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The Walking Dead - The Calm Before - Review

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The Walking Dead “The Calm Before” was written by the team of Geraldine Inoa and Channing Powell and was directed by Laura Belsey, whose other credits include New Amsterdam, Arrow, and Genius. As promised, the body count was high in this episode as we said goodbye to Tara (Alanna Masterson), Enid (Katelyn Nacon), Tammy Rose (Brett Butler), Ozzy (Angus Sampson), DJ (Matt Mangum), Addy (Kelley Mack), Rodney (Joe Ando-Hirsh), Frankie (Elyse Dufour), and Henry (Matt Lintz). Some of these characters we barely knew, and others – like Jesus (Tom Payne) before them barely got a decent storyline. Henry – hopefully – takes Ezekiel’s (Khary Payton) place from the comics, and considering that all of this is Henry’s fault for going after Lydia (Cassady McClincy), I can’t say that I was sorry to see his head. It also sets us up for a massive mama-bear fight between Carol (Melissa McBride) and Alpha (Samantha Morton).

The episode begins with the story of Hilde (Caroline Duncan) and Miles (Brian Sheppard) coming to Hilltop and becoming members of the community. Hilde is the one who carves the coins – one of which Henry gave to Lydia – with an H on them – more for “hope” than “Hilltop.” We last see them celebrating their anniversary as they head off to the fair – only to be waylaid and killed by the Whisperers, so that Alpha can wear Hilde to the fair – gutting the “hope” of the communities for safety and a peaceful way of life… for a new beginning. It’s a beautiful shot as the camera pans out from Alpha scalping Hilde to the box of her spilled “H” stamped coins.

Ezekiel begins the fair with a speech that honored Rick and Carl as well as Jesus. I loved that the giant Shiva statue was right beside him. Ezekiel is happy that they can unite for the common good – not against a common enemy. Jerry (Cooper Andrews) helps – hilariously – to open the Fair of new beginnings. Carol is getting ready to set out to look for Henry, but before they can leave, Michonne (Danai Gurira) arrives with Daryl (Norman Reedus), Connie (Lauren Ridloff), Henry, and Lydia – and of course, Judith (Cailey Fleming).

Carol tells Henry he can’t ever run away again like that – and all I could think of was that Carol would never have allowed a child to grow up that stupid – even if she did swear off of making them little killing machines! There were so many happy moments in this episode, it was almost easy to see who was going to die – those who were too happy.

Ezekiel is thrilled to see Michonne, and Carol asks Judith if she remembers them, and of course, she does. Tara is not happy to see Lydia – and considering it’s going to cost her her life, she’s right.

Michonne apologizes and commits herself to joining Alexandria with the other communities. Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) says that Alexandria is willing to give asylum to Lydia, but Tara isn’t ok with it. Hilltop is going to be in danger. Michonne reminds Tara that Rick didn’t trust her when she showed up at the prison, and they didn’t trust Tara because she’d been on the Governor’s side. Rachel (Avianna Mynhier) reminds Tara they didn’t trust her when she washed up at Oceanside – and where is Sydnie?? Isn’t she the leader of Oceanside??? That gets through to Tara, however.

Everyone agrees to send fighters to help protect Hilltop, but Michonne goes further and proposes a “Mutual Protection Pact.” Tara asks how they seal it – spit and shake? Blood oath? Oh Tara…. But Ezekiel has just the thing and brings out the Charter. Michonne is surprised to see it – and I loved Tara saying Ezekiel is magic! There’s a nice moment between Michonne and Tara as they make up – and then we get them all signing the Charter. Ezekiel makes Carol sign for the Kingdom – and she signs it QUEEN Carol. Tara signs for the Hilltop, but Michonne insists that Gabriel sign for Alexandria as Head of the Council. Seems he’s back in power after all. I was a little concerned that pretty much everyone who signed would die…

We get lots of views of the fair – Enid and Siddiq (Avi Nash) teaching CPR, Tammy Rose caring for the baby, Judith sending Eugene (Josh McDermitt) into the dunk tank. Henry shows Lydia around. Ezekiel and Carol are both kind to her. Luke (Dan Fogler) tries to convince Alden (Callan McAuliffe) to sing with him, and we get a cute scene with Enid calling Alden her boyfriend and them eating candy apples together. Once again this just seems like a waste of a character who could have had so much more story to tell. Nacon was completely underutilized.

I did like the scene between Connie and Kelly (Angel Theory). Kelly is rightly angry that her sister left without even saying goodbye. Connie apologizes and tells her that she just didn’t think. The baby almost dying brought up a lot of feelings – so there’s clearly more backstory here. Kelly understands and the two sisters hug. I love that the scene is almost entirely silent with just a bit of quiet music in the background.

Siddiq tells Michonne about Ezekiel’s speech about Rick. Michonne is determined to go to Hilltop with the first wave. Siddiq offers to take her place, but she asks him just to keep an eye on Judith. When he mentions needing the practice, Michonne wants to know why, and he tells her that he’ll tell her when he sees her – and I thought, well, he’s dead!

Gage (Jackson Pace) and Rodney try to make Lydia jealous of Addy – and are generally nasty teenage boys to her – nice to know the apocalypse doesn’t change everything. And I have to wonder if it isn’t just a coincidence that Addy and Rodney are two of the ones taken…

Tara says good bye to Marco (Gustavo Gomez), Kal (James Chen), Dianne (Kelly Cahill), and Oscar (Anthony Michael Lopez). Ironically, she tells them to be safe as she’s staying behind in safety to hammer out the details. Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) and Magna (Nadia Hilker) join Daryl and Carol and the others too. Henry thanks Daryl for keeping him out of trouble, and Ezekiel tells Daryl that he’s always welcome to make his home in the Kingdom. Daryl actually says he’ll think about it. I loved that Daryl leaves Dog with Connie to feed! Carol tells Ezekiel to try to enjoy the fair, and he tells her that he won’t enjoy anything until she’s back… and I thought for sure he was dead!

DJ, Ozzy, and Alek (Jason Kirkpatrick) – who also ends up on a spike – find Hilde and Miles wagon, just before Carol, Daryl, Michonne, and the others show up. In the end, they split up with the majority continuing to Hilltop, Daryl, Carol, Yumiko, and Michonne tracking the Whisperers, and Ozzy and his group continuing to patrol. I am so, so sad that we won’t get more Ozzy – I loved him demanding more movies and Carol saying it could be arranged – she clearly recognized a little Ezekiel in him.

Inevitably, Daryl, Carol, Michonne and Yumiko are surrounded by walkers – which they efficiently dispatch – but the walkers are replaced by Whispers – and then, much to Daryl’s shock – Beta (Ryan Hurst) is there. They have no choice but to surrender.

Eugene is working on getting a radio system in place so that the communities can stay in touch despite the distance between them. He’s joined by Rosita (Christian Serratos). She assures Eugene that they can still talk even though things are changing a lot. She thanks him for talking to Gabriel. She then starts to help with the radios rather than going for a nap.

We get one final scene with Tara as she’s organizing a fight camp between Hilltop, Alexandria, and Oceanside. She’s clearly anxious and Gabriel asks why. She tells him she’s anxious to get on the road – she wants her people to know that they have a leader who shows up for them during a crisis. And poor Hilltop! They just can’t get a break with their leaders! Gabriel says he doesn’t see any reason anyone should doubt that she’s that type of leader… Gabriel is clearly proud of her.

And as Enid teases Alden about making fun of him only a little bit for the rest of their lives, I knew that that was it for her. Aarrggh!

The creepiest thing was Alpha walking around the fair – she stops to stare at a picture of the King and Queen – and again I thought that was it for Ezekiel. She overhears Tammy and Earl (John Finn) discussing baby names. Adam is out because Earl knew one in high school who was an asshole!

Lydia tells Henry what Gage and Rodney said, and Henry is disturbed – they end up smoothing it out and kissing – all in sight of Alpha. Henry is a little taken aback when Lydia says she smeared goat shit on Gage and Rodney’s faces. A noise startles Lydia, but it’s just the pipes. You remember. The pipes that are imploding for want of a blacksmith which is why Henry went to Hilltop in the first place and where he only worked one day? Henry goes to check on the pipes, telling Lydia to save him a seat at the movies.

Alpha seems particularly distracted by Eugene, Rosita and Gabriel, but she’s interrupted by Ezekiel who wants to make sure that she is finding her way alright. She introduces herself as Debbie from Alexandria. She expresses surprise that Michonne came and disappointment that the Queen had to leave on official business. She tells Ezekiel that she looks forward to meeting the Queen one day – and I’m betting it won’t be a day that she really enjoys! But she also asks where the clothing booths are – winter is coming and she thinks it’s going to be a hard one… and that doesn’t bode well either. And is this turning into Game of Thrones?

The movie starts and everyone is enthralled. Jerry is sorry Ezekiel is missing it – and then we start to see all the people who are missing… but not before Lydia is joined at the movies by Alpha. And then we start to get some time jumps that help to up the tension as we wait to see who’s dead.

Alpha is back in her usual get up and is with Daryl and company. Daryl tells Alpha that they’re not giving Lydia up. Michonne tells her that they’ve granted Lydia asylum and any attempt to take her will result in retaliation. Gotta give them props as they are tied and surrounded as they remain defiant! Alpha asks Michonne’s name and asks Daryl if Michonne speaks for him. He tells her that they speak for each other. Alpha announces that Lydia is no longer a concern. She was weak and didn’t live up to expectations. She also tells them that they are in no position to threaten her – it’s a habit that needs to be broken. She takes Daryl away.

It’s sunrise and she shows him a huge herd – this is her hoard. Her people are among them, steering them. She tells Daryl that they’re alive because she allows it. She tells Daryl that her people live as nature intended. She is Alpha and she asserts herself or there is chaos. She tells Daryl what her borders are – they’ll see the border as they leave. If they don’t stay within their territory, she’ll cross into theirs with her hoard.

Daryl asks if she killed Lydia, and we flash to Lydia telling Alpha that she’s staying. The people there care about each other. She doesn’t want the people there to hurt Alpha either. She gives Alpha a choice – more than Alpha ever gave her. Alpha tells Lydia she was just trying to make her strong. She tells Lydia that she’s not one of the and never was. Alpha tells Daryl that he can’t protect Lydia.

Back at the Whisperer camp, Beta wants to know about Lydia. Alpha tells him that she wants to be alone. He leaves without comment. When another Whisperer sees Alpha crying, she calls him over and stabs him. Clearly, no one is to see Alpha weak.

Daryl makes his way to the field to the north where Alpha promised the others would be – and they are. As they make their way north, they find a bloodied Siddiq tied to a tree. He’s weak and points them to the horror on the top of the hill…. And we finally get the big reveal. I loved the shots of everyone coming over the hill and slowly walking up the hill until they could see who it was. It’s even more horrible, of course, because they have all turned. Ozzy. Alek. DJ. Frankie. Tammy Rose. Rodney. Addy. Enid. Tara. Henry. I loved Daryl rushing in and telling Carol just to look at him – which was sadly reminiscent of Carol and Lizzie looking at the flowers.

Siddiq was left alive to tell the story. He tells them what happened was evil – and that Alpha left him alive to tell that story to scare them and to drive them all apart again. But Siddiq wants to tell them a different story. Before the end, Ozzy, Alek, and DJ found the others and tried to rescue them. They all fought back. They defended each other and sacrificed for each other – even though they didn’t all know each other – and then Alpha was there. Once again, Siddiq is bemused to be the sole survivor. Siddiq tells them that they all need to keep going to honor them and to remember them as family and heroes. That’s the story that he wants them all to remember.

In the final scene, Daryl takes Lydia to Henry’s spike. She places the coin with H at the bottom of it. As they walk away, it begins to snow…

This was a powerful episode, and the time jumps helped to mirror the confusion and horror. The time jumps also kept us guessing because by now, most people knew what was coming based on the comics. I have to wonder though if the show has now past the point where people can tolerate seeing the characters they’ve come to love killed off. I was almost in agony watching this, trying to guess who was too happy and had to die – and knowing the ones who did in the comic. I feel that Enid especially had more story to tell. Brett Butler has been a terrific addition – and I wanted to see more from her. I have to admit that I was happy to see Henry go. The actor did nothing for me, and frankly, Henry was too stupid and na├»ve to live. What did you think of the episode? Who were you most shocked/sad to lose? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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