Convention TV Show Review

TV Review: THE WALKING DEAD: Season 9, Episode 1: A New Beginning [AMC, NYCC 2018]

Andrew Lincoln The Walking Dead A New Beginning

The Walking Dead: A New Beginning Review

AMC‘s 2018 New York Comic Con debut of The Walking Dead, season 9, episode 1, ‘A New Beginning,’ was exactly that, with a mix of promise & long goodbye thrown in, for good measure.

The elephant lurking round the corner (of a round building) involved Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), of course… but I’ll touch on that later. The larger, more immediate preoccupation of the episode was cleaning house, and making room for new miscellaneous bits.

One reset was the setting – the overall tone seemingly shifting from an NRA survivalist paradise, to romanticized pioneer world building. Less fire/horse power, more muscle & actual horses. Sweetening the deal: the new cast being already role immersed (one new face, not formally introduced, being impossible to miss – *cough* Zach McGowan *cough*), while the older hands seemed comfortable in semi-new skins. Both Carol (Melissa McBride) & Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) being good examples of the latter.

Clearing some dead wood also helped. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) received something of a baptism by killer-for-hire, when the New Order of things produced a specific conflict within Hilltop. ‘A New Beginning’ wasn’t without action; but suffice to say, the most satisfying kill of the episode – and perhaps the season – was a long overdue comeuppance for arguably the show’s biggest weasel.

That death only served to kick-start tension, between the victors of the first Walker World War; but this further underscored the scale of Rick’s Carl-inspired aspirations towards utopia.

For what it’s worth, history kinda backs up what the Showrunners have done, here. Any acknowledged passage of hard times comes with a rush to rebuild, replace, and repopulate, after the collective sigh of relief; so The Walking Dead – having spared us the eye-rubbing-turns-to-staring-at-new-dawn-as-incredulous-grins-break-out aftermath, to All Out War – picks up in the midst of a new Baby Boom.

Lots of those 3 Rs were in evidence, with character couplings established/ in-progress left & right (one in particular being a real crowd pleaser, at NYCC), and toddler Judith got a Z Gen peer in Maggie’s kid, Hershel. Altogether, this not only officiated the show’s transition from Walker World War to Rick’s take on the Marshal Plan, but a transition in cast, as well.

The journey of Rick’s Roadies may officially be over; and while a slow-boiled-frog, Breaking Bad styled de-evolution of our heroes might no longer be in the cards, a turnover in cast & dynamic could do wonders (consider Fear the Walking Dead).

Another organic development would be a transition away from finite resources, like fossil fueled machines & firearms. After everything that went into making Eugene (Josh McDermitt) a master bullet builder, however, I find it hard to believe that they were collectively running low on gunnery material. As hokey as it may sound, a collective arms control agreement makes more sense. It also speaks to what may be the over-arching theme of the season: a post-war struggle between Hawks & Doves, among the protagonists.

With Rick Grimes established as the savior of the known Walker World, it was inevitable that polarization would intensify, once the common threat was removed. Remove strong men, like Saddam or Tito, and civil wars happen; so until the next common threat emerges (I’ve been hearing Whispers), the conflict will be over a sliding scale in World view, between Rick’s utopia, and Negan’s dictatorship.

To that end, the focus mainly fell on Daryl (Norman Reedus) & Maggie; Daryl seemingly rejecting the confines of society, and Maggie rejecting the open arms/ even handed liberalism of Rick’s reconstruction. While it may have taken a ham-fisted coup attempt, to get her formally declaring her independence, and the more cogent point being that her expanded role put Hilltop needs first, the simple fact is that Maggie just wasn’t ready to make nice (with the not 100% reformed Savior survivors).

Broadly speaking, it’s shaping up to be a contest of socialism vs nationalism; but you don’t care about that – so a more salient point would be to single out the much bigger takeaway from what the episode sets up: Andrew Lincoln’s departure from the series.

Given that the show has been trumpeting the event, I think viewers are being as much prepared for the fracturing of Rick’s Roadies, as they are being for a TWD without Rick. We know he’s going, but not why & how; so rejection of his precious utopia comes as good an initial reason, to eventually resign, as any.

Winston Churchill won his war, then almost immediately lost the peace; but at least he was allowed to experience it. I think Rick has been squeezed into Moses’ shoes, and due the same ironic fate. On the other hand, we may be getting set-up for a Carl one-up – with martyrdom serving to salvage his legacy… but I’m not willing to go down that path, just yet.

For the moment, I’m content with the appreciation this telegraphing grants me. A fully formed Rick Grimes came into Walker World on horseback, and looks to have been returned to form, for his exit. Whatever else the season does with itself (and to us), ‘A New Beginning’ will stand out as a singular, poignant snapshot, in series history.

Leave your thoughts on this The Walking Dead A New Beginning panel at 2018 New York City Comic Con, and this The Walking Dead review, below in the comments section. For more NYCC panel coverage, reviews, images, and videos, visit our New York Comic Con Page. Readers seeking more TV show reviews can visit our TV Show Review Page, our TV Show Review Twitter Page, our TV Show Review Facebook Page, and our TV Show Review Google+ PageThe Walking Dead airs regularly on AMC, Sundays at 9 p.m. Want up-to-the-minute notifications? FilmBook staff members publish articles by EmailTwitterTumblrGoogle+, and Facebook.

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About the author

Sam Joseph

Sam is an Avid consumer/observer of Geek culture, and collector of Fanboy media from earliest memory. Armchair sociologist and futurist. Honest critic with satirical if not absurdist­­ wit with some experience in comics/ animation production.

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