It’s time for the final Part 1 review of a season of The Walking Dead, well that’s currently airing anyway (I will go back to do the older seasons on this blog at some point…) Much to my surprise these eight episodes have had a really high hit rate, with some standout episodes reaching a real pre-Rick’s-death high. Sadly the parts of these episodes I didn’t like are the parts that are setting up the next and final story arc, so that doesn’t bode well for the other two thirds, but hey-ho… Let’s look at Part 1, shall we?
With Alexandria’s food supply dwindling, Maggie leads a team (among them Daryl, Gabriel, Alden, and Negan) to scavenge Meridian, a place where she lived prior to returning to Alexandria. Elsewhere, Eugene, Ezekiel, Yumiko and Princess are interrogated by auditors of the Commonwealth…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
The first time Maggie considers killing Negan… Certainly not the last though!
The core storyline that ran through most of these eight episodes were thankfully the highlight and a real return to form for the series. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) leads a group of Alexandria survivors to her old haunt that was lost to a group of wandering mercs called the Reapers. Her group includes Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who may be redeemed in most people’s eyes but to Maggie is still the man who brutally murdered her husband, so the two are slow to get along, let’s put it that way. While crossing an old abandoned subway Negan’s doubts in her strategy lead to the two verbally debating and Maggie flat out saying that she’d kill Negan at the drop of a hat. Later as the group is split and entering an old subway car to escape Negan sees Maggie trying to get up to the train’s roof and walks away instead of helping her, wearing a straight face while doing it. She of course survives and pops up later, hitting Negan and asking him why to which he replies “a few minutes ago you said you have no issues killing me, why would I keep you around?” which is fair enough, really. Once again Negan is the highlight here, even saying how if he could do it all over again he’d kill every last one of them rather than just Glen, which when asked by Maggie why on Earth he’d say that to her, he simply replied that he was being honest and that he cared for a lot of people they killed to start the whole incident off.
Eventually the two find common ground when the aforementioned Reapers reappear and kill some just-introduced members of the survivors and send the rest running. Negan and Maggie eventually end up using the Whisperers tactic of dressing up like a zombie and herding them towards the Reaper’s base / Maggie’s old home to clear them out and get their food. During this Daryl (Norman Reedus) joins the Reapers in order to save his life and finds out that one of the Reapers is Leah (Lynn Collins), the girl he had a thing for in the previous filler-rific third part of Season 10. Not much to say here, though their leader, “Pope” (Ritchie Coster), was a good crazy religious type. The Negan and Maggie led zombie siege ends this third on a cliffhanger as the remaining Reapers (Leah killed Pope but then betrayed Daryl right afterwards) launch a good old fashioned Korean hwacha’s worth of arrows at the herd…
Now that there is a classic horror perspective shot!
Another standout episode was Episode 6, “On the Inside”, which saw deaf survivor Connie (Lauren Ridloff) meet up with driven-insane survivor Virgil (Kevin Carroll) and the two end up in a classic haunted house-like … house, and get stalked by a family that had been driven so mad they walked on all fours and acted like feral beasts. There were some good old-fashioned jump scares and Connie’s disability led to some unnerving POV shots where there no sounds playing at all.
I’ll also give a brief mention to the previous episode to that, titled “Out of the Ashes”, which featured Carol (Melissa McBride), Aaron (Ross Marquand) and others head to the ruins of the Hilltop settlement to reclaim some supplies and encounter a few straggling Whisperers who were trying to meek out a living for themselves. Aaron ends up torturing one of them before being warned by Carol about going too far, eventually letting them go.
How can something with cool soldiers in armour be so unendingly dull?
The main “bad” about this third of episodes was the stuff set at the Commonwealth, the massive settlement using large parts of a West Virginian city as their main base that Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) and Princess (Paola Lazaro) were taken too at the end of the previous set of episodes. I get the appeal of the large settlement that has managed to reclaim most of the old ways of society, including electricity, food manufactory (right up to ice creams and cakes!) and so on, but it just didn’t feel right, nor was it particularly exciting or even that interesting. Lots of legal loopholes, some super-stuck-up prick that is apparently the son of the Commonwealth leader and frankly the characters we see enter aren’t the most interesting ones from the main cast either.
The fact that I know the Commonwealth story is the one that ended the comics it’s clear that once this Reaper side-step is done, which will be presumably the start of the next episode, we’ll then head into the TV version of the comic storyline, no doubt with some changes but frankly these episodes haven’t exactly made me excited to see it. All the best moments in these episodes were away from the Commonwealth, so it becoming the focus is rather worrying, frankly…
Also there were a few storylines set in Alexandria involving the wall breaking and towards the end a zombie siege on a house containing a few survivors, Judith (Cailey Fleming) included, that frankly weren’t that interesting, probably once again due to immersion-breaking child acting, sadly, though this time Judith was the least offensive of the bunch, even if she still wasn’t that great…
It’s the Reapers in their one and only appearance on this blog, but hey-ho. At least they didn’t overstay their welcome…
These eight episodes are a return to form for the series, the whole Maggie-Negan storyline and the battle against the Reapers was extremely fun to follow. A few good stand-alone stories help as well, though all the scenes dealing with the Commonwealth took the wind out of the show’s sails, sadly… which is rather damning for the next two thirds of the final season… Still! Season 11 Part 1 gets a good score from me!