The Walking Dead: S9E1 ‘A New Beginning’ – Review

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By Ben Wright (@iamzavagno | www.xgeeks.co.uk)

This review contains spoilers.

The Walking Dead is back!

The title of the first episode is very fitting. There is a new showrunner, Angela Kang, and with Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan leaving this season, change is very much on here.

Before I get into the review, I just want to quickly address the departures of Rick and Maggie. I think Cohan leaving is a loss, as her character has been on a great journey and has developed a lot. But it’s not as big of a loss as Lincoln. This, for me, is a massive blow for the show. I’m devastated he is leaving. How the show carries on after this I don’t know. Daryl is going to need a miraculous season if he is going to be able to carry the show, as he’s been stagnating for many seasons now. I’m sorry to see them both leave, but some part of me still feels this might signal the end as we enter season 10.

Anyway, on to the review!

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We have jumped eighteen months into the future since we ended Season 8. All the surviving factions are working together to try and rebuild their communities. There is a peace amongst the different settlements, at least on the surface. Some things have changed in this time jump. Aaron now has a killer beard, Maggie and Glenn’s son, Hershel (aptly timed) has been born and Daryl has found his voice and is speaking like a normal character again. We also go to see some unconventional romance between a certain King and his would-be Queen. Looking forward to seeing how that one develops!

The main aim of this episode was to re-introduce you to the characters and highlight the current state of play. The war is over, it’s time to build and farm the land, heading towards that eutopia of Karl’s dream. The Saviors are still at Sanctuary, now working with the other settlements. Eugene is using his knowledge to make corn fuel, which is a genius move. But under the surface, you just feel the tension brewing. Daryl is not happy about the situation at Sanctuary. He wants to cut all ties and we see that one shot of the graffiti that states “We are still Negan”. The all-out war story is dead, so I think we won’t see a Saviors revolt arc, maybe just one episode of confrontation. But in any case, I don’t expect this peace to last. Tension will build between the settlements, especially at Hilltop.

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Our main cast goes on a mission to the capital and to a museum to get supplies and tools. I love this concept of going back to the ‘old ways’ of doing things. They can no longer use technology, everything is hard work and requires a more simple approach. Ok, so the glass floor scene was a little silly from a logic point of view, but it did enough to create the right amount of tension. One thing that has improved already this season is the zombie threat. As the years have gone on, Walkers have become less of a danger. But already, in this episode, they have made them feel scary again. The ‘spider zombie’ in particular was a nice touch. I want Walkers to be seen as a big deal again. When they are onscreen, everything is at risk. Hopefully, this will be something that continues as the season progresses.

The biggest standout moments of the episode came in the final act. The conversation between Rick and Maggie and the final confrontation with Gregory at Hilltop. Maggie has shown glimpses of her leader characteristics in the previous season, but now she is taking no nonsense from anybody. She is putting Hilltop first and it’s clear, since the end of Season 8, that she does not agree with Rick’s approach. And it’s this new sterner approach that I think will lead to her departure. I don’t think she is going to be killed off. I believe she will start to turn a little tyrannical (The Governor 2.0?). And I think this transformation all starts with what happened to Gregory.

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Now, I like Gregory, in a weird sort of way. I think Xander Berkeley has done a magnificent job with the character. He’s a proper weasel. But it’s well done so it adds value to the show. So, of course, I’m sad to see him killed off, but happy they kept it close to the graphic novel source material. But he may end up having the last laugh after all. Maggie says it’s a one-off, it’s not the way things will be enforced. But I think the unrest will grow and she will make more decisions that takes her down a dark path. As Harvey Dent once said, “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain“. After she reaches the point of no return, she will then have an awakening episode and that is when she decides to go it alone with baby Hershal. Gone as a season main, but always ready to return in a guest capacity. That’s my guess anyway.

Overall, this was a good return for The Walking Dead. The tone and pacing were positive, plenty of character story arc seeds were planted and we had some great moments of tension and action. There is a ‘changing of the guard’ feel already and I’m excited for the political angle they are getting set up concerning the different factions. A promising, fresh start, with hopefully a lot more to follow! What did you think? Let us know in the comments below! 

RIP Scott Wilson (1942-2018). – It was terrible news to wake up to. Will was brilliant in the show and left a massive body of work behind. Hershel, during the prison arc, was central to a lot of the show’s best moments. It’s fitting that Maggie’s baby is named after Hershel, a fitting tribute. 

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