we saw was someone who although bold and brash in appearance, was actually a lot more human underneath. She promised them a set of wheels and to be fair, she delivered on that promise. Sure, they had to go on a long winded route that involved walking through a minefield and a horse got blown up (seriously, horses do not fare well on this show). It was kinda refreshing to see it all play out in an urban environment too. We've visited towns and cities before in the show but only briefly and a change of scenery was welcome. The story segment ended with the trio accepting Princess into their group and continuing on their way...on bikes.

Elsewhere, Daryl took Judith under his wing as he patrolled the perimeter, looking for whisperer incursions. It was Judith's idea and most children would have been told that there was no chance, but Daryl knows that Judith can handle herself. Saying that, all the violence is beginning to take its toll on her. She killed her first human during the siege of Hilltop and in episode 15 she watched Daryl put another Whisperer out of her misery after he had injured her. The fact that her mother has just left can't make things easy either, but you get the sense that Judith is now questioning the ethics of what they do and how they do it after a lifetime of despatching walkers. We don't get to see Daryl being tender very often but Judith lets us glimpse his softer side. Rick Grimes left a big hole in the show when he left but to his credit, Daryl has filled it pretty well thus far.

What else happened? Not too much really, but here are the main points.

- Negan continued his efforts to reconcile with the group and this week he turned his attention to Lydia. Sure, her mum was a nutjob but he still (rightly) felt the need to apologise to her for killer her mother. Lydia is obviously very, very conflicted over the whole thing but things end with one of those hugs that starts out as someone being repeatedly punched. Awww.

- Still no sign of Connie anywhere, but surely she'll turn up soon.

- Carol is still a mess but a pep talk from Kelly puts her at ease.

- The Alexandrians have fled the settlement and joined the Hilltop crew at The Tower (where all the action is going to take place)

- Beta is as unpredictable as ever and the fact that he's now hearing voices instructing him to do things elevates him to another level of dangerous. Alpha's death seems to have some kind of mental snap.

- Alden and Aaron managed to stay undetected...until the very end. They wound up being surrounded by a pack of whisperers with little chance of escape.

Actually, recounting all of the events makes the episode feel a bit tighter, a bit more solid. There are a lot of moving parts in the show and they tend to manage them a lot more effectively nowadays. I just can't help shake the slight ambivalence I have towards what's to come. Saying that, I'm more than willing to be proved wrong by an action-packed and dramatic final episode. We're definitely going to shed a few characters (we've actually really not lost many this season) and if I had to put money on a character who I think will meet their demise, it's Negan. I've always had a feeling that his road to redemption would end with a sacrifice to save others. It would make sense in some ways but in others, losing another of it's more interesting characters feels like it would be another casting error that I'm not sure the show can afford to make. We'll have to wait and see...


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