REVIEW: The Walking Dead, S9 Ep1 – A New Beginning

The Walking Dead, S9 Ep1 – A New Beginning

The Walking Dead began its ninth season with a world seemingly at peace but with tensions brewing beneath just beneath the surface. Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Sanctuary have been living in seeming harmony for the last eighteen months but with limited resources and an undercurrent of resentment, something is bound to break.

The Walking Dead, S9 Ep1 – A New BeginningThe show begins on a refreshingly happy note, with everyone alive and well, working together, harvesting crops, sharing responsibilities, and generally functioning like a proper community. It was heartening to see Rick and Michonne living their best lives, a rare picture of domestic bliss, which, when one considers that this is all setting up Rick’s eventual exit, already adds a shadow of tragedy to the whole proceeding.

The gang’s all here from Father Gabriel to Jadis (now no longer talking like a trash person). Since the Saviors’ surrender, Daryl seems to be managing that group, albeit with great reluctance. Zach McGowan (Black Sails, The 100) is one of the Saviors though we’re only meeting him now. You don’t cast someone like McGowan without giving him a significant role, even in a cast as large as that of The Walking Dead. I’m still not sure what he’s meant to do but I sense he might be trouble.

The Walking Dead, S9 Ep1 – A New BeginningCarol and King Ezekiel are together and they are adorable. After a close shave in the museum, Carol makes no secret of her affection for the king. And he even proposes! But Carol is in no rush to be the new queen. She shares a tender moment talking to Daryl about all this, a testament to their profound friendship. (I used to be an avid Caryl shipper but I also like Carol with Ezekiel and I’m glad the show hasn’t forgotten about her connection with Daryl.)

There was a great new setting as the group explores a museum in D.C. to try and find some primitive farming equipment. It’s interesting to see how they are learning to use tools and methods from the past to build a more sustainable future.

The museum mission comes at a price with Ezekiel’s almost death and the actual death of one of Maggie’s constituents, a kid we’ve only just met but whose demise triggers a chain of events that will impact the rest of the season, particularly in relation to Maggie’s arc.

The Walking Dead, S9 Ep1 – A New BeginningShe might seem content to be the duly elected leader of the Hilltop with her adorable baby, Hershel (named after her late father), but she has not forgotten all the horrors she has had to suffer. I’m surprised, frankly, she let Gregory live for this long, considering what a conniving little weasel he has been from the beginning. So it was inevitable that he would conspire against her somehow, leading Maggie to take drastic measures to make an example of him. It’s extreme and harsh (and not for the kids) and while Gregory had to go, this particular punishment and Rick’s request about the Saviors are the beginning of a deeper feud.

But this is The Walking Dead so conflict is never far behind and this premier is certainly setting up some of the internal struggles even if there are undoubtedly some external threats just around the corner. The last season ended with Maggie, Daryl, and Jesus conferring and disapproving of Rick’s decision to spare Negan, considering what the latter had done to them all. As jarring as this writing choice was, the writers of season nine will now have to make it work somehow. And so far it looks like the three coup leaders set aside their resentment for a year and a half, perhaps biding their time until an opportune moment. And with Gregory’s execution and the tensions in the Sanctuary, things have been set into motion towards a momentous clash between those currently in authority, one that will surely leave heavy casualties.

The Walking Dead introduced us to a new world but it is clear from this opening chapter that the eighteen months of peace and prosperity were simply the calm before a great storm, one that will presumably take Rick Grimes down in its wake.