Warning, this blog will contain spoilers for The Walking Dead season 9 premiere.
Aptly titled “A New Beginning,” the season 9 opener of The Walking Dead began with a time skip, showing the cast over a year after the end of the war in the season 8 finale. Despite record low ratings for a premiere, the show mustered its best efforts to bounce back after a rough patch.
With a new showrunner and a quickened pace when compared to the seasons that proceeded it, the opener offered a zombie-western hybrid feel, showing the efforts the survivors had made to rebuild their communities. With progress evident and cooperation seemingly achieved between all the communities, even the Sanctuary – which is now led by Daryl – the show had a very different feel.
The group made a run into Washington DC (using the Georgia Capitol building as their setting) to fetch supplies. Ezekiel, who was revealed to be in a romantic relationship with Carol, nearly met his end when a glass floor collapsed beneath him and he dangled perilously over zombies. Thanks to some sharp shooting from Daryl and the combined efforts of the group, he survived.
On the way back, the group’s carriage became stuck in heavy mud and they were pursued by walkers. One member of the Hilltop was bitten and passed away, leaving the community’s elected leader, Maggie, to break the news to the parents. Still fuming over his loss in the election, former leader Gregory talked with the parents and seemed to place the blame squarely on Maggie for having the young man out in harm’s way.
The show did answer one of the longest-running questions – where is all the gas for Daryl’s motorcycles and the vehicles coming from? With the Saviors crops dying, the dead corn was being used to create ethanol, with Daryl and the others being shown modifying their motorcycles accordingly. Daryl did reveal he didn’t feel right being at the Sanctuary, though Rick maintained they needed to keep the survivors there going somehow. Carol agreed to take over, with Ezekiel agreeing to wait for her and give her space despite having a marriage proposal turned down.
Gregory was revealed to have orchestrated a plot, taking advantage of the father’s grief after his son’s death on the supply run. Luring Maggie into harm’s way, along with her baby, Hershel, Gregory sat her up to be ambushed by the deceased boy’s father. Gregory then tried to attack Maggie himself later, and ultimately wound up being hanged for his transgressions. However, when children stumbled upon the execution and saw it happen, those in attendance seemed to question the harsh punishment.
Rick and Michonne agreed to try to create a charter between the communities and build an agreement for lasting peace. It’s in accordance with Carl’s dying wishes and will set up for the rest of the season.
The premiere certainly seemed faster-paced than previous episodes, but the question remains how the show will fare with both Rick and Maggie set to leave the show.