This review contains spoilers.
We can talk about last week’s ending until the cows come home, but the fact is, the time jump has happened and we have to get on with it. After having time to consider my thoughts of skipping six years, I’ve now made my peace with it and think it could have a huge benefit to show and some of its characters. The Walking Dead has always had some issue with it’s character development and subplots. They have been mishandled and dragged on for far too long. With the time jump, we can bypass some of this and just say, here are the characters now. Yes you have to take a leap of faith in terms of how certain characters got to where they are now, Eugene being a prime example, but it’s better to just go with it. I’ll be talking more about this later.
The main story this week focused on Magna’s group of survivors and whether they get to stay at Alexandria. Michonne is not having any of it, but informs them that the decision will go to the council. This was a handy scene to allow the likes of Magna and Luke to get their stories out, so we as audience can get to know a little more about them without having to go through a lot of separate scenes and dialogue. After kicking off the episode talking to ‘Rick’, it’s made clear that the years have hardened Michonne in terms of looking out for people outside of their community. While the story of ‘whether or not to trust a new group of survivors’ has been done to death, it appears that they’ve managed to get it all out their system in one episode. I like Magna from the comics, so I hope they represent her well on the show. So far, so good. She’s got that level of complexity, and is not so different to Michonne in many ways. It looked like that they were going to clash, but thanks to Judith, she wins Michonne back around. ‘What Would Rick Do’ wins the day. While not allowed to stay in Alexandria. She is willing to escort them to Hilltop and speak on their behalf.
Last week, we knew it was a dream when Rick hallucinated Eugene charging into battle with his fellow survivors on the bridge. So I had to pinch myself this week as Eugene, now we added ponytail, put the smack-down on some walkers, showing little of the cowardly traits we are used to. The years have clearly been kind to him, and the growth and transformation that the character has needed has finally come to fruition. I’m glad to see Eugene finally reach his potential. He’s needed to ‘level up’ for the past few seasons and just as it looked like it was going to happen, they pulled the plug. I’m also happy to see him close to Rosita again. I hope they go down the comic book route with these two, even if we have to muddle through a love triangle story with Gabriel to get there. Also, does anyone else think Eugene now looks scarily like a chunky Mark Wahlberg?
Eugene isn’t the only one to get a new haircut. It’s strange to see Carol with long hair, but it adds to her ‘elf’ look now that she’s rocking the bow. It’s not just the hair and weapon that is different since the time jump though. She’s now settled into married life with Ezekiel. But as we saw, the Carol we know and love is still in there deep down. When taking Henry to Hilltop, they are ambushed by the the Savior splinter group lead by Jed and Regina. You knew Carol was not going to take this injustice lying down. So when she tracks them down and burns them all alive, you knew that married life has not dulled her edge. This was a great scene, Melissa McBride was at her very best! I never thought Jed was that interesting, so his death didn’t really feel satisfying or like it was a significant moment. I did, however, have more of a reaction when Regina died, since she has been in the show longer and has interacted with Negan and the other characters in a more significant way.
While we have been treated to some great one-on-one interactions this season, this episode was lacking, that was until Judith and Negan happened. The broken man we saw in the previous episode has gone. As is the shaggy hair and beard. Rocking a new more groomed look, Negan is showing signs that his more sinister ways might just be behind him. I loved their dialogue here, it was fantastic. I didn’t really buy in to Judith last week, especially when firing the hand cannon, it was a little much. But here, when depicted as a child I thought she nailed the scene. I’m really interested to see how they proceed with Negan as a character. How long will he spend in that cell? Could a Whisperer threat force Alexandria’s hand? Could that be the instigator that leads to Negan being set free? Fingers crossed.
Aaron has a sick new metal arm, he really seems to be taking on the comic book role of Rick Grimes. I’m just hoping, as I do every season, that he finally gets more to do.
Rosita and Eugene overhear talking walkers. The start of the Whisperers story line should hopefully start from next week. Please don’t mess this up!
Daryl has reverted to his ‘trapper’ ways and is living a solitary life in the woods. We don’t need him reverting to not talking, so it’s time for him to step up.
This felt like the right kind of episode to follow last week’s Rick Grimes exit. It established the new character relationships and dynamics, as well as bringing you up to speed with current events. The introduction of new characters is always a tricky one, but it was handled correctly for the most part. I’m excited to see what Hilltop and the other communities are like, as well as getting more of the Whisperers folded into the story. This needs to happen sooner, rather than later. A positive continuation of Season 9, but a noticeable dip in overall quality when compared to the other episodes so far.