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Review: The Walking Dead 9×03, “Warning Signs”

Aaron Neuwirth reviews season 9, episode 3 of The Walking Dead, "Warning Signs" in which the various philosophies collide.

Well, this is going well. “Warning Signs” is a terrific episode of The Walking Dead. It’s following up on the nuanced approached to characters that was so refreshing to see again in last week’s episode, and has continued to add on more layers. There’s also a solid zombie action sequence. This episode indeed has it all, answering some questions along the way, and opening up new doors that I’ll be excited to go through. It may have been a long road to get here, but this retooled version of the series is precisely what I’ve been waiting for.

I’ve often judged the show harshly for laying out the symbolism so clearly to the point of going overboard. This week I was all about the use of bright red tomatoes. The difference is knowing where everyone stands in all of this thanks to well-written scenes and conversations between characters. Having a visual understanding of people’s state of mind. Being invested in the drama that’s unfolding. Going from Rick’s vision of the future embodied by the ripe fruit in front of him, only to see that corrupted by a savior taking a bit out of it, and finally, get stomped on towards the end of the episode, makes for a substantial piece of imagery that rewards the viewer in its use.

That push from a lighter opening involving Rick having fun dad time with Judith to a much darker end, where we watch a character get executed thanks to tacit acceptance from other lead characters also allows the series to engage a bit more heavily into politics than we usually see. It’s likely not an accident that the women of Oceanside turn out to be the ones responsible for the secret murders of various Saviors. Along with the separation seen between former aggressors now subjected to working with those they bullied, and the whole notion of Rick, Maggie and Daryl’s philosophies, and you have a series that is doing a lot with the divide between groups and how to explore what it means to be a part of these different sides.

It’s a benefit to this series that we still have people in the middle. While I’m happy to see what it means to be on Rick’s side of things, or on the Maggie/Daryl side of the equation, knowing that Carol falls somewhere in between, or that Anne (aka Jadis) is doing her best to adopt a side, means the show has found a way to consider so many angles to this current story. All of that and I can’t help but think the balance is terrific. This show has been around for nine years, and I have a handle on most of the characters, so that helps, but it’s great to see this series find an appropriate groove to watch, as these various characters move further down a path with an inevitable boiling point soon to be reached.

Once again, knowing that Andrew Lincoln (and Lauren Cohan) will be exiting this series means expectations are higher than usual, but I can’t say I know where it’s headed. I want to, and this is the most excited I’ve been about the potential, but even understanding that a violent conclusion seems unavoidable, “Warning Signs” shows just how great The Walking Dead can be at telling a focused story that relies on how we’ve come to know these characters and what matters to them.

There also doesn’t seem to be a right side to choose here. These are extreme circumstances, so personal morality is in a bit of a flexible position. Usually the show finds a way to make enough excuses, so we always end up siding with Rick. Currently, however, it’s not that clear. Yes, he ended the war and is working hard for peace, but Maggie is also a leader, and the choices she has to make are also necessary. Does that extend to her choice of executions and imprisonment? It is hard to say. Rick’s vision may seem great, but he’s also trying to push down what it is to work with those who caused so much pain. Sometimes the greater good isn’t a good enough line or reasoning, which means one side is going to have to face even tough challenges soon enough.

There’s other stuff happening this week too, mainly involving whatever Anne has been doing with her helicopters and other secrets. I’ll talk about that more below. The real joy of “Warning Signs” is seeing The Walking Dead mature into something that feels fresh. I’m past all the Negans this show has to offer. Now I can revel in complex philosophies colliding into one another. What character will end up standing tall and making the most significant points? I’m not sure, but as Maggie and Daryl walk down the road together, I’m excited to see what’s at that horizon.

Dead Bits:

  • Zombie Kill of the Week: Maggie got in a pretty great walker triple kill while saving Cyndie.
  • So, Rick and Michonne make for a great couple, obviously adding to the inevitable tragedy of Rick leaving the show.
  • Anne has been talking to others about bringing people. She used to trade people? A or B? Well, that’s twisted, but now she has mixed feelings about Father Gabriel. I have an idea where all this is going, but great job Pollyanna McIntosh for acting all this craziness out.
  • “Gregory or Negan” – Jerry asks the tough questions this week.
  • “No exceptions.” – Arat didn’t have much to do on the show, but she certainly earned the wrath of Oceanside.
  • Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what me and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.
Written by
Aaron is a movie fanatic and loves talking about such things…a lot. He is from Orange County, California, but earned a degree or two at UC Santa Barbara. He describes himself as a film reviewer, writer, podcaster, video game player, comic book reader, disc golfer, and a lefty. His mind is full of film knowledge and random trivia, but he is always open to learning more, whether it’s through box office stats, reviewing Blu-rays from The Criterion Collection or simply hearing first hand from filmmakers and others about various productions and behind-the-scenes tidbits.

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