The Walking Dead Season 9 – Part 1 Review

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Now I normally split Walking Dead seasons into pre-Christmas and post-Christmas, but given the well-publicised (and therefore fair game to talk about in the pre-spoiler section) exit of Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes in Episode 5, and how much of a shift will come from it from Episode 6 onwards, I thought it would make far more sense to split the series here. So with that being said, how was the exit of the series’ main character? Well…

Synopsis:

Eighteen months after Negan’s defeat, the various communities are working on rebuilding society, however, the Sanctuary suffers from infertile ground and underlying support for Negan. Meanwhile Rick leads a trek to a Washington, D.C. museum to recover pioneering supplies…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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One last macho showdown…

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) – Rick has been happily leading the Alexandria part of the surviving civilization, all while overseeing the different communities and their efforts to rebuild a more peaceful life… Sadly, in this world, that peace will be hard to maintain…

Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan) – Maggie has been thinking about finding and killing Negan for 18 months now. She still hasn’t gotten over seeing her husband get brutally murdered in front of her eyes, and she feels she won’t ever get over it until the man responsible is just as dead…

Michonne (Danai Gurira) – Michonne has found a sense of peace these last 18 months, in a strong relationship with Rick and acting as Judith’s mother. Still, somewhere deep inside, she misses the chaos and the violence…

Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) – Daryl is very much on the side of “we should have killed all the Saviors, especially Negan”, but he has kept himself back these past 18 months, even leading the Sanctuary in his old nemesis’ stead. Having said that, being a leader just isn’t his thing…

Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) – Carol is starting to finally relax and even possibly start a relationship with Ezekiel… Not she has dropped her guard in any way…

Ezekiel (Khary Payton) – Ezekiel, or King Ezekiel, is the leader of what’s left of the Kingdom settlement. He is in love with Carol and wishes to marry her one day…

Negan (Jeffery Dean Morgan) – Negan formally led the largest and deadliest group of survivors, the Saviors. Now he is sitting in a small prison in the middle of Alexandria, living proof that society is starting to reform once again…

Paul “Jesus” Rovia (Tom Payne) – Jesus is generally against killing, apart from killing the undead or self-defense, although he is, for some reason, on board with killing Negan instead of seeing him rot in prison…?

Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) – Eugene had temporarily betrayed everyone and went to the Saviors, but he betrayed them in the other survivors’ greatest time of need, so he’s back in the fold…

Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam) – Father Gabriel had once betrayed his faith (though to be fair that was at the height of the zombie apocalypse) but he has found God once again, even if it came at the cost of one of his eyes…

Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) – Formerly the leader of the simple-speaking junkyard people who once betrayed everyone, is now a member of the survivors… though, rightfully when you think about it, most people don’t trust her.

Plus more!

The Good:

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He’s fine, really. Just a flesh wound…?

Alright, well… let’s start at the obvious and talk about Rick Grimes. He’s settled in with Michonne and Judith, and although he clearly thinks about and misses his son greatly, he has moved on and is still generally looked at as the defacto leader of the survivors. The group consisting of former Saviors becomes unruly, including during an inter-community effort to build a bridge to make exchanging supplies easier. He and Daryl get into another fight when it becomes clear to Rick that he’s being led away from Alexandria so Maggie can get to Negan. During this all hell breaks loose at the camp where the bridge is being built and Rick tries to lead a horde of zombie away on his literal white horse.

Sadly for him, at the end of Episode 4, his horse bucks and he ends up impaled on a metal barb. This leads to Episode 5, where he very slowly heads back to the bridge site, hallucinating about people from the series’ past (including Shane and Herschel, which was good fun) before blowing up the bridge he worked so hard to make in order to keep the herd away from everyone else. This is the kicker though, everyone assumes he’s dead but he ends up being saved by a fleeing Anne via the strange helicopter people that have been referenced many times over the last few seasons. So this is Rick’s last story in the main series, but apparently his actual end will be across three TV movies set where ever he’s going to end up. Interesting, and it was a dramatic final episode with some great call backs, but I am a little disappointed at how prolonged his actual end is going to be…

A further shocker came immediately after, as we do a time skip of SIX YEARS and see an older Judith save a bunch of fleeing survivors. This is actually the main reason I’m splitting Season 9 here, as a time jump of six years is more significant than just “the season was split by Christmas, so that’s how I’ll do it”, especially as no running storyline has been created yet (and now we know why…) It’s be interesting to see the world so far along, though how there are still fleeing survivors and roaming undead in the area where trained pros have been settled for coming up to a decade I have no idea…

As for other things, there was Maggie nearly being killed thanks to a plot by former Hilltop leader Gregory, which then leads to a straight up hanging of the nasty bastard. Some people give her stick for that, but at one point he literally tries to stab her in her office, so… I think given the circumstances it made sense not to keep him around…

Negan really shone as well, trying to convince Michonne that she was just like him in how losing close family drove them to becoming more violent and even liking the act of killing the undead, not to mention when Maggie arrived. She arrived ready to kill him, and after a year and a half of prison, Negan was ready and willing to be killed. He goaded her to do it, but eventually, when she hesitated, he broke down and begged to be killed so he can join his wife, which only served to show Maggie that he was experiencing a far worse fate that if she actually killed him. Great stuff.

There were a few instances of Saviors being killed by members of other communities, and people like Maggie and Daryl allowing it to happen. It’s a good debate, really, about the whole right for forgiveness / due trial compared to “we’re barely surviving as it is, I don’t want to hang out with some people who delighted in murdering our loved ones”. Ezekiel and Carol make a cute couple and it was nice to see Carol happy again, and nice guy Aaron lost one of his arms when a former Savior ran off in fear while they were together pushing a large log up a slope.

That was it though, it was all about giving Rick a send-off and then leaping towards the future. It was actually full of good dialogue, believable characters and generally well-paced towards a central goal. Now it was only five episodes, so it’s too early to say the show is back on fine form when a next longer arc could still fall flat on its face again, but I was happy with this…

The Bad:

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That’s Negan in a cell, incase you can’t tell due to how dark it is…

Not a lot, really, apart from the “to be continued later” aspect of Rick’s departure being a bit of a slap in the face, as well done as it was. I’m not convinced by the flash-forward either, given it looked like society was exactly the same, with groups of people fleeing zombies, despite all that’s gone on with community building… Still, that’s not really this chunk of episodes’ fault…

Overall Thoughts:

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Apparently this is Maggie’s last appearance this season as well…

A good send-off for Rick, though technically it was even a send-off, and some good dramatic moments held this five episode arc in place well. I’m not sure how to take the large jump forward in time, but I’m willing to give it a shot. Either way, this was a good bit of telly!

4 Star Watch

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