October 10, 2018 The Walking Dead – A New Beginning (Season 9/ Episode 1 Review)
Change is imminent. You can try and control a situation, but no matter how you try, it will, and has to change. Such in the case with AMC’s mega franchise The Walking Dead, which initially launched back in October of 2010. A promising new series at the time, through the years the popularity grew, so much so it became the most viewed of any series in cable television history. In fact, Season 5’s premiere, No Sanctuary, which aired on October 12th of 2014, was the most-watched series episode in cable history. Impressive enough, the show has inspired a pop culture phenomenon, crossing over from a Horror-based audience to mainstream viewers whom would never even fathom indulging in a story evolving around flesh-eating zombies otherwise. Merchandise, special focused conventions, and even a talk show, it is hard to explain the unprecedented rise of The Walking Dead.
That said, everything that rises, eventually must fall. Hell, even the great Roman Empire fell. So, is The Walking Dead nearing its end? It really all depends on who you ask. After Season 6, viewership started to slowly dip, and Season 8 garnered the series’ lowest ratings since it initially started. In truth, many fans checked out because of the extremely slow pace of the series over the last couple of years. Additionally, there have often been unbelievable plot twists, and of course, the death of key characters.
Then there are the dedicated fans who have hung tough through the it all with hopes that following the end of the war between Rick Grimes and The Saviors at the end of Season 8, change would come. Awaiting that change, after a long off season, The Walking Dead made its return to Sunday nights on October 7th with A New Beginning.
The start of their 9th season, it will also mark the final season for lead cast members Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan. Directed by talented, regular show contributor Greg Nicotero and written by Angela Kang, the new show-runner taking over for Scott M. Gimple, A New Beginning starts off… well, slow.
Picking up sometime in the future, after the end of the war, some estimate approximately a year and a half later, all communities appear to be working together to build a better future. Maggie has been voted in as the new leader of The Hilltop, Rick is leading Alexandria, and it appears that Daryl is watching over The Sanctuary. Crops are being grown, people seemingly are working together, and the dust appears to finally have settled. Or has it?
Moving at a snails pace, prior to premiering, it was reported that season 9 of The Walking Dead would pick up sometime in the future after the war. Thus there would be a time lapse. That said, without a time stamp, it is difficult to figure out when in the timeline the story stands anymore. The only inclinations is at least a year into the future seeing Maggie’s baby has arrived, and baby Herschel looks like he could be at least 8 months old.
This aside, for more than half the episode, Rick and crew are on a mission going to what one can only imagine is a museum in Washington D.C. to seek agricultural artifacts. In this drawn-out process, they nearly lose Ezekiel, and lose an unknown character named Ken. Of course, any lose of life is a tragedy, but the irony of it all is this episode spends more time on this fill-in character’s death and mourning than any prior episode has spent on characters who have been regulars for multiple years on The Walking Dead.
Through all the dialogue and Soap Opera drama between characters, it certainly seems like there is a threat of Negan still looming, even though the ruthless leader is imprisoned at Alexandria. Which leads to the question, will Negan somehow become an aggravator again? Will he disrupt the new world order even behind bars? Only time will tell, but in truth, The New Beginning is an extremely drawn-out start to the 9th season of The Walking Dead. Granted, it is supposed to be a table-setter for a new path in the series, some much of which transpires takes place extremely slowly. That is not to say Kang’s script is a poor one, but if it was meant to breathe new life into The Walking Dead, it is certainly not leaving many viewers optimistic.
Here is the bottom line, The Walking Dead has been around for almost a decade now, an accomplishment in itself for any series, especially a Horror-themed series based around zombies. That all in mind, the direction absolutely had to shift in order for the show to survive, and it has, but has it for the better? It is really open for debate, but sadly, many would agree it has not improved. In many ways, the show has become nothing more than a nighttime Soap Opera where the characters’ personal relationships and inner-strife supersedes the reality of a post-apocalyptic world infested by the undead.
All in all, it would be unfair to condemn the 9th season of The Walking Dead just yet. A lot can still happen that will become a compelling storyline, so again, like seasons past, fans will just have to be patient. Unfortunately, for some, the patience has run out. That is never more evident than in the numbers – the premiere of The New Beginning earned the lowest rating for a premiere in the history of The Walking Dead. Ouch.
Nonetheless, have hope in the new direction, the hardworking team behind The Walking Dead seems to do so. On Sunday, October 14th, The Bridge continues the story, and who knows what will happen next. Until then, CrypticRock gives A New Beginning 2.5 out of 5 stars.