SPOILERS AHEAD for The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 1: "A New Beginning" ...
Set about a year, year-and-a-half, after last year's finale, the premiere episode of Season 9 has things being reasonably idyllic. Alexandria and the Hilltop are thriving; the Sanctuary is a semi-productive member of the community, though they are having trouble with their crops. We don't see the Kingdom at all, but Carol and Ezekiel are living a domestic life. He wants to marry her; she isn't ready.
Rick leads an enormous team into Washington DC, where they raid the national museum. I thought it was an attempt to preserve history and art, but it had a much more practical reason: they are getting supplies. An old piece of farming equipment; a huge carriage; and heirloom seeds. "Look to the past to move into the future," Rick says. They run into trouble along the way home, and a young man from the Hilltop, Ken, is attacked by zombies. Maggie kills him before he can change.
Back at the Hilltop, Ken's parents are devastated. Gregory, upset at having lost to Maggie in the Hilltop's first election, teases Ken's parents - both recovering alcoholics - with booze. Mom takes some and has to be poured into bed. Dad takes a little more pressure, but eventually he gives in. While out for a stroll with Herschel, Maggie runs into Gregory, who casually mentions that someone defaced Glenn's grave. Naturally, she goes to inspect it, and is accosted by a hooded figure who tries to kill her. Several Hilltoppers hear her screams and rush to help, revealing Ken's dad as the attacker. Maggie goes straight to Gregory, accusing him of setting it all up. He plays dumb - then attacks her with a knife. She gets the upper hand - but doesn't kill him. Not yet. She saves that for a public hanging. "I made this decision, but this is not the beginning of something. I don't want to go through this again," she tells the crowd.
Elsewhere, the Saviors are getting restless. Their crops have been failing, which means that they aren't self-sufficient. While many regard Rick as their hero (calling him "the famous Rick Grimes" when he comes to visit), discord is starting to grow quietly. Michonne finds graffiti on the wall that reads "We are all still Negan" and is deeply disturbed by it. Daryl has been in charge of the Sanctuary, but he wants out. Carol decides to take his place at the Sanctuary.
New title sequence
It's more like a "living" comic book. I like the style, I like the animation. It is far more interesting than the green wash over random scenes and zombies.
I know the Caryl contingent is going to be pissed off to see Carol and Ezekiel kissy and domestic. But Carol and Daryl are still BFFs, and still get cozy with each other. I wonder if they are going to introduce a love triangle between the three of them? It might be the first love triangle in zombie apocalypse history (or at least in TWD history).
The zombies are starting to look a little bit emaciated - well, more so than normal. The few survivors have gotten really good at outsmarting the rotting walkers. What exactly happens to a zombie when it can't get any fresh meat? Does it die again? Does it wither away to a moldering pile of grunts and gnashing teeth?
I like the return to zombies being the enemy
Frankly, if I wanted a war between human factions, I could put on basically any other show on television. I like that things are reasonably harmonious between the communities.
They tried to squeeze too much out of Ken's death
I understand that his death sparked a series of events that will most certainly have consequences throughout the entire season. He is to The Walking Dead what Archduke Ferdinand was to WWI. However, the show tried to squeeze an awful lot of emotion out of his death. The slow, sad scene watching him die and Maggie crying over him. It was just too sappy for a character I don't even know.
A nice welcome back
I have to say, I really enjoyed this episode - far more than any episode last season. Maybe it is the sense of optimism; maybe it is because there were more zombies in this episode than in the entirety of Season 8. Maybe it's because I'm a nerd and I liked seeing them go National Treasure in the museum.
Now, bring on the Whisperers!