In The Walking Dead season 9's penultimate episode, "The Calm Before", 10 people are killed by Alpha and her Whisperers. Just as it happens in The Walking Dead comics, their re-animated heads are stuck on pikes to mark the border of the Whisperers' territory. It's a gruesome sight and a cruel reminder of how dangerous it remains in this post-apocalyptic world, but the AMC series kills off the wrong people (even if they did so for good reason).
In The Walking Dead comics, this dreadful moment is what kicks off the Whisperer War - a conflict that is expected to take center stage when AMC's The Walking Dead returns for season 10. And though viewers may feel like The Walking Dead only just wrapped up one war (the All-Out War against Negan and the Saviors), it's actually been quite a while for the characters thanks to the AMC series jumping ahead in time six years. Other than one terrifying encounter with a group of children turned homicidal killers - the same encounter which gave Daryl and Michonne those "X" scars and made for the darkest Walking Dead episode in years - the communities have been enjoying a relatively peaceful time. That changes with this attack by the Whisperers, however, and before too long, the survivors will again be at war.
There are 10 characters The Walking Dead kills in "The Calm Before", but only four are characters who audiences will recognize and most likely care about - Tammy Rose, Enid, Tara, and Henry. That in itself isn't really a problem because there just aren't 10 characters who are important enough that The Walking Dead can spare. Yet, it's also a bit of a stretch to call the four characters who are killed main or even major characters. For comparison, The Walking Dead comics kill a total of 12 characters, and while most are minor, it includes Ezekiel and Rosita - one the leader of the Kingdom, the other a longtime character who (like in the show) is pregnant, and both with bigger roles than anyone killed on The Walking Dead TV series.
Still, though the shock value of these deaths isn't anywhere near what happens in The Walking Dead comics, the characters killed and piked in "The Calm Before" do make a certain amount of sense. Before they're killed, each character had just secured some happiness, and there's nothing The Walking Dead likes more than killing happy characters. Tammy and her husband, Earl, had just agreed to take care of the baby abandoned by the Whisperers; Enid and Alden had made their budding relationship official; Tara signed the charter as Hilltop's representative, finally accepting her role as their leader; and Henry had successfully rescued Lydia from her mother and returned home.
Each of these four characters had reached a point in their individual arcs where their purpose was fulfilled, but in killing them, their deaths give new purpose to those left behind. Tammy's death will certainly be a huge loss for Earl, but hopefully he'll keep it together for the sake of the baby. Enid's death will hit Alden hard, likely fueling his drive for revenge when it comes to the Whisperer War. Tara's death is sure to rattle all of Hilltop, especially so soon after losing Jesus. This may even be what leads to Daryl officially taking charge of Hilltop, fully replacing Maggie as the settlement's leader.
Henry's death, however, does feel like the big shock The Walking Dead was aiming for, which is probably why the reveal of his severed head is saved for last. The impact of losing Henry will have on both Ezekiel and Carol is sure to be immense, potentially even fracturing their relationship. For an optimistic, hopeful guy like Ezekiel, Henry's death could easily sink him into a depression; Henry was, after all, meant to be his successor as the Kingdom's leader. As for Carol, well, Alpha has no idea the sort of ferocity she has just unleashed. Season 9 also saw Henry take on what in the comics was Carl's arc, and in killing him, the AMC series has ostensibly finished with Carl's story, paving the way for Lydia to have an even larger role going forward.
The characters who die in The Walking Dead's "The Calm Before" episode aren't the major characters many were expecting, and as a result, the deaths feel a tad underwhelming. Upon closer examination, though, the choice of characters who are killed does make sense and is certain to provide the motivation necessary for the survivors to, again, go to war.
The Walking Dead season 9 finale, "The Storm" airs Sunday, March 31 at 9:00pm on AMC.