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The Walking Dead - The Storm - Review - "Recap and Review Ready for Season 10!"

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With season ten of The Walking Dead looming, I thought this was the best time to take a quick peek back at the season nine finale. “The Storm” was written by Angela Kang and Matthew Negrete and was directed by Greg Nicotero. Kang and Nicotero will team up for the season premiere – “Lines We Cross” – as well. I have to say that this was my least favorite season ending of the entire series. Nicotero and his team certainly did bring their A-game and provided some really wonderful new effects. It was cool to have an episode actually set in the winter – something we hadn’t seen before – but overall even with the escape during a storm and so forth, somehow this episode just lacked the real tension and climax of previous seasons. Perhaps it was just too hard to top the shock of all the deaths in “The Calm Before.” And isn’t that ironic?

The episode begins with a close up of a short wave radio, and in an echo of all the episodes that started with Rick’s eyes, a close up of Ezekiel’s (Khary Payton) mouth as he announces that the boiler has finally broken irreparably. Things fall apart. We see Carol (Melissa McBride) and Jerry (Cooper Andrews) trying to help keep the “rot” from spreading and do repairs. There’s a close up of the inspirational quote “In Times We Crack, Only to Let the Light in” and it is cracked and broken – this is the result of the death of Henry in particular on Carol and Ezekiel, and it’s spread to all of Hilltop without them to hold them together. There’s a shot of the two of them – Ezekiel lying on the bed and Carol sitting at the bottom of it – it’s a nice mirror image to the crack in the wall.

Daryl (Norman Reedus) is still looking out for Lydia (Cassady McClincy) and they are both living at the Kingdom, but Lydia eats alone – she’s still an outcast. As Ezekiel’s voice over says that they’ll never forget the magic that they felt in this place or the love, Carol looks at a drawing of Henry and goes through his things, including a tiger pin to remind us of Shiva. Ezekiel continues that they won’t forget the acts of courage as he looks at their Charter and runs his hand over Tara’s name. He goes on to remind us that cowards die a thousand deaths, but hero’s only one – it’s a nice tribute to Tara and how far she’d come. Ezekiel blows out the candle after rolling up the Charter to take with him.

And then we cut to everyone leaving the Kingdom, with Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) at the head of the column. There are a lot of opening and closing doors in this episode. It's important that Michonne is the champion here of bringing people together. The communities have come together to help them with the move.

        And after everyone is through, Carol and Ezekiel are the ones to shut the gates. As the camera pans back, we see the evidence of the fires that Ezekiel had spoken of earlier. He mentioned that there had been fires, and it’s clear that most of the roofs have been destroyed, making leaving the Kingdom make a lot more sense – after all, just losing the boiler shouldn’t have been a problem as the other communities didn’t have one. But these houses, like Ezekiel and Carol’s relationship are no longer habitable. This door closes on the fairytale kingdom and their relationship.

As the groups walk, Michonne asks Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) about Hilltop. The Council can’t come to an agreement on security measures because they are all still reeling from the deaths of Tara and Jesus – and there’s been no word from Maggie.

As the group walks, they are shadowed by walkers in the fields beside the road, naturally everyone wonders if these are really walkers. Alden (Callan McAuliffe) is also still clearly bitter and in mourning over Enid as he roughly asks Lydia if these are Whisperers. Darryl tells him to back off, and Lydia tells Daryl he doesn’t have to protect her. She seems to feel that she deserves to be treated badly – and yeah, I have to agree. She also knows that she has to keep a low profile if she ever hopes to fit in.

As the group walks, we get a nice close up of a decaying walker which is just the upper torso – it’s a great effect, but it’s also a kind of shout out to the bicycle girl from season one. Is this a new beginning? But with the long grey hair is this also a symbol of Carol who has once again been torn in half by the loss of another family?

As they walk, Daryl joins Carol and mentions that Carol wanted Lydia when no one else did. He tells her that Lydia is a good kid. Carol confesses that all she sees when she looks at Lydia is Henry. She clearly blames both herself and Lydia for Henry’s death. Daryl asks what she sees when she looks at him – perhaps expecting her to say Henry or even Sophia – but she says that she sees him. But he’s also responsible for Lydia being there.

Ezekiel notices as Carol reaches out and squeezes Daryl’s arm. Jerry points out that the temperature is dropping, and Ezekiel says they’ll have to travel through the night if they have any hope of making the next way-station before the storm that’s coming hits.

Back in Alexandria it’s already snowing and there’s a heating problem. Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) suggests that he and Rosita (Christian Serratos) can keep each other warm, but the two are interrupted by Eugene (Josh McDermitt) simply barging in without even knocking! He’s there to report that there’s also something wrong with the solar panels, so people should gather around fireplaces to keep warm. Winter 1, Ice-Storm-Protocol. Rosita’s stern look – she’s not happy that he interrupted her cuddling! – is completely lost on Eugene. Gabriel goes immediately into organization mode, deciding which fireplaces will be most helpful. Rosita organizes wood and supplies. Gabriel also points out that they are going to have to let Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) out or he’ll freeze to death in his cell.

The group continues to walk and there’s now a thin layer of snow on everything. I loved the crane shot of the footprints crossing the road. Carol and Daryl shoot two stragglers, and Daryl goes after his arrow. Ezekiel stops Carol from going after hers, telling her to keep going and that they’ll catch up. Meanwhile, Lydia disappears from the group.

Ezekiel takes the opportunity to talk to Daryl. He asks if Daryl has any plans after “this” – he doesn’t – and then goes on to say that the last few months have been difficult for Carol and him and he’s hoping for a fresh start – away from the memories of Henry. He knows that Carol has relied on Daryl for comfort and turned to him over the last few months, so Ezekiel suggests that Daryl move on. Daryl asks if that’s what Carol wants. Payton is terrific in this scene. There’s no kingly pretense here. He tells Daryl that what both he and Carol want is to hold their son again. Daryl’s face softens – Ezekiel has been more to Carol (in some ways) and this reminds him of that. Ezekiel then confesses that he’s not trying to be the bad guy (because, let’s face it, on TWD if you screw with Daryl, you ARE a bad guy), he just wants back a piece of what he lost – Carol’s love. And he reminds Daryl that Carol lost that happiness they had too. Daryl doesn’t give Ezekiel an answer – because Daryl never does – but as he turns away, it’s clear that he is thinking about it.

Meanwhile, Lydia has found a walker frozen in a pond. Such a cool effect! She kneels in front of it and its snapping jaws like a supplicant in church. She slowly bares her arm and pushes it towards the walker’s jaws. She’s interrupted by the arrival of Carol, who does no more than stare at her. She doesn’t actively stop her, but she also doesn’t encourage her. Is it enough that she simply came looking for Lydia?

Carol and Lydia rejoin the others. The storm is picking up and the others are discussing that they won’t be able to travel overnight, they need somewhere off the road to shelter for the night. Michonne tells them she knows a place and takes them to the Sanctuary.

Negan is in fine form as he joins Gabriel, Rosita, Eugene, Siddiq (Avi Nash), and Judith (Cailey Fleming). He tries to get under their skin, but Gabriel just tells him that he could be a little less predictable. I loved Judith telling Negan to watch his language. Eugene seems a bit amused by Negan needling Gabriel about not being the baby’s father. Judith is worried about Dog who has disappeared and she’d promised Daryl to look after him.

Negan is the first one to smell something, which turns out to be the chimney. Eugene pulls Siddiq and Gabriel away from the fireplace just in time. There’s been a build up of “gunk” in the chimney. Eugene’s explanation evokes a “God, I’ve missed you” from Negan – who truly does appreciate Eugene’s way of speaking. Eugene, however, tells Negan that he doesn’t feel the same. It’s not until the chimney blows that we see that the Church is actually full of other people.

As everyone gets up, ready to leave, Negan jumps up and points out that he’s still tied up: “Not one of you assholes is gonna untie me?” Rosita says that they could tell Michonne it was an accident… and Eugene looks like he agrees. In the end, of course, they do take him with them, having him hold the rope like everyone else.

Michonne opens the door to the sanctuary just as she begins to open the door to Negan at the end of the episode. At the sanctuary, we get another great scene between Carol and Daryl. The two sit alone on a staircase, Daryl joining Carol to check that she’s alright. Carol may be depressed, but she’s just as observant as ever and asks if something happened between him and Ezekiel. Daryl tells her no. She tells him that Ezekiel only blames him because he let himself blame her. Carol confesses that she feels like she’s losing herself again. She’s lost her purpose. Daryl offers to take Lydia away. Carol asks if he wants to go, and he tells her that he doesn’t, but he asks what Carol wants him to do. Lydia is seated close enough to hear their conversation.

Ezekiel and Michonne comment on the weather and their options. They don’t have enough supplies to stay at the Sanctuary long. It’s too dangerous to go to the way-station and back, so Michonne looks at the map that Ezekiel has. Aaron points out that Rick’s bridge could have saved them – it’s a nice throwback to the beginning of the season. Carol joins then and points out that the creeks and ponds are all frozen over. As long as they don’t go all at once, they could likely just walk across.

Ezekiel points out that the route Carol wants to take cuts straight through Alpha’s (Samantha Morton) territory. Carol angrily points out that those are HER borders and they never agreed to them. Ezekiel is afraid it will trigger a war. Carol points out it’s just a couple of miles. Michonne jumps in to say that they’ll cross at night – they won’t even know they’re there…. But snow? Footprints? Yumiko points out they could also be being watched already. Ezekiel worries about the young and elderly – they can’t take wagons and horses across the ice. Michonne suggest they go on foot. It’s risky, but they can’t survive where they are.

Michonne joins Ezekiel where he is looking over his people from the catwalk. She apologizes and wishes there was another way. He just wants to do right by his people. He feels doubly responsible for not seeing sooner that the Kingdom was going to fail. Michonne tells him that they wouldn’t be there at all if it wasn’t for him. Michonne has her own regrets – keeping them apart. She points out that Alpha was able to walk amongst them because they didn’t know each other. Michonne tells him that they’ve come too far to give up yet – the Kingdom hasn’t fallen – it’s right there. The Charter means something. The people aren’t just his – they all belong to each other. Ezekiel is still worried that they are going to start a war by crossing the border. Michonne counters that they make sure that they don’t – and really, how are they going to ensure that?

The group moves on foot through the night and storm, pausing at the boundary of the pikes. Ezekiel, Carol, and Lydia all pause at the one that held Henry’s head – and Michonne is the first to breach the boundary. Did anyone else simply feel like we’d suddenly be thrust into a Game of Thrones episode?

Back in Alexandria, the group attempts to get to Aaron’s house. Judith hears Dog barking and lets go of the rope and runs after the noise. Negan almost immediately runs after her.

And now we have two groups out in the storm, and the snow is so thick you can’t really see what’s going on. But who knew that walker’s froze? And kind of explode like White Walkers?? When they get to the river, Daryl is first out to check the ice with Michonne close behind him. Daryl’s very pathetic check is just that, but that isn't going to be where the danger lies.

Jerry goes to get everyone together, and Daryl notices that Lydia has disappeared yet again. Is she the new Carl? Or is it still Judith? Both thoughtlessly put others in danger after all… Carol moves off to find Lydia, and then the walkers start coming out of the snow! Of course this causes a panic as everyone wants to rush onto the ice and get away. Alden asks if it’s the Whisperers – and Michonne says no. We get a nice close up of Jerry with his family – the kids and Nabila (Nadine Marissa).

Carol catches up with Lydia and asks her what she’s doing. Lydia admits that she doesn’t know, but that she just can’t cross. Everyone is acting like getting to Hilltop will solve all their problems (see Ezekiel’s previous comments to Daryl….), but it won’t. Lydia knows that nothing is going to change. The people of Hilltop won’t want her back – Lydia does feel responsible for all the deaths, especially Henry’s. She tells Carol that Henry told her that she was a good person, but Lydia is convinced that as long as she is with them, the fighting and the blame will never stop.

Lydia is convinced that her only way out is to die. It’s the only way to fix everything. She can stop Alpha from coming after them if she’s not there, and she can remove herself as a reminder of the grief she caused AND she can pay for what she caused – and then she asks Carol to do it. There was a time when Carol likely wouldn’t have hesitated, but that time is past. Carol looks thoughtful.

As Daryl waits for them, he is attacked – and we get a brilliant, yet completely implausible, kill with an icicle!

Lydia begs Carol to kill her. She confesses that she’s too weak to kill herself. Carol’s yes fill with tears as she thrusts forward to kill the walker behind Lydia. She tells Lydia that she’s not weak. She takes Lydia’s hand and tells her that they have to go. It’s a nice parallel to Carl having saved Siddiq and Siddiq finally being accepted.

As Negan searches for Judith, he’s hit by a flying piece of debris. He also follows the sound of Dog’s barking and eventually finds Judith who now has Dog. She’s almost spent, so he picks her up. Hopefully Dog is leading them back to where they need to go. Eventually, Negan takes off his coat and puts it around Judith. Judith notices that Negan is hurt – and it’s his turn to chastise her for her language. He ties off his injury and picks her up – and brings Dog too at her insistence.

The next day (?) or at least when the storm has passed, the Kingdom group arrives at Hilltop – and there are echoes of other great shots from the season – such as the front fence opening to the gate. In the study, around the fire, Jerry suggests a new name – Kingtop! Lydia looks at the portraits that Jadis painted. Daryl tells her to try to get some sleep – they’re heading to Alexandria. He says it’s nice there, and Lydia asks him why he left. He tells her “one day” – he’s not ready to discuss it with her yet.

Ezekiel goes to Carol and points out that they made it, but Carol asks, did we? She tells him that she’s leaving and going to Alexandria. He tells her that he knows that she has to do it, but that he’ll never stop loving her. This is how we’ve seen Carol heal in the past. Carol tries to hand back the ring, but Ezekiel refuses to take it.

Michonne returns to Alexandria with the other. She’s greeted by Judith and immediately wants to know why her face is so red. Judith puts her off by saying that it’s cold. Everyone joins in with a spontaneous snowball fight with the kids – and some rather saccharine music.

Michonne goes to see Negan who is being attended to by Siddiq. She thanks him for saving Judith. Negan reminds her that the last time he was there, Rick had just slit his throat open. How things – and Negan – have changed. It’s also somewhat unfortunate as this parallel to last season’s finale really underscores how this season’s finale didn’t have the same tension and felt flat by comparison.

Negan tells Michonne that Judith is a special girl. He also tells Michonne that she’s been through enough. Negan then asks if everyone is ok who got caught in the storm. Michonne is surprised and asks if he really cares. He tells her that he doesn’t know any of those people, but he does know what it’s like to lose a kingdom and see it fall apart. It’s a nice throwback to his escape earlier in the season. Michonne tells him that the Sanctuary is a shithole now. He also comments that cutting through “their” territory was ballsy. Michonne then pulls up a chair. She tells him that she doesn’t even know if they were there – the point is that they made it through. Negan comments, common enemy, common goal. Michonne’s take is that facing evil brings good people together. Negan insists that it’s the same thing and points out that no one ever thinks that they’re the evil one. And that gives Michonne food for thought about Negan.

The next scene takes us back to the Whisperers. Beta (Ryan Hurst) comments that time away has been good for the pack. So maybe they don’t know that they crossed through their territory? Maybe they weren’t there at all? Alpha confides that she’s made mistakes, and Beta assures her that she won’t make them again. He tells her that she’s strong, and she comments that she needs to be stronger for what comes next. It’s an interesting parallel to Carol’s comment to Lydia that she isn’t weak. Instead of holding out his hand to her, Alpha holds out her arm so that Beta can beat her – such a lovely sado-masochistic couple!

The ending sees Ezekiel back on the radio. He’s starting to weave a new fairytale. He tells his listener that they will make it through their winter of discontent. Who knows what glorious summer may bring? It’s Judith on the other end, however. She suggests that maybe he could even go back to the Kingdom one day. Ezekiel tells her that just because they lost their house doesn’t mean they’ve lost their home. Judith smiles and agrees.

Ezekiel leaves the radio and we focus in on it, but this time it crackles to life again, and a strange voice asks if anybody is out there….

Lots of things are set in motion with this finale, but overall, it ranks well down for season finales from me. I have to admit that I’m not as excited for the new season as I have been in the past. We already know that Danai Gurira will be leaving this season. Can she leave without dying? How can they possibly justify her leaving the children? Will she take them with her? I was slow to warm up to Cailey Fleming, but she’s proven to be a valuable member of this cast. What do you want to see this season? Let me know your thoughts about the finale AND the coming season in the comments below!

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