This review contains spoilers.
After last week’s excellent return, not to mention epic cliff-hanger, The Walking Dead is back with Part 2 of the Acheron storyline.
Picking up where you’d expect, we get a different angle of the Maggie fall, who successfully defends off Walkers, at least initially. She is soon overcome and they pull a bit of a Glenn fake-out here as the Walkers swarm all over her. In any other circumstance and with any non-speaking character, that would be it – death! OK, so last week I was confident that Negan would come back for the save. But as soon as he re-joins the others, he plays it as if he hadn’t seen her. Huh. Interesting. At this point I’m nervous, even more so when the group hears SOS being banged on the underside of the carriage. They open the hatch and, to know ones surprise, it’s Maggie. She calls Negan out immediately and her group grab Negan ready to kill him, at her command. My ‘Season 8-9 bad writing’ alarm is going off, but I should have known better by now, as that lovely Season 10 writing came in for the save. There was no stupidity here, no frustrating character moments. Just Negan calling it how it is – why would he risk his life for someone who, moments earlier, wanted to end his. He didn’t cause the situation, he just decided not to help. Maggie actually seems to see some sense in this, which makes the next scene even more understandable. Gage has returned back to the group, but he is trapped in another carriage with Walkers behind him. Negan is eager to free him but Maggie is reluctant and concludes that this situation would cause the group more harm than its worth. Despite Alden’s protests, her group ensure that the door is not opened, forcing Gage to kill himself, and as Walkers tear open his body, he remains upright staring at Maggie. So straight away, any sense of moral high ground is removed from Maggie’s hand and puts her back on equal footing with Negan. I think this was a smart move in terms of the the story, as we don’t need any pettiness and pointless mini-arcs this season. Like I have said previously, get this Maggie-Negan issue resolved – not best friends, but a co-existence – in this first batch of episodes.
Meanwhile, Dog and Daryl are having their own solo adventure as they try to find a way through the tunnels. Dog hears someone screaming in the distance and bolts, leaving Daryl with no choice but to follow. Dog charges at a Walker and my heart is in my mouth. Luckily he’s ok.
Still trapped, the group reflects on what happened, why it had to happen and what had happened in the past. Lauren Cohan absolutely smashed this scene! A truly incredible one-woman performance. With the Walkers, now with added Gage, breaking through the door, the group tries to fend them off – leading to Maggie giving Negan a gun in the process. With Walkers closing in from both sides, Daryl makes it onto the train and, in a great tracking one-shot, works his way down the train killing all the Walkers in his path. He pries the door open, allowing the group to escape, before lobbing a grenade into the carriage and turning the Walkers into porridge.
Back at The Commonwealth, Yumiko is determined to make it through processing, so that she can be reunited with her brother – but Ezekiel is missing. Yumiko goes back in front of the assessors, Clark and Evans, and goes into bad-ass lawyer mode and tears them a new one, with mic drop after mic drop. This was an incredible performance and character moment and it was interesting to see a pre-Apocalypse side to Yumiko. Eugene is now on his own with Mercer and Evans – and he’s not handling it well. Their exchange was really good, it was a great and very tense scene. Well played Josh McDermitt, this was incredible! Eugene is reunited with his friends and they all hug in a loving embrace. Mercer arrives and informs them that they have been granted asylum as a citizen of The Commonwealth. If that wasn’t enough, a woman arrives and asks for Eugene, introducing herself as Stephanie. Now, this isn’t Margot Bingham, who was cast in the role and played the radio voice in Season 10. And when I checked at the credits, ‘Stephanie’ was played by Chelle Ramos who was credited as ‘Woman 2’. So something isn’t right here. If you didn’t know about the casting, then it may have passed you by. And as I cannot find anywhere to state that Bingham is no longer in the role, its safe to deduce that this is another test of some kind. But surely Eugene would recognise the different voice? Is this a friend of Stephanie’s who has been sent in her place, by the real Stephanie, just in case Eugene was an axe wielding psychopath? Or is she there to obtain the truth about Alexandria and its location? I don’t know where I stand on this, but there is something potentially troubling here.
Back with the group, they finally reach the outdoor station and Negan returns the gun to Maggie. They exchange a look as if to say “truce”, but who knows, maybe just wishful thinking on my part. Maggie says they need to head to Arbor Hills, an emergency supply depot to restock on ammunition and supplies. As the group walks down a long, dark road, they are greeted by strung up walkers running the entire length of the road. Roy is killed by an arrow to the eye and Cole suffers a bad leg wound. The group manages to scramble behind a car as a large group of masked, and armed, people approach – cut to credits. Wow. Talk about an ending! The Reapers have arrived and they look menacing! Now, I’m not going to spoil things in terms of casting, but we have already met one of these people and the leader of the Reapers was referenced by said character. So expect to see a familiar face very soon!
I really enjoyed this episode. It was a great mix of tense-action and powerful character performances. There was no silly or frustrating sub-plots and the episode just progressed at a very pleasing pace. These first two episodes have been incredibly strong and this looks good for the rest of the series.