The Walking Dead: The Storm review S9 E16

The Storm didn’t offer any shocking twists or crazy deaths, but it followed the Game of Thrones blueprint of using the season finale to leave audiences excited about the future of The Walking Dead. The comeback is complete and I can’t wait for the 10th season of a show that seemed ready for a double tap a few seasons ago.

Easily the biggest development tonight was the fall of The Kingdom in more ways than one. Not from an assault by The Whisperers or Alpha’s Mega Millions Horde. Turns out losing Henry was disastrous for the upkeep of The Kingdom as well. Blame it on the shoddy, ever faulty equipment keeping The Kingdom operational. The pipes burst resulting in fires that left the once majestic community in shambles.

the walking dead the storm - lydia and carol

Good thing Ezekiel got everyone to sign off on the one community for all charter. Hilltop’s about to get some new residents! But first they’ve got to survive the treacherous waltz through a winter wonderland. Snow isn’t an element we see too often on TWD and it’s been long overdue as a weather-focused burden. We even managed to get a Maggie reference tonight as they sent a letter to her, but didn’t hear back. In fairness that letter hardly could have been all that inviting:

Hey Maggie. Things have been…interesting since you’ve been gone. We ran into some new creepy guys who wear walker skin. No, not the guts to walk around unbothered ACTUAL SKIN. Yeah crazy, right? Anyway, they killed Jesus — your appointed successor for Hilltop. That hurt. We got into another tussle with them and they killed Tara (remember Tara?) and Enid. Yep, the same Enid who loved you and Glenn like her adopted parents. Bummer. Soooo we were wondering if you wanted to come kick it with us and talk about the good old days. Write back soon.

PS, we’ll send you the new address since Kingdom broke down and is shut down. Hope to hear from you soon!

Ezekiel probably already knew he’d lost Carol. Their relationship always seemed to rely on his never-failing exuberance and enthusiasm to warm her hardened heart. Henry’s death left Zeke rattled and unsure of himself again to the point he felt threatened by Daryl’s bond with Carol.

This is a big deal as Ezekiel had never been the jealous type. He’d even welcomed Daryl to stay at The Kingdom last episode, but Ezekiel needed to blame someone for Henry’s death and since it couldn’t be Carol, Daryl got nominated. For his part, Daryl didn’t protest or even acknowledge Ezekiel’s plea for him to leave Hilltop so he and Carol could have a fresh start. One thing the series has always done well is not base Carol and Daryl’s relationship around a romance. Their bond would be wasted on boyfriend/girlfriend love and is so much more effective as two damaged characters finding comfort around each other.

the walking dead the storm - ezekiel

Daryl is also being highly protective of Lydia. He’s got a (friend) type. He’ll need to be since Lydia is so racked with guilt she considers having a walker trapped in snow bite her arm. And when that doesn’t work she tries suicide by Carol. Considering all she’s been through, it was cool seeing Carol encourage Lydia. I wonder if she sees any of Sophia in her? Poor Sophia never had a chance in the walker world and Lydia has been emotionally scarred by her mother. Maybe there’s healing for both of them in helping each other overcome the loss of Henry?

Over at Alexandria, things aren’t too warm either. Maybe they are in Westeros since no one seemed prepared for this winter AT ALL. While the heat is broken, three homes still have fireplaces. And Negan gets to bunk up with Gabriel, Rosita, Siddiq, Eugene, Judith and some other people that don’t matter. Negan immediately goes in on s–(language) stirring mode questioning the working relationship with Gabriel, Rosita, Siddiq and Eugene. In small doses like we’ve gotten this season, Negan has been terrific and this scene was pretty funny.

Since no one at Alexandria bothered with winterizing the place, it’s not surprising that the chimney gets backed up prompting a quick fireball. Time to head to Aaron’s! This caravan goes swimmingly until Judith hears Dog barking in the distance. She runs off after him and Negan follows her. Rosita tells everyone else to stay in the line. That’s smart thinking actually, but I wouldn’t want to be Rosita if Michonne hears about that call.

Negan dings up his leg, but does find Judith and Dog. He may bash a dude’s head in every few years, but Negan is pretty much the series’ best babysitter, right?

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Our caravan reaches Sanctuary, but Michonne says this has to be a pit stop. OK, so no one dusted in a few years, but it’s not that bad. Oh, the blizzard may make the roads inhabitable and there’s only a day’s worth of food left. Gotcha. Time to push on even if they have to cross through Alpha’s ‘territory.’ Here’s the sign of an effective villain. The heroes are shook about stepping out of line. Ezekiel doesn’t want to start a war and Michonne reminds him Alpha walked among them because they didn’t know each other. That can’t happen again.

This would have played out over eight episodes in the war with The Saviors, but showrunner and episode co-writer Angela Kang knows deliberating and council meetings are boring momentum-killers. Off through the woods.

Director Greg Nicotero really staged this scene well with some nice transitions that made this hike look extremely dangerous even before the snow walkers surfaced. I love that the walkers have bite (pun intended) again. They’re back to being scary and not just distractions from Point A to B. To get to the next waystation they’ve gotta cross the river. From The Walking Dead Season 2 I’m leery of frozen rivers. The snow walkers made for another stellar walker variant with crusted, frozen hair. And Daryl got to kill one with an icicle. That’s using your environment!

For all the debate and apprehension, they make it to Hilltop with no further trouble. For most of the crew. Carol tells Ezekiel she’s going to Alexandria with Daryl, Lydia, Michonne and Aaron and hands him her ring. I’m OK with this as Carol was always such a wet blanket with the more gregarious Ezekiel anyway. So long as this wasn’t simply a means to clear the deck for Carol and Daryl this was fine and makes sense. Maybe Carol will celebrate her divorce by ditching her Legolas locks?

Again, I love Kang’s pacing as the group arrives at Alexandria just in time for a snowball fight with Judith and RJ. It’s nice seeing Daryl and Lydia smiling. I wish we could have gotten a live look at Oceanside because I’ve gotta know how the heck were they faring with the snowfall?

the walking dead the storm - negan

Michonne thanks Negan for getting Judith and he can’t help but mention Dr. Baby Daddy (that’s gotta stick!) said Kingdom fell. He can relate to losing a community. This time, Michonne doesn’t walk off and stays to talk with him. Saving Judith would earn some goodwill and it has been nearly a decade since the war. I appreciate Michonne is still leery, but this progression of Negan’s role with Alexandria is playing out nicely. He warns Michonne no one ever thinks they’re the evil ones, which could apply to The Saviors as easily as The Whisperers.

Beta whips Alpha to motivate her for the coming war while we see Ezekiel was on the radio talking to Judith all that time. She really is a great listener! After Ezekiel walks off, a voice comes through on the other end asking if anyone’s out there?

The Storm was an effective conclusion to a tremendous season of The Walking Dead. It’s going to be fun revisiting this one and seeing how much actually happened. For now, it’s time to catch up on Fear the Walking Dead to get ready for its next season.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Photo Credit: AMC

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