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The Walking Dead - Archeron: Part 1 - Review

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  The Walking Dead returned for part one of three of its final season with “Acheron: Part I” written by the team of Angela Kang and Jim Barnes and directed by Kevin Dowling, whose long line of credits includes Mayans M.C., The Strain, and The Americans. I’ll admit that this was probably the least excited I’ve been for a premiere of a season of the show. It may have been the lack lustre last half of ‘extras’ for season 10 or maybe the long time between any real action on the show: it’s lost its sense of impetus or urgency. Or maybe we’re all just tired of dealing with our own apocalypse and horror show? Regardless, even though the show delivered on the fantastic performances we’ve come to take somewhat for granted, this episode felt a bit disjointed and unorganized. There was plenty of action, yet somehow it also felt a bit slow. Let’s dive in and take a closer look…

The episode begins with a hero-shot of Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) back, with his Judith-modified (Cailey Fleming) vest, as he looks out over the devastated landscape – which turns out to be the army base that the soldiers (walker-soldiers) that he killed in a previous episode were from. This opening sequence was a return to some of the big action scenes – lots of cast members and lots of walkers. In fact, a great number of our favorite cast members appear here – and that’s it for the episode. Regardless, it is a fun big sequence.

Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) brings Daryl back to the others. Maggie (Lauren Cohen), Magna (Nadia Hilker), Kelly (Angel Theory), Lydia (Cassady McClincy), Rosita (Christian Serratos), Jerry (Cooper Andrews), Carol (Melissa McBride), Alden (Callan McAuliffe) Gage (Jackson Pace), and C Thomas Howell (returning as Roy after doing his initial cameo as a favor to friend Michael Cudlitz who was directing) are all waiting to go in. It’s a nice way to show that all the groups are now working together for the common goal of staying alive. We see a floor strewn with what appear to be dead Walkers – but are actually ‘Lurkers’ from the comics. Essentially walkers in hibernation until a food source shows up.

I loved the silent descent of three at a time down ropes lowered by those left up top. I also loved that the team that went in were all the women! They find the storage room – full of MREs that they need to feed those starving back in Alexandria – and Magna and Kelly kill the two hibernating walkers simultaneously. They begin hauling bags of MREs up and naturally a rope breaks. Daryl catches it, but apparently splits his elbow open doing it and a single drop of blood runs slowly off his arm and drops on the face of a walker – he’s rung the dinner bell! 

It’s nice to see Cassady with her modified stick, Kelly with her slingshot, Rosita with her machete – and the rest doing justice to bow and arrow. They try picking up the soldiers’ discarded guns but can’t find any that still fire or have ammunition. Maggie finds a handgun and then Carol finds a working machine gun. Carol’s the last one on the floor and stops to fill her pack with more MREs. Daryl – and everyone else seems to be out of arrows with which to cover her, but Daryl throws both his knives. It’s hard to feel really nervous about either Daryl or Carol when we know that they are going to a spin off show… However, it’s a nice touch when she gets up top and hands Daryl back his matching set of knives. The final shot we get is of the three old guard – Daryl, Carol, and Maggie – looking down at the walkers looking up.

The road into Alexandria and Alexandria itself is a burnt husk of its former glory. Aaron (Ross Marquand) is busy working on rebuilding the wall as the others return. Dog greets Daryl followed closely by Judith and RJ (Antony Azor – who seemed a bit nervous of dog). Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is helping Gideon (Seth Gilliam) distribute food – and Maggie and Negan exchange looks – hers clearly one of hate, his more enigmatic. Maggie is then greeted by Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller) and then her new group – Agatha (Laurie Fortier), Duncan (Marcus Lewis), Cole (James Devoti), and Frost (Glenn Stanton). Each thought the other dead, but figured if Maggie was alive, she’d be there. They already hate Negan and recognize him. A fight breaks out over the food distribution and Gabriel assures everyone there is plenty to go around.

In private, Gabriel tells the Council that there is only enough food for a week. Daryl can’t believe what they brought won’t last longer. Aaron says they’ll make it work, but Carol is a pragmatist – they just took in two new communities and have no crops. Aaron says people are working hard at rebuilding, but Gabriel points out that it’s slow going when tired and hungry. Agatha offers that her people are good hunters, but Daryl says the last horde scared off all the animals – and suggests finding new territory. Gabriel says they need help now. Maggie suggests Meridian where she used to live. Maggie’s group was out on a mission when the community was attacked. When they got back everyone had been slaughtered. She tells them that the group that did it are organized, attack at night, and by the time you see them, you’re already dead. She tells them about the one she caught with Daryl. He came alone because there aren’t that many of them – so they could take back Meridian and there is plenty of food there. 

Aaron and Rosita argue against attacking Meridian. Aaron says that if the walls don’t get fixed, walkers will get in to Alexandria. Rosita calls it a suicide mission. Daryl points out that without food, it’s not going to matter, so he volunteers to go. Gabriel volunteers, but Rosita, Aaron, and Carol refuse. 

There’s a jump to the group walking though a storm at night. This is where the episode felt really disjointed to me. Eventually, we learn that Negan was brought along to guide them through the city – Washington – but there’s no explanation for how the others came to join the group – which still seems ridiculously small and under-equipped to take on such a powerful force. Negan wants to hunker down and wait out the storm – and while Maggie won’t stop, Daryl suggests that they can’t stay out in the storm. I love that he brought Dog with him and that Dog has a little army vest – BUT DO NOT HARM DOG!!!!!!!!!!! 

Maggie sees a Metro station and they make there way in to the old subway platform. There’s a sign saying America Doesn’t Tolerate Racism with DC in the corner, and another sign on the wall says this is the Pyron Station on the Shady Grove line – the redline in Washington (and I’ve been on it!). Pyron is a made up station, however, and Negan says it’s on the yellow line but connects to the red. Negan wants to hunker down and wait out the storm, but Maggie wants to know which way. He says he doesn’t know, but she gets pissed at him and he finally indicates the direction to the redline and Bethesda station. He tries to talk to Daryl to caution him against Maggie’s reckless behavior, but Daryl won’t talk to him – they are buddies! Two of Maggie’s followers childishly bump into Negan as they climb down into the track. 

Gabriel sees a sign scrawled on the wall – “if there is a God, he will have to beg for my forgiveness” – and then they all hear the walls groaning. We see that Alden is also with them – as well as Gage and Roy. Alden assures them it’s nothing serious. Negan says the noise is God telling them to turn around. Gabriel says if it was God, he’s pretty sure that he would have run it by him first. Negan points out the high water mark on the walls – the tunnel will flood if it rains enough. Daryl tells him to stop trying to run things, shut up, and keep moving. 

We finally catch up with group taken by the Commonwealth. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) has his hood taken off and is interrogated by Clark (Carrie Genzel) and Evans (Matthew Cornwell) as Mercer (Michael James Shaw) stands guard, watching. Clark tells him he doesn’t need to be nervous if he tells them the truth. She tells him they are auditors for the Commonwealth and he’s under level one assessment. If he passes inspection, he goes to level two; if he fails, he goes through re-processing. As we move through the increasingly intrusive and seemingly pointless questioning, we shift between Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Princess (Paola L├ízaro), and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura). I was a little disappointed that Yumiko, as a lawyer, didn’t do better. Ezekiel finally laughs in the their faces, and turns to Mercer asking if he’s the man in charge. 

Mercer doesn’t deny it and suggests Ezekiel is afraid of him. Ezekiel asks him what he did before the fall – and suggests “asshole beat cop.” He calls him a fascist. He’s done answering questions – he points out that he and his people have been cooperating, but before he gets very far, he starts coughing. Mercer offers him water – and he drinks it all, but there’s blood on his lips. 

Back in their enclosure, the four are eating. Eugene is aghast that Ezekiel told off their leader, and he explains that he was asserting himself. A good zookeeper would know to dominate the alpha! Yumiko is worried about them finding out about Ezekiel’s health. Mercer comes along and stares in at them. Princess smiles at him, but gets no response. She suggests it’s time to leave, and Yumiko enthusiastically agrees. The Commonwealth doesn’t seem right. Ezekiel also agrees, but Eugene wants to stay. Eugene reminds them that Michonne kept people out of Alexandria for years. He appreciates them being cautious and insists that their people need help that he thinks the Commonwealth can give. 

Princess asks a man (Brandon O’Dell) and woman (Mala Bhattacharya) in an adjoining cell how long they’ve been there. He says four months and she says nine. He’s clearly confused due to “re-processing.” As they watch, Mercer arrives and drags another man (Joshua Haire) off for re-processing – he clearly doesn’t want to go. Eugene is convinced it’s time to escape!

The group in the tunnel come upon a stretch that is full of corpses in plastic sheeting. It clearly stinks – but of course, the bags are actually full of walkers…. Maggie determines that they were killed during the fall. Negan points out that it might be a mass grave that is still in use. He wants to know if she’s sure that they were all killed during the fall. Maggie ignores the question and tells the others to kill each one and clear a path. Even Alden wants to take a moment, but she insists they keep going. 

We get a hero walker that is reminiscent of the well walker from season two who is bloated and disgusting from being encased in plastic. He attacks Gage who is already freaked out. Negan jumps in to kill him and save Gage, and nobody else helps. Maggie admonishes them to pay attention – and Negan loses it.

Alden tells Negan he’s about to shove a gag in his mouth, and Negan challenges him to try. Daryl tells Negan to cut it out. Negan points out that he seems to be the only one who cares about Gage – Maggie’s been too busy playing dictator. She hasn’t listened to anybody else – and they don’t even know if there is a way out of that tunnel! He’s not wrong. Whatever killed the “rot-bags” might still be down there! He tells them it’s a death march and Maggie is the Pied Piper. Negan declares that he’s out – and Gage agrees. Negan may be a dick, but he’s right. Roy says they shouldn’t have come down there. Daryl insists that they aren’t splitting up. Agatha wants to let them go, but Maggie says they can’t because Negan knows the city. Negan asks if anyone else knows how to read a map. 

Negan knows the real reason that she insisted he come – so she can kill him away from the prying eyes of Alexandria. Gabriel declares that he’s paranoid. Negan tells them that her head isn’t in the game because he’s in her head – he’s all that she can thing about. Again, as Gage said, he may be a dick, but he’s not wrong. He tells her that he’s not dying on her terms. He tells her to just do it. He’s not going to let her drag him through the slime and put him down like a dog – the way Glenn was! And that was too far – Daryl punches him in the face. Jeffrey Dean Morgan completely steals this scene. 

Maggie responds by saying that she’s in charge because that’s how they voted. They’re moving fast because their kids are starving. As for killing him? It’s always on her mind – and she pulls her gun on him as she says it. She tells him that the woman who left six years ago isn’t the one standing over him now – she’s changed. The little bit of her that is left is the only bit that’s keeping him alive. She tells him to keep pushing her… Cohen is good here, but can’t steal the scene back from Morgan.

Back in the Commonwealth, the group try to plot what seems to be an impossible escape. Except that Princess’s super power seems to be in observation – she knows all about all the guards. She has an eye for detail and story. She knows what makes them tick! She knows their names and can tell them apart – the others are shocked! She also knows when they take their breaks and what they do – like take off their armor…

Again, we’re missing how they get out of the cell and actually get the armor. Instead, we jump to a total Star Wars homage that is fabulous!! Eugene and Yumiko are in the armor with guns, and Princess and Ezekiel are their prisoners. Just like Han and Luke with Chewbacca! They are challenged by a guard (Marianna Novak) who wants to know where they are taking the prisoners. Princess and Ezekiel start to yell about rights, but Yumiko shuts them down with a handwave and says “Reprocessing.” The guard tells them to “move along” – just like when Obi-wan used the force on the guard…

The four get outside and it looks like they may be free! They pass a huge container full of money to be incinerated – looks like Princess isn’t getting her two dollar bill back. They also pass a wall of the lost – pictures of those to be expedited for admittance to the Commonwealth. Eugene urges them to hurry up, but Princess sees a picture of Yumiko – with a note that she is Tomi’s sister and to contact them at H. Yumiko tells them that she has to stay.

The rot bags end at a subway car that is blocking the tunnel. Alden’s battery runs out and he asks Gage for one – and that’s when they discover that Gage and Roy are missing. They have the ammo clips and rations. Frost declares it’s Negan’s fault for scaring them off. Daryl hears something – it’s walkers. And where did they come from? The subway car is locked and the way around is blocked by debris. They have to get on top of the car. Daryl goes to pick up dog who runs away. Daryl tells Maggie to meet him at the next platform and goes after him. Maggie is last up the ladder. Walkers start grabbing her ankles. Negan’s head appears and she calls to him for help, but he simply pulls back and she falls…. 

Will he let her die? Did he pull back to grab a gun? Could anyone really blame him for letting his problem solve itself, especially after taking a barrage of abuse? The Walking Dead doesn’t offer us easy answers. He isn’t justified but has the character now earned our sympathy a bit after all we know about his backstory now? Clearly, Yumiko is going to stay – but will the others? Lots of balls thrown in the air as with any good season premiere. However, in an effort to keep this episode action-packed, I think a bit of continuity was lost. It looks like going forward there will be action on three fronts: Washington, the Commonwealth, and Alexandria. Which are you most looking forward to seeing? What did you think of this episode? Did Negan really just try to kill Maggie? Personally, I think he is too smart for that. Nothing would prevent him from integrating faster and we know he wants to stay with Alexandria…. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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