The Walking Dead Review: Season Nine Premiere Sets the Table in “A New Beginning”October 8, 2018
*SOME SPOILERS AHEAD*
Season eight of The Walking Dead was a mess, especially the first half which was almost unwatchable. The war with the Saviors had essentially turned the show into a mess, Negan into a cartoon character and left a lot of characters with nothing much to do, thanks in no small part to some very poor direction and writing. How can a show, which has been fading in quality for a while now, expect to brush itself off and get back on its feet, especially entering its ninth season? Well, “A New Beginning” lays out the plan and much to my surprise, it has some promise.
The show has jumped 18 months into the future and the survivors of the Savior war have begun to rebuild. All the different communities are learning to do new things, such as grow crops, harness power, etc. It is a stark contrast to where we last left these people and seeing them all in their different communities, working together towards a common goal, is a strange and bizarre sight. It is something you’d expect to see at the end of a season and I like that it’s thrown out there right away, setting a tone for what is to come.
The immediate threat is not from walkers, not from a new outside threat, but from the precarious peace they have built. There is no doubt that things are better now but that doesn’t mean everyone is happy with the status quo. At the top of the food chain, for the moment, is Rick, Michonne, Carol and a few others, trying hard to hold things together and keep the piece. However, who is really in charge remains to be seen. Maggie is still fuming about what happened with Negan, and she and Daryl both would like nothing better than to rid themselves of the remaining Saviors. Indeed, there are still some Saviors that yearn for the return of Negan, and that is just another problem to add to the list.
The Saviors, and what they represent, are still a big hurdle. The people from both the Kingdom and Oceanside watched the Saviors kill many of their own and that is something some people cannot simply forget. Maggie lost her husband, brutally murdered by Negan, and Rick took him out of her reach, took the opportunity for revenge away and that still burns deep inside her. Some people want to lead but in a different way (a great example of that is Maggie’s idea of justice at the end of the episode), some just don’t want to lead at all, so there is a lot of room for chaos here and that was done well in this premiere.
However, the long and drawn out scene at the museum and the shorter one on the road home, the ones that were supposed to build tension with the threat of zombies, they fell completely flat. Again, this is one of those areas that The Walking Dead still seems to have trouble with, building a scene with the promise of some actual tension but making the characters make stupid decisions thanks to poor and lazy writing. These are the kind of things that drive me nuts about this show, that makes me just want to scream at the TV or shake my head so hard in disbelief my neck hurts.
I feel bad for Lenny James, who left a wobbling Walking Dead to go to Fear the Walking Dead, which in turn tanked hard this past season. However, if this premiere can give me hope for The Walking Dead, which I thought might never happen again, then maybe Fear the Walking Dead can turn it around.
In the end though, “A New Beginning” was more success than failure. The new showrunner Angela King did a lot of things right, including taking the main characters and putting them front and center where they belong. The episode looked great, had a good flow and hey, Daryl even had some dialogue that was more than a few grunts. Now let’s see if they can build on this and drag the show back from the dead (pun intended)
Three and a half stars out of five