SEASON 9; EPISODE 5
Most of those who have been rather frustrated by the pacing and plot of the show for the last couple of seasons will have been wishing for new showrunner Angela Kang to implement some new ideas and energy into the show. The first few episodes of series nine have been steady if unspectacular but still, it has felt like a step in the right direction. However, the real focus of this series has been Rick Grimes and his impending departure. The marketing team have been out in force, trying to spin the loss of the central character of the show into something of an event – which I assume they hope will lead to a spike in the declining ratings. Fortunately no information had really been leaked regarding the context of Grimes' exit – although most viewers will have been preparing themselves for the emotional death scene of a character who we have followed from day one. But it didn't quite work out that way did it?
The episode itself was actually rather fascinating. With two of the main story threads of the season coming to a head. Rick Grimes being one and Maggie's lust for revenge being the other. The friction caused within the group by Rick's decision to incarcerate Negan rather than executing him, has created some deep wedges within the group. Daryl and Rick faced off last episode and this week it was time for Michonne and Maggie to go head to head. However instead of rolling around on the floor and falling into a hole, the ladies settled things in a much more civilised manner. Michonne was unable to offer Maggie another way of moving past her grief and her emotional torment and in the end, decided to allow Maggie into the prison where she could exact revenge on Negan. We all know Negan is a manipulator of people but his goading seemed like a rather strange tactic. Unless of course he had a death wish. Which, as it turns out, is exactly what was going on. His transformation from gloating bully to whimpering mess was as quick as it was surprising. I'm still not convinced it was totally genuine either. Maggie refrained from putting a crowbar through his skull not because she felt pity for him but because she believes that the version of Negan who killed her husband is already dead (emotionally and spiritually speaking). I'm not so sure that it wasn't all just a masterstroke to save his own skin though...
And whilst these two were having it out in Alexandria, Rick Grimes – having freed himself from being gored by a metal rod – was draped over the back of a horse, fading in and out of consciousness, doing his best not to become zombie food. Cue a load of sequences that felt quite different from anything we've really seen before. It's always a risk when a show goes into surreal dream territory but for the most part these scenes worked, even if they felt a little blunt at times. If anything it was just good to see some of the former characters of the show on screen again with Rick before he left the show for good. However it was also a reminder that we have lost some really great personalities from The Walking Dead – and unfortunately most of the replacements have struggled to fill the void. The messages relayed to him had a clear subtext that the audience was supposed to take on board. Rick Grimes is not The Walking Dead, he is just part of it and others will carry on the torch.
It felt as if these scenes were building up for a dramatic final showdown, where Rick would sacrifice himself for the greater good. And when he ended up on the bridge, being tailed by about 1000 walkers, it didn't take a genius to see where it was all headed. I was ok with it, it felt like a logical ending for a character who although has had his dark moments, has always been fundamentally good. I secretly hoped that when the bridge blew that we would at least get a sense of ambiguity about Rick's fate. But when Jadis discovered him washed up and at death's door, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't quietly happy. Rick Grimes being flown off to a mysterious location in a helicopter, but still very much alive. I could handle that. It was a bit of a twist for sure but one I could live with. However the final scene, set six years into the future and giving us a glimpse of a pre-teen Judith Grimes was completely baffling. The reality that we are now going to be catapulted into the future left a rather sour taste in the mouth for a variety of reasons. Heck, we've just had a leap forward in time and now we have to zoom forward again to a point where we are 7 and a half years on from the previous series? It's a bold move and one that doesn't sit so well with me. I'll be tuning in just out of sheer curiosity but I fear that this episode may have been the final nail in the coffin for another batch of Walking Dead viewers.