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TV Review: The Walking Dead - Season 9, Episode 6

Season 9, Episode 6: Who Are You Now?

PLOT: Six years after the previous episode, the people of Alexandria have to decide whether or not to accept a new group of survivors into their community.

REVIEW: Just when I was wondering how AMC's The Walking Dead could continue, and if it should, without the presence of Rick Grimes, the man we followed into this world eight years ago, last week's episode threw me for a loop by including an epilogue that moved the show's timeline forward six years. The story wasn't going to continue the day after Rick "died",it's now going to show us a world that has changed while Rick has been gone. They held my interest and attention with that move, I had to see how this was going to play out.

One episode later, I'm not feeling blown away by our first glimpse into a world six years removed from Rick Grimes. The more things change, the more they stay the same, I suppose. There are some new structures around, like windmills and Old West style buildings, and some characters have different relationships than they had before - Carol (Melissa McBride) and King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) are now married, and I never would have predicted that Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) would hook up. That's two love interests for him over the course of just six episodes! Still, the most notable change as far as I'm concerned was all the new hairstyles. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) has grown his mullet out into a ponytail, Carol is wearing a long white wig, Michonne (Danai Gurira) has a cool cut that doesn't seem practical in a land infested by zombies, having the sight of one eye obscured by hair.

Of course, another major change is that Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming) is now 10 years old and an active character on the show, having grown up to be the Little Ass Kicker that Daryl (Norman Reedus) once predicted she would be. She's a fun, precocious kid who has an entertaining scene with incarcerated villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and is, like her older brother Carl in his final days, dedicated to helping people. That's how we get the main focus of this episode, the introduction of the new group of characters Judith has brought to Alexandria and the town's decision whether or not to let them stay in Alexandria. The council that will decide their living situation includes Michonne, who is very clearly against the idea of letting them move in; Gabriel; Dr. Siddiq (Avi Nash); Aaron (Ross Marquand), now sporting a prosthetic hand similar to the one Ash wore in ARMY OF DARKNESS; and, most surprising of all, former Savior Laura (Lindsley Register), who isn't given much to do but is recognizable by her neck tattoo.

I was very curious to learn more about this group of outsiders, as I expect they'll be playing a prominent role throughout the rest of the season, especially since they're all characters from the comic book source material. I don't read the comic book, so I have no preconceived notions of who these people are, all I'll know of them is what the TV series shows us. The most promising of the bunch to me is Luke, partly because he seems like a good guy, and mainly because he's played by Dan Fogler, who is awesome. I would like to see Fogler remain on this show for a long time. Also intriguing are the sister pair of Connie (Lauren Ridloff), who is deaf and only communicates through sign language, and Kelly (Angel Theory). I understand that Kelly is a male in the comic book and actually Connie's boyfriend, but this sister duo works for me, and we have plenty of love stories going on here already. Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) has been sidelined with an injury, we'll have to find out more about her later, but the leader of the pack of Nadia Hilker as Magna, apparently a badass with a troubled past. I have to admit, I wasn't too impressed by Magna in this episode, as it just came off like she was doing a lot of posing and posturing. The only thing I liked about her was one line delivery, when she hissed out a "Yes" in response to something during the council meeting.

It would have been a drawback if the time jump had been used as an excuse to not have to deal with the loss of Rick, but that was, thankfully, not the case. His absence still clearly tears Michonne up daily, as we see her talking out loud to his memory on more than one occasion in the episode. While I'm on board to check out the trilogy of TV movies they plan to make about Rick's experiences while he's away from Alexandria, it's really tough to know that his friends and family have been hurting so much while he's been away for six years (and beyond) doing whatever it is he does out there.

My greatest hope for the time jump was that it would finally get us far past the whole "can the Saviors be good or not?" issue. The presence of Laura on the Alexandria council was a positive sign in that regard, but then this episode had me groaning when they through more villainous Saviors into the mix with a group that menaces Carol and her adopted son Henry (Matt Lintz, brother of Madison Lintz, who played Carol's daughter Sophia during the first two seasons). For a moment I thought I had figured out why they would bother to do this. Some new villains are about to be brought onto the show, and I thought they had decided to save one last group of bad Saviors so we could see them get destroyed by the new villains. A way of saying, "If you thought the Saviors were bad, you haven't seen anything yet."

But sure, okay, they can be used as a way to show that Carol is still tough and not be trifled with even when she's married and rocking the old lady hair. I could have done without the CG fire effects that came with that revelation, but it was hardcore nonetheless.

Who Are You Now? wasn't a great episode, and yet The Walking Dead always finds ways to keep me holding on to hope and wanting to see more. We're only just getting started with the new characters, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with them. We're also about to meet the new villains, the build-up to their reveal begins in the final moments of this episode as Rosita and Eugene try to escape a herd of zombies, and I'm anticipating seeing them in action, as I've heard good things about them from readers of the comic book.

So this was a stepping stone episode, a chance to settle down a bit after the exit of Rick (and, to less fanfare, Maggie) last week. I'm ready to see what comes after.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: That moment at the end when the zombies seem to be talking to each other is the one that's going to get viewers stirred up, but my favorite zombie moment came at the beginning, when a bird plucks a worm off a zombie that has been rotting for a long time.

GORY GLORY: The fire scene didn't get gory, so there wasn't much other than zombies taking it in the head like always.

FAVORITE SCENE: Judith and Negan discuss math, airplanes, and whether or not "strays" should be trusted.

FINAL VERDICT
 

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