The world of The Walking Dead is different now, as evidenced by the title of the season 9 premiere, “A New Beginning.” It’s a new beginning on a show level — the producers and cast have spent some time promising the show will return to its roots — and a new beginning on a character level. The Negan war is over for the first time in two seasons (or has it been longer? It sure feels longer). And after such a laborious war, is long-lasting peace even attainable?
The original group — the architects of this new collective society — are together, except that they’re not. Rick continues to run Alexandria with Michonne and a now talkative toddler, Judith, by his side; Maggie was democratically voted leader of the Hilltop by her people; Daryl is in charge of running the Sanctuary, though he pines for the days of roaming the wild with a small, loyal group; Carol shacked up (romantically speaking) with King Ezekiel at the Kingdom; and the others are sprinkled about the colonies, including Oceanside, as generals, keepers of the peace, and general support.
At it’s best, this world resembles Carl’s utopian vision of the future. But, as with any war’s aftermath, wounds that were left untreated begin to fester. A trip to Washington, D.C. to retrieve more supplies and a touch base at the Sanctuary reveals peace is already beginning to unravel.
The core group and additional citizens from various colonies (including Anne/Jadis, so Negan must be locked away somewhere close) venture to a museum to gather packets of seeds, a plow, and a new carriage for their horse-powered vehicles. There was a tense moment when Ezekiel fell through the glass floor and dangled over a pit of walkers for a moment, but he’s fine. Someone who wasn’t fine, though, was a young stableboy from Hilltop, Ken.
On their way back, Rosita rolls up to relay that a herd collapsed the main bridge, so the group splits off to get Maggie back to Hilltop (where her newborn baby Hershel is waiting) and deliver the supplies to the Sanctuary, which is still struggling to get back on its feet. Along the way, the new carriage gets stuck in mud, and while they push it out, they’re set upon by wild walkers, one of which kills Ken as he’s trying to save his horse.
Maggie travels back to Hilltop to inform his parents, Tammy and Earl, whose anti-Sanctuary sentiments come out in the midst of grief. There seems to be a growing frustration over Maggie’s leadership. Although the groups are supposed to be working together in this time of peace, most of the scavenged supplies are going to the Sanctuary, which prompts some resentments from the Hilltoppers who fought to free themselves of Sanctuary rule. As the grieving parents note, Gregory, who’s still scheming, always maintained a “Hilltop first” mentality. (Sound familiar?)
Some at the Sanctuary are, similarly, trying to keep their old ways alive. Rick, Michonne, and Daryl arrive at the colony to deliver supplies. While everyone claps for Rick, who’s become the legendary hero who freed them from tyranny, Michonne notices a spray-painted message on the wall that reads “We are still Negan.” Daryl mentions similar messages have been popping up, but he thinks it’s mainly because their food supplies are dwindling. Michonne fears the larger implications. The messages probably have something to do with Justin (The 100‘s Zach McGowan), who’s super cagey when Daryl asks him where they came from and has generally been combative with the Sanctuary’s new leadership.
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AMC’s zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.