Warning! SPOILERS for The Walking Dead season 9, episode 14.
The Walking Dead just delivered its darkest episode in over five years. AMC's premiere show has certainly featured dark and disturbing episodes in the past, but the season 9 episode "Scars" is by far the darkest episode the series has aired since season 4's "The Grove," which saw Carol kill a very disturbed young girl.
The back half of The Walking Dead season 9 takes place after a six-year time jump, skipping past the time immediately following Rick's "death". Much has changed and season 9 has been slowly revealing the magnitude of what happened during those intervening years. The Sanctuary collapsed, Maggie left Hilltop, and Alexandria isolated itself from the other communities. Seemingly connected to the paranoia felt by Alexandria, Michonne and Daryl now also bear matching "X" scars on their backs and both are extremely reluctant to discuss them. At least, that was the case before The Walking Dead season 9 episode aptly titled "Scars" in where Michonne finally reveals how her and Daryl got those scars.
"Scars" includes several flashbacks to the time shortly after Rick's disappearance. Michonne is visibly pregnant with her and Rick's son, RJ, and Daryl is still searching the area surrounding the river bank for any signs of Rick. One day, a woman and several children turn up at Alexandria, and the woman, Jocelyn, is revealed to be a longtime friend of Michonne's from before the outbreak. Given their history, Michonne immediately trusts her, allowing Jocelyn and the children to stay in Alexandria. However, that turns out to be a huge mistake; at her first opportunity, Jocelyn robs Alexandria of supplies and runs off with their children - including Judith.
Though pregnant, Michonne joins Daryl in the pursuit of Jocelyn and the abducted children. They find them in an abandoned building, but it quickly becomes apparent that these children - whose ages range from 8 years old kids to young teens - follow Jocelyn like she's some kind of cult leader. Under her guidance, they've become cruel and merciless killers, with Jocelyn instilling in them an "only the strong survive" mentality that's eerily similar to Alpha's beliefs. Michonne and Daryl are captured and branded, but they manage to free themselves and continue searching for Judith and the other stolen children from Alexandria.
Jocelyn's children try and stop them - with one of them even slashing Michonne's pregnant belly - but Michonne manages to kill Jocelyn, although not before she orders her children to kill Judith and the others. And this is where "Scars" gets incredibly dark; in order to rescue Judith, Michonne must cut down several of Jocelyn's children. Michonne clearly doesn't want to hurt or kill these children and she's visibly in anguish at having to do so, but they don't give her a choice - in order to save her own children, Michonne must kill them.
The scene is harrowing, with a bloody and pregnant Michonne killing children with her katana conjuring up memories of The Walking Dead season 4's "The Grove". That episode famously features Carol shooting and killing Lizzie, a young girl so disturbed and confused by the apocalypse that she murdered her own sister just so she could come back as a walker. It was a brutal moment for The Walking Dead, highlighting the disastrous effects this cruel new world can have on children, warping their minds and making them a danger to themselves and others. This scene in "Scars", however, is even darker, forcing Michonne to murder children to save her own.
Besides finally explaining how Michonne and Daryl got those "X" scars, this Walking Dead episode also explains why Michonne is so hard-pressed to trust anyone, even those she knows. Discussing the events of that day with Judith, however, seems to allow Michonne to start healing, no longer keeping her guilt and grief all to herself. But with The Walking Dead again featuring an episode in where the damaging effects the apocalypse has on children put front and center, it's hard not to worry about what horrors are still in store for the children growing up in this messed-up world.
The Walking Dead season 9 continues next Sunday, March 24th with "The Calm Before" at 9:00pm on AMC.