This review contains spoilers.
Season 9 of The Walking Dead just keeps getting better with every passing week.
Last week there were too many storylines running, so the episode got a little messy. This time around we were back down to two, and this is the sweet spot for the show. I think they struggle when trying to do too much, so splitting the episode into two main arcs was the sensible move. The episode was split between Daryl and The Whisperers and The Kingdom. The latter needed a strong showing, as I wasn’t totally blown away by their cinema outing. It had some nice moments, but overall I didn’t enjoy it.
So let’s start with The Kingdom. The Fair is nearly upon us, the decorations are up, including a tribute to Shiva (RIP), and the final pieces of the jigsaw are falling in to place. But the joy and excitement are soon interrupted by Jerry returning to Ezekiel with a letter. They were held up by bandits and passed on a note demanding tribute for using the roads. Well, at least we know what the strange symbol means now. Most people, including myself, assumed it was something to do with the Whisperers. Turns out it’s just a bunch of bandits holding up people and looting them for their goods.
Carol, Ezekiel, Jerry and some other Kingdom heavies scope out the bandits base, with Carol offering to go in and negotiate. While their numbers aren’t great, they still have enough weaponry to cause a problem. After a little Mexican standoff, Carol wins over ‘The Highwaymen’ by tempting them with a movie. Their mood instantly changes and the tone switches from menace to humour. I guess my rant about how pointless the whole movie thing has blown up in my face.
So it looks like The Kingdom have just bolstered their ranks. It’s a good job too, as the Hilltop convoy is waylaid by a fallen tree. This stupid plot device leads the convoy to be slowly attacked by Walkers. The Blacksmith has a close call, but other than that there was never any real danger. The Highwaymen come in for the save on horseback. This bit was fine, I just struggled with the tree being that big of an obstacle. It was another instance of unnecessary situations for characters to be in. Overall, I enjoyed this story. I feel at times The Kingdom gets forgotten about. But this was a step in the right direction for sure.
After the climax of last week’s episode, Daryl, Connie, Henry and Lydia are on the run. Knowing that they are being hunted, they decide to stage an ambush in an abandoned building. It’s not long before Beta and his crew arrive and begin searching for their prey. A few Whisperer red shirts enter first, easily being dispatched. Even Henry puts his Morgan training to good use. You sometimes forget he’s more than an annoying, dumb character. This part is all about Daryl however. The scene with the Whisperer, who unwittingly gives his position away by casting a silhouette on a plastic sheet, was brutal. Daryl dispatches him with an axe to the chest. He never saw it coming. Yet it was the Whisperer who he grabbed from behind that was the most disturbing kill. Daryl grabs him, the guy begs for his life, but without hesitation, Daryl slits his throat. This scene was perfectly executed, pun intended.
With the red shirts out of the way, it was time for the boss fight. Daryl versus Beta. This was everything that I hoped it would be. It even got the ending I wanted. They needed to put Beta over here, and they did just that. Daryl got some good hits in, but the size and power of Beta were too much. The hits were brutal and you felt every single one of them. Daryl couldn’t beat him with brute strength, so he played it smart and used his head. He rushes Beta and knocks him down an open elevator shaft. It obviously wasn’t going to be the end of Beta, and that proved to be the case. The episode ends with a wounded Beta looking very, very angry. And with that, the episode ends. Brilliant.
This was yet again another strong episode of The Walking Dead. The Daryl and Beta fight was excellent and is likely to grab all the headlines. But the story work with the Kingdom and the character development between Henry and Lydia was a big improvement this week. With everyone meeting at The Kingdom now, you know The Whisperers are going to be joining them very soon. You just get the feeling that it’s all about to kick off, and I cannot wait.