In the past, The Walking Dead‘s season finale have been real barn-burners — particularly the one in season 2, where they quite literally burned down a barn. But in the aftermath of last week’s extra-long, extra-horrific penultimate episode, “The Calm Before,” season 9 of the drew itself to a quieter conclusion. Here’s everything that happened on the Sunday, March 3, finale, “The Storm.”
As the show kicks off, we see how the survivors are coping in the aftermath of the recent heads-on-pikes incident — which is, to say, not well. Through either bad luck, loss of morale or some combination of the two, The Kingdom has become uninhabitable, and its people have to decamp for Hilltop. There’s no time to lose, either: As the kids in Westeros say, winter is coming!
In fact, winter arrives very suddenly in the form of a massive blizzard, as the traveling Kingdommers scramble for shelter and the Alexandrians prepare to ride out the storm. Judith (Cailey Fleming) runs out into the blizzard to retrieve Daryl’s dog, Dog, and is rescued by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who really has become a sort of lovable community fixture after seven years of incarceration. (Sure, he’s a jerk … but he’s our jerk. Right?)
The real trouble is on the road, where Carol (Melissa McBride), Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) realize that the storm has forced their hand: They’ll have to travel through the evil Whisperers’ territory in order to reach Hilltop before their supplies run out. A harrowing night journey begins, past the pikes where their friends’ heads were mounted, through the forest to the river. They never encounter the Whisperers, but they do get jumped by zombies, who come clawing up out of the snowbanks by the river. While Daryl fights the dead, Carol pursues Lydia (Cassady McClincy) into the woods — where Lydia, guilt-stricken over her role in Henry’s death, begs Carol to kill her.
But Carol doesn’t, and in choosing to save Lydia, she seems to find a little peace, too … but not enough to go back to how things were. At Hilltop, she tells Ezekiel that she’ll be continuing on to Alexandria … alone … and then tries to give his ring back! Let’s hope this is just a break — and not a break-up — for their Majesties. He doesn’t accept the ring, but he also doesn’t stop her. He also didn’t seemed thrilled over how close she was with Daryl, but Carol told him it was just because Ezekiel couldn’t find himself to blame her for what happened to Henry.
However, everyone better come together soon. Alpha (Samantha Morton) may have missed the Kingdom caravan, but she’s clearly planning something sinister. Plus, there’s a new threat (or maybe a new friend) on the horizon: In the last moments of the episode, a ham radio in an empty room at the Hilltop (thanks, Eugene!) suddenly burbles to life, and a fragmented voice can be heard asking, “Is anyone out there?”
The Walking Dead will return for season 10 in the fall.