This is a spoiler-free review of Episode 2 of Season 9. Already seen the episode? Read on for full spoilers following its UK broadcast.
In a cell below Alexandria, with nothing for entertainment other than occasional visits from Rick (Andrew Lincoln), lies the villainous Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Incarcerated to set an example, to prove to the newly combined communities that there is another way other than people killing people. Rick’s visits aren’t often and when he does call, Negan is told stories of how the people are thriving without him. Are the tales the whole truth or is Rick trying to convince himself and Negan that this future, Carl’s future, is working?
Season 9’s second episode continues to focus on The Walking Dead’s main characters, as the communities work together to repair the bridge that was taken out by a passing horde. The Saviours, as per the agreement between Rick and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), are the majority of the workforce, but slowly, their numbers are dwindling. It is said that they walking off, but are they leaving due to still being treated as second class citizens, or is something more sinister afoot? As seen in the opening episode, there are parts of the Saviours who still long to be working for Negan: Rick should be fearful that those missing aren’t planning a breakout.
Those Saviours who are still sticking around want to be given guns for protection – they are working out in the open, focused on the task at hand and not on the potential walker threat. The community leaders are obviously against the idea but willing to take it under consideration, until the Saviours hurt their own cause. Justin (Zach McGowan), the cantankerous Saviour from Episode 1, continues to be a thorn in the side of Rick and Daryl (Norman Reedus), both of whom have different ideas of how to deal with him, which only strengthens the rift between the groups.
Part of the bridge reconstruction requires gathering resources and the survivors have been stockpiling wood, storing it in piles on top of a hill. None of the labourers have seen to appoint themselves Health and Safety officer, so there is nobody able to warn the survivors that their environment isn’t work safe – this leads to a spectacular set piece that Kevin McCallister would be proud of. Viewers’ faith in the storytelling of The Walking Dead may have waned over the past few seasons but you can’t fault the special effects and make-up departments: The Walkers are as gruesome as ever and when the kills come, your face will screw up in disgust.
Season 9 has started strongly and The Bridge continues to deliver, even bringing back something that has been missing from the series for a long time – laughter. We’re no longer laughing at implausible scenarios, but actual interactions; characters are bringing smiles back to our faces. The new safety of the communities has allowed the survivors to relax a little more; they are finding love and laughter and this allows the writers to step out of the darkness and explore new sides to our characters. While The Walking Dead is still following many of the tropes that it has over the last eight seasons, this new atmosphere has given fresh life to the show and makes it feel tonally and significantly different.
This is the future that Carl wanted, communities together, working, living, thriving. There are still some things to figure out and some trust to be earned but nothing brings people together more than a common enemy and in a world full of the undead (where do they keep coming from?), there are plenty of opportunities for these communities to come together. The future of The Walking Dead is strong if it can keep producing episodes like this, but is Carl’s legacy as strong and will Rick be able to maintain the peace that he tells Negan they are enjoying so much?
The Walking Dead Season 9 premieres at 9pm on FOX UK on Mondays. Don’t have pay-TV? You can also stream it on NOW TV, for £7.99 a month, with no contract and a 14-day free trial. Seasons 1 to 8 are available on Sky Box Sets and NOW TV until 30th November 2018.
Innards and entrails (spoilers)
– The survivors have all been given jobs to improve the communities: there are labourers, farmers, blacksmiths, but there is still a lack of doctors. Over the time gap, Siddiq (Avi Nash) has been training up Enid (Katelyn Nacon) to help administer first aid. Rick decides he needs Siddiq back at Alexandria, so sends him off, leaving Enid as the primary resident. The timing couldn’t have been worse: after the incident with the wood collecting, Enid is thrown right into the deep end and held under. She manages to keep her cool and pull off an advanced operation, saving the life of one of the survivors. It will improve the confidence the communities have in her, but it is hard to believe she could perform such a procedure from only reading about it.
– The Saviours have every right to be disgruntled: despite working hard to repair the bridge, they are still undermined by the others. They don’t do themselves any favours with their arrogant attitudes, but the same could be said for the other survivors. Now, some Saviours are vanishing and it is revealed at the end of the episode that perhaps they aren’t all just walking off…
– Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) and Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) are getting closer. She is drawing pictures for him, but there is a very real danger that she will want to draw him like one of her French girls. Jadis was very forward when she proclaimed that she and Rick were to lay together and Anne’s flirting technique isn’t much softer. This is a horror show and the tropes from the silver to the small screen are more prevalent that they appear. We only have to look back to when Abraham found love with Sasha: that was torn apart quickly, could a similar fate now be on the cards for this odd couple?