The Walking Dead Awards: Winter is coming

Season 9, Episode 15: Who lives, who dies, who tells your story

The Walking Dead 915
There’s no way this episode was ever going to have a happy ending.

Photograph by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

(Spoilers ahead)

Each week, we comb through the guts of The Walking Dead, much like a horde of hungry walkers, to bring you the episode’s best moments, surprises, and other post-apocalyptic curiosities. This week: You can’t always meet your challenges head on; don’t be afraid to put your heads together; and a proper heading can get your subject’s attention.

Season 9, Episode 15: “The Calm Before”

The dead: In case you were wondering whose ten dead heads were on spikes, they were Ozzie and Alek (the Highwaymen), DJ, Frankie, Tammy Rose, Addy, Rodney, Enid, Tara, and Henry.

The living: While seeing those ten dead characters hurts, we’ll breathe a sigh of relief that Eugene, Gabriel, Judith, and/or Jerry didn’t join them to mark the border. Most of all, we’re thankful that Ezekiel’s or Rosita’s heads weren’t on spikes, as they were in the comics.

Biggest misdirection: After nine seasons, we’ve learned the foreshadowing and signals on this show. Happy times at the fair? A lot of people were obviously going to end up dead by the episode’s end. As the movie screening was clearly meant to be the episode’s climax, we figured it would erupt into a Red Wedding-style massacre. The fact that it didn’t made the episode that much more gripping—and the deaths more impactful.

Biggest regret: We didn’t even get to see what the movie was! (Surely the cartoon was just the opening act, right?)

Best spinoff: When the group meets up with the Highwaymen, their subsequent forensic analysis of the scene Alpha had left behind was almost like a police drama. We’d watch this.

Most deserved: Carol signing her name as “Queen Carol” on the charter. After everything she’s been through in nine seasons of this show (and before), this is the life that Carol deserves.

Most undeserved: Which is among the many reasons that Henry’s death is so unfair. Carol already buried her daughter; she shouldn’t have had to bury her son, too.

Family fun fact: Speaking of which, the daughter that Carol buried—Sophia—was played by Atlanta actress Madison Lintz. Henry was played by Madison’s younger brother, Matt Lintz.

Name game: Michonne opts not to sign her name to the charter, having Alexandria council president Gabriel sign instead. But if she had, would she have signed it as Michonne Grimes?

Biggest question: With Tara dead, who’s going to be Hilltop’s new leader?

Hardest hit community: Aside from Tara, Hilltop also just lost its doctor with Enid’s demise.

Cutest moment: Jerry playing “horse” with the Kingdom kids and Judith. Seriously, is there a more joyful character than Jerry? (Something horrible is going to happen to him eventually, isn’t it?)

Best exchange:
Eugene: Couple of fine gentlemen including myself are hosting an intercommunity RPG campaign later if you’re interested—

Rosita: Don’t push it.

The Walking Dead 915
This was hard to watch.

Photograph by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Most disturbing image: As soon as Alpha told Daryl she’d “marked the border,” we knew something bad was coming. And the reveal of each severed head on that border proved to be more shocking than the last. Sure, the Highwaymen, a couple of near red-shirt ex-Saviors, and a minor character were expected casualties, but Tara and Enid left us gasping. We knew the final head would be a punch to Carol, either Ezekiel or Henry. When the show subverted the comic’s story and put Henry up there, our hearts sank. As we mentioned earlier, we’re glad to have more Ezekiel, but Carol’s loss hit us hard.

Best kill: Any Whispers that were killed when Ozzie, Alek, DJ, Frankie, Tammy Rose, Addy, Rodney, Enid, Tara, Saddiq, and Henry fought back. Despite losing so many great characters (yes, even you, Henry—we learned to love you even if you weren’t always the brightest bulb), this scene really resonated with us. It made us feel like the gang’s back together, ready to face the new big bad and ultimately succeed. Give us next week’s episode and the next season already!

Episode MVP: Siddiq, for changing Alpha’s narrative. The villain left Alexandria’s doctor alive to tell the communities what happened, expecting Siddiq’s recollections of the massacre to tear the communities apart. (To note, Alexandria lost two people, Hilltop lost five, and the Kingdom lost one.) But instead, Siddiq recalled the bravery of everyone taken hostage and emphasized how they joined forces to try to take down their captors before ultimately succumbing to Alpha’s wrath.