They did it.
They actually pulled it off, thank god.
This is what the season six finale of The Walking Dead should have been.
I remember watching that moment when it cut to a point of view shot, hiding who Negan’s victim was, and feeling absolutely infuriated that they had ruined one of the comic’s most shocking scenes.
Thankfully though, episode 15 of season nine, “The Calm Before,” manages to transition the shock and horror of The Walking Dead’s Red Wedding moment to television brilliantly.
For starters, the episode does a fantastic job of building tension.
It is clear right from the opening minutes that something bad is going to happen this episode, even if you have never read the comics like I have.
Watching the happy life of a married couple in the Hilltop change into a scene from a horror movie where Alpha kills them and scalps the woman, perfectly sets up the emotional horror of the episode.
From here, the episode continues to build and build on the tension by showing many of the shows’ main and recurring characters enjoying time with their loved ones at the fair.
As a comic reader, these scenes were very intense for me as I tried to guess who among them would get the pike.
I wondered if it would stay closer to the comics or try something knew?
The director of the episode, Laura Besley, was probably thinking the same thing because she put in multiple red herrings to mislead us comic fans, which certainly worked.
The scene between Alpha (Samantha Morton) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) is a great example of this because Alpha leads him away, making me think Ezekiel was going to get his comic book death.
Morton once again stole the show in this episode as Alpha, with her subtle threat that there is going to be “a hard winter” sending chills down my spine.
All of this buildup combined with the red herrings made the eventual pike scene all the more shocking to me.
Much like with the season six finale, I remember the horror I felt reading this moment in the comic, but, unlike the season six finale, this time, the horror was pulled off effectively.
The way this scene was shot only amplified the terror, with the pikes slowly coming into view as Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carol (Melissa McBride), and the others walk up the hill.
After this, the sequence cuts between our main characters’ horrified reactions, those at the fair looking for their loved ones, and the heads on the pikes.
The images of those heads will probably be seared into my brain for a while, with the haunting shots of them with their hair blowing through the wind as their heads lie decapitated on the pikes.
Everything about this scene was perfectly horrifying.
From the sequence of the shots, to the music, to the acting, especially from Reedus and McBride.
The moment Carol and Daryl realise Henry (Matt Lintz) is one of the pike victims is incredibly tragic, with the scene being reminiscent of when Carol lost her first child Sophia (ironically played by Lintz’s sister Madison) and Daryl had to hold her back.
Speaking of Henry, I was surprised to see he was one of the pike victims but I do think it is tragically fitting because of where it will take characters closely connected with him.
Along with this, it means that Henry is not taking Carl’s place after he was stupidly killed off in season eight, which is good.
I think MOVIEidol said it best, “I do think killing Henry right here, first of all does confirm that Henry isn’t the new Carl, you know? Cause Carl can’t be replaced.”
However, it is not just Henry who gets a shocking pike death, but Enid (Katelyn Nacon) and Tara (Alanna Masterson) as well.
I will admit, I was a bit suspicious Enid might be a pike victim, given how much screen time her relationship with Alden (Callan McAuliffe), but I was not expecting Tara.
Her death shocked me, especially since they were really hinting at Rosita (Christian Serratos) before they showed Tara’s head on the pike.
As for the other seven characters who met their fates on the pikes, they were mostly side characters but I still felt their loss due to a fantastic addition to the episode.
In a scene that is completely TV series original, the only survivor from the Whisperer’s attack Siddiq (Avi Nash) tells the communities about the victims’ heroic last stand against Alpha and the Whisperers.
Much like the pike scene, the way this scene was shot was amazing.
Not only this but Nash’s performance, and the tragic music, actually made me tear up, making it two episodes in a row I have done so.
The Walking Dead honestly could not have done the pike scene any better.
It balanced the horrific tragedy of the event perfectly, and added a brilliant scene that highlighted the heroic actions of the victims.
Now, I only wonder how the season will end with the finale, “The Storm”?
But, this said, I have complete faith in Angela Kang, who wrote the episode.
She has completely turned The Walking Dead around.
After season eight and the announcement of Andrew Lincoln’s departure, I was actually thinking of quitting the show but, after seeing where Kang has taken the series, I am so glad I stuck around.
“The Calm Before” did justice to one of the comics’ darkest moments and even added to it, creating an amazing episode that was built off emotional horror.