By: Casey Johnston (@DarthHockey)
WARNING: There are spoilers ahead for the latest episode of The Walking Dead.
Rick is Holding Things Together With Bubble Gum and Duct Tape
When we left The Walking Dead at the end of season 8, it looked like Rick was going to have a major mutiny on his hands. He had finally defeated the Saviors but some of his people were unhappy with him capturing Negan instead of killing him. This season premiere saw a significant time-jump (Maggie wasn’t even showing last year and now Little Herschel looks to be around a year old) and a change in the dynamics of the communities. Every group except the Saviors are rebuilding and thriving to the point where they can probably survive on their own if they had to. There are still plenty of understandably sour feelings towards the Saviors and as a result, the communities, especially Maggie and the Hilltop, are questioning why they’re continuing to prop up the people who spent so long terrorizing them.
Then we have some of the Saviors of the Sanctuary who are secretly hoping for the return of the old days of Negan. As was pointed out in this episode, they are living in a warehouse and they can’t grow their own crops to sustain themselves. That wasn’t a problem in the old days because they would just take whatever they wanted from other survivors. Now, that isn’t an option. They know their time is limited if they stay on Rick’s side.
This will certainly lead to an internal conflict for Rick. The people who surrendered to him are getting restless and his own people are questioning his decision to help the Saviors survive. As we know this is Andrew Lincoln’s last season as Rick, I have to wonder if his demise will come not from a walker but from a fight with his own people.
Maggie’s Leadership is Tested
After three seasons of tension between Maggie and Gregory, we finally got a conclusion to their rivalry. On one hand, things felt rushed as there was obviously plenty of off-screen development between these two characters; on the other hand, I’m glad things ended quickly because several times in this episode I found myself dreading the thought that things would drag out. The story wasn’t that interesting and it went on about two seasons too many. It was best to get it over with so we can move onto the other parts of the Hilltop storyline.
Other than the Maggie-Gregory story, something else we learned tonight at the Hilltop is that Maggie is facing some stiff opposition from people who are fed up with giving food and supplies to the Sanctuary. This had the potential to add some real conflict for Maggie from her own people, but given that she killed Gregory and then stood her ground with Rick, I think the writers will bypass any Hilltop conflict for Maggie and focus their time on fleshing out the drama between the two leaders (Andrew Lincoln has only five episodes remaining after tonight). If Rick isn’t killed by a walker then I’m putting Maggie at the top of my list of people who do him in.
Daryl Still Doesn’t Know his Place in This World and Neither Do We
Another episode, another tedious exploration of Daryl wanting to be part of the group but not wanting to be part of the group. As I wrote in the last section, Andrew Lincoln has five episodes left after tonight. After that, Daryl will be the leader of this show. The writers better figure out pretty quickly how to make him interesting again if they want to keep any of their viewers after this season. Speaking for myself and the few friends I have that are still watching this show, I’ve stuck around this long because of Rick. So many of the other characters are bland and/or inconsistently written. Rick (and also Negan) has been the only one with a focused and logical story that was interesting even when the character was unsure where he was going. The writers need to change that and tighten things up by the end of this season.
What I Want Out of This Season
While I can honestly say I mostly still like this show, I’ve haven’t been shy about expressing my feelings about the parts I don’t like. All I want out of this season is a solid story and a great exit for Andrew Lincoln and his character, Rick Grimes. For many of us, his exit will be a series finale. I want him to go out in a way that rewards the viewers for sticking around for nine seasons when many people started checking out after season three. Please, whatever the writers do, just don’t phone this one in. That’s all I want for these final episodes.
Thanks for reading!