‘The Walking Dead,’ Season 9, Episode 15: “The Calm Before” Recap

AMC's 'The Walking Dead,' Season 9, Episode 15, The Calm Before, Hilde and Miles, closeup

[Image via Gene Page/AMC]

So, the penultimate episode of Season 9 of The Walking Dead is brought to you by the letter “H.” H is for Hilltop, and Hope, and Henry, and Hilde, and Happiness. But, mostly, it is for Hell and Hell No. Oh, and I am pretty sure Cassidy is gonna have words aplenty to say about this episode, so you all had better make yourself a warm beverage and get yourself comfy before you settle into this recap.

CF:  Who, me?  Have words about this episode?  Damn right I’m gonna have words!

RT: And, in knowing this, I pretty much left a clean slate for you.

Here’s what went down in Episode 15 (titled “The Calm Before”) of Season 9 of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

The New Red Shirts People

A new couple gets introduced in Episode 15 of The Walking Dead Season 9. They are so adorable and so happy, and so in love that, of course, they are going to die. And, die they do on their way to the Fair. However, while I initially thought this couple — Hilde (Caroline Duncan) and Miles (Brian Sheppard) — would end up being Whisperers, it turns out they were just the grease to turn the wheels on the backstory leading up to this episode.

For their deaths are on purpose and a direct result of the Whisperers.

However, they will play their own part in the Fair regardless of being dead and all.

CF: Right off the bat when you see them fighting off zombies and you realize they found Hilltop on their anniversary–which could be wedding or maybe just the first time they met–you instantly know they’re doomed.  And the real bitch about it is, they die on their anniversary as well.  Yes, we can’t have nice things in this world and these two lovebirds are just more proof of that axiom.

The Fair

So, there is an awful lot of feel good in this episode. Michonne (Danai Gurira) got reacquainted with the old group and signing a charter that sees them a formidable force against those who do them wrong — or so they think.

And here’s me over in the corner, crying at the signing of the charter because, let’s face it, when nice things happen and when things are resolved, it’s an absolute that people will die.

CF:  People may have well said, “Oh, let me put my signature on this, ’cause this will be all you have to remember me by once I’m dead.” And… yeah.  That did happen.

And, die they did. Some I expected, some not so much.

CF: *sigh* Goddammit.  

As for what happens at the Fair, mostly, you need to know that fun things happen and people are happy.

And loved ones get split up and you have to work out which of the couples will survive and which will lose their loved ones.

AMC's 'The Walking Dead,' Season 9, Episode 15, The Calm Before, Daryl Dixon, Yumiko

[Image via Jackson Lee Davis/AMC]

Groups Split Up

While loads of happy shit happens, even the characters seem to know that they need to be on the watch out. Mostly, it’s because Henry (Matt Lintz) has gotten himself a girlfriend that is the daughter of Alpha (Samantha Morton), leader for the Whisperers. So, while Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) group has taken Lydia (Cassady McClincy) to the Kingdom, they are well aware that the Whisperers are likely to retaliate against Hilltop.

Daryl’s group becomes bigger as people split off and join him to head immediately to Hilltop in anticipation of the attack.

Carol (Melissa McBride) leaves Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Henry behind and joins Daryl. So does Michonne. Along with them are a bunch of others that are mid-level characters so I made the big assumption that these guys would bite the dust and settled in to enjoy the ride.

Stupid me.

CF: At least they didn’t send them out with red shirts on.  Too obvious, right?

RT: Something has been learned at least.

AMC's 'The Walking Dead,' Season 9, Episode 15, The Calm Before, the Highwaymen and DJ

[Image via Jackson Lee Davis/AMC]

Another Group Split

As they travel, they bump into the Highwaymen and the discovery of Hilde and Miles’ little misadventure at the hands of the Whisperers is discovered. Filled with good cheer and the promise of being able to take over the world — the group has signed a charter, after all — the group splits up so that Daryl, Carol, Michonne, and Yumiko (who has just kissed her girlfriend so looks like totally biting it now) can follow the tracks left behind in the hopes that Hilde and Miles are still alive and the others can continue on to Hilltop.

CF: Even though I know Yumiko’s and Magna’s history in the comic, I had a huge sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when they kissed, because the first thought I had was, “Okay, I know which one of them is going to die.” With the way TWD foreshadows the shit out of everything anymore, I was beginning to treat one of them like Dead Woman Walking.

RT: I felt so sad when they kissed. Most times this is instantly the seal of doom, unfortunately.

AMC's 'The Walking Dead,' Season 9, Episode 15, The Calm Before, The Fair

[Image via Gene Page/AMC]

Alpha Infiltrates The Fair

Except, Hilde and Miles are not alive.

CF: Which is the biggest “Duh” moment ever.  I mean, come on: you people have run into this same sort of shit for ten years now.  When has it ever ended well?  Just like Carol said, “This isn’t going to have a happy ending.”  No fucking shit.

And Alpha has used Hilde’s golden locks, straw hat, and pretty green dress as a disguise so that she can infiltrate the Fair.

Yep, the bad person is inside the Kingdom while all the good fighters are out on the road.

Meanwhile, viewers get to see a further build-up of happy people as Henry and Lydia check out the Fair. Luke (Dan Fogler) is getting Alden (Callan McAuliffe) to sing while Enid (Katelyn Nacon) is admitting that she and Alden are officially girlfriend and boyfriend. One of Negan’s old wives is shown to be happy as within her new community.  Eugene (Josh McDermott) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) are getting back into the groove of things. Judith (Cailey Fleming) is hanging with Jerry’s (Cooper Andrews). And Henry and Lydia are kissing and preparing to watch a movie when one of the pipes plays up and Henry has to go fix things. “Save a seat for me,” he insists before heading off.

CF:  I’ll have a comment below on what Eugene and Rosita are doing and where that’s going.

RT: Excellent 🙂

AMC's 'The Walking Dead,' Season 9, Episode 15, The Calm Before, Tara

[Image via Gene Page/AMC]

Tara (Alanna Masterson) is chillaxing and planning for the future. Although, really she just wants to be heading back home and helping to protect her community of Hilltop, so totally decides to grab a random group of people and head on back there. But, more on that later…

So, Lydia does save a seat for Henry at the movies. Except that seat is filled by Alpha and it could be totally possible that Lydia really is bullshitting her way through her new community in order to fuck shit up.

AMC's 'The Walking Dead,' Season 9, Episode 15, The Calm Before, Alpha

[Image via Gene Page/AMC]

Shit Gets Real

Alpha has been doing an excellent reconnaissance mission at the Fair. She knows just enough about everyone to bullshit perfectly to Ezekiel and find out heaps about the communities.

Meanwhile, Daryl’s group is now searching in the dark and gets hit upon by a group of walkers right as they decide to turn back.

Of course, that group of walkers is a part of the Whisperers plan and Beta (Ryan Hurst) wanders in with Alpha and that’s when viewers realise that the scenes involving Alpha at the Fair are flashbacks and shit has already gone down.

Alpha asks Daryl to come with her and he does because, really, there is no other choice. She takes him to a hilltop and lets him look down on a massive herd of walkers before telling him that his group will be safe so long as they maintain her territory and stay the fuck away. Oh, and she totally says that Lydia has been dealt with and I assume she has slaughtered her own daughter. Daryl does too.

CF: In the comic, this was something Alpha did later with Rick.  This happened after they’d been having hit and run attacks on each other for a while and Alpha knew a war was coming.  And now that we’ve seen this herd, expect there to be pain next season.

RT: That’s what I was expecting 🙁

Except, it’s worse than that…

Alpha lets Daryl go and he returns to find the rest of his small group are safe. As they are heading back, they bump into Siddiq (Avi Nash), who has been tied up. When they untie him, he leads them to a whole world of pain.

Ten characters in The Walking Dead have lost their lives at the hands of the Whisperers and left as a message to the rest of the communities not to fuck with Alpha.

Those characters are all a part of the group that Tara gathered and was returning with to Hilltop. Those that die are:

  1. Ozzy (Highwaymen leader)
  2. Highwayman (Ozzy’s 2nd in command)
  3. DJ (Matt Mangum)
  4. Frankie (One of Negan’s wives)
  5. Tammy Rose (Brett Butler)
  6. Rodney (Joe Ando Hirsh)
  7. Addy (Kelley Mack)
  8. Enid — Yes, you read that right!
  9. Tara — Yes, again, you read that right 🙁
  10. Henry

TWD S09E15

[Image via AMC]

So, Basically, Alpha might not want to kill her daughter, but she is totally okay with ruining any semblance of happiness she might want. And, because Carol can’t have nice things or children whose surname is Lintz. it also means that Carol is likely to fuck shit up for the Whisperers and I can’t wait to watch that.

CF: Okay, I just started laughing at the comment about Carol not being able to have any kids with the surname of Lintz because it’s so fucking true.  Poor Carol.  She should have something in her contract about that shit.  And yes: she will fuck things up.  You know it.

Also, seriously, can AMC stop killing off medics?!

As for Tara, well, you’ll just have to wait until Cassidy wakes up and has something to say about that 😉

CF: Who, me?  Say things about Tara dying?  *SIGH*

Let us know what you thought of this episode of The Walking Dead by commenting below!

CF: I guess this is where I have my say about this episode and–well, probably rant a little about the shit that went down.  But first, let me get into the actual final act first.

First off, I’ve known this was coming for some time.  This was the “Red Wedding” moment in The Walking Dead graphic novels and the events here actually happened in Issues #142, #143, #144 and #145, printed from June to August, 2015. Things were really different.  Rick is out looking for Carl, who is with Lydia and The Whisperers and Maggie is at the fair wondering how she’s going to tell Rick that she strung up Gregory. Rick finds both Carl and Lydia and it’s the three of them who eventually discover the heads and it isn’t much longer before Andrea, Michonne and Dante show up and make the same discovery.  As you can see there’s a whole lotta people present in this scene who aren’t even on the show anymore.

The death list is different as well and in some ways it’s even more of a gut punch because of two people on this list that survived the TV slaughter.  Here are the people who died in the graphic novel:

1.   Olivia 
2.   Josh 
3.   Carson 
4.   Tammy Rose
5.   Luke 
6.   Erin 
7.   Ken 
8.   Amber 
9.   Larry 
10. Oscar
11. Rosita Espinosa 
12. Rosita’s Baby 
13. Ezekiel

RT: Thanks for the comics list, Cassidy! We have the compendiums and they are only just getting started on the Whisperers War.

CF: The interesting thing is that The Calm Before was the name of one of the volumes–#7, released in September, 2007–and it detailed what happened in the lead-up to the final attack on The Prison.  Which means we get to see everyone there die. Interesting that it was also used here.

Now, Olivia had been dead for some time on the show, shot by Negan, so she couldn’t make the list.  But here we have Luke, one of Magna’s people, getting put on the pike, but there’s a few others who have not been on the show and are unknown, but mostly it was seeing Luke playing at the fair in the flashback that got me to worrying that someone else I liked was gonna get the ax.

But the two biggest names on this list are Rosita and Ezekiel.  Yep, they were decapitated and left on a pike for everyone to find and Ezekiel’s death really hit people hard as he was one of main leaders.  I really thought he was going to buy it last night when he was conversing with Alpha, but Lydia finding him behind the film screen punched me even harder because that meant if a community leader was about to die, that left one person…

And Rosita’s death was also a bit of a shock as we’d learned only a few issues before that she was pregnant. But hey: Kirkman never gave a fuck about women, pregnant or otherwise, dying before, so why get bothered now?  Her death also affected Eugene hugely, because in the comic he was married to Rosita, which made her getting pregnant by someone else even more of a kick in the ass for him.

And since we couldn’t see it last night, here’s how Rosita and Ezekiel looked in the graphic novel:

 

Now… I guess it’s time for me to bitch.  Because why not?  And if you know me you can probably guess the nature of my bitching.

RT: I knew these two bit it in the comics through conversations we’ve had. And, I was totally expecting it to go down this way — Ezekiel in particular — thanks to the way it was playing out in the episode last night.

CF: First Enid.  I’ve always liked Enid.  She was the Sophia surrogate on the show for Carl and was starting to take that same position for Henry right before Lydia was introduced because with Carl gone, Henry was going to get Carl’s spot on the roster.  I always wanted to see Carl and Enid have the sort of relationship that Carl and Sophia had in the GN and it was no surprise when a few episodes back she more or less admitted that Carl had meant a lot to her.  I actually gasped when I saw her dead, because really, why kill her? Oh yeah: because we can’t have happy fucking people on the show. She’d taught herself to be a medic, she had a boyfriend, she was really starting a good life–yeah, let’s fucking kill her before she actually does something like start a family. That one hurt.

RT: I gasped as well when I saw Enid. Totally not fair that medics keep getting it in this show. And, yeah, lesson for everyone else: don’t have nice things because that’s how you get dead on The Walking Dead.

CF: I mean, if Alpha had really wanted to fuck the communities, she would have killed Siddiq as he’s an actual doctor.  I guess they needed to save him for later, as he does play some important parts once The Whisperer War starts up and we move on into The New World Order story line. So it’s easier to kill the girl medtech.

But then we come to Tara and I nearly kicked my TV through the wall when I saw her head on the pike–and this was even when I fucking knew she was going to die. As Rachel can confirm, I’ve been telling her for a while that when this event went down–and I didn’t go into details on it until recently–Tara was going to die. Why? Because one of the leaders had to die and with her now in charge of Hilltop, after her death someone else could step in–*coughDarylcough*–and take over. And mark my words that’s probably going to happen.

And even if Ezekiel got the pike I was pretty sure Tara would die.  Why?  Because she was the show’s Token Lesbian and with another lesbian couple coming aboard, well shit: we can’t have too many of those LGBTAIQ types around ’cause before you know it they’ll all want the same shit the hetero characters get.  Sure, death is one of those things, but, you know, a little fucking happiness would be nice as well.

And when it came to happiness Tara got shit on in spades. She lost her first psudo-girlfriend in the assault on The Prison, put down by Lizzy and Mika, and she also loses her sister. Then she busts her ass to get Glenn back to Maggie, suffering from grief the whole time over the role she played in that assault, but she’ll do her part to make certain True Hetero Love abides. Then she finds Denise, but hold on, before they can get happy we kill Denise off and Tara isn’t even allowed to grieve for her loss, something I covered in the recap of that episode. The War comes and she moves to Hilltop and works with Maggie and Jesus and she was finally in a position to become a leader–and from what I saw a good one at that–and… fuck it, no. Let’s kill her. Because who knows?  Maybe she’ll be really good at this and perhaps find a girlfriend and settle down–

Nope. Death To The Lesbian. Her time has come.

And really, it’s the same thing they did with Jesus.  In the graphic novel we learn that Jesus is gay and he starts up–and is still having–a relationship with Aaron, something that looked like was about to happen on the show until The Whisperers got him. We can’t really see him having that relationship, so let’s kill him.

In the graphic novel Yumiko and Magna are confirmed to be in a relationship, though it takes a long time for Magna to admit she’s a lesbian because her father was so homophobic that even after he’d been dead for years, all the shit she went through with him made her suppress her feelings about it and continue to convince herself that she wasn’t in love with other women. (And yes: this does happen. From a personal standpoint my mother fucked me up so much with her shit she threw my way, likely due to the fact that I suspected that she probably knew I may be trans, that I waited nearly seven years after her death–when I was approaching my mid-50s–to transition. Because I was so afraid of coming out because of how I knew she’d feel. It’s a real thing, people.)

If the show follows the graphic novel they’ll eventually become a good couple, but we know the TV series isn’t doing all the following these days, so I guess when someone’s contract is up they’re gone. Or when another LGBTAIQ character shows up someone will have to go, because of late it seems like TWD is falling back into that old meme we had about the series in the first few seasons, where you couldn’t have more than one or two black characters with speaking parts, so you had to kill one of those characters off as soon as another black character appeared on the show. Don’t want to say LGBTAIQ Is The New Black on The Walking Dead, but hey: sometimes it looks that way, at least to me.

Seriously, I know what it’s like to be like Tara, to be alone and not have anyone in your life because your dating pool is small and all you have is hope you’ll find someone right for you. And she did just that, at least twice. And both times those girlfriends headed on down the Dead Lesbian Highway and Tara went back to being isolated and alone, with only her work and a few friends to keep her company. I won’t lie: as a lesbian I looked up to Tara for her strength and resiliency, because I need that as well. And I kept hoping, season after season, that she’d find some happiness. It wasn’t meant to be, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t keep hoping.

Thank you, Alanna Masterson, for playing a character whom I really loved and enjoyed–even when she did shit that pissed me off. I really would like to meet her in person one day so I could tell her this–and I’ll probably be crying when I do, just as I am now.

RT: Thank you, Cassidy, for saying it all so well. *hugs*

CF: (I will also point out here that I suspect one of the reasons Henry was killed was because at this point in the graphic novel story Lydia and Carl start having sex.  A lot of sex.  Like, Andrea walks in on fourteen-year-old Carl screwing sixteen-year-old Lydia lotta sex. I suspect if Henry been anyone else but a Lintz there was gonna be sex in the future, but his contract probably had a “Kill By This Date” clause, so yep, gotta put him down. I guess we had to throw in the Death By Sex trope before it actually happened.)

And one final thing: that radio that Rosita and Eugene were working on. One of the things that happen in The Whisperers War is that Eugene actually does make contact with someone–only it’s not someone from one of the other communities. He makes contact with a woman named Stephanie, who’s living in Ohio in a community called The Commonwealth. And that sets up the New World Order story line, which in the TV series I’m sure will set up the communities contacting the helicopter people and Georgie and–well hell, probably Rick and Maggie as well. Since we’ve heard that the first of The Walking Dead movies are coming at the end of this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this contact being made near the end of next week’s season finale.

You heard it from me, folks.

RT: And, once again, thank you so much for the comic book insights 😉

 

The Walking Dead returns to AMC with the Season 9 finale, Episode 16 (titled “The Storm”) on Sunday, March 31. AMC lists the following synopsis for this episode.

“In the aftermath of an overwhelming loss, the communities must brave a ferocious blizzard; as one group deals with an enemy from within, another is forced to make a life or death decision.”

[Featured image via Jace Downs/AMC]

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