REVIEW: The Walking Dead, S9 Ep 16 – The Storm

The Walking Dead, S9 Ep 16 - The Storm

The Walking Dead concluded its ninth season with a relatively quiet episode that saw the main cast trapped in a blizzard, struggling for survival against the elements. This was the first time we got a glimpse of winter on the show and the greatest threat to everyone was the weather, not walkers, and not the Whisperers.

The Walking Dead, S9 Ep 16 - The StormWhile this was still the aftermath of last week’s bloodbath, there was a time jump of a few months and everyone’s primary concern was getting to the next way station after the pipes burst in the kingdom. King Ezekiel mourned the loss of his stronghold as the group left the snowy compound and headed towards the Hilltop. The journey was grueling, not least because of the heavy snow and the heaviness of their own hearts after their recent loss.

Henry’s death, in particular, weighed down Carol, Daryl, Ezekiel, and Lydia, the latter feeling particularly guilty about this. The internal turmoil all of them suffered was a big part of the episode. Carol admitted to Daryl that she felt that she was losing herself again. Ezekiel feared that Daryl and Lydia’s presence constantly reminded Carol of their loss and asked Daryl to stay away. Lydia attempted to commit suicide by having herself bitten by a walker.

The Walking Dead, S9 Ep 16 - The StormLydia has grown to be a more interesting and sympathetic character, and one who I can root for (more than Henry). Daryl already bonded with her and is also protective of her but even Carol comes around when Lydia begs the latter to kill her. Carol has killed a child before and it’s clear that she refuses to do so again. They are somewhat reconciled and cross the river together. Sadly, Carol feels that the fairy tale is over and she decides to leave a heartbroken King Ezekiel.

The storm forces the group to risk going beyond the Whisperers’ borders and to cross an icy river to get to the next safe place. The horrors that they encounter are limited to zombies popping out of the snow (like daisies!) and no attacks from their human enemies (who were probably off somewhere keeping warm.) Still, these were some tense scenes and one feared that not everyone would make it. But miraculously, they all did. Looks like the character deaths really were reserved for the previous episode.

The Walking Dead, S9 Ep 16 - The StormNegan has a big moment towards redemption when he runs into the storm to rescue Judith and Dog. He started out simply quipping and mocking the ridiculous love quadrangle of Rosita, Gabriel, Siddiq, and Eugene. But he proved that he had changed for the better and that the bond that he had forged with the young spitfire was genuine. He carried her to safety despite a leg injury, and in so doing, earned Michonne’s gratitude and even some trust. I was unsure of what Negan’s role would be on the show ever since Rick spared him but seeing his development this season shows that even monsters can be somewhat redeemed on The Walking Dead.

Comparisons were made with Game of Thrones because of the winter setting and the “white walkers” but considering how the characters in The Walking Dead would have experienced winters and encountered snow-covered walkers before, I don’t think this has anything to do with alluding to Game of Thrones. It’s the huge cultural impact of both shows and their presence in fandom’s collective consciousness that allows people to make such links, like comparing Alpha’s massacre to the Red Wedding.

We got a brief glimpse of the Whisperers towards the end, mainly Alpha and Beta, as they prepared to wage war on their enemies. I wonder where they spent the winter but clearly they had some place of refuge that kept them warm enough. What they have planned was wisely saved for next season, keeping them as viable threats. They have proven to be more insidious than the Saviors.

The Walking Dead, S9 Ep 16 - The StormDespite everything, and in contrast with more tragic finales of The Walking Dead, this one ends on a relatively hopeful note. Everyone survived their snowy trek and the communities emerged stronger than ever. Michonne was reunited happily with her family and the storm passed. There is still no sign of Maggie nor any explanation of what caused the rift between her and Michonne. This mystery will be left for the next season.

There is an intriguing tease at the end as a voice is heard on Ezekiel’s radio just as he walks away, believing the line dead. The sound is garbled so that voice could be anyone and there are already many speculations. Those who have read the comics already know who this is but we’re not sure how close the show is sticking to the source material. So, that’s another exciting tease for next season.

I can easily say the last three episodes of the season were the strongest and most moving, subverting our expectations of the finale and focusing on the character relationships that have been developed over the years. There were some genuinely heart-wrenching moments and truly powerful performances from the cast. All things considered, The Walking Dead ended on a high note this season and for the first time in years, I am eagerly looking forward to what will happen next to this resilient group of survivors.