‘The Walking Dead’ Recap ‘The Calm Before’: Heads Will Roll

In ‘The Walking Dead’ recap, the community faire kicks off at The Kingdom but the episode ends with tragedy as Alpha strikes back against the survivors…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

‘The Walking Dead’ has come up short on two past occasions when it was time to deal with a ‘big bad’ made famous in the comic books.

It took the series two tries to finally get The Governor in front of the prison ready to lop off somebody’s head with a tank sitting just outside the fence after mucking up that character following his initial introduction. The same could be said of Negan, who has always been considered the most prolific villain in the history of ‘The Walking Dead’.

It took way too long to actually introduce him and then ‘The Walking Dead’ made the ill-fated decision to end his debut episode on a cliffhanger when he kills a member of the survivors by bashing their head in with his barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat named Lucille.

If that wasn’t bad enough, ‘The Walking Dead’ then managed to stretch out the storyline with Negan for two more seasons. When ‘All Out War’ was finally finished, most viewers were just relieved to move onto something else.

It appears the sins of the past have course corrected with new showrunner Angela Kang, who took over this season after Scott M. Gimple took on a larger role overseeing the entire ‘Walking Dead’ universe.

The Whisperers — a group that survives by wearing the skins of the dead over their faces — made a shocking introduction in the mid-season finale when they killed Jesus and the second half of season 9 has largely been dedicated to them.

Then came Sunday night’s episode — the penultimate hour in season 9 — and one of the most horrifying and iconic moments from the comics came to live as Alpha sought revenge against the survivors for crossing the Whisperers. It was a bone chilling scene to close the episode and an even braver choice to have this happen a week ahead of the season finale.

Savvy comic book readers saw this moment coming — myself included — but the Kang and the writers behind ‘The Walking Dead’ deserve a standing ovation for pulling off a surprise of this magnitude this week.

With that said, let’s get to our recap of the latest episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ titled ‘The Calm Before’….

A NEW BEGINNING

It’s safe to say when hope springs eternal on ‘The Walking Dead’ somebody is about to die.

That rings true yet again in the latest episode but we’ll get to that a little later. First the hopeful part of the show as King Ezekiel opens up the gates to the Kingdom to officially launch the first ever community faire — or as he calls it a new beginning.

Ezekiel definitely knows how to give a speech and he even honors those who came before him by thanking Rick and Carl Grimes for their vision of the future as well as Jesus, who was the first person responsible for linking the communities together and gave his life defending one of them.

All seems well as friends reunite including Carol embracing Daryl as well as her son Henry returning home — with a new girlfriend named Lydia in tow. Judith sees Carol and Ezekiel for the first time in years and Michonne has even reconnected with her old friends after the atrocities committed at Alexandria nearly cut her off from the world.

The reunion doesn’t come without purpose as Michonne makes it clear that the communities are all facing a new kind of threat with the Whisperers. As fragmented as they’ve been in recent years following Rick’s ‘death’, Michonne is ready for everyone to reconnect and form a pact that attacking one of them is like attacking all of them.

She even offers Lydia asylum at Alexandria while reminding Tara that there was a time a few years ago when she was standing next to the Governor outside the prison walls until she was eventually welcomed into the family. Everybody agrees to this new constitution of sorts, which allows Ezekiel to break out the original rules that were drafted so each of them can sign on the dotted line.

As a first act of this new pact, Michonne decides to lead a team back to Hilltop because they believe that will be the place where Alpha and the Whisperers will strike first considering that’s the community that kept Lydia from her.

Little do they know that the Whisperers discovered the Kingdom last week and not only told Alpha about it but she’s managed to infiltrate the community faire.

As the episode got started, we meet a couple named Hilde and Miles, who were surviving in the zombie apocalypse together until they happened upon the Hilltop a few years ago. Cut to present day and they happily married couple are still together and Hilde has started carving out coins with the letter ‘H’ on them for this community faire. Perhaps it stands for Hilltop or maybe just hope but she’s filled with joy ahead of the travel to the Kingdom.

Fast forward to the caravan being ransacked and destroyed by the Whisperers, who kill everybody on board including Hilde. In the end, Alpha scalps off her pretty blonde hair and fashions a wig for herself along with a hat that allows her to get inside the Kingdom unnoticed as she begins looking for her daughter and investigating these new enemies inside the community walls.

KNOW YOUR BOUNDARIES

There are two separate timelines that take place during this episode so for clarity sake, we’ll recap it in the order that these events actually happened.

During the faire as neighbors reunite with neighbors, Alpha quietly skulks around the Kingdom, looking at people living their lives as if there’s not a dagger hanging above their heads at all times. She not only mapping out the entire community, Alpha is getting a lay of the land while also quietly searching for her daughter.

At one point, Alpha even holds a conversation with King Ezekiel, which makes it appear that he may soon meet his doom after he says that he will help her find a sweater because winter is coming.

Meanwhile, Henry is trying to make Lydia feel more welcome while promising that he’s only got eyes for her after some of the other kids don’t give her the warmest of introductions. Henry wants Lydia to learn to trust these people and eventually call the community her home.

Sadly, Henry gets called away to duty when a loud sound from underground signifies that the pipes inside the Kingdom are struggling once again — the exact reason he wanted to move to Hilltop so he could learn to fix them himself.

As the faire continues, we see Rosita and Eugene reconnect while Alden prepares to impress his girlfriend Enid with a ballad later that night while singing alongside Luke, who will be playing guitar.

Everybody seems so happy and hopeful for the future.

Finally, Daryl, Michonne, Kumiko and Carol decide that they will lead a garrison back to the Hilltop to provide that community additional protection in case the Whisperers decide to strike. As they leave and say their goodbyes, Carol gives her son a hug and Daryl asks Connie to look after his dog for him.

Later that night as the communities gather for a movie at the Kingdom, Lydia is waiting for Henry to arrive to sit next to her but she’s shocked with somebody else approaches her instead. It’s Alpha — and she insists that they leave together to have a mother to daughter conversation.

Outside, Lydia defies her mother’s orders and says she’s never going back — she found a home with these communities where they care about each other and take care of each other through love rather than abuse like she’s suffered at her mother’s hands so many times in the past.

Lydia warns Alpha that she could let out a blood curdling scream, which would result in guards rushing to save her. Instead, Lydia decides to let her mother go free before running to tell Ezekiel that she made it inside the walls somehow.

Lydia will eventually regret that decision not to scream.

As for Daryl, Carol, Michonne and Kumoko, the group runs into the Highwaymen along the road after they discovered the ransacked caravan that once belonged to Miles and Hilde as they attempted to make it to the Kingdom from the Hilltop for the faire. Drag marks show that perhaps somebody could have survived so Daryl, Carol, Kumiko and Michonne head off to find their people just in case they survived the Whisperers’ attack.

It’s always a good idea to go looking the middle of the woods and to nobody’s surprise this plan backfires spectacularly when the group is bombarded with walkers but after killing all of them, they are surrounded on all sides by the Whisperers. The entire group is taken hostage, bound with ropes until Alpha arrives to deal with them.

Before she can give them any kind of speech, Daryl and the rest assure her that they will not give up Lydia no matter what. In fact, the entire group of communities will stand up to them in defiance if they attempt to orchestrate any kind of attack. Alpha says that her daughter is no longer a concern to her — she was weak and weakness has no place out here now. This is survival of the fittest and Lydia was no longer fit to run with the Whisperers.

Alpha singles out Daryl, who she takes to show him a special demonstration of her true power. She leads him to the ledge of a cliff that overlooks a ravine and down below is the biggest herd of walkers that anybody has ever seen.

Alpha tells Daryl that her people walk amongst them and they will lead that herd directly to the doorstop of any of the communities that defy her boundaries. Alpha tells Daryl to keep his people away from these specific areas including a northern border that she marked for him to let him know where not to cross.

Assuming the communities never cross those boundaries, nobody else has to die.

Alpha then tells Daryl that he can return to his friends, who have been left completely unharmed and they are waiting for her in a field nearby. Her demands are unconditional, however, and any attempt at retaliation will be met with a horde of zombies in return.

HEADS WILL ROLL

As Daryl makes it back to Michonne, Carol and Kumiko, they’ve all been set free and allowed to leave unharmed just as Alpha promised. The group makes it back out of the woods but along the way they find Siddiq beaten and bloodied, gagged and bound to a tree. He’s looking off into the distance in horror and as he’s freed, Daryl looks up on the hill and sees the boundary that Alpha warned him about.

Sitting on top of that hill are a series of 10 spikes with heads on top of them. The Whisperers have slaughtered 10 survivors and used them as markers to warn the communities not to cross over this imaginary boundary.

When the group makes it to the top of that hill they start to recognize the people who have been decapitated and murdered.

Alek and Ozzy from the Highwaymen along with DJ, one of the guards from Hilltop. Frankie, a former wife of Negan’s, Rodney and Addy, a pair of kids from the Hilltop as well as Tammy Rose, the woman who helped save the baby that was left behind by the Whisperers when they first showed up outside the gates looking for Lydia.

It was the final few spikes that really had everybody horrified.

Enid — who was the girl Carl Grimes once adored who told him the initials J.S.S., just survive somehow, that rang through his head everyday until he died. She was learning to be a doctor and had seemed happier than ever with her new boyfriend Alden and now she’s dead.

Tara — the former member of the Governor’s army, who then became a valuable part of Alexandria before taking over as leader of the Hilltop in Maggie’s absence.

And last but not least — Henry — the boy who Carol and Ezekiel had come to call their son, was brutally murdered and decapitated and left for his mother to find. Daryl rushes to cover Carol’s eyes when he realizes that Henry has been butchered.

The bloodbath served as notice that the Whisperers are a new kind of enemy — one capable of atrocities that perhaps even Negan would have committed.

This was also a story ripped directly from the pages of the comic book when the Whisperers first arrived and laid waste to many people in the community. In that slaughter, the Whisperers actually took out both Ezekiel and Rosita, so it was a twist with the people who were killed in this latest episode.

Back at the Kingdom, Siddiq gives a speech after Alpha told him to warn everybody that she was out there and this would serve as a reminder not to cross her again. As much as he passed along that message to the community, Siddiq also added a story of hope and survival after what he witnessed that fateful day.

After the Whisperers had quietly kidnapped people from around the faire and held them in a barn awaiting Alpha’s arrival, the Highwaymen found the group and attempted to set them free. In the melee, everybody who had been captured put up a fight together — even those who had never really met each other before. They tried to save each other and valiantly fought together until the last breath exhaled from their bodies.

The aftermath of this slaughter definitely won’t lead to a peace between the communities as the Whisperers. Instead this is the beginning of the battle ahead that will be known as The Whisperers War.

Tune into the season finale of ‘The Walking Dead’ next Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET on AMC with a full recap following the episode. Check out a preview of next week’s episode below:

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