The first episode of Season 9 showed plenty of promise that the show might have a chance to be good again.
Here we are, ladies and gentlemen. Another season of The Walking Dead. I’d be lying if I said I was excited, especially after last season’s turd of a finale. But what I’ve heard about new showrunner Angela Kang has been promising so far. As long as she has an aversion to magical dumpsters and ninja zombies, it pretty much has to get better, right? Also, I know I’ll be in the minority on this, but Rick Grimes’ imminent death/departure is probably a good thing.
Anyway, let’s dive in, shall we?
Refreshment & Reconstruction
The episode opens with Rick enjoying a much shorter and well-kept beard along with some domestic bliss, smiling as he watches Judith and Michonne paint together on their porch. Also, can we just stop and mention for a minute how adorable Judith is…or how awesome this family looks? I know I just threw Rick under the bus a few sentences ago, but now I actually kind of want things to work out for him.
Meanwhile, it looks like things are working out for everyone to some degree. Aaron is getting his flirt on with Jesus, Daryl is keeping the Saviors from doing creepy stuff like making zombie scarecrows, Carol has shacked up with Ezekiel, Jadis/Anne is speaking like a normal person and rocking a great new haircut, Gabriel is adjusting as well as can be expected to losing his eyesight, and Maggie isn’t having any trouble with Gregory after taking over the Hilltop from him (yet). She also finally had her baby after what I’m fairly certain was a 36-month pregnancy.
Later, Rick and Michonne meet up with everyone to go on a scavenger trip to the Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. for farming equipment. After having a fairly easy go of it (aside from Siddiq almost getting eaten by a zombie filled with spiders), they come across a glass floor with walkers beneath it…which OF COURSE means no one is going to go below and take out the walkers…which OF COURSE means it’s going to break at some point when they walk directly over it.
After a bit of playful banter between everyone, they obtain the equipment and attempt to drag it down the stairs and across the glass. As expected, Chekov’s Glass breaks. Ezekiel almost dies, but his main character forcefield and a well-timed crossbow from Daryl keeps the zombies at bay long enough for him to be rescued.
A Modest Proposal
As the group heads back with their new ancient farm equipment, Ezekiel asks Carol to marry him. I fully expected this to be followed by an arrow from Daryl’s crossbow going through Ezekiel head, but Carol flat out rejected him instead.
Later, they learn from Rosita that a bridge they needed to cross had collapsed under stress from a large walker herd. This leads them on an alternate route, which leads to random kid from the Hilltop named Ken getting some unexpected extra screen time and dialogue…which obviously means he’s going to die.
Sure enough, the group is beset by walkers. Ken escapes, but gets bitten when he goes back to save their horse. Gotta admit, that made me like the guy a lot more in the short time we got to know him.
That night, Maggie visits Ken’s parents to break the news that their son died on the trip to D.C. As you might imagine, the news does not go over well, especially since the supplies their son ended up sacrificing his life for weren’t even for the Hilltop. Tammy and Earl (Ken’s parents) don’t want to hear about cooperation or how this equipment will help build a better future for everyone–they want their son to still be alive.
Later, Gregory visits the grieving parents to provide sympathy, alcohol, and suggestions of violent retribution. You can probably tell how that’s going to end up.
Rick and Michonne visit the Sanctuary to drop off their share of the supplies and say hello to Daryl, who absolutely hates his new job as their leader. Not only is it a factory where nothing actually grows, but he misses the old group of main characters hanging out together. It also doesn’t help that everyone considers Rick to be the best thing in the world since unlimited bullets and self-washing cars…except for the a------s who graffiti ‘We Are Still Negan’ on the walls every once in a while.
Later, Carol comes out to talk with Daryl. After telling him about her relationship with Ezekiel, she offers to take over running the Sanctuary for him (something she definitely hasn’t told Ezekiel about).
But all that pales in comparison to how awesome it is to see these two together. I know there’s an age difference, but c’mon. Their chemistry together is fantastic. Ezekiel is cool and all, but I’ll still ship Daryl/Carol until the day I die.
Love and War
Speaking of death, the Negan graffiti has Rick and Michonne thinking they should have maybe killed him instead of locking him up. After discussing it for a while (along with some playful bedroom banter), they decide that creating a constitution/charter for all the communities might bring them all closer together.
Meanwhile, Maggie is out for a walk with baby Hershel when Gregory walks up to tell her that “someone” has defaced Glenn’s grave. When she goes to check on it, she’s attacked by a dude in a hoodie, who turns out to be a very drunk Earl. After subduing him with the help of Enid and Alden, Maggie storms into Gregory’s office and let him have it. As he stammered out lame denials, she lets loose with one of the best lines in the history of the show:
“You can’t even murder someone right!”
Gregory proceeded to prove Maggie’s point by attempting to stab her and ending up with Maggie holding a knife to his throat.
The next day, Rick and Michonne pay a friendly visit to the Hilltop that turns surprisingly hostile. Maggie refuses to continue helping the Saviors unless they start giving up more of their goods/services, something Rick says is impossible. Unfazed, Maggie reminds Rick that he said she would be leading things soon, but that hadn’t happened yet…and it was going to start happening now.
That night, Maggie publicly hangs Gregory for his crimes in front of the entire town.
Okay, I’m pretty sure the show wants us to be on Rick’s side, but I’m definitely with Maggie right now. For starters, Rick’s got a lot of nerve going through one of his annual ‘We Don’t Kill’ phases when the person in question is the dude who brutally murdered her husband in front of her.
Also, don’t forget that Maggie’s job at The Hilltop is a hell of a lot more difficult that Rick’s. While he gets to play house with Michonne and Judith (in a well-established community), she gets to be a single mom taking over a major leadership position from a dude who openly disrespects her authority and has tried to betray her (and Rick) multiple times…AND IS STILL FREE AND ALIVE.
Or was, anyway. Maybe my heart isn’t in the right place, but watching Gregory blubber and whine before meeting his end was perhaps the most satisfying villain death I’ve ever seen on this show. The guy was not only pure evil, but a sniveling coward, too. It also gave me a great deal of hope for what this season could be.
Sure, it felt a little forced for Maggie to suddenly remember her plan from last season to overthrow Rick after apparently forgetting about it for 18 months, but let’s chalk that up to the show making sure everyone is caught up. Now we have Rick facing a situation that’s very different than any challenge he’s faced before. Instead of a walker crisis or a charismatic villain, he’s set to face off against someone who is/was his friend…and who (in my opinion) is a better leader.
Yes, we still had long periods of time where nothing significant happened. Yes, we still had painfully obvious story beats (like the glass floor and Ken’s wall). But maybe this new dynamic gives us a chance to finally see this show do something new and interesting for the first time in a long while.