Season nine began with hope and promise for this new world that Rick Grimes and company were building in the aftermath of the war with Negan. It was a great new restart and beginning for the long-running series, but as we all knew and the last parts of the episode proved things could not and would not stay peaceful for long. It is a drama series about the world after an apocalypse after all. Human beings, even in our non-apocalyptic world, can only behave and stay peaceful for so long before tempers begin to flare and issues arise.
Unlike the last few seasons which dragged out the timeline in many cases because naturally they were focused on a small time period, this season already isn’t waiting around. After jumping ahead like a year and a half between season eight and nine, the second episode of the season jumps ahead well over a month since the last one and while things are going smoothly in some ways they are falling apart in others. A large workforce mostly made of Saviors, and a lot of the cast that we’ve known and followed, have built a large camp and have made great strides on repairing the bridge they found broken last week. Working conditions are fair but the tensions go from simmering to boiling over as one of the Saviors attacks Carol’s favorite Kingdom kid Benjamin and Darryl goes off on him. Also turns out that a bunch of Saviors are seemingly going AWOL, but many have families and reasons to go back to Sanctuary but aren’t ending up there. Cue the ominous feeling that someone is going all Punisher on the former folks of Negan.
Despite all the terrible nature of things, including the gruesome and horrible injury and amputation that Aaron (Ross Marquand) had to go through in the episode thanks to a Savior mess up and a zombie herd, there is still that bright new sheen around the season from the last episode. There is hope behind all the tensions and problems. After keeping Ed in prison for a month after he attacked her, Maggie finally sees the light and agrees to Michonne’s words of trying to find common laws for all the communities, because she realizes that Ed like her father used to be a drunk and deserves a second chance like Herschel was given. Friendships and relationships are born in this new world, including Jadis/Anne and Father Gabriel (didn’t see that one coming) and Carol seemingly finally accepting Ezekiel’s marriage proposal (or just trying the ring on as she states). There is levity and fun in the episode as Ezekiel is all bummed out that Carol won’t let him kneel cause he had a whole speech ready to go (that is so Ezekiel) or when Tara changes Rick’s codename to Mother Goose just for the heck of it. This levity surrounds the somewhat grimmer realities of the world the characters are in and keeps the show from feeling too down as many accurately pointed out it was the past couple seasons.
Aaron losing his arm was a pretty shocking moment, as it was not the sort of thing that had happened to anyone in some time but there had been warnings that there could be big changes coming for the regular cast. Not just the departures of Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan. Despite the positivity around other areas, this moment goes back to something that the show did well in previous times where even in the best moments we had to live with the fact that no one is safe. If Rick is likely going to die (there are reports that there are plans for Maggie in season ten meaning she’s not likely to die) then anything can happen in season nine. Having the show in this place where it’s following some bits of the comics but is truly in a place where anything is possible is a great spot. It’s brought back the feelings that were there in previous better received seasons.
I truly hope that Michonne accomplishes her mission to build a new Constitution or similar style of document/agreement that places common laws on the world, because Maggie’s dour and somewhat selfish (understandably so though) attitude along with that of Darryl and some others are ones that if they continue it will only spell disaster for the crew. Something which Negan seems to echo in his words to Rick when he visits him in prison. Speaking of Negan, while I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan and I love the path that Negan takes in the comics I’m not sure if I want him around post-Rick’s departure. I have no idea who he could bounce off of the same way that he does Andrew Lincoln/Rick since many of the other big-time characters want to see him dead or would be likely to just kill him if things took a turn. It’ll definitely be interesting to see.
Just like the first episode, this one just works because it feels like The Walking Dead still but also feels new. There are new relationships, new worries, new issues and other new things to deal with alongside the baggage of the past and the typical worries such as walkers and human being caused drama. Seeing more levity and fun interspersed with the grim like the old days is a welcome return, following the dourer last few seasons. While I understand his reasons, the rebirth of this series and the strides it is making makes me sad that Andrew Lincoln/Rick are on the way out very very soon (reports are by the fifth episode it’ll happen). Through all that he has done, Rick really deserves to keep seeing the better world he has helped build flourish. Despite all that, can’t wait to see what comes next this season which is a nice feeling to have again.
Score: 9 out of 10