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"The Calm Before" exemplifies everything that The Walking Dead does best - bittersweetly affirming the bonds of a makeshift community and finding glimmers humanity in a nihilistic landscape before dropping a horrifying twist that will leave viewers reeling long after.
On the one hand, it's an effective piece of horror... But as another chapter in the ongoing narrative, it just makes me want to throw up my hands. Here, again, is another pile of agonizing misery for our heroes.
It was a beautifully structured ending.
"The Calm Before" is an incredibly strong episode of The Walking Dead, as it finds the ways to hit a viewer properly. It delivers on the level of danger one wants to see and hits at emotions without feeling manipulative.
It says a lot about how strong and incredibly well-done this episode was that, even after nine seasons and dozens of brutal and shocking deaths, this episode and how it ended still made me go "Holy sh*t!"
Props to showrunner Angela Kang for all the misdirection these last few episodes.
The time was right in tonight's episode for a big, shocking palate-cleanser.
All told, this episode was par for the course in a season that has clearly wanted to telegraph hope as its main message, but hasn't been able to find the solid narrative footing to get its viewers there.
If "Warning Signs" was this season's high-water mark for showing how the series can evolve... "The Calm Before" was an elegy for the old days, an excellent tribute to everything that used to make it compelling in its early years.
"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.
The Walking Dead doesn't usually get extended stretches of happiness like this, but it works wonderfully in growing characters and in giving them a brief (too brief) moment to breathe.
The Calm Before turns an iconic Walking Dead moment into something unexpectedly powerful, cementing season 9 as a new high bar for the show.
All in all, this is probably the most purely devastating and emotionally affecting episode of The Walking Dead we've seen in the last couple of years.