by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 2.
This week’s episode is about a bridge. And I don’t mean the physical bridge that everyone is rebuilding, but the metaphoric bridge between the different groups of people whom Rick is trying to bring together. Tensions are high, especially between the Saviors and the other groups. No one can forget that the Saviors were the ones who were headed by Negan. I’m seeing a lot of parallels with the end of WWII. No one could forget that the Germans were Hitler’s people, and as a result, the allies treated them poorly, restricting their ability to defend themselves and taking their resources, while at the same time giving them just enough food to sustain themselves. I’m hoping that the Saviors will recover and become a viable community faster than the Germans did. The truth is that not all Germans at the time of WWII were bad people, and not all of the Saviors are bad people.
Of course, Justin is a bad person. That was made incredibly obvious by his bullying of Henry and his jerky attitude toward Daryl. I can understand his resentment, but the character is depicted as being very one-sided. He represents everything we didn’t like about Negan’s team, which is a shame, because I’d rather see the show focus on people like Alden and Laura, who are actually trying to rebuild. But without people like Justin, where’s the tension?
Oh, right… the tension is over at Hilltop. Maggie is dealing with a lot, but it’s clear that she’s a good person at heart. If you weren’t sure, you can tell because they had her playing with Baby Herschel. But mostly, it’s because she sympathized with Earl, and understood his alcoholism, thanks to her experience with her own father. I had actually forgotten that Herschel was an alcoholic, and that Rick had to bring him home when he went around the bend after he realized that his walker wife and children weren’t coming back. But it was a good connection to the past, and I’m glad that Maggie was able to take some time and think a bit more logically. Earl is a blacksmith, and a useful member of the community now that he can work again. Tammy and Earl aren’t going to forget what happened, but Maggie’s actions may make them think of her more kindly in the future.
The bridge between groups was definitely put at risk by Aaron’s accident. I can completely understand the Savior panicking and dropping the log, had it been toward the start of the apocalypse. But it’s been about 5 years since everything started, and you would think that people would have less of that instant panic by now. Perhaps I’m just coloring all of the characters with the Team Rick brush, but Daryl was right to be angry. Whether he was right to start brawling with Justin, multiple times… well, that’s another thing altogether. If no one can act in a civilized manner, then this coming together isn’t going to get very far. In the meantime, Aaron’s missing arm will be a reminder every day that there are issues. I really hope that he pulls through, because I like him as a character. As it is, I’m a little afraid that his character will be seen less, because we all know that Rick never lost his hand (as he did in the comic books) due to the cost and difficulty of using CGI to take it out of filming.
It was nice seeing Enid taking on a more useful role than Maggie’s sidekick, and it was clear that she was gong to have a trial by fire when Siddiq had to leave. I just wish that it hadn’t been that much of a trial. At least, it looks like Aaron is going to live (crosses fingers).
There was also relationship drama this episode, with Carol agreeing to marry Ezekiel (good choice) and Father Gabriel getting intimate with Anne (formerly Jadis). While I’m glad to see these two finally find a little happiness, this one felt a little forced to me. At the beginning of the episode, we find out that they’ve been spending time together because Father Gabriel can empathize with Anne’s position as the not-entirely-trusted outsider. This makes sense. But why are they ignoring their watch duties for more amorous activities barely halfway through the episode? It just felt a little fast to me. I would have preferred to see more of a slow burn, as we did with Carol and Ezekiel last season. Right now, Gabriel and Anne feels a little too much like fan service.
Yet for me, the biggest thing to happen this episode wasn’t the romantic pairings, or Justin’s bad behavior, or the loss of Aaron’s arm, but the missing people. A shipment of ethanol went missing en route to Hilltop. Saviors abandoning the construction site haven’t been heard from again. And Justin got attacked as he left. Now, this is only speculation on my part, but I think the Justin encounter was a red herring. We know that the Whisperers are appearing this season, and they are known in the comics for their stealthy attacks and dislike of organized ‘civilization’. My guess is that they are behind the missing ethanol shipment and the missing Saviors. But Justin was attacked by someone he knew, someone who only annoyed him because they hadn’t announced themselves already, not because they belonged to a different group. So it’s likely that Justin was attacked by a Savior, or a former Savior. If I had to guess, I’d say that it might be Dwight (who hasn’t been seen since he went off looking for Sherry on Daryl’s orders) or Alden (who seems unhappy with current tensions). I’m not sure either one of them makes complete sense, but there are only so many people it could be. Regardless, Justin’s attack may be a decoy to hide the actions of the true villains this season, and as such, those missing people may be the most important part of the story right now.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, this episode’s No Man’s Land seasonal mission shows an alternate version, where Daryl and Aaron are fighting the herd attacking the bridge workers. Our World is highlighting Daryl this week, with special infestations, each giving Daryl cards. Additionally, Daryl has a new upgrade ability and does extra damage all week.
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