AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 9, Episode 1: “A New Beginning”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Angela Kang
* For a recap & review of the Season 8 finale, “Wrath” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Bridge” – click here
Alexandria has only gotten stronger since last we saw it.
We see Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) looking grey-bearded like those flash forwards last season, and Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) showing Judith how to paint on the front porch. The little girl draws pictures of their community, even one of her brother Carl.
At the Sanctuary, the crops aren’t great. Daryl (Norman Reedus) looks after things, though he’s got to stop a couple former Saviors like Justin (Zach McGowan) from putting up a walker scarecrow.
We get a look at Washington, too. The streets are crawling with the undead. Rick – with Lucille – and Michonne, along with Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Carol (Melissa McBride), and others, pass through the quiet streets. In the background stands the deteriorating Washington Monument.
Of note are the new opening credits for the show which are AMAZING! Angela Kang’s changing things on the show. Good idea, considering the cast losses after this season.
The group head inside one of the city’s museums. The main floor looks fine. The floor beneath is infested with hordes of walkers, and the upstairs doesn’t appear too great. Interesting how the downstairs has a MANIFEST DESTINY exhibit— an interesting mix of American history and fictional American future coming together. Another fantastic shot: Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) in front of an evolutionary chart after killing a walker and Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) remarks it’s the “de–evolution of man.” Also compelling to see Michonne stand in front of a piece about things that ‘shaped the nation,’ such as the Civil War. America’s hell.
We understand the group’s searching for items to help rebuild their society, from the seeds to a wagon and other items. Problem is, they’ve got to take that wagon over the museum’s sketchy glass floor. As they transport the last items the floor gives way. Ezekiel tumbles through, luckily hanging on by a rope and saved quickly. We see he and Carol are in a relationship when she embraces him afterwards. On the way out, the King asks Carol to marry him— she doesn’t exactly say no, neither does she say yes, and he loves her to death regardless.
The old wagon gets stuck in the mud briefly, and walkers begin crowding the road. The group get away from their messy situation before anything nasty happens. They still have a good bit of trouble and have to leave the wagon behind. A young man gets bit trying to free the horse, giving everyone their first tragedy in a while. Siddiq (Avi Nash) tries to help him, only it’s too late for any preventative measures: the kid dies. Never far from a reminder of mortality in this post-zombie apocalypse landscape.
Maggie (Lauren Cohan) puts the kid down before he’s able to reanimate. She has to go back and tell the parents, who are distraught at their loss. We’re starting to see what will likely lead to Maggie’s departure from The Walking Dead. She’s grappling with people depending on her and all the difficult decisions necessary to be a democratically nominated leader. Meanwhile, Gregory (Xander Berkeley) angles to someday get his spot back at Hilltop, leading the young guy’s funeral and trying to look good in front of everybody. Jesus (Tom Payne) wonders if perhaps the guy’s actually changing, too. He isn’t— Gregory is only doing what he has to so he might have power once more.
At the Sanctuary, Daryl and Michonne see graffiti suggesting just because Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) isn’t the big boss man anymore, people haven’t stopped believing in his ideology. Others are in awe of Rick – “That‘s the man that ended the war” – and willing to work with him.
Daryl tells Rick he doesn’t want to lead the Sanctuary, between shitty morale and a lack of good soil to grow crops, and he’s sure the place will crumble. He feels scattered from the rest of his people, as they’re all in different locations. Daryl also makes clear the reason things have changed is because of Rick, meaning former Sheriff Grimes has to be the one to control them in the aftermath. Later, Carol offers to take over the place, at least for a bit.
Gregory suggests to the grieving father there were issues with “those ballots” from the election because Jesus was the one counting results. He’ll do whatever he has to, no matter how snake-like, to rally people to his cause. Ironic he talks shit about Maggie and he was way worse because of his deal(s) with Negan.
In bed, Michonne asks Risk whether they should’ve killed Negan. She brings up the concept of “a charter” amongst the communities, to lay out the expected treatment and behaviour between the various places— a way to return to a real society again. Outside, Gregory tells Maggie somebody “defaced Glenn‘s grave.” Wanna bet it was him? She goes to check it out, where somebody attacks her, knocking tiny Hershel from his stroller. Enid (Katelyn Nacon) rushes in to help and they see it was the young dead man’s father. Maggie goes straight to Gregory, calling him out on his greasy bullshit. He tries stabbing her, then they struggle brutally. She gets the knife out of his hands, putting it to his throat. She doesn’t kill him. She’s a better person than he is, no matter if it’s a bad move.
Rick tells Maggie he wants her to come to Alexandria again— she stays away because of Negan. He needs help with a downed bridge, also asking for more food to send to the Sanctuary. Maggie wants to make a deal for fuel and manpower, which Rick doesn’t find reasonable. She’s learning to play hardball out of necessity, coming into her own as a leader, for better or worse.
That night, Maggie hands out punishment for Gregory. The man is put on a horse, a noose thrown around his neck, and he’s hanged for what he’s done. Daryl is the one to send the horse running, helping play executioner. And a couple of the kids of their community are witness to this capital punishment. Maybe things have changed in some ways. In others, they remain exactly the same.
Excellent premiere! Things are certainly moving in a new direction. Father Gore will always stick with The Walking Dead, but it’s nice to see there are different things happening. Kang’s always been good for the series, so it’s only proper she takes the reins and steers the ship in the best direction.
“The Bridge” is next time.