The Walking Dead’s new executive producer Angela Kang has heard fan complaints and seen the dwindling ratings. With Season 9’s kick-off no-so-subtly titled A New Beginning, there’s reasons to be hopeful that the show can regain some of its lost mojo.
For some reason, I really liked the new opening sequence. Maybe because it had more of an animated comic book feel to it?
It’s time for an Afternoon at the Museum and everyone’s invited. This massive supply run brought out most of the heavy hitters from Rick, Maggie, Daryl, Michonne, Ezekiel, Carol and even Gabriel.
Like a well-oiled machine, the crew makes its way through the museum gathering supplies and showing a sense of teamwork we haven’t seen since the early days. Even Anne, the Scavenger formerly known as Jadis is a valuable member of the squad. There was a fun scene with a spider filled walker surprising Siddiq. This was also a reminder of how bloated the cast is and there’s plenty of folks to kill off throughout this season.
Rick’s squad goals this time is to get a plow from the museum. There’s a little scare here as they have to navigate it over a glass floor where a slew of hungry walkers await. This was a nicely done dramatic sequence that was arguably done a bit too soon as there was no shot of losing anyone here.
Ezekiel crashes through, but the gang quickly reels him back up. The purpose of this wasn’t so much to create a scare that he would die, but to show Ezekiel and Carol are together. It’s about time. But not time for Carol to accept Ezekiel’s proposal. Carol just won’t let herself be happy in a relationship anymore, will she?
On the long road back, the plow gets stuck just as a new slew of walkers stumbles over. This wasn’t an overwhelming horde so it seemed weird that Rick didn’t just have Michonne and Daryl take them out. Instead, he calls for a retreat, but new recruit Ken (AJ Achinger) stops to free the horses. New guys amirite? Predictably, Ken gets bitten and dies. While Siddiq wastes time unspooling gauze, Rick and the others take out the walkers. Of course if they’d done that earlier idiot Ken would still be alive…
Eventually we learn this desperate gambit was all to help the good folks over at the Sanctuary. Nothing grows there and it’s a burden on the other communities, specifically The Hilltop to drain their resources for their former enemies. That makes for an interesting philosophical conflict as the war might be long over, but some of the tension and harsh feelings still remain.
At Sanctuary, Rick is greeted like a hero with former Saviors fanboy-ing out at his arrival. Daryl has been in charge of the place, but he’s grown tired of keeping them in line. He sees the hopelessness of the Sanctuary making the excellent point that even Negan needed people to give him stuff because it wasn’t sustainable. The graffiti calling for Negan’s return probably isn’t making Daryl feel too great either.
We get a small Easter Egg to Fear the Walking Dead as Daryl mentioned the big storm that knocked out most of the bridges. It’s too bad we can’t have more of those kind of connecting events to link the shows more often. Daryl misses the old tight knit group and isn’t a fan of this new age. It took just one Carol and Daryl conversation to remind me how much fun the old dynamic was with a handful of characters working together instead of communities. Carol offers to take his spot as leader likely to have some time away from Ezekiel.
The trip to the museum was enough to motivate Michonne to suggest the communities need a charter. Why they need a further sense of government is questionable since their unofficial alliance is working just fine.
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Ken was a member of Hilltop so Maggie takes his death hard. And not so shockingly, Gregory uses Ken’s death to sow more seeds of dissension. Gregory might have lost the election to determine Hilltop’s leader, but he’s still operating like a true snake ready to strike at the right moment. The good thing about Ken’s death is some time is spent on what his loss means particularly to his parents Earl (John Finn) and Tammy (Brett Butler). That makes Ken’s death more impactful than the typical red shirt.
Gregory tells Maggie someone defaced Glenn’s grave, but it’s a trap so Earl can try to kill her. Maggie survives and immediately comes for Gregory telling him you can’t even murder someone right. But in this conversation, Gregory sticks a verbal dagger in suggesting Maggie is just following Rick instead of being a leader for Hilltop. No one likes to be told they’re second fiddle even if it’s from a snake.
Rick wins the bad timing award as he visits Maggie to ask for more supplies for Sanctuary. But Maggie is done having The Hilltop used as a resource. If Sanctuary needs supplies and food they’re going to have to work for it. I’m fully with Maggie here as the Sanctuary can’t have a free ride while everyone else does all the hard work and sacrifice.
Fully committing to her no more BS mentality, Maggie does something she should have done a long time ago — killed Gregory. But not in the typical way. Maggie makes a public execution. It’s effective and her message is clear — don’t cross the (Hilltop) boss. Gregory worked to get killed and Maggie showed him way too much patience. This is how she handles traitors and it should be a lesson for everyone.
Easily the biggest issue with A New Beginning was the shadow of Andrew Lincoln’s departure and Lauren Cohan’s status. This budding Rick and Maggie tension already seems like the most interesting developing in the series since Negan first arrived. This is just the first episode of the season, but this seems like exactly the spark needed.
The only other gripe was the time jump seemed to ignore the earlier mutiny Maggie was planning with Daryl and Jesus. Presumably that got worked out, but now those earlier hard feelings are resurfacing. It will be interesting to see how they play out over the course of the season.
A New Beginning lived up to its billing and promise to shake up the stagnant Walking Dead formula. I’m looking forward to seeing how the tension and factions rise up to threaten the increasingly fragile peace that’s been established.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC