If this is “The Calm Before” on The Walking Dead, I’m scared to see the storm. Let’s back up a bit. It’s time for the Reunification Fair in the Kingdom. They have been planning this for weeks! Guests have been arriving from the Hilltop, Oceanside, and Alexandria. Including a couple named Hilde (Caroline Duncan) and Miles (Brian Sheppard). They are from Hilltop and have a special product to take to the fair. A wood chip with the letter “H” etched out for Hilltop. Unfortunately, Hilde and Miles don’t make it to the fair. They are stopped and killed by the Whisperers. Alpha (Samantha Morton) prepares to take Hilde’s head while singing a song called “Lydia.”
King Ezekiel (Khary Peyton) opens the fair with an emotional and inspiring speech about the reason they are there. To continue the vision that was started with Rick and Carl Grimes. With help from Jerry (Cooper Andrews) and Jerry Jr., the fair opens.
Carol (Melissa McBride) stands far away with a worried look on her face. There’s no sign of Henry (Matt Linz) and Daryl (Norman Reedus). Carol has gathered a search party including Kelly (Angel Theory), Magna (Nadia Hilker) and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) to find them.
Just as they are leaving, Daryl, Connie (Lauren Ridloff), Henry, Lydia (Cassady McClincy), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Judith (Cailey Fleming) arrive at the Kingdom. They are all greeted warmly, including Michonne. This is the first time in six years that Carol has seen Judith, but she remembers them.
All is well until Tara (Alanna Masterson) walks up and sees Lydia. She’s upset saying the deal was to bring Henry only. Michonne asks the leaders to talk. They go to the auditorium, where Michonne explains why she cut off the rest of the world. She says she only wanted to protect her family. She realizes that Alexandria belongs with the other communities.
Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) informs everyone that the Alexandria council voted to grant asylum to Lydia. Tara has a problem because Lydia’s mother only knows about the Hilltop and she will strike against them. She also doesn’t trust Lydia. Michonne understands but reminds everyone that Rick didn’t trust her when they first met. And they didn’t trust Tara when she joined the group. Michonne says Lydia chose to be there. She should be counted as one of them.
Tara says she brought some of her best fighters to the fair, so they need to send some back to protect the community. The rest of the communities agree to send people from their communities as well, to leave as soon as possible. It’s clear that Michonne and Tara finally understand one another and they apologize for their falling out.
Michonne proposes a mutual protection pact. An attack on one of the communities is an attack on all. Everyone agrees. They seal the deal with a signing of the charter. The King and Queen sign for the Kingdom, a girl named Rachel signs for Oceanside, Tara signs for Hilltop and Michonne lets Father Gabriel sign for Alexandria since he is the head of the council.
Within These Walls
Henry shows Lydia around the Hilltop as the three communities share information, trades, and food. Lydia is uncomfortable. She doesn’t know how to live within walls. They see Daryl get his motorcycle to leave for the Hilltop. Lydia feels bad, thinking the danger is because of her.
Luke (Dan Fogler) tries to talk Alden (Callan McAuliffe) to sing with him at the fair. Enid (Katelyn Nacon) encourages him to do so and call him her boyfriend. Alden likes that but doesn’t give in to peer pressure.
Kelly is upset that Connie left without saying goodbye. She says any goodbye could be the last. Connie apologizes and says she didn’t think. Saving the baby brought up a lot of old feelings. She starts to cry and Kelly comforts her.
Michonne tells Siddiq (Avi Nash) that she’s leaving with the Hilltop group. He offers to go in her place, but she asks him to keep an eye on Judith. He says he could use the experience. Michonne has no idea what he’s talking about and Siddiq avoids the issue saying he’ll tell her when he sees her at Hilltop.
Hilltop teen Addy (Kelley Mack) apologizes to Henry for ratting him out when the Whisperers confronted the Hilltop. He says everything worked out fine so he’s okay. While they talk, Rodney (Joe Ando-Hirsh) and Gage (Jackson Pace) tell Lydia that Henry and Addy like each other and she should cause any problems. Lydia gets angry and runs away.
Tara sends Kal (James Chen) and Dianne (Kerry Cahill) with instructions for the Hilltop. Yumiko and Magna are going with them as well as Michonne, Carol, and Daryl. Connie tells Daryl to be safe and he asks her to take care of Dog.
Henry thanks Daryl from protecting him. His parents are grateful as well, and ask Daryl to live in the Kingdom with them. He says he will consider it. Carol says goodbye to her boys, telling them to enjoy the fair, but they won’t. The group leaves for Hilltop and Carol gives one last goodbye wave to her guys.
The group meets up with DJ (Matt Mangum) and the Highwaymen along the road as they are clearing out walkers. They show the group the overturned wagon from Hilltop. They assume the Whisperers are responsible which means Hilltop is in greater danger than they thought. Carol, Michonne and Daryl are going to track the Whisperers, sending the rest to Hilltop. DJ and the Highwaymen will patrol around the Kingdom, saying Carol owes them a couple of movies. Yumiko says she’s going with Daryl and asks Magna to go to Hilltop to keep the place safe.
Later that night, Daryl’s group come up some bloody sticks, but there are no dead bodies. Two of the Hilltop victims show up with a group of walkers. The foursome tries to turn back to the road, but are quickly surrounded by walkers. No problem…They easily kill all of them. Behind the walkers though are a group of Whisperers led by Beta (Ryan Hurst)! He tells them to drop their weapons. Beta says all Daryl had to do was give him the girl and no one had to die. Now that deal is done.
After the Hilltop group left, Jerry and Nabila (Nadine Marissa) walk around the fair talking about Michonne showing up. Nabila says there’s hope for Alexandria after all. There is a strange woman behind them listening. When she turns around, we see that it’s Alpha, with Hilde’s hair and clothes.
Eugene (Josh McDermitt) spent some time in the dunk tank and is in one of the buildings changing clothes. Rosita (Christian Serratos) checks on him. He is working on setting up radios so communities can talk to each other. Rosita assures him that they can still talk too. They are still friends even though things are changing. She thanks him for helping her with Gabriel. He says, in his own way, that he had to do it. No thanks needed. She sits down to help him with the radios. He invites her to a role-playing game, but she refuses.
Tara talks to Gabriel and Rachel about setting up combat training. Gabriel asks why she’s on edge. She says she’s ready to go home. Gabriel says her community is in good hands, but she wants her people to know they can count on her to be there. Tara leaves to pack and wants them to think about training facilities.
The Calm Before
Enid finally talks Alden into singing with Luke. She watches with Kelly and Connie as the two try to pick a song. Enid promises to make fun of Alden for the rest of their lives.
Alpha is still roaming around and hears Tammy Rose (Brett Butler) and Earl (John Finn). They are talking about what to name the Whisperer baby that they’ve adopted.
Henry finds Lydia alone on a bench, away from the crowds. She tells him what Gage and Rodney said to her. He gets upset and assures her that it’s not the truth. He likes Lydia and she likes him too, so they kiss. Lydia did get back at those boys by shooting goat poop at them. Gross! They hear a loud noise and Lydia gets nervous. Henry tells her its just the pipes that make that noise all the time. He leaves to go fix it and asks her to save him a seat at movie later.
Alpha continues to roam around and recognizes Rosita and Eugene. Ezekiel interrupts her to make sure she’s okay. She says she fine and introduces herself as Debbie from Alexandria. She asks for sweaters because it’s going to be a hard winter.
Meanwhile, the movie finally starts. It’s a cartoon and Judith is loving it. She’s never seen a movie on the big screen. Jerry says the King is missing out, but Nabila mentions that he’s probably dealing with the busted pipes. If he doesn’t show up soon, he’ll be one sorry dude.
Lydia sits in the back row waiting for Henry. She starts to enjoy the movie, even smiling, when someone sits down next to her. She looks over to see her Mother staring back at her.
Into the Woods
Alpha approaches Daryl, Michonne, Carol and Yumiko. The Whisperers have tied them up to a tree. Daryl says Alpha can’t have Lydia back. Michonne announces that they have granted Lydia asylum and any attempt to take her by force will result in retaliation. Alpha asks for her name and Michonne gives it to her. Alpha stares her down but then turns to her people. She says is no longer concerned about Lydia, saying she was weak and never lived up to expectations.
Alpha says Daryl’s group is in no position to threaten her. She pulls a gun on them and makes Daryl go with her. They walk to a quarry full of walkers. She says her people are among the walkers, steering them. Daryl and his friends are alive because she lets them live. Alpha doesn’t want anything from them. She says their communities are a shrine to a dead world. The Whisperers live as nature intended.
Alpha warns him that the next time they cross into her land, her horde will cross into theirs. She claims the lands between two broken interstates to the river in the south. They have marked the Northern border. She lets Daryl and his friends go to the North. Daryl asks if she killed Lydia.
A Hard Choice
Alpha pulled Lydia outside where no one would see them. She tried to make Lydia return with her, but Lydia wouldn’t leave. Lydia says she believes in the communities. They care about her and she cares about them. Alpha tries to sweet talk Lydia to coming back saying she only did the hard things a mother has to do to keep her safe. Lydia points out a bruise on her arm, saying she knows what her mother was doing. She gives Alpha a choice, leave or she will scream for help. Alpha says she was trying to make Lydia strong, but she’s not one of them and she never was.
Back at the quarry, Alpha doesn’t think Daryl can protect Lydia. She hopes she is wrong and Daryl says she is. He finds Carol, Michonne, and Yumiko waiting for him. In the woods, Beta asks Alpha about Lydia and she asks him to leave her alone. Another Whisperer sees her crying. She motions for him to come to her and kills him.
The Northern Border
As they are leaving the woods, Michonne finds a beat up Siddiq tied to a tree. They walk to the border and see a row of pikes. Mounted on the pikes are the heads of ten people. The patrol group, DJ and the Highwaymen; one of Negan’s former wives; two of the Hilltop teens, Addy and Rodney; and new mom Tammy Rose. The last three are the most shocking. Enid, Tara, and Henry.
As each victim is revealed, we see moments from when someone realized they were missing. Alden and Luke are performing and Alden is distracted because he doesn’t see Enid. Father Gabriel is looking for Tara to continue their talk about the mutual protection pact. And Lydia tells Ezekiel about her Mom’s visit and that she can’t find Henry.
When Daryl sees Henry’s head, he runs to Carol, turning her away from the sight. He tells her to focus on him as she starts to cry. Siddiq and Michonne comfort each other and Yumiko looks on in horror.
Siddiq stands in front of everyone at the fair to tell them what happened. Like the others, he was taken from the fair by the Whisperers. He says he was ready to die with them. Alpha whispered in his ear to “tell them” then knocked him out cold. When he woke up, he was alone. He thinks Alpha left him alive to tell them about the evil thing that happened to scare them and drive them apart. Instead, he tells a different story.
The Whisperers had the hostages tied up in a stable. DJ and the Highwaymen found them and attacked the Whisperers to rescue them. The others started fighting back, fighting together and for each other. Siddiq says they fought until the very end, even though some of them didn’t know each other. They fought like family. Their time was cut short. Siddiq tells everyone to honor them who died as heroes.
Later Daryl takes Lydia to the pikes. The heads have been removed. She goes to the last pike in the ground and lays down a necklace. Henry gave it to her. It’s a wood chip, with the letter “H” etched out. As they walk away, it begins to snow.
The build-up of the shocking deaths was more intense than the actual scene. It was a comic book moment come to life, but the heads on the pikes didn’t stir any emotion. One of the major issues I have with The Walking Dead is character development. I believe you have to know the characters to really care if they live or die. Obviously, the lead cast is going to get the screen time, but even some of them were put on the wayside for half a season. Of the ten heads on the pikes, there were only two that really had any story to tell this season. The rest are characters that we barely see or hear from.
The three deaths that made the most impact weren’t as shocking as I thought they would be. I was expecting different heads and got a satisfactory trio of characters that I kind of wanted to see go at one time or another. I was more affected by Carol’s reaction. Given that Carol is one of the leads and we’ve seen her growth from the beginning of the series, anything she does is going to get a reaction out of me.
This was an opportunity for The Walking Dead to really shock the audience, especially those who have read the source material. It’s true that they are slowly running out of lead characters to kill off, but if they want an emotional impact, like Glenn and Abraham, then they have to make the audience care. That’s the only part I’m missing. I don’t see some of the characters enough to care. I don’t even see the secondary characters that I do care about.
We know there’s a war coming, but there is something else coming that we haven’t seen before on this show. SNOW!