“Pope Marked You.”
The Walking Dead is back! And in a strange turn of events, this isn’t the beginning of a new season – or the return after a mid-season break. No, this is the return of TWD for a bonus set of episodes, added on to the 16 episode run season 10 had, despite the fact that the season 10 ‘finale’ aired months ago. This unprecedented course of action is due to the unprecedented times we live in and the show runners do a great job of bringing us the zombie stories we love in the time of a pandemic. These episodes hopefully won’t feel tacked on; if this first episode is anything to go by then they certainly won’t. ‘Home Sweet Home’ deals first and foremost with the return of Lauren Cohen’s Maggie to the show, after she reappeared in the last episode. It’s not a revolutionary episode; it’s not going to convert anyone who hasn’t been feeling the show in the past few years, but it’s a great way for the show to return into our lives before the big, explosive, final season later this year.
The group spend most of the episode in a forest, talking or killing walkers – the usual stuff. But the characters are all wonderfully written and it’s so so good to see Maggie again – especially when she runs into Negan. Daryl (Norman Reedus) continues to be the heart of the show, and perhaps one of the only genuinely good guys left. It’s a shame AMC have already announced a Daryl/Carol spin off show for when TWD has wrapped up, as it does take away from his character’s journey now we know there’s no way he’s not making it out alive. At this point though, it’s nice enough just to see Daryl and Maggie interacting again. After much talking and zombie killing, the episode’s finale takes an interesting turn, as the characters are pinned down in the woods by a mysterious, ghillie suit wearing sniper. This guy is part of ‘The Reapers’, a group of killers who’ve been on Maggie’s tail for a while. He kills some of Maggie’s people before a cool throw down between him and Maggie and Daryl. It’s a surprisingly exciting fight scene, and thankfully shows no signs of the COVID pandemic setbacks (although that is definitely why the characters are so split up). Before they get anything out of him though, he mutters “Pope marked you,” before blowing himself up. Who are these people and who is Pope? I wonder if he and his group have anything to do with Robert Patrick’s upcoming guest role (although he’s down as playing a character called Mays).
A nice touch in this episode, and it’s probably due to the pandemic and the restrictions, but the episode’s focus stays firmly on the cast of characters at the centre of this episode’s story – no cutaways to B-plots or elsewhere. The upcoming episodes look like they’re going to be trying some new things, especially with that much anticipated Negan stand alone episode that dives into his past and see’s him pre-apocalypse. But in the meantime, ‘Home Sweet Home’ is a solid opening episode (that isn’t really an opening episode) that manages to instantly bring back that TWD mood with some well written character drama and a standout fight scene. It’s wonderful to see Maggie back in the fold, especially with little Hershel in tow. Her appearance brings back feelings of TWD when it was at it’s peak. And under the watchful eye of showrunner Angela Kang, I reckon it’ll be back there again before the show bows out. It’s good to have you back, The Walking Dead.