Even for those who knew it was coming, and even for those who have read every issue of Robert Kirkman’s source material, it was impossible to prepare for the shock of this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, which delivered a stunning, gut-punch of an ending to the penultimate episode of the ninth season. The comparisons the show made to the Red Wedding leading up to this episode were apt. Like Game of Thrones so often has, The Walking Dead dropped the hammer in the second-to-last episode of the season, likely knowing that viewers never would have expected it from a show that typically saves its biggest moments until the finale.
By the time it was all said and done, Alec, Ozzy, DJ, Frankie, Tammy Rose, Rodney, and Adeline were all killed by The Whisperers, their heads decapitated and impaled on spikes for Daryl, Yumika, Siddiq, Michonne, and Carol to find.
And then came the big names on that wall of spiked heads: Enid, who had sweetly made her relationship with Alden official earlier in the episode. Then Tara, who only wanted to get back to The Hilltop and prove herself a leader. And, finally, there was Henry.
Henry has been the most hated character on the entire show this season, and while most fans aren’t terribly sad to see him die, I think we all forgot about what it might do to Carol, who had already witnessed the mercy-killing of one zombified child in Sophie, had to kill another surrogate child her own in Lizzie, and here had to find her adopted son’s head on a spike. Carol’s reaction, however, isn’t nearly as haunting and heartbreaking as Daryl’s attempt to shield her eyes from the sight of Henry’s zombified head.