Winter Is Here in 'The Walking Dead' Season 9 Finale (RECAP)

Emily Hannemann
Spoiler Alert Gene Page/AMC

[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 9 finale, "The Storm."]

Game of Thrones isn't the only show combining the undead and snowstorms, it seems.

Though no one sees the Night King or pulls out a weapon made of Dragonglass, The Walking Dead's season finale "The Storm" shares some common DNA with the HBO hit: Namely, the fact that its main conflict is centered around winter and the threat that comes with it. When the Kingdom falls, a group of survivors have to make a perilous trek through a snowstorm in dangerous territory in order to make it to safety.

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Yet, the actual storm is just one problem that arises this episode — and a few characters prove some struggles can't be waited out in a home or a weigh station.

The Kingdom Falls

The episode opens with Ezekiel talking over the radio about how the Kingdom fell. Things aren’t looking too great on the home front for the King, either, since there seems to be noticeable distance between him and Carol.

Ezekiel, Carol and a large group of others including Daryl, Lydia and Michonne leave the Kingdom behind, likely for good. On the road, the crew talks about how they’re going to proceed during the winter. Carol and Daryl have a heartfelt chat; Carol admits she struggles to accept Lydia because she sees Henry when she looks at her, but when Daryl asks what she sees when she looks at him, she gives him a reassuring smile, squeezes his arm and tells him, “I see you.”

The King vs. The Archer

Ezekiel’s none too pleased — and maybe a little jealous? — about these lingering glances and emotional conversations between Carol and her best friend. When an opportunity presents itself to talk to Daryl alone, the King takes it. Ezekiel makes it clear he doesn’t want Daryl around his wife, so that he can work on repairing their marriage at Hilltop. Seemingly angered by Ezekiel's request that he keep his distance from Carol, Daryl gives the King a glare and walks away.

The group opts to take shelter at the Sanctuary for the night, where Daryl and Carol share another sweet scene. They sit on the steps and talk, and Carol asks Daryl if something happened with him and Ezekiel. “He only blames you because he can’t let himself blame me,” Carol says, referring to her husband pushing the blame on Daryl for Henry’s death.

She confides in him that she feels like she’s losing herself again, and Daryl volunteers to take Lydia away. Carol asks him if being alone is what he wants, and he tells her it isn’t. “What do you want me to do?” he asks.

Ending the Fairytale

The group makes plans to weather the storm, but their only hope of survival is making it to the next weigh station. The best route would take them straight through Alpha’s territory, a plan to which Ezekiel is deeply opposed. Nonetheless, they’re forced to move forward and make it to the river they’re meant to cross… but Lydia is missing. Carol says she’ll find her, and the rest of the group crosses the river and grapples with half-submerged walkers on the frozen water.

Carol finds an upset and remorseful Lydia, who begs Carol to kill her. “I’m sorry it has to be you, but it does,” Lydia says. “I’m too weak. Just like my mother said.” Instead of killing her, Carol pushes her aside and kills a walker that was approaching them. “You’re not weak,” she tells Lydia. She extends a hand to her, and they walk hand-in-hand back to the group.

Everyone reaches Hilltop safe and sound, and they take shelter in Maggie’s old office. Carol breaks things off with Ezekiel, telling him she plans to head to Alexandria with the others. When he tells her he’ll never stop loving her, she tells him, “and I’ll never regret the fairytale.” She takes off her ring and tries to give it back to him, but instead of taking it, he walks away.

Negan the (Literal) Savior

Things are getting awkward in Alexandria, largely due to the fact that Rosita, Gabriel, Siddiq and Eugene are all taking shelter together during the storm… along with Negan, who they wouldn’t leave to freeze. He nags the adults but he’s kinder to Judith, who’s feeling guilty because she can’t find Dog. Unfortunately, all their plans — and shelter — go up in smoke when they find the chimney is blocked.

They head out in the storm for Aaron’s house, but the plan gets complicated when Judith hears Dog barking and goes after him. This leads Negan to go after Judith. He fights through the storm to find them both, though he injures his leg in the process. Despite that, and the fact that he gives Judith his coat, he manages to get all three of them back to Alexandria safely.

'The Walking Dead' Needs to Stop Torturing Carol Peletier

'The Walking Dead' Needs to Stop Torturing Carol Peletier

It seems Carol, more than any of the other survivors, has become trapped in an unending cycle of soul-crushing devastation.

A Moment of Happiness

Carol, Daryl, Lydia, Michonne and a group of others return to Alexandria. Michonne is happily reunited with Judith and RJ, and Daryl starts a snowball fight. Everyone joins in, and for the first time in a long time, they’re all smiling.

Michonne goes to see Negan in the infirmary and thanks him for saving Judith. She’s surprised when he asks if everyone’s okay after the storm and the Kingdom’s fall, and when he commends her for going through the Whisperers’ territory, she pulls up a chair. “Facing evil brings good people together,” Michonne says.

What Comes Next

Another time jump occurs, and Alpha and Beta talk. Apparently the Whisperers went away for the winter, but that doesn’t mean they’ve forgiven and forgotten. Though Beta tells her the pack is strong, she says, “I’ll need to be stronger for what comes next.” She hands him a branch like the ones she’d used to use to hit Lydia, and as Beta strikes her, she remains emotionless.

At Hilltop, Ezekiel talks to Judith over the radio. She suggests they might go back to the Kingdom someday, but the ex-King insists that “just because we lost our house doesn’t mean we lost our home.” Judith agrees and leaves to do her homework, and Ezekiel departs as well. After he leaves, an unknown voice crackles through the radio. “Hello?” it asks. “Is anybody out there?”

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Other Observations:

  • I’d wondered what frozen walkers looked like for nine whole seasons, and this show didn’t disappoint. Thank you, Greg Nicotero and the makeup team!
  • Could Carol and Daryl become an item? With the emphasis placed on their connection — and the romantic turn their story has now taken — it feels like the show could explore a relationship between them after playing “will they, won’t they” with these two for seven seasons. Of course, Carol will need, and should have, time to mourn the loss of her child and the end of her marriage. But maybe after the Whisperer war… it seems #Caryl could be coming.
  • All the awards to Melissa McBride and Cassady McClincy for their powerful scene this episode. They’re both so incredibly talented, and I’d love to see Carol and Lydia getting to know each other better next season.
  • I’m genuinely sad that this season is over. Angela Kang has done a great job of reforming the show and freshening it up, and while this might not have been a nail-biter of a finale, I’m excited to see what she does with Season 10. Well, only three and a half more months until the SDCC trailer, and two more until Fear The Walking Dead!