“Don’t let them get awaaaay…”
It’s a big ask to hope viewers will continue watching a show after the lead character departs, even bigger when you throw a huge timeskip in there too. The show has to handle that right, ensure that people are going to want to hang around after two radical shifts. It’s too early to tell if it’s succeeded, but so far the signs are good.
It’s been six years since Rick “died” (as far as his family and friends know). Some have tried to move on, others are struggling. Some characters are just trying to hold onto his memory for as long as possible. So, where are our characters up to? Let’s start with Carol and Ezekiel. They’re now happily married and have adopted Henry as their son. For a while, there’s a real worry that Carol has gone soft and might not be a particularly interesting character anymore. But those worries are quickly dispelled when she burns a group of thieving ex-Saviours alive as they sleep. It’s great to see that the years haven’t mellowed Carol, but it’s equally sad to think what this means for the world. Between the bandit barbecue and what Ezekiel says about the disparate communities, it seems like the world might not have turned out quite how Rick had envisioned. Don’t get me wrong, Alexandria seems to be thriving – but it’s doing it alone. There doesn’t seem to be much interaction between the communities anymore, and it sounds like the community at Sanctuary has collapsed completely.
As I said above, Alexandria is doing pretty good. With Michonne as head of security and a democratic council in place, they’re safe and seem to have rebuilt some semblance of life. Michonne still misses Rick though, and is taking after her dearly departed by talking to ghosts in her head. It’s really great seeing Michonne take more of a central role now, she’s always had the potential to carry storylines but has never really had the chance. And her relationship with Judith and Rick Jr is sweet, keeping the Grimes family alive even in Rick’s absence.
A lot of the supporting characters seem to be getting meatier roles now. Aaron is starting to look way more like comic Rick. He has the beard and arm, give him a busted leg and a cane and his transformation would be complete. I saw in the preview for next week that he and Jesus were together, so possibly they’re in a relationship now like in the comics. Talking about new relationships, Gabriel looks to be getting a lot of Eugene’s role from the comics – loving Rosita and working on the radio. In fact, the apocalypse seems to have been very good for Gabe’s love life. I’m glad he’s got more to do, because there were a few seasons (and a whole lot of issues of the comic) where Gabe existed entirely in the background, not doing much and kinda being annoying. Now he’s got a cool hat, he’s head of the council, and he’s looking to start communicating with other settlements. Could that be Rick? Or is that too much to hope for? In the comics, it’s The Commonwealth that Eugene discovers on the radio, but that surprise has been and gone in the show. We’ll have to wait and see, but the show is fast catching up with the comics so absolutely anything is possible.
Elsewhere, Negan is still imprisoned. But is it just me, or has he starting giving up the whole act? He seems to have mellowed in prison, so much so that he’s begun helping Judith with her maths. Will she be taking some of Carl’s role from the comics? Hopefully Negan generally likes Judith, and isn’t planning something nefarious. He could be Uncle Negan! I for one truly believe that Negan is going to become a valued member of the community, and I can’t wait. When the Whisperers turn up, he might just be the man for the job.
Speaking of the Whisperers, we saw (or heard) a brief glimpse of them at the end of the episode. In a tense and very well shot final scene, after their trip outside the walls to plant a radio transmitter goes awry, Eugene and Rosita recreate the famous scene from Predator and cover themselves in mud to escape a herd. But not every member of the herd is your ordinary walker. If you listen closely, and I had to rewind it and turn it up, you can hear the walkers seemingly talking to each other. And I have to say the sound is terrifying – precisely as I heard it in my head when reading the comics. The show is about to get very exciting and very strange.
So we have a rough idea where things are heading. The Whisperers are coming, and for anyone who knows what that entails it’s very exciting. On top of that, there’s mention in this episode of the upcoming fair. If I had to guess I’d say that that’ll be the events of the mid-season finale. And if it follows the comics even a little, a handful of characters are going to have a very bad day at the fair.
We’re in unexplored territory, but the signs are good.
Reviewed by Jack