Time has passed and much has changed, yet life remains a challenge for Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his crew. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) remains incarcerated in Alexandria, the Kingdom may soon be coronating Queen Carol (Melissa McBride), the Sanctuary turns to Darryl (Norman Reedus) for leadership while the Hilltop flourishes under the guidance of Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and her new baby boy, Herschel (real life R.I.P. Scott Wilson). And the Walkers still roam the streets. Aside from that, ain’t much else going on…
The episode begins with a glimpse into the return of civilization. A small raiding party, which include the likes of Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton), make their way into a ravaged Washington, D.C. for supplies, which turns deadly, and provides some of the only action of the episode.
However, it sets the tone for what is to come. Rather than relying on the tropes of who’s worse the living or the dead, the Season 9 opener opts for more nuanced cerebral concepts. Pillaging a museum for seed reserves and farming equipment along with the prospect of democracy all seem like steps in the right direction, yet there is still an undercurrent of discontent. Gregory (Xander Berkeley), who ultimately meets his end due to his actions, is one of the more notable agents of anarchy — those only concerned with themselves and those who will pave the road for Negan’s return to power.
The future Carl envisioned is possible, though the cracks in the foundation are starting to show. All in all, this season seems to be less dynamic than those that preceded it, which appears to be intentional. Given the information that we the viewer have of issues behind the scenes (ie. Rick and Maggie’s eventual departure), it seems that there is more of an emotional focus as opposed to the visceral, physical threats of episodes past. In that respect, success was average as high enough stakes are simply not there.
A lot will undoubtedly change over the course of the coming episodes, however, as a premier, the desire to return for the follow-up is tepid at best. 3.75/5 Bibles.