by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 1.
This episode begins with a mission to recover supplies from an underground military installation. It is in stark contrast to the opening scenes of episode 901, where Rick led a group of people to the Smithsonian to recover seeds and older technology, to help their communities thrive. Now, years later, the Alexandrians are back to scrounging for basic food supplies, rather than items to build the community. Alexandria’s situation is dire, and the group is forced to focus on the short term, rather than the long term, due to their current circumstances. It is this desperation that convinces some of the Alexandrians to accompany Maggie back to Meridian to re-take those resources that had been lost to the Reapers.
The title of this episode is Acheron: (Part I), likely referencing the River of Woe, which ran through the Underworld in Greek mythology. While Maggie’s group could be said to be literally walking through the land of the dead in the subway tunnel, Eugene’s group is also on their own ‘River of Woe’, scared of their captors and frightened of unknown ‘reprocessing’. While watching, I half-suspected that there might be an actual river, given Negan’s noting of the high water mark in the tunnel. Perhaps that is upcoming in next week’s episode (Acheron: Part II). Although, the positioning of all of the bagged corpses did not suggest that they had been floating periodically, which is at odds with the water mark as observed by Negan. Is that a clue, or a filming oversight?
A key conflict this episode was the animosity between Maggie and Negan. At first, Negan was accepting of Maggie’s hostility, and even the associated anger from her companions. When they shunned Negan, demeaned him, and bumped into him aggressively, he took it with as much grace as he seems to be capable. But when Negan’s observations and advice were ignored (especially after he had been brought along to give such advice), he understandably snapped. Everything Negan said was correct: they were in a dangerous situation, and Maggie had primarily brought Negan on this mission to die. Negan, while occasionally overconfident, has never been stupid, and he has had a realistic view of his situation ever since he was defeated by Rick at the end of the Savior War.
What surprised me was that Negan didn’t turn back, after he threatened that he would. I’m still not sure why he stayed, particularly as Gage and Roy seem to have snuck off without him. Of course, it’s possible that they were the victims of foul play, but given that they were the reluctant pair, it’s likely that they left of their own accord.
Of course, the big conflict at the end of the episode was shocking, because I (like many other viewers, I’m sure) was convinced that Negan would come back and offer Maggie a hand or a rope, or some such. Instead, it appears that he let her fall to her death, although I suspect that Maggie will come out of this alive. She’s a fighter, and Daryl and Dog are down there as well, so it’s very likely that Negan’s actions will come back to haunt him before long… possibly as soon as the next episode.
As Negan struggles for respect with Maggie’s group, Eugene has emerged as a leader in his group. Yumiko, Princess and Ezekiel want to break out, but won’t do so without Eugene’s agreement. He only concurs when it appears that people headed to ‘reprocessing’ are possibly being tortured. Yet unlike Maggie, he is willing to listen to everyone’s opinion, and is impressed when Princess reveals her analysis of the Commonwealth soldiers.
Princess’ breakdown of their captors is surprising, but fits in well with her character. Her mind flits around, constantly trying to interact with everything, much as a child with ADHD is constantly distracted by everything going on in the world. Yet this has allowed Princess to pick up information from small clues, piecing together a more complete picture than the others were able to create, yet one whose immediate value is recognized. Eugene, the group’s deep thinker, is impressed, and that is the biggest compliment to Princess’ skills.
For their part, the Commonwealth’s approach is understandable. It makes sense to separate newcomers and interrogate them as to their pasts and intentions, especially given the dangerous groups that have formed throughout the apocalypse. The Alexandrians did something similar (albeit in a nicer way) when Rick’s group first arrived, interviewing them and recording the results on video. During those interviews, Carol lied regarding her place in the group and her abilities, holding her cards close to the vest. With the Commonwealth, everyone is holding back the location of their settlement, and Ezekiel, in particular, is holding back the truth regarding his thyroid cancer. This makes sense, as it appears that the Commonwealth is very concerned with the state of the survivors’ health, and could easily send Ezekiel to ‘reprocessing’ if they feel that he is not worth the investment, due to a shortened lifespan. Unfortunately for Ezekiel, his intense and bloody coughing fit revealed his falsehood, confirming the auditors’ feelings that he was not telling the truth.
While perhaps not as shocking as Negan’s abandonment of Maggie, Yumiko discovering her picture on the wall of the lost was an even more important plot development. Her brother placed that picture on the wall, because he is a part of the Commonwealth. Realizing this, Yumiko changes her mind about leaving, and recognizes that she has to stay. It is clear that she will take on the role that Michonne played in the comic book series (Michonne was a lawyer pre-apocalypse and her daughter was living at the Commonwealth), as someone who has immediate ties to this new community. Viewers can expect this relationship to play a big part in upcoming episodes.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, this week’s Walking Dead: No Man’s Land season episode shows Maggie, Carol and Rosita breaking into the military base for supplies, while Walking Dead: Our World has an Acheron: Part I event where players can unlock the character of Mercer.
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