Who Are You Now? established The Walking Dead’s dramatically different status quo. While some things changed (talking walkers) others like bada$$ Carol and Michonne remain the same. There was a lot to unravel here so let’s break it all down.
Michonne hasn’t given up. Six years have passed since the incident at the bridge and the ‘death’ of Rick Grimes. Through a montage we see how things have changed.
For those worried that Judith (Cailey Fleming) was just running free and loose without any supervision, she’d just ran off from her group, which included Aaron, Rosita and Laura. Maybe the biggest surprise of this scene was that Eugene was the one killing the straggling walkers. Aaron was reluctant to bring these new strangers to Alexandria until Judith pulled a power play.
If I had one concern this episode it was that Judith will become the plucky adorable kid sitcoms add when they’re long in their run to add a cuteness factor. That Judith brought her precociousness to every scene was a little worrisome. The established rules shouldn’t change randomly because Judith starts reminding everyone she’s a Grimes. Judith’s best scene by far was her conversation with Michonne when she revealed she knows Michonne still talks to Carl and Rick and she hopes Michonne can hear them as she’s starting to forget their voices.
In another shocker, Negan has remained in prison all this time. Judith comes by to visit him every so often, but has inherited everyone’s leeriness of him to a certain extent. Negan seems happy to have the company. I don’t know if long-term — even six years later — keeping Negan locked up is the best use of the character. It seems like the interactions with him and other characters will be forced if he’s imprisoned all season.
The newcomers — Magna (Nadia Hilker), Luke (Dan Fogler), Connie (Lauren Ridloff), Kelly (Angel Theory) and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) — are amazed at Alexandria, which has been rebuilt and better than ever. Michonne isn’t thrilled to see the new group, but agrees with Gabriel’s suggestion to let the council decide their fate.
I’ve finally gotten around to playing The Walking Dead: A New Frontier so the idea of a council is pretty interesting. Gabriel, Siddiq, Aaron, Michonne and Laura are on the council. Although head of security, Michonne seems to be the leader. In a nicely cut segment introducing us further to the newcomers, we’re told their past in quick fashion. Luke seems to be one of the more sensible, regular guys we’ve seen in the series in years. And he’s quietly got a good sense of humor to provide this season with a Hurley type character.
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The Walking Dead has always been one of the more diverse shows in TV so it’s exciting to see the inclusion of Ridloff, who has been deaf since birth. Kelly has a rough edge, but doesn’t seem like she’s trying to be tough and Magna is very mysterious. Michonne isn’t a fan and outs that Magna was also in prison for years. The hits keep coming as Michonne also reveals Magna was concealing a knife in her belt buckle. That’s not a good way to earn trust.
It’s enough for the council to decide against letting them stay in Alexandria. In a far too mature for this series move, the council doesn’t let them stay and Luke and company recognize their screw up and prepare their next move. Magna wants to be Wonder Woman and take on everyone.
She tracks down Michonne’s house ready to do something with a knife hidden in Yumiko’s necklace until she sees Michonne playing with RJ, her son. Is this Rick’s kid or did Michonne meet and have a baby with someone else? And what’s with the X brand on Michonne’s back? Magna hands over the knife necklace and this act of contrition was enough for Michonne to have a change of heart. No, this crew can’t stay at Alexandria, but maybe they can have a home at Hilltop.
Carol’s let her hair grow out and has settled down into married life with Ezekiel. They’re raising Henry (Matt Lintz) as their son while The Kingdom has seen better days and is in a constant state of disrepair. Ezekiel seems to be the only one who misses the old days when the three communities were full partners. I was admittedly impatient about learning whatever incident/incidents led to the eroding of the alliance and the heightened paranoia among the communities.
Henry is a man now — or at least at that awkward teenage phase where he thinks he’s a man. He’s ready to strike out on his own. It was funny hearing Ezekiel sound a lot like Uncle Owen in trying to find ways to keep him at the Kingdom/farm.
Eventually Carol breaks through to him and Ezekiel lets Henry go to Hilltop. Queen or not, Carol still has her independence and breaks off from the plan to travel somewhere else. Maybe to meet up with an old hermit friend? Who knows as Henry hears a cry for help and immediately rushes off to save the day. It was a trap set up by a Saviors faction led by Jed. In exchange for sparing his life all those years ago, Jed lets them live, but he wants their supplies…and Carol’s wedding ring.
Predictably, Henry gets beaten down trying to help, but his words stick with Carol. Proving she’s hardly gotten soft with married life/parenthood, Carol returns to the Saviors’ camp and takes back everything and burns Jed and company. It was the kind of decisive action we haven’t seen from characters in the show in a while.
Maybe it was cruel and unnecessary, but Jed and the Saviors had a long time to get their act together. They weren’t going to change being trash so Carol turned them to ash. Henry notices Carol has her ring back, but doesn’t say anything as they spot Daryl making his way back home. Daryl has become the Obi-Wan Kenobi hermit-like character, but Henry won’t get a better tutor in the art of survival than the Lone Wolf.
In the last surprise, Gabriel has now struck up a romance with Rosita. This pairing is even more unexpected than him and Jadis/Anne. Good for you Gabriel! The only person not too happy with it is Eugene, who’s been holding onto a crush on Rosita for at least a decade now. He agrees to go with her to set up a relay box to try and reach more stragglers. This seems like a bad idea. Has reaching out to strangers ever benefited anyone in this series?
Eugene is finishing the relay tower when he spots a herd in the distance and in his rush to get down, he badly injures his knee. This doesn’t make for a quick escape. Rosita won’t give up on him though and they frantically try to get away hiding along a riverbed while the walkers lurch on by. In hindsight, I wish last week’s what’s coming up teaser didn’t reveal that the walkers are now starting to talk as it spoiled some of the impact of this big moment.
Still, talking walkers?!?!? That’s a crazy development. Does that mean some walkers are evolving at a faster rate than others? Could there be walker leaders emerging?
Who Are You Now? opened up a slew of new possibilities as the series heads towards its winter break.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: AMC