The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 15 Review: The Calm Before

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We knew it was coming, but nothing could have prepared us for that heartbreaking scene.

The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 15 was hands down the best and most emotional episode this season. Yes, even more so than Rick's farewell. It was that good.

And if you thought Michonne's child massacre on The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 14 was disturbing, it was only the tip of the iceberg.

A Bad Feeling - Tall - The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 15

"The Calm Before" was anything but. Sure there were moments of joy and tranquility sprinkled throughout, but all that did was instill viewers with a constant feeling of dread which loomed throughout the entirety of the episode.

Happiness has always been short-lived on The Walking Dead, so we knew something catastrophic was on the horizon.

The crossing over the river may be gone but we rebuilt a bridge none the less.


It became obvious very quickly that the couple we were introduced to at the very beginning of the episode wasn't going to make it very far in their journey to the fair. But when Alpha turned up at the Kingdom in disguise wearing the woman's scalp it made for quite an unnerving experience.

We've seen how the Whisperers live among the dead, but what's more frightening is their ability to assimilate with regular people.

Alpha cleans up nicely though, doesn't she?

If They Only Knew - The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 15

Similarly to Lydia sitting anxiously in the theater, viewers were fearful to let their guard down amidst all of the joy being spread throughout the Kingdom. And just when she was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and partake in the fun, her mother was revealed to be sitting right next to her.

Talk about having the wind taken out of your sails.

Warning Signs - The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 15

I'm not quite sure what's more unsettling: Whisperer Alpha or incognito Alpha. I continue to be blown away by Samantha Morton's portrayal of the spine-chilling Whisperer leader, and I don't think the character could have been cast more perfectly.

Her delivery and interaction with Ezekial gave me the heebie geebies, and I'm surprised the King didn't pick up on Alpha's incredibly creepy and suspicious demeanor.

With every new episode she's featured in, Morton increasingly adds more and more menace and layers to the character. And near the close of the episode, those layers are slowly beginning to peel away.

No Mercy - The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 15

An emotion of any kind is a sign of weakness among the Whisperers, and in order to protect her status as Alpha, she was forced to kill one of her own who caught her in a moment of frailty as she lamented the loss of her daughter.

There's a lot more to the Whisperer leader than meets the eye, and I'm so on board with exploring her character further. Alpha is hands down the most intriguing villain the group has encountered on this series to date, and I don't foresee her overstaying her welcome the way Negan did.

I've seen how you live. I've walked your streets. It's a joke. Your communities are a
shrine to a long dead world.


A great deal of time was spent showcasing the relationships between many of the characters during the fair. Which immediately spelled bad news and sent up a red flag in an attempt to prepare viewers that some of these characters were not going to survive the hour.

The tension was raised ten-fold once Daryl, Michonne, Yumiko, and Carol walked right into Alpha's trap.

It was a nerve-wracking moment that set off a shocking chain of events that culminated in the reveal that the "border" that Alpha established included the decapitated and zombified heads of notable members of the communities, including Tammy, Enid, Tara.

It was one of the most horrific yet beautifully shot scenes The Walking Dead has produced. The cuts back and forth from the pikes to the Kingdom kept the audience guessing who's head would be displayed next until the very last second.

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It was absolutely horrifying in every sense of the word. What makes even worse was how all of the communities were finally unified moments earlier by signing the charter and in one fell swoop were struck with major losses.

This catastrophic event may end up bringing the communities even closer.

Nothing Lasts Forever - The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 15

To be honest, I'm surprised Tara lasted as long as she did as her character never really added much to the overall direction of the series. Tara's arc had gone as far as it could go, and now with her death, it leaves the door open for a definitive leader of Hilltop such as Daryl or even Magna.

It would make more sense for Daryl to become a permanent resident of Hilltop, especially since that's where Connie resides. I still have a strong feeling that those two have some romance brewing. Just saying!

We're going to be heading into The Walking Dead's tenth season this fall, it's time for Daryl to find love. And I think the potential is there with Connie.

Back Together Again - The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 15

Not only did the pike scene provide a super-sized gut punch and pummel us into the ground, it kicked us while we were down with the reveal that the last person's head that was on the pike was none other than Henry.

What's worse is that Alpha killed these people simply to send a message and that crossing her isn't an empty threat, but there is no doubt that Alpha killing Henry was personal as he was the root cause of Lydia's betrayal.

Don't get me wrong, I'm actually quite relieved that it was, in fact, Henry and not someone such as Ezekial or Rosita, but the fact that Carol was present is what made it so heartbreaking.

This woman not only endured the loss of Sophia, but she now has to suffer through the loss of another child.

What makes things even more concerning is the rumor circulating of Khary Payton leaving the series. Carol simply cannot take yet another loss, and the thought of losing Ezekial as well would be absolutely deflating.

Done For Now - The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 15

The Walking Dead was at a major crossroads and could have gone in a lot of different directions with this scenario, and I applaud Angela Kang for making such a surprising decision in killing Henry off.

I suppose we owe the new showrunner a sincere debt of gratitude for sparing us from any more of Henry's antics in The Walking Dead Season 10 and beyond.

What surprises me the most about Henry's death is how he took over Carl's story from the comics following Chandler Riggs' exit. Now that they're both are no longer present on the series, it makes me wonder if Judith will now fully embrace her brother's arc.

Once more, with Henry gone what purpose does Lydia serve on the series now?

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Regardless, Henry's death will no doubt be the catalyst of badass Carol making a return. We saw a snippet of her ruthlessness earlier this season when she murdered the Saviors and we've been waiting impatiently for that Carol fully resurface.

Forget Queen Carol, we want... no, we need Ruthless Carol to make a return.

If anyone is going to help set a full-fledged retaliation in motion against Alpha it would be Carol, and the Whisperers should be terrified.

Teamwork - The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 15

One thing that I'm a bit disappointed in is the fact that none of Magna's group were killed. Narratively, it would have made more sense for one of Magna's friends to get taken out by Alpha.

This relatively new group is still trying to find its place at Hilltop and having a common enemy in the Whisperers would unify them and bring the groups closer together.

If I had to take a guess as to who I would have picked to have their head on a pike it would be Kelly since she is the least developed and most expendable of the group. But now that she's alive and well it leaves room open to developing her character more.

Enjoy Yourself - The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 15

This episode easily could have taken the cliffhanger approach, but words cannot express how thrilled I am that they chose to go out with Siddiq's emotional retelling of the events that led up to the group's deaths.

The visual recap of Henry, Tara, Enid and the others fighting for their lives in a last stand against the Whisperers was a fantastic way to close out the episode. It was a tragic, yet uplifting moment knowing that they went down fighting to the very end.

Tell them the next time they cross over to my land, my horde will cross into theirs.


Siddiq wanted the communities to remember their valiant efforts instead of the aftermath, and because of that beautiful montage I think the viewers will too.

So now the question is what will the communities do to avenge their fallen comrades? They will all grin and bear it like the groups did when the Saviors were calling the shots or will they completely disregard Alpha's warning and stage a full-fledge strike against the Whisperers?

Related: The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 14 Review: Scars

The communities are up against a foe the likes of which they've never encountered and will be a true test of their mettle, strength, and unity.

In order to defeat Alpha's primitive group, our heroes may find the need to enlist the help of someone who can equally match their ruthlessness. Enter Negan, who will play a significant role in that scenario.

The former Savior leader will also share a common interest in dusting off Lucille and getting his own revenge against Alpha since one of the heads on the pikes was one of his former wives, Frankie. Negan may have just as much a reason to help take out the Whisperers as anyone.

Lighten Up - The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 15

"The Calm Before" could have easily served as a proper season finale, but I'm excited that we'll get one more episode in what has been a revitalizing season for The Walking Dead.

I'm excited to see how the season wraps up after that gut-wrenching episode and with winter quickly approaching. This series has never shown the groups going through the harshness of winter in the apocalypse, and hopefully, we will get to experience that with the characters.

However, I'm more interested in seeing how the Whisperers survive the harshness of the elements without any shelter.

And who doesn't want to see icicle walkers?

Stray thoughts:

  • Did anyone else love the memorial and tribute Shiva?
  • Kelly and Connie's sign conversation was amazing. It's quite something else to have two characters carry a scene without an exchange of words. 
  • Did anyone catch little Rachel from Oceanside all grown up? It makes me wonder what happened to Cindy since Rachel was at the fair representing their community?
  • How awesome was Jerry's "First Annual Intercommunity Reunification" acronym?
  • Luke and Alden have a special bromance going. Anyone else get a chuckle with the two arguing over which musical number to open with?
  • I'll admit that I am a bit bummed about the Highwaymen's leader, Ozzy. I wasn't on board with his group's subtle debut initially but now the group's introduction feels even more pointless.
  • Was anyone else extremely concerned that Jerry wouldn't survive? Thank goodness that wasn't the case but it definitely would have made the pike sequence even more emotional.

Now it's your turn, Walking Dead fanatics!

What did you think of "The Calm Before"?

Hit the comments below and let me know!

If you want to rewatch the insane pike sequence again you can watch The Walking Dead online right here at TV Fanatic.

The Calm Before Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (58 Votes)

Steven Ford is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 15 Quotes

The crossing over the river may be gone but we rebuilt a bridge none the less.


Tell them the next time they cross over to my land, my horde will cross into theirs.