by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 1.
It has been known for a while that this new season of The Walking Dead would contain a time jump. Judging by the apparent ages of Judith and Baby Herschel, it looks like approximately 2 years have gone by since the show concluded its 8th season last spring. Baby Herschel appears to be about 18 months old, while Judith is talking in a more conversational fashion with Michonne and making drawings/paintings of her extended family, seeming to be about kindergarten-age, rather than the toddler she was last season. The drawing of Judith with a one-eyed Carl was especially poignant.
The survivors are working to re-establish civilization. But as their civilization grows, so do the divisions between different groups of people. Daryl notes that ‘there ain’t no us anymore’, which tells us that things are not all hunky dory between these settlements. Michonne’s idea of a charter may be premature, because to sign a charter, all groups will have to come to an agreement, and I suspect that won’t be an easy thing to do.
As the most successful group, Hilltop has been tasked with the burden of providing for other groups, particularly the Saviors, who are struggling with growing crops in the contaminated soil around the factory building where they are still housed. Just as in our society, the ‘wealthy’ people of Maggie’s group resent having the (literal and figurative) fruits of their labors taken to feed others, particularly when those others are their former enemies. For those who have read the comics, I have to wonder if this division will allow the leaders of the Commonwealth (who may, or may not, be represented in the televsions series by Georgie and the people in the helicopter) to drive an even bigger wedge between Hilltop and the rest of the groups in future episodes. For the moment, Maggie is putting Rick on notice that she won’t be allowing this to go on for much longer.
Of course, this wasn’t the only challenge Maggie faced this episode. Gregory was back to his usual slimy tricks. I was expecting this to go on for a few episodes before coming to a head, but to my surprise, Maggie saw through his tricks immediately, confronting him. He told her that he didn’t regret what he had done, because he was still alive and kicking. So Maggie took his words to heart and caused Gregory to regret everything he had done by executing him. While we viewers all know that nothing good could come of allowing Gregory to live, I also have to wonder what the Hilltoppers will think of Maggie now that she has shown her form of justice.
The scavenging run to the Smithsonian was an interesting scene, and it makes sense that the survivors would look toward instruments of the past to help them develop their new civilization. Yet I have to wonder why they took the wagon across the glass before the lighter items. If they had moved the plow and boat before the cart, then Ezekiel would likely have never been in danger. Of course, then he wouldn’t have been compelled to propose to Carol on the way home. Yet when he was dangling and the walkers were grabbing for him, one about to bite his leg, I couldn’t help thinking about poor Bob, and his getting bitten on the mission to the food pantry. Will Ezekiel turn up in a future episode with a bite on his person? I doubt it, but it is possible.
We were subtly introduced to some new characters, simply by having them along on the mission to scavenge from the museum. I was amused to see that it was the clean cut kid who looked like he had just stepped out of a JC Penny commercial who was the redshirt. Yet Ken’s role as the catalyst to allow Gregory to try and subvert Hilltop citizens was important, and if he had to go to take out Gregory, then as a viewer, it’s a price I was willing to pay.
The Saviors are struggling, and that may be the source of their divided loyalties between Rick and Negan. Tensions are clearly present, enough that Daryl is fed up with it and just wants to get out of there, much to Rick’s dismay. Fortunately, commitment-phobic Carol is willing to take his place at the Sanctuary while she thinks over her relationship with the King. I should add that while I loved hearing Ezekiel call her ‘Lady Carol’, I would love it even more if she were known as ‘Queen Carol’. I mean really, who would be a better Queen of the apocalypse?
Eugene should really be coming into his own as the survivors make more permanent settlements and need the knowledge he possesses. Indeed, the ethanol Eugene is creating will soon be the only source of fuel for Daryl’s motorcycle, as any pre-apocalyptic gasoline should have gone bad long ago, and, as Daryl points out, all of the gas for miles around has already been scavenged anyway.
The funniest part of the episode was definitely the adjustment to the display of human evolution in the museum. It lent a humorous moment to an episode that was less than uplifting as we saw the strains and tensions of this fledgling civilization.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, both No Man’s Land and Our World will be putting out weekly seasonal content as the episodes air. This episode’s No Man’s Land seasonal mission shows Daryl, Rick and Carol looking for seeds in the museum. This week, Our World has special Carol infestations, which all show a backdrop of a ruined Washington DC. No Man’s Land will put out a new mission for every episode, while Our World will feature a different character each week.
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