The Walking Dead season 9 kicked off with a packed premiere that caught fans up with the post-war dynamic between Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Kingdom, and the Sanctuary.
The show started off with a different feel as Michonne and Rick admired Judith’s artwork and took her for a walk in a peaceful field. And, the new season 9 opening credits featured some greenery on The Walking Dead logo, which is a big departure from the decaying letters from the past.
But, an ominous omen was also present both in the field and the opening credits with ample amounts of crows, a bird that is historically synonymous with darkness. It’s a not so subtle hint at discord and death, which are still the way of life in this world.
There were so many significant conversations, revelations, and complications last night and these moments are the most important ones seen in the debut episode:
The Big D.C. Run
It was thrilling to see all of our “main” characters (and a few surprise people) together for one big mission. We were introduced to a Hilltopper named Ken, who would end up playing a big role in this episode.
Rick, Maggie, Michonne, Daryl, Carol, Ezekiel, Father Gabriel, Anne (formerly Jadis), Jerry, Siddiq, and even Oceanside’s Cyndie came together at a Smithsonian museum to retrieve a large wagon, canoe boat, and packets of Rattlesnake Snap Bean 241- a heirloom seed that Anne was familiar with due to her past.
It turns out she was a teacher and knew the museum had a “doomsday stash” because of a field trip she had taken students on years prior. This begs to question why no one else had already come in to take the seeds, but I digress.
The side conversations were particularly great because they paired unlikely characters together like Cyndie and Daryl. Cyndie was reminded of her deceased brother while looking at a canoe and Daryl showed a moment of solidarity by saying he had also lost his brother Merle, but found a family with Rick’s crew.
And, Maggie, Michonne, and Carol caught fans up on Hilltop’s status when they chatted about Maggie’s recent leadership win against Gregory in an official election, which took place due to his suggestion.
Michonne joked about Gregory being an unlikely person to resurrect the democracy, but she also had an interesting moment of her own when she stopped and stood in front of an exhibit sign. It said “We the People – a more perfect union, the conflict that shaped our nation.” There’s also a noticeable blood splatter over the Civil War section – foreshadowing perhaps?
The D.C. run’s intense conclusion was The Walking Dead at its finest. The group was struggling to get a large plow and the wagon over a glass floor enclosure with an impaled walker on it.
The glass is cracking and the floor below features a swarm of walkers. Rick is being risky as always, putting himself on the line to help everyone make it across.
But, the glass breaks and Ezekiel is hanging by a thread and a prayer as the crew fights to pull him up. He makes it and is greeted with a kiss by Carol, which cements their relationship onscreen.
It was a great way to open up the show and it almost feels like the good old days (with new faces) as this small group works together to accomplish a mission. And, it was a nice touch for Rick to observe how they are using the past to build the future.
Fun Observation: It was cool to see Rick riding a horse in a dilapidated downtown area similar to how he rode into Atlanta in the very first episode. Now, he has a squad to ride with him :)
A King’s proposal
After Ezekiel’s life flashed before his eyes, he decided to pop the question to Carol. She responded by telling him to put the ring away and tells him that he shouldn’t ask her that question, especially right after he almost died.
He responds with a chuckle and says he loves her and will keep the ring until she is ready. Yeah, their relationship is not a big surprise to most fans (even sad Caryl shippers) but seeing him pop the question while they rode on horses side by side was definitely an unexpected moment.
Random Thoughts: Has he asked her to marry him before? And, will he get the chance to ask her again?
Goodbye Ken. We literally didn’t know you at all.
Apparently, Ken was an important person to Maggie and the Hilltop as their resident horse whisperer. The group used horses to help haul their museum findings, so perhaps that is why he tagged along on the D.C. mission.
But, nothing ever goes quite right for this group and this time is no different. There’s a ton of mud, the horses are tired, and walkers make an appearance as they struggle to get unstuck.
Michonne and Daryl have it mostly under control, but suddenly Ken decides to test his heroic side and run back to save a horse. In the process, he gets bitten on the arm and bleeds out before Siddiq can save him.
Maggie appears to be completely crushed, which is understandable because she now has to report this loss to his loved ones at Hilltop. But, it’s hard for us fans to care because WE DON’T KNOW HIM.
Fun Fact: Ken was a character in The Walking Dead comics. He was a Black man and Hilltopper who was decapitated by the antagonist Alpha, who has yet to appear in the TV show.
Down bridges and walkers abound
Well hello walkers, it looks like you actually matter again. As a matter of fact, they only pop up these days to do things like kill Carl.
But, season 9 is going back to the basics by making walkers a threat again. They were a big concern on the D.C. run with the aforementioned Ezekiel accident as well as Siddiq getting snatched under a cover by a walker oozing with spiders. Gross.
The groups have set up designated Routes A-D to travel between communities, but a large herd took out a bridge on the B route. This complicates the journey home for them further because route D has some blockage that will take a while to remove and they need to move supplies.
It’s interesting that herds are large enough to crash a bridge and have to be monitored by the groups to prevent chaos. This could be because the Whisperers, who have heavy ties to walkers, are on the way.
Cool Observation: Rosita spray paints a sign to notify others of the down bridge. The original sign says “Welcome to Dufresne County,” which is not a real county in Virginia.
Ken’s momma kept it real with Maggie
This day got progressively worse for Maggie. She broke the news about Ken’s death to his parents and his mother Tammy was particularly upset.
She tells Maggie that her son lost his life for a cause that didn’t even help their community. The mission was primarily to get supplies to aid the Sanctuary, whose remaining members have been struggling to produce crops and maintain supplies.
This isn’t surprising, considering the Sanctuary previously relied on Negan’s pirating ways and fearmongering of other communities to supply their needs. And, the Sanctuary is a basically a big factory with little suitable land for great crops.
Tammy cuts especially deep by saying that her son is dead and Maggie’s son has no father because of the Saviors and she regrets not voting for Gregory because, for all his faults, he did put the Hilltop first. And, she caps it off by telling Maggie to stay away from the funeral.
Ken may not have been an important character, but his mother’s conversation with Maggie revealed a lot about the state of the Hilltop. Their resources were going out to help the Sanctuary and they were not getting anything in return.
And, other communities were putting themselves at risk while Sanctuary people remained safe. She told Maggie what other residents are thinking and now Maggie will have to make a choice about what matters to her people.
Maggie is seen crying with baby Herschel in her arms on her balcony as the funeral takes place below. As predicted, Gregory is there looking shifty as ever and certainly ready to use this incident to his advantage.
FYI: Alden seems to have a firm place in the community now, which is seen when he sings at Ken’s funeral. The song is “The Last Rose of Summer,” a popular poem by Irish poet Thomas Moore. As indicated by the title, it is a metaphor for carrying on after loved ones around you have passed away.
Rick’s a Sanctuary celebrity
The Saviors have a problem with worshiping other people. Rick, Michonne, and Daryl arrived at the Sanctuary to check in and drop off supplies and Rick was given a hero’s welcome.
He told the group that his people would continue to help them with supplies and food, one man called him a blessing and many other began to clap and shake his hand. But, a few people weren’t down for the theatrics.
Disgruntled Savior Justin was salty because Daryl asked him to cover up a message on a wall saying “Saviors Save Us…we are still Negan.” For all we know, he probably wrote it.
And, even Daryl wasn’t thrilled about Rick’s determination to take care of this group. He pulled Rick aside and said he doesn’t want to lead the Sanctuary anymore because it feels icky to be behind those walls.
Daryl also tells Rick that the community will fail despite their best efforts because nothing grows there and he misses the small group they started out with in the beginning. He also wants to return to the Hilltop with Maggie, presumably because they are on the same page concerning Rick’s efforts to help the Sanctuary.
It’s an understandable sentiment from Daryl because he is now surrounded with so many people that he isn’t sure if he can trust. Back then, the group was smaller, tighter, and had more of a familial feel.
I have had issues with Daryl lately, but he is correct about not being able to sustain this mission to help the Sanctuary for much longer. It’s hard enough to provide basic needs for existing people and now they are responsible for this very large group of people.
The show is finally starting to dive more into reality by talking about how gas options have run out, which explains the heavy usage of horses. And, the Kingdom is revealed to not be in a good space at this time because of all the manpower they lost during the war.
The fandom loves Rick Grimes, but more people might lean #TeamDaryl in this instance.
Interesting note: Daryl is quite verbose in this entire episode. It’s a bit jarring considering how much he hasn’t talked in recent seasons. The increase in dialogue is likely to prep for Rick’s exit and the show’s move toward a more ensemble cast where grunting and mumbling won’t suffice.
Caryl moments still exist
Never fear Caryl lovers. The pair may not be romantically involved but they had a chance to chat under the moonlight outside of the Sanctuary. I’ve always been a fan of their friendship and this scene is a reason why I love their interactions.
Carol admits that she wanted to say yes to Ezekiel’s proposal but she just wants to take her time. It’s always nice to see her open up to someone and that person is usually Daryl Dixon.
Meanwhile, Daryl hilariously throws shade at the King and calls him corny, but Carol says she will gladly take corny after her relationship with Ed. It was the first mention of Ed in a while and her hesitation to fall deeply for Ezekiel shows the continued emotional fallout from her abusive relationship.
Daryl says he is happy for her but he hates not being able to see her as much anymore (aww) and she decides to take over for Daryl at the Sanctuary so he can leave (another aww). It’s one of the purest parts of this episode and a nice moment between OG survivors.
Wait a minute: Carol still calls Daryl “Pookie,” which has been her nickname for him for several seasons.
The Walking Dead creative powers have promised more Richonne in season 9 and they gave us great moments in this episode. The end of the day featured Richonne snuggling in bed as she picks on him for being famous among the Sanctuary.
Michonne knows she has Rick’s heart and ears, so she proposes drafting a charter between the groups to establish what they believe, how they treat each other, and what happens when they don’t follow the rules. There has been a pretty decent time passage – at least around 9-12 months based on Herschel’s age – so it seems to be a bit late to just start thinking of this type of agreement.
But, it is cool to see the establishment of rules and regulations coming from a Black woman.
The feels are real when: Rick leaned over her shoulder and whispered “How’d I get so luck finding you?” and she replied that they both deserved to win. Ahhhh. Richonne forever.
Gregory vs. Maggie
It wasn’t surprising to see Gregory use Ken’s death to his advantage by convincing Ken’s dad to participate in a plan to kill Maggie. It was surprising to see how Maggie easily fell for this extremely shoddy plan from a man that has always hated her guts.
Whyyyy would you believe anything that shady Gregory says, especially when he pops up on you in the middle of the night and says Glenn’s grave is messed up? And, why would you immediately rush over to check the grave IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT WITH A BABY without anyone else there?
The Maggie ambush (by Ken’s father in a hoodie) and subsequent fight scene was a pretty intense moment, even though we knew it was going to happen. It was shocking to see Herschel thrown from his stroller and Enid knocked out, but leave it to Alden and Jesus to come to the rescue at the right time.
The showdown between Gregory and Maggie in his house was equally intense. He called her out for helping the Sanctuary and said he was the one who built the community and kept it safe until she came along. He also said she wasn’t a real leader because she just does what Rick tells her to do.
Ouch. Maggie called him a coward because he wasn’t brave enough to do it himself, which he countered immediately by trying to stab her with a knife. Oh Gregory, did you really think you could get the upper hand on a survivor like Maggie?
She gets the upper hand and makes a total boss move at the end by hanging Gregory (with Daryl’s assistance) in front of the community. Rick, Cyndie, Jesus, Enid, and Michonne were present and definitely shocked to see her take such bold action against Gregory.
The fandom let out a collective cheer for sweet karma as Gregory died in spectacular fashion. Cheers to Maggie for making a power statement and letting the group know that she will not tolerate this type of behavior.
Rick vs. Maggie
Rick and Maggie sat down to have a chat and things went sour when Rick asked her for more resources for the Sanctuary.
Maggie said she would keep helping if the Sanctuary puts some manpower toward fixing the broken bridge on route B and send over some bad corn crop for fuel. Rick inexplicably replies that can’t happen because the Sanctuary group is “barely holding on” and that the rest of the groups are obliged to help.
Maggie disagrees (as she should) and says their lives being spared was good enough. Plus, she has her own at the Hilltop and wants to be taken more seriously as a leader. Rick invites her to visit Alexandria and she, like Daryl, refuse to go because Negan is hanging out there in a cell.
Honestly, Maggie is making a lot of sense. Rick is helping the Sanctuary to the detriment of other communities. Alexandria seems to be doing well based on the small snippets that we saw there, but the Kingdom and Hilltop are having some issues.
Why can’t the former Saviors help repair bridges and go on runs? They look like able bodied people and if they want to be a part of this bigger collective, then they need to contribute in some capacity.
It’s almost like Rick is bending over backwards because he feels guilty about having Negan locked away in Alexandria. At first, I wasn’t sure why Maggie and Daryl would still be salty over the Negan thing (let it go or just kill him yourself) but this episode gives some necessary context to why they are becoming disillusioned with Rick’s current goals.
The season 9 premiere was certainly a good way to start off a new season. There were bits of nostalgia, solid story progression, and a couple of deaths that will have a ripple effect on future events.
Hopefully, this new progression under the leadership of Angela Kang will be able to restore some fans’ faith in the series and weather the storm of Rick’s departure.