This review contains spoilers.
After last week’s intensity, some might find this episode a little disappointing. I can envisage some being let down or even angry that we didn’t get some epic ending or massive battle. But for me, the episode worked really well. It was an highly emotional episode, full of sorrow and hopelessness. The episode is set a few months after ‘The Calm Before‘ and the heavy sense of sadness in the air is just as prominent as the snow on the ground. This wasn’t about the communities striking back at The Whisperers. This was about coping with the loss of loved ones, about surviving. Let’s be honest. why rush it? Why rush into a full on war with The Whisperers? There is no urgent need to get there. We WILL see Carol, Negan, Daryl et al taking on The Whisperers. We WILL get some epic payoffs further down the line. But I love having them in the show, so I would rather they take their time and do this right. The ‘All Out War’ arc was mishandled, the show has clearly learned from their mistakes. So let’s all be a little more patient.
The Season 9 finale would focus on two groups, The Kingdom and Alexandria. From the teaser, we knew that “The Kingdom has fallen”. It’s a mess, it can’t be saved. The residents are moving to Hilltop. They are given an escort by the likes of Daryl and Michonne. Due to the snow, it was going to a dangerous pilgrimage, so I was excited to see what perils they’d faced on the journey. At Alexandria, they had their own problems. The weather was taking it’s toll on them too. They also had the little matter of figuring out what to do with Negan. They couldn’t leave him in his cell in this weather.
Staying with Alexandria, Negan is allowed to join the residents as they all plan to hold up together. Safety in numbers. Makes sense. However, Dog runs off. Now some would criticise Judith here for following him. But if that was my dog, i’d do exactly the same. When this happened I just knew it was leading towards Negan saving the day. I called it a few weeks ago. What better way to finally get Michonne on side than rescuing Judith from certain death? And he does. He even got injured in the process. I also loved when he shouted at dog to follow, just like Daryl does. Could you imagine if Daryl had seen that? The look on his face would have been priceless. Other than the Negan/Judith scene, our time at Alexandria was pretty non-eventful. There was some great Negan moments with Gabriel, but for the most part it was all about tying up loose ends and getting everyone ready to start fresh in Season 10. The same can’t be said for those travelling from The Kingdom however.
Travelling with Lydia is clearly going to have it’s issues. Alden especially took exception to this. Still struggling to come to terms with the death of Enid, of course he will see Lydia and blame her. Even Lydia says it’s all her fault. They needed to have a character act like this towards her, but I think it was a little confusing using Alden. Yes he lost someone close to the situation, but he was also a Savior. Unlike Lydia, he wasn’t brought up in a questionable group, he joined one. Surely out of most people there, he would understand the most about good people in bad groups? He was one himself! So here I thought the logic got a little murky. What I didn’t expect to happen was for Ezekiel to take Daryl aside and ask him not to be around Carol. I get why he’s doing that, she’s struggling and it took him a long time to get her out of her shell. I certainly don’t think it’s the show forcing Carol and Daryl together. I think we are passed that now. Plus I’d much prefer they pursue Daryl and Connie if any.
While Ezekiel was worried about Carol, she had her own problems to deal with. Lydia tried to let a frozen walker bite her. Carol spotted her and she stopped. I found this ‘suicide by zombie’ attempt amusing, given that is the method in which Carol dies in the comics. So there was definitely a big nod there. But you can see why Lydia is struggling. Not only does she have the loss of Henry to deal with, but the thought that everyone blames her and people died because of her. The guilt is unimaginable. Later on, Lydia would offer up her life to Carol. Carol refuses. I think she see’s some similarities between herself and Lydia. And while I don’t imagine she’ll take up a foster-daughter role with her, I can their paths running parallel for awhile. The biggest moment with Carol would come when she handed back her ring to Ezekiel. I think this will be it for them. I think Carol is heading down a new path alone. It’s all being set up nicely for her inevitable confrontation with Alpha next season.
Back on the road, we would finally get to the episode’s main action scene. They come to a frozen lake. Crossing on mass would be too dangerous so they have to take their time. Walkers, submerged in the snow would soon make their presence known. This was a great moment, as I really wanted to see the walkers in this setting and attack the group in this way.
I thought that maybe we’d lose some minor characters this week, but turns out Rob was right. There were no deaths. But I’m fine with that. This was all about setting things up for Season 10. We didn’t need to lose anyone else. The cast has been reduced, and we’ve lost another location (The Kingdom). So things are starting to scale down, which will work in the show’s favour. A final shout out to Daryl here, who gets the best kill in the episode, taking out a walker with an icicle.
The group arrives at Alexandria. Friends and loved ones reunited. Everyone made it. So what do they do to celebrate? A snowball fight! Now, I get the point behind this scene. It was a massive tension relief. End the journey on a positive. And it was great to see Daryl smiling. But after spending so much time out in the cold, would you really want to be messing about in the snow? Come one folks. Get indoors and get yourself wrapped up in front of the fire! Because when the snow thaws, it’ll be time to take on The Whisperers! Speaking of which, we get a nice explanation as to why they weren’t around. They migrate south in the winter. This makes perfect sense. And we did get to see Alpha and Beta. Even though it was only a small moment, it still keeps that Whisperers threat in the back of your mind. It may not have been what some would have wanted, but I still think holding the retaliation back until next season is the smart move.
The episode ends with The King talking to Judith over the radio. When the shot lingered on the radio, I fully expected to hear a voice. Just like I predicted, we heard a voice. It’s just a shame nobody was around to hear it. I’m excited to see where this goes. I hope it’s The Commonwealth and not just another small group of survivors. Or worse a crossover event with Fear The Walking Dead. But if you pull the trigger on The Commonwealth, the world will have to go very big. Would that work alongside The Whisperers? Probably not in the context of the show. And as they seem to be trimming the cast and locations, it’s unlikely to happen. I think they will save The Commonwealth story for Rick’s movies.
Overall? A very good episode to finish off an outstanding season of The Walking Dead. While it may not have had last week’s shock value, it still gave us plenty of enjoyable moments and story setup ready for things to progress next season. Saving the retaliation against The Whisperers is a smart move that will keep fans excited for the show’s return later this year. We’ll have a full season review online in the next week.