by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 1.
The Walking Dead has returned and the premiere episode of season 10 literally burned up the screen! Exaggeration aside, this episode was a great start to the season. It was a reminder of the rising conflict with the Whisperers last season, while at the same time escalating tensions over the intervening months since episode 916 took place. There was character development and humor, and the viewers got to touch base, at least briefly, with most of the major and secondary characters. Viewers enjoyed walker-killing action and the crisis event of the forest fire, and to top it all off, there was a reminder of civilization-past in the form of something literally falling out of the sky.
Of course, the theme underlying the entire episode was the Whisperers. While no one knows what has happened to the Whisperers, everyone knows what they have done, and the threat that they represent. Negan clearly sees the coming impact of that threat, and how it will affect the Alexandrians, although he doesn’t exactly do the best job in communicating this to Father Gabriel. Yet he has a point: the only thing to fear is fear itself. If Alpha can instill terror in the Alexandrians, she has the upper hand and calls all of the shots. But if the ‘civilized’ people feel in control and are prepared to handle things, they are much more likely to win any upcoming conflict. Aaron is a great example of this concept: stupidly running in when he heard a noise, never thinking that the danger might be more than he anticipated. Michonne deservedly reamed him out for it, reminding him that they have to think about what they are doing, even if they are ‘the good guys’. I thought the show did a good job of addressing the ‘everyone is a hero in their own story’ concept, which was definitely a strong component of the war with the Saviors. Yet Michonne made a good point when she insisted that there were lines they wouldn’t cross.
Thinking about the upcoming conflict, I really enjoyed the training exercises shown at the beginning of the episode. Clearly, Team Michonne (RIP Team Rick) is developing tactics for dealing with walkers who might also be Whisperers, holding the group together and attacking from a distance. Interestingly, the same tactics would work well for a group of people surrounded by a herd of normal walkers. And you never know, this season viewers might get to see exactly that.
Of course, the only Whisperer conflict this episode was the fear of what happens when they cross the border into Whisperer territory. There was the suspicion that Alpha’s group might not even be there, or that they might not realize that the incursions had occurred, but of course the end of the episode threw that into high gear, with Alpha walking out to see Carol standing on the cliff. Michonne referred to Alpha’s ‘nuclear weapon’ herd that she could unleash on Alexandria, and presumably that is still around… somewhere. You would think that the Alexandrians and Hilltoppers might have looked for it over the winter when the Whisperers were gone to take it out. But apparently that didn’t happen. Did Alpha take her massive herd with her?
We know from last season that Alpha is not mentally stable. She will definitely react to Carol’s presence in her territory, but how she reacts is yet to be seen. However, the big question in my mind is why Carol wasn’t reacting. She had her bow and arrows with her; why didn’t she try to take a shot at Alpha? Perhaps it was too far away? Yet it looked like Carol could make it, and she probably should have attempted it at least. Still, that wouldn’t do much for the storyline, so Carol simply stood there while Alpha glared.
Carol’s state of mind was definitely a topic for discussion this episode. In the comics, Michonne left King Ezekiel, with whom she had been having a relationship, because she couldn’t handle her emotional issues from the aftermath of the war with the Saviors, and the fear that she might lose her lover. So instead, she shut herself off and went to sea, spending months away on a boat so that she wouldn’t have to face him. In the television show, Carol takes on this role, hiding herself away at sea rather than facing her (ex)husband, running from the emotional turmoil she had felt since Henry’s death. She seems to be over that now, yet she still does not want to return to society. She brushed off Ezekiel’s attempt to reconnect with her at the dock in an almost painful fashion, chasing after Daryl instead. In season 9 she found Daryl living in solitude in the woods, asking him to come back to society for her. Now she is doing the opposite, asking Daryl to leave that same society and run away with her, on a boat, on a bike… she doesn’t care. Carol has come full circle, moving away from her happy life with the King and a community, to wanting to isolate herself, possibly with Daryl.
Yet Daryl is not without his own issues. It appears that he and Connie have gotten closer, judging by his attempts to learn sign language and Dog’s friendliness toward her. While Daryl may want Carol to stick around (he did make her a friendship bracelet, after all), he also has emotionally invested himself in Connie. I am guessing that this agonizing love quadrangle will not be resolved as amicably as the one revolving around Rosita, although with the possible addition of Michonne into the mix (season 10 trailers showed Michonne kissing the King) there may be hurt feelings on the horizon.
Ah yes, Rosita… her home life bears a strong resemblance to Three Men and A Baby. One woman, one baby girl and 3 father figures, each of them taking on a prominent role in their own way. I laughed watching Eugenius (Love that nickname!) charting Baby Coco’s growth, bowel movements, tantrums and smiles. She must provide a fascinating study subject for him, tied up as he is emotionally with her mother. And I nearly fell on the floor when Eugene tried to catch a glimpse of Rosita nursing! You know that’s got to be one awkward household.
We also got to see a little of how Lydia is adapting to a ‘civilized’ life, and not unexpectedly, she’s having mixed results. She seems to be interacting well enough with others, yet struggling with things the others take for granted, such as learning to read and using a weapon. But having lived with the Alexandrians for months, it is extremely unlikely that she would want to go back to her mother now. She’s on Team Michonne, for better or worse. Or is that Team Negan? I found it interesting, yet satisfying, that Lydia would make friends with Negan, given that they are both semi-outcasts in the community. Negan was farming tomatoes, just as he had in Carl’s vision of the future. And he seems to enjoy that role, although the other Alexandrians are still a little bit afraid of him, as could be seen when his guard almost reluctantly addressed Negan as ‘Sir’.
Although he is still something of a minor character, I was pleased to see the evolution of Luke in this episode. He looks to have slimmed down and become more active, although he is still wearing a blazer, hinting at his more ‘civilized’ personality. Yet he was interacting with the others and flirting with Jules, a new character who is a resident of Oceanside. Luke (along with Magna, Yumiko, Connie and Kelly) appears to have fully integrated into the community.
One thing about The Walking Dead is the large number of recurring characters, so many that sometimes it is difficult to follow them all. Still, the advantage in that large cast is in seeing so many familiar faces in the background, such as Jerry, Henry, Earl, Laura and Dianne. It gives a sense of continuity and familiarity when watching scenes such as everyone fighting the fire.
While the downed satellite wasn’t a major issue this episode, other than being the cause of the forest fire, I suspect that the technology Eugene scavenges from within could prove to be significant. If I had to guess, based on my knowledge of the comics, I would think that Eugene will use the transmission equipment inside to increase the power and range of his radio, allowing the garbled contact from the unknown group at the end of season 9 (possibly the Commonwealth from the comics, or the Helicopter People) to become stronger and clearer.
One thing is for certain: this episode reminded viewers of the Whisperer conflict and laid the groundwork for some interesting plotlines. Let’s hope that showrunner Angela Kang continues to turn this show around and delivers on the high level of promise in this premiere episode. I know that I’m looking forward to the rest of the season!
Once again, the AMC Walking Dead mobile games are celebrating the new season with special missions. Walking Dead: No Man’s Land features Michonne this week, with a special mission as Michonne, Carol and Daryl put out the remaining spot fires in the forest, while at the same time dealing with the remnants of the herd. Walking Dead: Our World also features Michonne missions all week, where players can earn extra Michonne cards to upgrade the character.
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