The Walking Dead: S9E5 ‘What Comes After’ – Review

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

This review contains spoilers.

After the first ten minutes, I had a feeling this was to be Rick Grimes last episode. And that proved to be the case. Just like the episode itself, this review is going to be very Rick-centric. It’s also going to be an extended review as I have a lot to cover. But before I dive into the Rick parts of the episode, we did have the conclusion of the Maggie and Negan arc. In what was to be an outstanding episode, this scene was definitely lost in the shuffle, but deserves a lot of praise.

It all started with an excellent exchange between Maggie and Michonne. I loved that Michonne was already waiting for her. To see her standing at the bottom of the steps helped set the tone for what was about to follow. Maggie talks about how killing Negan will be a chance to “start over”, with Michonne replying with that it would, in fact, “start something else”. The dialogue this season has been top draw. She’s right of course. Nevertheless, Maggie is allowed to see Negan. We are treated to yet another intense scene. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was spellbinding here. What emotion. He has such an outstanding range as an actor.  Again, the lighting was brilliant, and finally Maggie can see that he’s suffering more by being alive. I’m not sure what happens now with these two. Given how this episode ends, anything is possible.

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As I mentioned in the opening, this is a very Rick-heavy episode. And that is never a bad thing in my eyes. Armed with the knowledge that Andrew is leaving the show, it felt like this episode was going to be ‘the one’. It was, and given how much I’m upset about him leaving, I loved it. I especially enjoyed the scene of him riding into Atlanta back in Season One, but with the present Walker horde following him. I loved the hallucinations throwing him back into previous scenes. Seeing him lying in the hospital bed. The infamous “Don’t Dead, Open Inside” door. All these nostalgic factors were expertly interwoven into the present events. Nothing felt forced, everything just seemed to click into place.

This is probably one of my favourite episodes of The Walking Dead. It’s the best of the season so far, and for me, it’s easily in my top five. The show gets a lot of stick at times, and people continue to beat up on it, even though they no longer watch it. Given everything that has happened so far, it’s time for those dissenting voices to give it a rest. While not perfect, and no show is, the issues have been largely fixed and the show is once again in a very healthy place. With Rick leaving the show, and with Maggie soon to follow, things are changing. The show is evolving and soon the focus will be on new characters. A changing of the guard is never easy, especially with such established characters. But just like the MCU, as it moves into it’s next phase, it’s time for The Walking Dead to move on from those who we are familiar with and onto new faces, and potentially an exciting new chapter. Anyway, back to the present!

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We knew they were coming, but we finally got to see some returning faces, albeit in the form of hallucinations. First up, Shane! Having Jon Bernthal back on the show was always going to be special and he did not disappoint. I loved the scene in the police car, it was packed full of on the nose and subtle moments. From Shane talking about ‘his’ daughter to rick eating with a blood-soaked hand as if everything was normal. The exchange was perfect, they have such wonderful chemistry and it was great to see one more time. Up next was Hershal (Scott Wilson), Rick begged for forgiveness for everything that happened. This was a different scene to Shane, it was more emotional and repenting. The dialogue and embrace was made even more powerful, given the real world passing of Wilson. I teared up, not shamed to admit that. Powerful stuff.

As a fan of the comic, I loved seeing the field of bodies, replicating the front cover of Issue 100. It is such an iconic image, so to see it replicated on the small screen was a pretty special moment. The only problem I had with this scene was the use of Sasha. Why use Sasha? Rick and Sasha’s relationship was minimal at best. It’s certainly not at the same level as Shane and Hershel. This felt like a case of ‘she’s available, lets put her in’. This should have been a Glenn, Lori or Carl cameo, not Sasha. Such a wasted opportunity, it weakened the scene as a whole. This potentially great scene never reached it’s potential, and it just left me feeling a little frustrated. While this may have been the final cameo, it wasn’t to be the final hallucination.

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Just as it looked like Rick was destined to die, the entire cast comes to save the day, allowing Rick and Michonne to be reunited. I bought it, I’m not gonna lie. I bought that he was being saved and was getting really annoyed that they had used yet another fake-out. Thankfully, I was wrong. When Rick uttered “This isn’t real”, the scene was saved. The show cannot keep doing fake-out deaths. When the group does finally arrive, only Daryl knows the outcome. The Walkers on the bridge, the dynamite, everyone there to witness Rick’s death. All the pieces were in place. It was an astonishing scene. It felt like a true ending. The editing, cinematography and most of all the music, all came together to create a truly outstanding piece of television. It felt like a fitting end, it also gave me hope, seeing Daryl in such a state, that this will act as the wake up his character needs. I thought the acting in this scene, and the episode in general was some of the best you’ll see on TV.

When they cut to Jadis by the river, with the helicopter approaching, I knew Rick had somehow survived. And there he was, lying washed up on the bank. “I have a B” states Jadis. We then see them both flying away inside the helicopter. I was so annoyed, angry even. This was not the ending I was prepared for. If Rick was leaving the show it had to be final, they nailed it with the bridge. Now? Who knows. It’s a fake-out. So I should be angered, and I am, to some extent. But minutes after finishing the episode I read about the series of mini-movie spin-offs, with Rick set to feature in a part of the world we’ve yet to see, away from the TV show. I was prepared to lose one of my all-time favourite fictional characters. But if you are telling me I will be getting Rick Grimes away from the main show, then oddly enough, I’m in! I didn’t think I would be. But I am. Going into this my mindset was ‘hes leaving, lets just do it and move on’. But now? I’m finding myself more engaged with the brand because they are teasing me with more. Is it just yet another cash grab? Maybe. Have they strung us along with half-truths? Most definitely. I shouldn’t be OK with this, yet I am. What can I say? I’m an enigma.

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So lets talk about THAT ending. We have an unknown group of survivors surrounded by Walkers. Just as it looks like they are destined to be zombie breakfast, a young girl, off screen, takes one out a Walker and directs them to safety. As soon as I heard the voice, I knew who it was going to be. I just had a feeling. As the survivors reach the woods we see a girl with Rick’s gun and Michonne’s sword. “I’m Judith Grimes” – Another time jump! I’m guessing 4-5 years? She’s now a tween, possibly? It’s fitting that this group appear as part of a time jump angle, as that’s sort of how this group is introduced into the comic. That’s right, we are getting more comic book characters, including fan favourite Yumiko and Magna. Dan Fogler, of Fantastic Beasts fame, is also a noticeable face joining the show. But given what happened to Zach McGowan, who knows how long he will be around. I thought I was going to be annoyed by another time jump, but if it can push the story along and totally avoid going through the whole ‘establishing the laws/rebuilding the world’ side of things and bring us to an already established environment, I can get behind that.

‘What Comes After’ was one of the greatest episodes in the show’s history. It was full of outstanding acting, perfect dialogue and sensible story choices, for the most part. It felt like a farewell episode, and with the explosion on the bridge they HAD that final ending. But it wasn’t to be. While annoyed and frustrated at the time, the news about the spin-off movies has swayed me in the other direction. As for the future of the show, Daryl now has to step up, but it remains to be seen if he can fill those sizable shoes left by Rick. It’s time to shake things up, what comes after? We are about to find out.

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