Two separate head-to-heads go down in the latest episode of The Walking Dead and they both have drastically different implications for the future of the communities.
The Walking Dead continues where “Guardians” left off, with Daryl and Connie leading Henry and Lydia away from the Whisperers’ woodlands. They can’t take them back to Hilltop and risk Alpha’s army bringing war to the town. Connie takes them to a building where her group has temporarily crashed in the past.
Connie devises a chokepoint strategy to force the Whisperers into a disadvantageous fighting position. Daryl is impressed with Connie’s smart planning and tactics, but they disagree about what to do with Lydia if they all make it out alive. Daryl knows it will be dangerous to bring her in and openly defy Alpha, but Connie points out that Lydia has nowhere else to go.
When Henry offers Lydia a weapon, she doubts her will to kill her former kin and Henry promises her that he won’t kill them either. Henry declares how much he cares for Lydia and they share a kiss. Daryl interrupts to order them to their lookout posts.
As the herd approaches Daryl’s balcony, he lets an arrow fly in their direction, taking out the newly minted walker; one of the Whisperer casualties from Henry’s extraction. The single shot is meant to lure Beta up to Daryl. Beta’s squad splits to take the two staircases up – one leads to Connie and Henry, while the other is by Daryl.
Henry knocks one Whisperer down with his staff and Connie takes another out with her slingshot. Connie scuffles with a foe before stabbing him in the back, while Henry is outmatched in his second bout and is speared in the leg. Daryl’s dog comes to the rescue and Henry whacks the Whisperer into unconsciousness.
On the other side of the building, Beta knows Daryl is setting a trap and barges in with a loose door as a shield. Daryl axes down one Whisperer and slits a second’s throat, leaving just the rugged archer versus the big Beta. Beta busts through drywall and lands some hard hits. He tosses Daryl around but the latter is a quick and crafty fighter. When Daryl jabs a small blade into Beta’s shoulder, he hardly flinches. Daryl hides under a floorboard where Connie keeps supplies to sneak behind Beta and throw him down an elevator shaft.
Back at the Kingdom, the people are prepping for the fair. Souring the mood, a band of pirates called the Highwaymen rips off Jerry’s supply wagon to send word to the king that they are watching the roads. On the eve of the fair, they wish to charge a toll to anyone heading to the Kingdom. The royal company ventures to the bandits’ outpost in response.
Instead of charging in guns blazing, Carol thinks their grammatically correct letter indicates that these are people that are willing to talk before fighting. Ezekiel, Carol, and Jerry enter the Highwaymen warehouse and are quickly met with aggression. The Highwaymen want to be paid for clear access and aren’t looking to negotiate.
The head of the Highwaymen changes his tone when the King’s men secretly and swiftly surround them and gain the upper hand. Ezekiel and Carol offer them free tickets to the fair in exchange for keeping the roads safe for travelers. At first, the Highwaymen’s black cowboy hat wearing spokesman laughs at the terms of the deal, but Carol entices him with a movie night.
Elsewhere on the Virginian roadways, the Hilltop convoy is held up when they come to a tree in the road. As they chop away, sickos sneak out from the woods and Earl and Tammy struggle to protect the baby that Connie saved in “Bounty”. Earl is almost bitten. Then the Highwaymen gallop into the fray like riders of the Rohirrim and announce themselves as escorts to the fair.
The Hilltoppers and the Highwaymen make it to the Kingdom and Tammy and Earl decide to keep the baby. The king and queen embrace Tara and are all surprised that Henry has not yet arrived. Tara explains that they were to meet Daryl and Henry at the fair, and Carol questions where her boys have been.
- Daryl and Connie are a damn cool pairing and have a lot in common in terms of their survival skills. They are both remarkably stealthy and are expert trackers with perceptive instincts. Daryl and Connie are deadly from a distance; they rarely miss with their bow and slingshot, respectively. On the other hand, they show off their abilities in close quarters this episode.
- Daryl’s fight with Beta is one of the best mano a mano faceoffs in The Walking Dead universe. It is physical and feels dangerous, especially after Daryl gruesomely disposed of Beta’s wingmen. Beta’s strength is a lot for Daryl to handle, but Daryl’s durability could be considered his most important attribute and he smartly analyzes his foe to figure out the best way to beat him. However, you can bet Beta will be back for Daryl after surviving the fall as well as Daryl’s celebratory spit.
- It is quite a change of pace for the good guys to be confronted by a brand new group, only to broker a peaceful solution and have them join forces all within one strand of a single episode. That is what occurred after it first looked like the Kingdom was going to have unexpected problems with the Highwaymen threatening to block travel to the fair.
- Different types of strategies are on display in this episode. The political strategy of the Kingdom hosting a trade fair is in the final stages of coming to fruition. And Carol’s negotiation strategy saves them from making a new enemy, instead of forming a new alliance. Then Connie’s chokepoint strategy sets up the group to have the best chance against the Whisperers and finally Daryl’s combative strategy allows him to prevail against the bigger and stronger Beta.
- The MVP of “Chokepoint” is Daryl for triumphing over the Whisperers. First, he rescues his guy out from Whisperer territory and then he confidently signals for them to come and get some more of what he is serving up. He slays a pair of the fake walkers before taking on their most valued champion.
The Walking Dead returns next week with “Scars” on Sunday, March 17th at 9:00 p.m. ET on AMC.