Last week, The Walking Dead kicked off its final season with a premiere episode that ended with two intriguing cliffhangers.
During a supply run to Maggie’s old stomping grounds, Negan left Maggie to die. We know she won’t (main character antibodies and all that), but the repercussions of such a decision are sure to be huge. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth group is just about to escape when Yumiko discovers that her brother is part of the community and decides to stay.
This week, the direction of both plotlines will become much more clear.
As always, the recap portion of this review will contain plenty of spoilers. The sequence of events has also been streamlined for the sake of clarity.
The episode opens right where we left off in the D.C. subway tunnel with Maggie being pulled down by a hungry walker. She manages to fight it and a few others off, but runs out of ammunition before getting swarmed.
Before any magic dumpsters can arrive to save her, the view changes to inside the subway car. After taking care of some undead commuters, the Alexandria group discovers that the car’s doors are rusted shut. When Alden asks Negan where Maggie is, he plays dumb and claims that she was right behind him (which is technically true).
After taking a beat to mourn her apparent loss, Gabriel says that they’ll need to find a way to get the doors open and move from car to car until they’re free. The group also decides to keep moving toward Meridian because continuing on Maggie’s absurd suicide mission is what she would’ve wanted.
The group begins prying the rusted doors open and makes their way forward. They’re eventually stopped by the sound of someone banging an S.O.S. signal on the car beneath them. Sure enough, it turns out to be Maggie, who is all types of pissed at Negan. After pistol whipping him and telling everyone what happened, he fully admits to it, explaining that there’s a big difference between killing someone and leaving them to die.
As you might imagine, this argument doesn’t prove to be very persuasive.
Negan elaborates as Duncan prepares to beat his ass, pointing out that Maggie had recently talked about how much she wanted to kill him. At the very least they should all understand why he wasn’t champing at the bit to help her survive long enough to do that. He also brings up the fact that he was the one who killed Alpha — an act that likely resulted in many of them still being alive.
Before the discussion can go any further, Gage (who abandoned the group and took their supplies last episode) appears at the door they’d just cleared and locked, frantically begging to be let in as horde of walkers trudges behind him.
Negan immediately springs into action and tries to open the door. Alden is about to join him, but Maggie orders him not to, explaining that allowing Gage in will also result in them being overrun by zombies. Alden attempts to defy her, but Duncan grabs and pulls him away while Gabriel affirms that she’s making the right decision.
Gage begins to beg even more fervently, admitting that he made a mistake and promising not to leave them again. Maggie responds that they wouldn’t be able to clear the walkers behind him. Gage calls Maggie a liar before stabbing himself to death as walkers begin swarming over him.
Negan watches all this play out with the smug assurance of a screenwriter who doesn’t realize how ridiculously convenient the timing is.
Later, as the group tries to open the door on the opposite end of the car, Alden notices that none of them will look at the zombified Gage in the other window and calls them out on it. Gabriel declares that it’s only the shell of a man who also died a coward. Alden counters that the actions of a scared kid didn’t warrant him dying in the worst way imaginable.
Maggie takes this opportunity to point out that there are actually much worse ways to die than what happened to Gage. Just when you think she’s going to revisit the story of how Negan killed her husband, however, she tells them about an old man she and her son found before they joined up with the Wardens.
The man asked them to help haul some supplies he’d gathered for his family in exchange for food. Maggie knew he was lying, but still went with him on account of the fact that she and her son were starving. When they got to the man’s house, she held a knife to his throat and found the chloroform rag he’d planned to use on them. After stuffing it in his mouth, she went inside, locked Hershel inside one of the rooms, and began searching.
She ended up being attacked by three deformed men and killed them. Afterward, she heard a thudding in the attic and went to investigate. Instead of finding imprisoned people, she discovers an undead pregnant woman who was clearly tortured and mutilated before her death. As if that wasn’t horrific enough, the zombified baby inside her was still trying to get out. She then found three more women in a similar condition, although none of them had died yet. Instead of feeling sympathy, Maggie’s first thought was that if they were alive, then there must still be food in the house. She killed the women, gathered the food, and left.
Her point in telling this story (besides creeping everyone out) is that what she experienced is how the world is now for most of the few who’ve survived this long. What they had in Alexandria, Hilltop, and Meridian was extremely rare. Negan takes over from there to explain that it also means there’s a very good chance they were just lucky, meaning that no one has managed to figure out how to live in a normal society again.
And maybe no one ever will.
Later, Duncan and Frost manage to get the front door to their current subway car open only to find that the next one has been barricaded. The situation becomes even more dire when the Gage-led horde begins to break down the door to their rear.
Duncan begins furiously beating the front door with a sledgehammer while the rest of the group holds off the horde behind him. They initially do an impressive job rotating their attacks to keep the funneled zombie from overrunning them. Just when things appear to be under control, however, Duncan runs back to announce that walkers are coming from the other direction, as well.
We All Float Down Here
Meanwhile, Dog continues to be the goodest boy ever by leading Daryl under the subway cars to an area with loose concrete. Daryl breaks through it to find another tunnel mostly devoid of walkers. Its walls are also filled with artwork depicting the breakdown of society as the dead began to rise.
After a lot of lingering/sad images, he eventually comes across a note left by some children who were waiting on their dad to come back, but eventually had to leave. He also discovers some type of map scrawled onto the subway wall. Before that can be explored, though, Dog hears a loud noise and takes off toward a drainage tunnel with Daryl following after him.
He manages to take down a zombie (who somehow followed him undetected) and makes it to another subway tunnel. After killing a couple walkers with a morning star (which was admittedly pretty cool), he follows Dog’s barks and eventually finds a badly injured Roy — the other guy who stole supplies and abandoned the group last episode.
Daryl takes down some walkers pursing his traitorous former teammate with an assist from Dog, which legitimately had me terrified he was going to end up getting killed. Thankfully, the world’s goodest boy survived.
He then rushes over to Roy and begins trying to treat him, but he waves Daryl off, saying he doesn’t want any supplies wasted on him. Instead, he hands over what few weapons he didn’t lose in the tunnel before asking Daryl to tell his children that he didn’t die a coward.
The question of whether Daryl agreed to Roy’s request (and if he mercy killed him) is left unanswered for now. The next time we see him and Dog, they are running toward the sound of gunshots from the other group fighting for their lives inside a subway car.
Divide and Conquer
Over at the Commonwealth, Yumiko and Princess are back in their holding cell. They somehow managed to return the guard equipment they stole the night before without anyone noticing, but there’s no time to dwell on major plot leaps like that. Right now, Yumiko is convinced she can use her fancy lawyering skills to get them out so she can be reunited with her brother.
Just as Princess begins putting herself in the unfamiliar “voice of reason” role, Eugene runs up and announces that Ezekiel is gone. This causes him to deduce that the guards know they tried to escape, which means their goose is officially cooked.
As Eugene begins to panic, Yumiko instructs him not to talk to any of the guards. She then storms over to one and demands to speak to their supervisor. This leads to her once again sitting in front of Evans and Clark, who are both annoyed and confused at her return since she’s already been “assessed.”
Yumiko attempts to turn the tables, declaring that they are the ones who’ve actually been getting “assessed.” She then proceeds to psychologically strip them down before revealing she’s a lawyer and that her brother is a member of the Commonwealth. This leads to her demanding that she and her group be granted expedited entry to the Commonwealth per their community’s own legal guidelines.
The success of her gambit is seemingly confirmed when Mercer walks in to bring Yumiko a cup of coffee.
Back outside, an increasingly anxious Princess decides she needs to go to the bathroom. She ignores Eugene’s pleas to stay put and gets up to speak to one of the guards. He not only lets her ago, but reveals that they have actual toilet paper — a luxury long forgotten in the post zombie apocalypse world.
As she heads in toward the facilities, however, the guard who allowed Princess in signals to another guard to follow her.
After both she and Yumiko don’t reappear for a long time, Eugene finally decides to walk over and ask where they are. The guard responds that no one is in the office and that he doesn’t know what “friend” Eugene was referring to who went into the bathroom.
He then tells Eugene that he needs to leave.
The next day, Eugene is taken from his holding cell by a pair of Commonwealth guards to the interrogation/processing room, this time with Mercer sitting next to Evans. Evans takes out what appears to be a torture kit and removes a pen (which is either a terribly placed red herring or a very ham-fisted way of showing how torturous the process of bureaucracy can be).
Eugene asks where his companions are, which Mercer responds to by saying that they’re being “processed.” When Eugene asks what that means exactly, Mercer mocks how nervous he seems. He then reveals that the only time he gets excited is when he’s battling walker hordes before having Clark offer Eugene a tissue and telling him to “mop up.”
After Eugene is done wiping away his flop sweat, Mercer tells him that it’s in his best interest to be honest. He also promises that he will be free to see his friends if he truthfully answers two questions:
- Where is your settlement?
- Why were you at the train station?
Eugene begins babbling about how he became close with Stephanie via their radio communications and agreed to meet at the train station where the Commonwealth soldiers found him and his friends. He also reveals that he lied to Stephanie about being from a large settlement (?).
That was likely more than enough information, but Eugene keeps going, telling his captors that he developed strong feeling for Stephanie, had not had much luck with romance in the past, and was still a virgin. It was his hope that the spark that developed with her might turn into something more.
Now he fears that his one shot at finding true love may be ruined after Stephanie discovers that he wasn’t honest with her.
Following his interview, Eugene has a bag placed over his head and is taken to a very well furnished train car. Once the bag is removed, he’s overjoyed to see Ezekiel, Princess, and Yumiko waiting for him. After a long embrace, Ezekiel reveals that he disappeared because they took him to an infirmary, which was surprisingly well run.
As the group continues to celebrate, Mercer walks in and reads a legalese-filled announcement that they’ve all been accepted to begin assimilation and orientation into the Commonwealth. He then pointedly informs Ezekiel that he was a West Point graduate and opens the train car door on the other side.
A beautiful bespectacled woman walks in and asks which one is Eugene before introducing herself as Stephanie.
Into the Fire
As the Alexandria group prepares to make their last stand, Maggie hands Negan a gun, which elicits a respectful nod from him (and an eye roll from the rest of us). He then runs to the front of the train, pries open the door open as far as possible, and begins picking off what few zombies he can.
Just when it appears all hope is lost, Daryl shows up and flanks the front zombies before taking them down in one of the best action shots we’ve ever gotten from the series. Once he makes it to the door, he and Negan work together (ugh) to get it open, allowing the rest of the group to escape.
After everyone is through, Daryl shoves a grenade into one zombie from the the rear approaching Gage horde. Then kicks the walker backward and shuts the door. The horde explodes, leaving a mess of zombie entrails everywhere and the Alexandria group alive in the next car.
Later, the group makes it out of the subway into a calm/beautiful night. We also see that Roy has been bandaged and allowed to rejoin them, which seems like a fairly major thing to skip over until this point.
Negan gives back the gun Maggie gave him, but holds onto it a bit so he can also give her a meaningful stare (ugh).
Maggie notices Daryl looking at the letter he found in the tunnel and asks if he found anything else. Daryl says he didn’t, sparing Roy’s confession…which really doesn’t make sense considering they already knew he abandoned them, but whatever.
Maggie tells the group that before heading to Meridian, they’ll be taking a detour to one of the supply depots that Georgie conveniently left all over the place. On the way there, they find bodies strung up on posts lining the street. Before they can take Negan’s advice to double back, Roy’s chance at a redemption arc is cut short via an arrow to the face. Cole gets sliced through the leg by a knife someone threw, but the group manages to pull him back as they all dive for cover.
Sure enough, the Reapers have arrived.
I’m really not sure how Maggie didn’t see this coming. If the Reapers took out her group and have had time to fortify their position, then it stands to reason they would’ve also sought out Georgie’s nearby supply depots.
On the other hand, the Reapers actual/proper introduction looked really cool.
This was one of several narrative missteps in “Acheron: Part II” that could described in the same manner.
- Daryl going through another tunnel and random storm drain before stumbling across Roy, then swooping in to save the Alexandria group like a total boss.
- The Commonwealth group returning the armor they stole and sneaking past armed guards back to their cell, all to set up some fantastic scene interrogation scenes followed by Stephanie’s introduction.
- Gage showing up at just the right moment to make Maggie look ruthless and Negan more sympathetic, which then led to Maggie’s blood curdling story and some incredible action sequences.
It’s also disappointing how that last item let the episode basically hand wave the conflict between Negan and Maggie. Perhaps there will be more later or it’ll be revisited in another context. If so, then I’ll gladly eat crow with a side of barbecue. But for now, it feels like a showdown years in the making reached a boiling point only to be immediately chilled, all thanks to one ridiculously timed appearance by Gage.
Combine that with a few other nitpicks (like Roy’s odd reappearance with the group), and there was plenty not to like about this one. Thankfully, there was even more to enjoy.
In addition to all the great action sequences, the reckoning Gage’s appearance caused (contrived as it was) gave us some truly powerful moments. Maggie’s story was jarring enough on its own, but Negan’s addendum was even more effective juxtaposed with what was occurring to the Commonwealth Group.
Speaking of them, Eugene and Yumiko really got a chance to shine during their interrogation scenes. It was also great to see Mercer show some personality beyond his imposing presence. If you’re a reader of The Walking Dead comic, then this episode confirmed once and for all that Michael James Shaw was the perfecting casting choice for this role.
At this point, I’m much more interested in seeing how Eugene, Yumiko, Princess, and Ezekiel respond to joining what the closest thing to a pre-fall civilization that they (and the audience) have seen.
While I’m sure the action sequences with the Reapers will look great, Conflicted Good Guys vs. Sociopathic Bad Guys is a fight we’ve seen play out multiple times before. We’ll probably get some main character deaths courtesy of the folks we’ve barely gotten to know, but that’s not where the real intrigue is.
Even if The Walking Dead doesn’t hew strictly to how things played out in the comic, the Commonwealth still offers a myriad of story possibilities we’ve never seen before. The cliffhanger in the train car may not have had as much blood or urgency as the Reaper attack, but it’s the first one in a long time that has me anxiously awaiting the next chapter.
And if none of that interests you, then you should at least be morbidly curious to watch Eugene navigate his first relationship.
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