Following last week’s cliffhanger ending, “Acheron: Part II,” may benefit from having fans wonder what was going on precisely with Negan and whether or not Maggie had to face the harsh reality of her intimate demise. Granted, most would know they weren’t about to kill off third-billed star Lauren Cohan on the first episode of the final season of The Walking Dead (though what a trip that would be). Still, creating an excellent level of tension for a season premiere that seemed initially designed to play as one long episode means getting the fans excited for more.
Fortunately, there is reason to continue being excited, and I’m not just talking about the cliffhanger that ends this week’s episode either. Given that the same team that delivered the first part also worked on the second, it’s no surprise to have the same feel here. Our characters are also in the same locations, so there’s that. Maggie, Negan, Daryl, and the gang are stuck in a subway for most of the episode, while sweaty Eugene and his people are still undergoing assessment at the Commonwealth.
So what works? Well, a lot of it. Let’s talk about the Negan situation. The guy bailed on Maggie, letting her fend for herself. “She was in trouble, and I didn’t help,” he snarls. Is there a difference between that and murder? Well, because of a whole lot of convenience, before any justice can be dispensed, Gage, one of the two that tried to run away, suddenly appears, putting himself in the exact same position Maggie was in. Is this too much?
Maggie makes the difficult choice of letting him get taken by the walkers to avoid risking the rest of the group’s lives. Alden disagrees, but the rest go along with it. It’s not entirely the same as what Negan did, but it’s easy to see how everyone dropped the argument in favor of dealing with their current position. Honestly, the show was better for this move. After the speeches from last week, not hearing another series of arguments kept things moving and changing up the pacing. Sometimes less is more, and in this series, which constantly hinges on mighty monologues, that was a benefit.
The rest of this section is more or less a countdown to when the walkers will take over the subway. During this time, we cut back and forth with Daryl, discovering theme-heavy artwork on the walls of the tunnels, finding scattered walkers, and looking for Dog. Maybe I need to watch this section again on pause, but at least the show wasn’t bending over backward to explain it all. Again – less is more.
Eventually, Daryl gets closer to everyone, including Soul Man himself, C. Thomas Howell’s Roy as the other coward that ran off. He’s back with nothing to show for himself except nasty wounds. His reward – an arrow in him by the end of the episode. Meanwhile, Daryl does his Daryl thing and helps Maggie, and the game escapes the Subway in what passes for the most incredible way possible on this show (more on that in the Dead Bits below).
The other portion of this episode puts us first in the shoes of Yumiko and then a very nervous Eugene. Both are effective. I’ve had some issues with the show trying to put a lot of weight on Yumiko, a character we don’t know that well. However, her assessment of those assessing her was a fun bit that certainly helps strengthen her character for the more prominent storyline seemingly coming her way, knowing that her brother is in the Commonwealth.
Eugene’s side of the story starts off a bit rocky, as I’m not sure why he’s as nervous as he is, let alone why the guards are acting as if he’d imagined where his friends were. Fortunately, the great series of lines he shares with Mercer (also doing great work with his first impressions) was more than enough to get to the route of Eugene. The guy walks a fine line between pathetic and irreplaceable, and Josh McDermitt wears that ponytail with pride. His admittance of so many things, including still being a virgin, goes well with the fact that he does successfully lie to help his case. And then he’s rewarded with his friends.
From here, I guess we’ll be spending more time with this group splintered off, as that crew is headed for the Commonwealth, which promises law, order, and toilet paper. Can’t say the same for Maggie and her people. By the end of the episode, they are ambushed by the Reapers, who seem to either mean business or are one hell of a Slipknot tribute band. I’m going to say the former is a deadly affirmative in this case, and it looks like there’s a lot of fighting ahead.
It’s a solid episode as far as ending this two-part premiere. The performances are all on point, and the connections are becoming complicated in the case of Negan and everyone. How this pans out is something to look out for in the future, but for now, he’s at least doing what he can to help, even while everyone scoffs at him. As for the Commonwealth crew – well, everyone is smiling for now. We’ll see how far that takes them.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: First, Daryl kills two walkers with a mace, but then he stuffs a walker’s mouth with a grenade and blows a bunch of them up. So, yeah, that wins.
- Maggie heads under the subway car to survive. A lot of space down there. Perhaps they could have opened the floor panels and avoided worrying about the doors.
- “It comes for all of us.” – Any thoughts on the murals Daryl was looking at?
- “Coffee?” – Yumiko made her point well, it seems.
- Gage getting denied entry did seem like a rough choice given how much time he had before the walkers caught up.
- “That’s a hot take, father.” – The funniest line and most memorable thing Alden has said.
- “I was afraid she was a femme fatal.” – Eugene’s worries are terrific.
- “I went to West Point, asshole.” – Don’t put Mercer down. He is no beat cop.
- Stephanie seems nice.
- 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.