The Walking Dead season 9, episode 15 review: The Calm Before


The inter-community fair finally arrives and The Walking Dead delivers one of its most shocking endings in its nine-season history.

Next week’s The Walking Dead Season 9 finale is entitled “The Storm”, however, even “The Calm Before” stuns with its deadly climax. One has to wonder what “The Storm” has in store when “The Calm Before” has claimed so many lives. We will get to the list of fallen community members later.

We actually begin with the deaths of two Hilltoppers that we were not formerly acquainted with. Shows that focus on locations with many background characters can afford to take liberties by throwing new people into the forefront when it suits the narrative’s needs. Hilde and Miles head off to the fair at the Kingdom with Hilde’s box of wooden Hilltop commemorative coins. They are intercepted by Alpha and Hilde’s long blonde hair catches the Whisperer leader’s eye.

At the Kingdom, King Ezekiel gets the party started by honoring past leaders like Rick and Jesus and highlights unification among the groups. Prince Henry’s absence was putting a damper on the festivities as Queen Carol prepared to leave just as the fair was starting. Yet things start to look up when Michonne and Daryl personally deliver the royal son to the Kingdom. Kelly also reunites with her sister Connie.

Lydia’s presence has some people on edge, especially Tara. In “Bounty”, Tara oversaw the exchange of Lydia as an act of peaceful resolution with the Whisperers. The leaders meet in the theater and Tara explains that Alpha’s retaliation for harboring her daughter will be pointed at Hilltop. Others manage to convince her to protect the former Whisperer; Michonne reminds Tara that she once stood with the Governor and once upon a time Rachel almost killed Tara for intruding in Oceanside territory.

After agreeing to grant Lydia asylum, the leaders all offer to send more protection to Hilltop. Michonne then proposes the Mutual Protection Act: an attack against one community is an attack against all. Ezekiel brings out his charter for all to sign. The king and queen represent the Kingdom, Rachel for Oceanside, Tara signs as President of Hilltop, and Michonne hands the pen over to Gabriel as the head of the Alexandrian Council.

They all retire to the joyous occasion that the Kingdom has been planning for months. Henry shows Lydia around, Luke and Enid grab some caramel apples, but reality does interfere as reinforcements prep for the dangerous trip to Hilltop. And Kelly shares a touching silent conversation with Connie over her concerns that Connie could have been killed without them ever saying goodbye. Connie takers her sister’s advice and makes sure to touch base with her friend Daryl before he heads off. She happily looks after his dog for him.

As Addie speaks with Henry, Gage and Rodney get under Lydia’s skin by telling her that Henry and Adeline like each other – because adolescent gossip nonsense survives the apocalypse. Lydia was already feeling like an outsider and now she is dejected by the possibility of losing Henry’s affection. Henry directly refutes Gage and Rodney’s comments and he shares a kiss with Lydia before they plan to sit together at the movie.

Meanwhile, Alpha is hiding in plain sight with Hilde’s long hair and straw hat. She peruses and eavesdrops on conversations, so that when she meets the king, she covers her act by repeating news she has overheard. Alpha practically taunts Ezekiel without him realizing when she “whispers” to his face that she has a feeling it’s going to be a hard winter.

As the cartoon previews start to play at the theater, Lydia has saved Henry a seat, however she is unnerved to be joined by her mother in disguise. Taking Lydia outside, Alpha demands that Lydia rejoin their people. Lydia rejects Alpha and her way of life. In return, Alpha leaves her daughter at the Kingdom.

Highwaymen Ozzy and Alek work with D.J.  to clear zombies off the roadways as a part of their coalition agreement with the Kingdom. They come across the team heading to Hilltop and show them the crime scene of the ambushed wagon, although Hilde and Miles were dragged away. Daryl, Michonne, Carol, and Yumiko track their trail in case they are still alive while the rest continue to Hilltop.

Daryl sniffs out a trap when the trail veers off into multiple routes, but it is too late and the quartet are soon fighting their way through dozens of walkers. The skins then surround them, armed with knives and guns. Severely outnumbered, the four drop their own weapons at Beta’s command.

When Alpha comes to speak with Daryl, the latter believes they are being held because Alpha wants her daughter back. She separates Daryl from the others and the sun rises. Alpha takes him to her own kingdom of sorts – a canyon filled with a horde a thousand strong, a blend of zombies and Whisperers. Alpha establishes new guidelines and territories for Daryl’s confederation to follow. She tells him she marked the borders for him to see on his way back home.

Back at the camp, Beta tries to ask Alpha about Lydia, but she turns him away. When another in her group catches Alpha crying for her daughter, Alpha puts a knife in his throat.

After Daryl meets back up with Michonne, Carol, and Yumiko, they find Siddiq tied to a tree. He takes them to a hill with ten heads impaled on spikes. This was the border that Alpha had told Daryl about. The scene is intercut with shots of friends and family at the fair looking for the missing loved ones.

After Enid was so enthusiastic about Luke performing at the concert, he couldn’t find her in the crowd. Gabriel asks fair-goers if they’ve seen Tara as Michonne stares in disbelief at her reanimated detached head. Lydia warns Ezekiel that her mother slipped into the fair, while Daryl fails to shield Carol from looking at her murdered son.

Sometime after, Siddiq reports back to the community members about what he had witnessed. But instead of speaking of the horror that unfolded, he inspires with tales of bravery and heroism. The Highwaymen busted in and gave the others a chance while they all fought for each other until their dying breaths. On the cusp of winter, Daryl and Lydia visit the hill to pay respects.

Weekly Walkaways

  • The fair is presented, in an impressive long take, through the perspective of Henry and Lydia. Siddiq and Enid demonstrate first aid techniques at one station, while Earl teaches patrons about tools of the blacksmith trade at another. For fun, Judith shows off her throwing arm at the dunk tank. The whole celebration overwhelms Lydia, who has been living among the dead, eating worms for many years.
  • While everyone was concerned about an attack on Hilltop, the Whisperers covertly abduct and execute citizens from the fair. Aside from Henry, Tara, and Enid, they also capture Tammy, Frankie, Adeline, and Rodney. Highwaymen Ozzy and Alek, along with D.J., attempt to save them. They all are killed and beheaded by the Whisperers. The imagery of Daryl and his group walking closer to the impaled heads on top of a hill is bone chilling.
  • The episode begins and ends with hope in the face of malevolence. Hilde’s “H” pieces stand for Hilltop, yet symbolize hope. The couple had a positive attitude even when out in the wild and found Hilltop. They looked to the future as they rode to the fair, only to be struck down in an act of terror. When Alpha murdered members of the communities, Siddiq chose to spread a message of hope despite the circumstances and Lydia laid a “H” necklace at the hill where Henry was killed.
  • The MVP of “The Calm Before” is Alpha. It really could have gone to several different heroes as the episode progressed, but Alpha’s evil struck the final blow. Even when posing as an Alexandrian, Alpha is eerie. Her temperament while subtly threatening Daryl and Michonne has an idiosyncratic quality that suggests her villainy is at least partially driven by psychosis. Alpha is the most frightening Walking Dead antagonist ever.

Next. The Walking Dead review: Scars. dark

The Walking Dead returns next week with “The Storm” on Sunday, March 31st at 9:00 p.m. ET on AMC.