In ‘The Walking Dead’ season 9 finale recap, the survivors prepare to leave the Kingdom for good as a winter storm bears down on them and the Whisperers prepare for what’s next…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Following the shocking events of the penultimate episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ season 9 last week, the season finale was much more subdued by comparison while also setting the stage for what will come next.
Rather than end the season on some massive cliffhanger, ‘The Walking Dead’ opted to go into another direction with the aftermath of the tragedy from last week’s episode where the Whisperers declared their own ‘borders’ with a mass murder that left several key characters dead including Tara, Enid and Henry.
This week saw the survivors start to huddle together to brace for a winter storm while we got a brief glimpse at the current state of the Whisperers as they begin to prepare for their next offensive in season 10.
All in all, not all that much actually unfolded in the season finale but there were some crucial character beats that really set up the story for what will happen when ‘The Walking Dead’ returns in October.
The once thriving communities are now down to two major factions — Alexandria and the Hilltop with Oceanside still somewhere out there as well. Judging by the reactions we saw this week, the groups have definitely become fearful of Alpha and the Whisperers but that certainly doesn’t mean they won’t back.
Also after a season long story arc that essentially saw him locked in prison, Negan was finally set free and something tells me he’s going to play a major part in the war to come in season 10.
With that said, let’s get to our recap of ‘The Walking Dead’ season 9 finale for the episode titled ‘The Storm’…
Winter is Coming
It’s been a few months since the last encounter with the Whisperers from the previous episode and huge winter storm is headed for the communities on ‘The Walking Dead’, which means everyone is going to be forced to gather together to survive.
Sadly, the Kingdom has to shutter its gates perhaps for the final time after the long suffering pipes underneath the community have burst and left them no choice but to abandon their homes. It’s been a long time fear of King Ezekiel that this day would come but he hoped that through working together with the other communities that the Kingdom could be salvaged.
Unfortunately in the aftermath of the slaughter that left several people with their heads on spikes last week including the King and Queen’s son Henry, they have no choice but to leave the Kingdom and move everybody to the Hilltop.
Carol has been struck by tragedy yet again — she lost her daughter Sophie and then she was forced to kill a young girl named Lizzie, who had become something of a surrogate child to her and now her adopted son Henry has been decapitated and murdered. Carol is struggling to keep it together while looking at the birthday cards she gave to her son as he was growing up as the prince of the Kingdom.
This loss has also caused a breach in the relationship between Carol and Ezekiel.
Meanwhile, Daryl has taken Lydia under his win to help her adapt to her new life as part of the community while she’s feeling responsible for everything that happened when the Whisperers attacked the communities.
When the time finally comes, Daryl leads the group out of the Kingdom as they prepare to walk to the Hilltop while doing everything possible to avoid the boundaries that the Whisperers marked to avoid further conflict.
On the road to the Hilltop, Ezekiel pulls Daryl aside and asks him to move onto Alexandria when the storm lifts. He believes Daryl will further the divide with his wife Carol and he’s doing everything possible to save his marriage.
Things get even tougher on the road for Lydia as she deals with knowing looks from several people in the community who blame her for what happened with the Whisperers. Alden even voices his complaint until Daryl tells him to shut up — it’s not like Alden used to work for Negan or anything!
Back at Alexandria, the survivors are all moving into several houses that have working fireplaces to ride out the storm but there’s just one problem. Negan is downstairs in a cell where he will undoubtedly freeze to death if they don’t rescue him and bring him with them.
Negan’s taste of freedom gives him the opportunity to enjoy a look at the community from outside those same four walls he’s been staring at for the past six plus years. Of course, Negan can’t help himself but to needle Father (Not Father) Gabriel about his baby daddy situation acting as stepfather to Rosita’s pending child with Siddiq. He also tells Eugene how much he’s missed him, although the mullet-wearing Mr. Fix-It can’t exactly offer the same in return.
As the group just starts to settle in for the night, the fireplace explodes and Eugene is forced to share the bad news — the chimney is blocked and that means there is no way they can stay here to survive the storm. In other words, everybody is going to have to move over to Aaron’s house in hopes that they can all join together until the storm lifts.
The entire group bands together, holding onto a rope so they don’t get lost in the blinding storm, and even Negan is amongst the survivors preparing to move.
As soon as the group gets outside, however, Judith hears a dog barking in the distance. See she was tasked with taking card of Daryl’s Dog while he was gone but man’s best friend ran off and she’s been lamenting about trying to find him ever since.
Hearing this bark in the distance sends Judith running after him and the only person who immediately stops walking to give chase is Negan.
The path back to the Hilltop is long and arduous on foot and with the snowstorm bearing down on them the survivors are not going to make it back in one day. Along the road, Lydia’s guilt begins to get the better of her and she nearly allows herself to get chomped by a walker in some kind of ritualistic suicide but before she can do it, she spots Carol staring down at her from nearby.
The walk eventually forces the group to give up going any further and they are forced to find shelter for the night and the nearest place to bed down is the remnants of what once stood as the Sanctuary.
Inside Negan’s old haunts, Michonne confesses that she made a mistake cutting off Alexandria from the other communities after her tragic encounter with Jocelyn. If not for breaking apart the pact between communities, it’s possible that Alpha could have never walked amongst them as a stranger because everyone from the Kingdom would know all of the people who resided in Alexandria and the Hilltop.
Michonne decides that can’t happen again — she’s now resigned to a closer relationship with all of the communities going forward.
As for Carol, she’s forced to have a heart-to-heart with Ezekiel where she tells him that she can be his queen no longer. She tries to hand him back his wedding ring but he refuses in hopes that she will reconsider one day in the future. Carol decides that Ezekiel will go to the Hilltop while she will continue onto Alexandria with Daryl and Michonne.
The other problem that the group encounters is that the storm is only going to get worse and they can’t stay in the Sanctuary for very long and hope to survive with the small amount of rations that they brought along. The only way to make it to the Hilltop would be to cut over a frozen lake nearby, which means traveling through a part of the Whisperer’s terrain.
Daryl and Michonne decide that the risk is worth it so long as they travel overnight and keep quiet so they don’t alert the Whisperers of their presence.
The group sets out and the travel across the icy terrain is perilous but everybody makes it after killing a few half-frozen walkers along the way. As for Lydia, her death wish brings her face to face with Carol, who she believes blames her for Henry’s death.
Lydia asks Carol to kill her, to finally put an end to the suffering that she’s feeling after setting the Whisperers upon the communities and watching several of their friends and family members die. Lydia says that her mother was right about her — she’s not strong enough to do it herself.
Carol makes peace with Lydia regarding Henry’s fate and the fact that she really played no role in having an evil mother.
The group finally continues forward, making it through Alpha’s territory without a single casualty but what they don’t notice are the huge swath of footprints in the snow showing movement from the gigantic herd that she commands. They also don’t realize or at least don’t think about the trail they just left behind that will almost certainly signal the Whisperers that they crossed over the border.
What Comes Next
Back in Alexandria, Negan nearly breaks his leg running through the snow to find Judith and when he finally gets to her, the little girl is freezing but she found Dog. He manages to wrap her up and drag her back to a clearing so he can help her get warm again while playing medic to his own leg wound — and he even ensures that Dog is safe as well.
With Judith nearly frostbitten, he’s forced to carry her and the dog to help save their lives as well as his own.
The next day, the survivors from the Kingdom arrive at the Hilltop, which is where they will now call home.
Daryl, Michonne, Lydia, Carol and a few others then get back to Alexandria and a moment of happiness washes over them now that they are all together again. Michonne embraces Lydia and R.J. and the kids even get to have a snowball fight in the aftermath of the big winter storm.
Michonne then goes to the infirmary where she pays Negan a visit.
He’s been stitched up after opening up a gash in his leg to save Judith. Michonne thanks Negan for saving Judith’s life and putting his own on the line to do it.
As she’s about to leave, Negan begins talking to Michonne and she ends up pulling up a chair to have a conversation with him. Obviously, Negan and Michonne are never going to be the best of friends but this is a little bit of bridge building for the fight that surely lies ahead.
For all his faults, Negan was a very effective and strategic leader at one point in time and it’s safe to assume that his skills will be needed if the communities are going to rise up against the Whisperers in the future.
We also get a brief look at Alpha and the Whisperers before the episode ends.
The reason why the survivors were never discovered when walking through Alpha’s territory is because she moved her entire group south for the winter where they could avoid the horrendous snow storms. Alpha talks to Beta about the mistakes she made when it came to her daughter and how she’s going to need to be much stronger for what comes next.
She then rolls up her sleeves and hands over a switch to Beta, who proceeds to whip her harms relentlessly as punishment just like she used to do to Lydia when she was growing up as a Whisperer.
Alpha is obviously preparing for a full on assault of the communities in a storyline made famous in the comic books known as ‘The Whisperer War’.
As for Judith, she sits down at the Ham radio that Eugene helped put back together along the checkpoints that now allow the communities to talk to each other again. She’s been chatting with Ezekiel back at the Hilltop as he settles into his new home with the rest of the survivors from the Kingdom.
Judith, so full of hope, tells him that perhaps the Kingdom could be resurrected one day.
The Hilltop will need to band together now that both Jesus and Tara have been killed and messages sent to Maggie have not been returned. Ezekiel will certainly play a part in the new leadership that will help build that community back up again after losing so many people in recent months.
In the end, Judith and Ezekiel both hang up their microphones after a glimmer of hope for the future in their voices. A moment later, another voice is heard coming across the speaker — it’s broken apart and hard to understand but it’s a woman asking if anybody is out there.
Now we don’t have full confirmation but this seems like a reference to a moment in ‘The Walking Dead’ comic books where Eugene starts having conversations with a woman named Stephanie in another community far away from Alexandria. That woman helps to introduce the surviving communities to the Commonwealth — a massive group of survivors based out of Ohio that has really started to thrive in the post-apocalyptic world.
The Commonwealth has over 50,000 survivors, full towns with shops and homes set up as well as a government to tend to law and order. Speculation is that Georgie, the mysterious wanderer we met last season who handed over plans on how to build windmills and waterways, came from the Commonwealth and that’s where Maggie resides today.
Judging by the end of ‘The Walking Dead’ season 9, we may be traveling to the Commonwealth sooner rather than later.
‘The Walking Dead’ returns for season 10 on AMC this October.