Movies & TV / Columns

The Walking Dead 9.13 Review – ‘Chokepoint’

March 10, 2019 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
The Walking Dead Chokepoint
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
The Walking Dead 9.13 Review – ‘Chokepoint’  

Tonight on The Walking Dead, the Daryl and Connie team-up continues and leads us to the epic one-on-one battle of Daryl vs. Beta and it is not to be missed! And once again, Carol’s craftiness saves lives.

The plot: The Kingdom’s preparations for the fair have hit a new and interesting snag: Highwaymen! Just like in days of yore, a group of thieves have set up to rob those traveling between communities, and they’re trying to extract a toll from Kingdom in exchange for safety on the roads. But Carol notices that the group hasn’t killed anyone, sent a letter, and didn’t even threaten to kill anyone else, so suggests they talk it out. Ezekiel offers them a job as fair security instead, as well as allowing them to trade there, and when Carol throws in the offer of a movie, they’re sold. Just in time to ride out and help Tara and the Hilltoppers fight off some walkers on their way to the fair. Meanwhile, Connie, Daryl, Henry, and Lydia take refuge in a building complex, left under construction, to lure the Whisperers and Beta into a chokepoint trap. It mostly succeeds, though the Whisperers figure out it’s a trap, but are still killed almost down to a man. Daryl and Beta engage in an intense knockdown, drag-out fight, ultimately ending in Daryl outwitting him and throwing him down an elevator shaft. Daryl and the others leave to head to Alexandria, not realizing that Beta is still alive.

When Ezekiel is presented with the threat of the Highwaymen’s, his group strategizes how they can take them out quickly, and he laments that despite his attempts to bring hope into their world violence seems to be the only currency there is anymore. Carol then goes on to win them over with the offer of a movie. Later, Beta spouts the same rhetoric we heard from Alpha about how the world of our survivors, how civilization, is dead — just before he is bested by Daryl in their battle. So far, civilization is taking a strong lead.

The tension of civilization versus chaos (that’s the best term I can think of to encompass the unorganized, unfeeling version of the wilderness that the Whisperers represent) has been around since last season. The notion of putting aside war and violence and wrath in order to embrace “what comes after” was seeded in the end of the All Out War between Negan and Rick, the drive to bring together the communities was there prior to Rick’s “death,” and with the Whisperers it’s even more blatant. Rebuilding civilization, after all, is not an easy task, and even six years in, it’s on wobbly legs for our band of heroes. Because it’s hard, because it requires trusting others, working with them, and putting the group ahead of yourself, by trusting the group in turn will look out for you. In a world so harsh and violent by nature as the one on TWD, it’s dangerous to stop looking out just for yourself and your immediate family and instead put the larger community first. It’s complex and difficult, but it brings a lot with it. It brings, as Ezekiel put it, hope. Hope for a future, hope for something more than just surviving somehow.

It’s arguably only after Henry admits that he came back for Lydia because he cares about her that she starts to truly leave behind the Whisperers and let go of the idea of them as her people. Only last episode, Lydia asked her mother this same question. Alpha just told her she was stupid; Henry, on the other hand, admits that he cares about her. Enough to come after her after only knowing her for a few days, unlike her own mother who won’t even answer to that name, much less say she feels anything for her. Henry, and eventually the others, offer Lydia hope, friends, to see the world — Alpha offers her merely a miserable existence. Is it any wonder that this episode is the first time we’ve ever truly seen the girl smile?

This is precisely what Ezekiel and Carol offer the Highwaymen, as well. Their just looking for a way to get by, and what they’ve found is robbing others. They’ve got a group, and based on their actions they clearly don’t want to kill anyone even if they are a group of toughened survivors in their own right who can and will kill if need be. Carol’s guess that they can be reasoned with is well-founded, and Ezekiel’s offer of a job and access to trade is what they’re looking for. But why negotiate and potentially be at the Kingdom’s call when they could get all that their way and not have to call someone else boss? That’s what makes the movie offer so perfect. Not only is it a brilliantly simple luxury, it’s symbolic. Exactly like Ezekiel said last week, it’s a thing that can bring people together. But more than that, the kind of place that has the ability to make that offer can offer a lot more besides. A movie means electricity, means the safety of walls, means homes, peace, and true community. It means civilization, and that’s what wins over the Highwaymen. Heck, before the episode is over, they literally ride in like cowboys to help the Hilltoppers, whom they don’t even know!

But civilization isn’t just hard for people who have lived outside of it — it’s hard for those who’ve already been part of it. Daryl has been close to, fighting for, and with, these people for the last eight years. He’s chosen them over his actual family! Yet of late, he has chosen the company of no one, living outside all of these communities with only a dog with no name for company. He’s been drawn in by his loyalty to and love for Carol, and the responsibility he feels for Henry by proxy. But the longer he’s been around, the harder it gets to extricate himself again. He stayed longer at Hilltop than he really needed to, to try and figure out the Whisperer situation. He doesn’t like handing over Lydia, though he does it. When he takes off to find Henry, he takes Connie along, and he’s clearly already come to find her someone he can trust and rely on, and they work well together. They risk quite a lot together to save Lydia and Henry, and today he risks even more trying to kill Beta. Daryl is a tough bastard, but Beta is a freaking force of nature, yet Daryl engages with him one-on-one to protect his people — and of note he makes sure Lydia is safe and won’t have to engage in the fight before it all goes down. By the end, having nearly been killed more than once by Beta, and barely having won the fight, Daryl is finally being drawn back into the fold of community even more. He accepts Lydia as part of their group, and he’s ready to make sure she’s taken care of. It’s a bit vague what he means when he replies to the question of what if no one will take them all in, but “I hear there’s a world out there,” is certainly hopeful. Moreso since it’s Henry’s words being quoted back to him.

All of this makes me really hope we’re finally going to get answers on what Michonne and Daryl did that ended with him living as a hermit. Why did he turn his back on community, on civilization? What light does that piece of the past shed on how and why he’s changing his mind again now? I’m very glad to see more of this version of Daryl, though, and to be seeing so much of him in general.

And let’s not skimp on talking about that fight. That was amazing work! The choreography was brutal, rough, and intense. I was legitimately on the edge of my seat and unsure if Daryl might die during it, or at least be badly injured! I love how unpolished it looked, this was no artful meeting of two masters, this was just two tough SOBs trying to kill each other. Given Beta’s size and immense strength, it’s no shock that Daryl had to resort to cleverness to beat him. That it came right as Beta was monologuing about civilization being dead was just icing on the cake. The fact that Beta isn’t dead after all — the reality of which I absolutely question, but it plays so well with his tough as hell character that I’m willing to let it slide — only underscores how deadly an enemy this man, and his brutal way of life, really is.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Another solid episode for Season 9! This one had a lot to enjoy. While some scenes were a little less interesting than others, bordering on feeling like filler (though never quite getting there, for me), the theme of civilization vs. chaos is holding strong and keeps tying the different storylines together. And that awesome fight between Daryl and Beta really took this one to the next level!