The first episode without lead characters Rick Grimes and Maggie Greene is here: how does it fare?
Yeah, I wasn’t too thrilled about that either. Not cool, AMC. Not cool at all. She deserved infinitely better.
And as if that weren’t bad enough, it sounds like Anne/Jadis might have sailed off to Narnia for the time being, as well. So now that we’ve already started things off on the worse possible wrong foot, let’s dive into The Walking Dead‘s first episode without its two leads, shall we?
Goodbye and Hello
The episode opens in the 6-years later time jump we ended with last week. Michonne talking with what she assumes to be the deceased Rick Grimes, which is going to be really awkward when she finds out about The Walking Dead movies. As she goes on about perseverance and what’s changed and what not, we are treated to some heavy-handed imagery, like Daryl decided not to shoot a crossbow through a walker because it has worms for a family of birds…or Carol deciding to let her hair grow out and to stop dying it.
Carol’s follicle transformation was jarring, but so was Eugene’s — who has now reigned his mullet into a ponytail. He, Aaron (who had grown a glorious beard) and Rosita are frantically searching for Judith. When they find her, she’s got the group she saved from last week. Aaron tries to say that Michonne won’t let them in, but Judith is a badass and refuses to go back to Alexandria without them.
When they arrive to Alexandria, Judith promises the safety. Unfortunately her mom, Michonne, is none to pleased. After allowing the injured member of the group to go to the infirmary, the rest are kept in holding overnight. The next day, they are put before a tribunal to decide if they can stay.
The group introduces themselves. The lady with the weird chest tattoo says she used to be a truck stop waitress. The guy who looks like a discount Oliver Platt says he is STILL a music teacher because “learning never stops.” (As a music teacher myself, let me say that if zombies ever invade our classroom, the students and I are using our instruments as melee weapons and getting the hell out of there). Connie, who is deaf, used to be a big time journalist. She was accompanied by a high school kid who could interpret ASL (which was admittedly something I liked seeing).
Everything seems to be going well until Michonne grabs Chest Tattoo’s wrist and exposes another tattoo, this one showing that she did hard time. Michonne also finds a concealed weapon, which pretty much settles that if Chest Tattoo was a truck stop waitress, she was also on the wrong side of the law at some point in her life, too.
Things look grim for our new group getting their apartment application approved.
Meanwhile, Judith is doing her homework on a stoop next to Negan…and asking him for help. It goes from a discussion about how math problems involving planes are ridiculous for a world without them to Negan explaining why he thinks Michonne is right for not wanting to let new people into Alexandria. It’s clear that there is a bond between the two, but Judith is also fully aware of how dangerous Negan is.
This is normally the part where I’d say something asinine and/or pithy, but it was honestly one of my favorite scenes from the show in a long time.
That night, Chest Tattoo gets berated by the group for copping an attitude in court with Michonne. She also reveals that she still has one concealed knife on her. Later, she sneaks out to…kill Michonne I guess? Not sure how that would help. Anyway, she watches through the window and sees Michonne with RJ, her and Rick’s son (!) and decides to be cool, knock on the door, and give up the knife.
After she leaves, Judith once again steals the scene, explaining that the best way to honor her dead father and brother is to help these people. Sure enough, the next day, Michonne says she can escort them to the Hilltop to see if they have room.
The Little Prince
Back at the Kingdom, infrastructure is breaking down. Henry, who is much older now, would like his adoptive parents (Carol and Ezekiel) to let him train with someone at the Hilltop. Ezekiel would prefer to protect him, but Carol thinks they should let him go.
Carol convinces Ezekiel to let him go if she accompanies him. On their way there, they are lured into a trap by Jed and the Diet Saviors. He said he’d let Carol live since she did the same for him, but demanded her marriage ring. Harry took offense to this and tried to fight back, but Carol protected him and gave it over.
Later, Jed questioned Carol why she let them get away with such a thing. Later that night, she tracked the Saviors back down, doused them in gasoline while they slept, and burned them all alive. THERE’S THE CAROL WE KNOW AND LOVE!
As they got back on the road, Harry noticed that his mom got her ring back. They also ran into Daryl, who looked to be hitching a ride with them (awkward…)
So despite losing an eye and looking like man who resurrects an ancient evil in a 90’s horror film, Gabriel is totally killing it. First, he’s acquired enough radio equipment to possibly broadcast out of Alexandria and find other survivors (something Michonne would definitely not be pleased about).
Also, he’s HOOKING UP WITH ROSITA! Gabe’s game has leveled up significantly since his days as a cowardly priest.
But I digress…Eugene and Rosita go out to install a radio amplifier on a tower. Eugene tries to confess his love for Rosita via the Nice Guy tactic, which goes about as well as can be expected. While Eugene is up on the tower, they are surrounded by zombies. Eugene is injured getting off the tower, but Rosita helps him. When he tries to heroically stay behind and confess his love to her again, she won’t allow it, grabbing him and getting them to safety. The eventually hide in ditch and cover themselves in mud. As the walkers pass, they can actually hear them talking…
Okay, we all know that those walkers were actually The Whisperers, right? Good.
So a couple years ago, I wrote that the best thing The Walking Dead could do to make the show interesting again was kill Rick Grimes…and not to toot my own horn or anything, but I might have been right.
Michonne appears to be a much better lead that Maggie or Rick, particularly when you counterbalance her with Judith, who might be the best child character from a comic book inspired media property this side of Hit Girl.
Yes, the show still has pacing issues (20 minutes segments where the plot remains the same) and editing issues (day and night happening in Alexandria while it stays day time for Eugene/Rosita the whole episode), but for the first time in a long time, I’m actually interested to see where things go.
Also, how cool was it to see Carol back to her old self again?