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The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 13 ‘Chokepoint’ Review

I wanted to like this episode a lot more than I actually did.

Last week, Daryl, Connie, and Dog staged a conveniently timed daring rescue of Lydia and Henry from the Whisperers. Meanwhile, tensions and hope simultaneously rose about the upcoming Tri-Town Trade Fair.

This week, preparation for the fair hits a swashbuckling snag and Daryl decides it’s time for a good old fashioned fight scene between two big time characters.

Cinematic Truce

Up at the Kindgom, the set up for big Tri-Town Trade Fair looks to be going well. They even have a cool tiger sculpture to honor Shiva (awww). Unfortunately, a scouting group comes back with news of pirates hijacking supplies from groups traveling between the communities. They are even polite/menacing enough to write a letter demanding a toll for using their roads.

Carol leads a strike force to the pirates’ stronghold. Despite Ezekiel and nearly everyone else deciding that violence is the only answer to this threat, it’s Carol (!) who suggests trying to open up a line of dialogue first.

Carol, Ezekiel, and Jerry meet with the head pirate, who wears a cowboy hat and looks like the type of guy whose favorite country artist is Luke Bryan. As you might expect, the Kingdom’s olive branch emissaries are met with threats of force and more demands.

Negotiating initially seems to have been an exceptionally dumb idea, but I should know by now not to doubt Carol. First, she had the rest of the Kingdom strike force waiting in the wings, who quickly overpower the pirates. When Ezekiel and Carol offer the pirates a job (protecting the roads to the Kingdom) in exchange for access to the fair, the head pirate laughs in their faces. Then Carol counters by giving him and his men a chance to watch a movie for the first time in over a decade.

Life is a Highway

On the road to the fair, Tammy and Earl talk lovingly about the Whisperer baby while Tara (who I’m beginning to like more and more) and a bunch of other characters (whose names I can never remember) keep an eye out for walkers. When the group is inevitably attacked, Tammy ends up saving both Earl and the baby. This was a pretty awesome moment in and of itself. But just when it looked like the group was about to get overrun, the pirates (aka the Highway Men) show up, introduce themselves as their escorts to the fair, and proceed to kick ass.

Once everyone gets back to the Kingdom, the head Highway Man gives Carol a nod and a tip of his cowboy hat (ugh), which I guess means the movie was really good. Either way, it appears that the Highway Men are currently on the side of angels.

Unfortunately, the good vibes at the Kingdom are short lived when Carol realizes that Henry hasn’t arrived with Tara’s group.

Redneck Rumble

Daryl, Connie, Lydia, Henry, and Dog flee through the forest to escape the Whisperers. Henry offers to run off with Lydia on his own so that Hilltop won’t get blamed for Lydia’s disappearance. Despite my enthusiastic approval of this idea, Daryl absolutely refuses to abandon Diet Carl, mostly on account of that fact that he’s Carol’s adopted son.

Meanwhile, Beta comforts a dying Whisperer, then commands that they find Lydia while also trying to sound as poetically menacing as possible.

The next day, Daryl declares that he’s sick of running and decides to take a stand against Beta and the group coming after them. He and Connie set up a pretty great chokepoint trap in an abandoned building while also demonstrating some great chemistry between each other. Not sure if it was romantic or not, but either way, I found myself digging it. Unfortunately, the good vibes quickly dissipate after Daryl declares they will be leaving Lydia behind, reasoning that her presence put the entire Hilltop community at risk…which doesn’t make much sense. I’m pretty sure the Whisperers are already going to have it out for them whether they know Lydia is actually at Hilltop or not. Whatever the case, Connie considers the decision to abandon Lydia a pretty dick movie on Daryl’s part.

In another part of the building, Henry explains to Lydia that he really meant it when he said the would run away with her–and that he genuinely cared about her. This leads to their first kiss, which was mercifully interrupted by Daryl telling them to keep in it their pants and start getting ready. Daryl then locks Lydia inside a closet with Dog, both for her own safety and so that she won’t get in the way.

As Beta’s team and the “guardians” (aka actual undead) make their way up into the building, Daryl and Connie’s trap forces the Whisperers to separate from the pack, allowing them to be attacked much more easily. Connie handles the combat part of things just fine, but Henry (predictably) gets stabbed in the leg. That’s when Lydia (predictably) forces her way out of the closet, allowing Dog to save Henry right before he’s about to be finished off.

Meanwhile, Daryl manages to ninja kill both of Beta’s escorts before attacking the big guy directly. Unfortunately, Beta appears to be much more than he (or any one person) can handle. Not even a knife to the pec slows him down. Just when it looks like Beta has the upper hand, Daryl uses a trap door in the floor to flank him. He charges Beta from behind and knocks him down an empty elevator shaft before hocking a giant bloody loogey on his opponent’s (alleged) corpse and walking away.

Flush with the thrill of victory, Daryl decides that Lydia can stay with them for now. Unbeknownst to him (but totally known to anyone viewer with half a brain) Beta manages to survive the fall…and he looks really angry about it.

The Verdict

I wanted to like this episode a lot more than I actually did.

The stuff with the Highway Men and Carol was both funny and fun, but ultimately didn’t have much impact on the overall narrative besides yet another deus ex machina save of some main characters.

And while the fight scenes were all types of awesome (particularly Daryl vs Beta), it ended with Daryl, Henry, Connie, Lydia, and Dog fleeing for the Hilltop and Beta being really angry…which is pretty much where we started this week. All that’s changed is that Beta is now stuck inside an elevator shaft (which we know he’ll escape from somehow) and that Lydia is being allowed to stay with them (which we already knew was going to happen). Also, if there was any character you would expect not to pull the assume-your-enemy-is-dead-and-walk-away cliche, it’s Daryl.

All that being said, this episode is only subpar when compared to the last few that came before it. Compared to the last 3 seasons, it’s a virtual masterpiece. Much like when The Walking Dead was consistently good a few years ago, episodes like ‘Chokepoint’ can still be well executed and fun to watch despite having very little narrative momentum.

Let’s just the narrative starts moving faster than it takes Beta to climb back up that elevator shaft.

The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 13 'Chokepoint'
Is it good?
Not much happens with the plot, but 'Chokepoint' still a fun episode to watch.
The fight scenes are fantastic, particularly the one featuring Daryl vs. Beta.
We should all know by now never to doubt Carol...or the power of getting to see a movie for the first time in over a decade.
Daryl and Connie make a great team (and maybe a great couple).
I realize this is a show about zombies, but my suspension of disbelief has trouble surviving a fall down an elevator shaft.
Lots of fun and humorous scenes, but we're pretty much exactly where we started the episode by the time it's over.
7
Good
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