The Walking Dead 1101 – Acheron Part 1
The Walking Dead has grown into a cultural phenomenon first capturing the audience’s imagination as a comic book from Image Comics and then as a hit AMC TV series in 2010. 11 seasons on the show has gone through several changes but one constant is the passion fans of the franchise have for The Walking Dead universe. The series moves into some uncharted territory this season picking up not long after The Whisperers have been dispatched and with a new menace on the horizon. Surviving after the fall of civilization continues to be an enormous challenge and Acheron Part 1, the Season 11 premiere takes little time to make that fact abundantly clear.
Maggie, Carol, Daryl and the crew make their way through a maze of fallen walkers in an abandoned military base. Their objective to replenish Alexandria’s dwindling food supply unfolds without a hitch until a rope snaps sending some of the roof bound food hurtling to the floor from high above. Daryl’s quick reflexes save the day, but the victory is a momentary one. A drop of Daryl’s blood awakens the dormant hoard leaving Rosita, Maggie and some of the others trapped down below. The tension builds with arrows and knives proving to be no match for the hoard as they close in on everyone. Gunfire erupts breaking the silence as Carol and Maggie cut down the walkers giving everyone time to escape. Absent of dialogue, Acheron’s pre-credits sequence says so much with knowing looks between the characters and their teamwork on display communicating anything that words may have added to the scene.
Acheron Part 1 ushers in The Walking Dead’s final season marking some changes from the end of Season 10 as well as maintaining some constants including the unresolved conflict between Negan and Maggie. Duncan, Agatha and members of Maggie’s new crew have integrated themselves into Alexandria’s community. Dwindling supplies and a depleted food source has Alexandria’s survival in peril. Tempers are running short among the members of the community leaving the leadership group to come up with ways to make things work. Maggie proposes going back to Meridian, where she and her new friends were settled before her return to Alexandria. Maggie recaps the horrors that led to her return and the slaughter in Meridian foreshadows what lays in wait for everyone. Her plan to solve Alexandria’s food shortage involves confronting the Reapers, the menace that wiped out her new community, and it leaves Aaron and the others unsettled.
Acheron’s tone shifts from heightened suspense to something a little less intense as the scene shifts from the creaking subway tunnels to the bureaucracy of the Commonwealth. Yumiko, Eugene, Ezekiel and Princess are grilled by Mercer and his inquisitors. The interrogations aren’t arduous and not only give viewers insight into the characters’ backstory but what the Commonwealth is looking for. Ezekiel turns the tables and pries into Mercer’s past but not before a coughing fit brings things to an end. Although the conditions they are held in aren’t dire the benevolence of their captors comes into question when other people in the holding area speak uneasily of being reprocessed.
Meanwhile in the tunnels under DC, Maggie and the others come upon a gruesome sight. A mass grave of walkers wrapped in plastic sheets blocks their path and as they march forward their group begins to splinter. Negan’s act of heroism does nothing to shift the needle in his favor and realizing that there is more to their quest than what is being said he challenges Maggie’s authority. He’s keenly aware that she wants him dead and accuses her of using this mission as cover to have him killed. Their showdown is the highlight of the episode and the unfinished business between them reverberates throughout Acheron.
A couple of twists bring Acheron to its gripping final moments. Princess’ powers of observation not only add a comedic element to the episode but also opens the door for an unexpected connection between Yumiko and the Commonwealth. While it’s not really explained how Eugene and Yumiko acquire the Commonwealth guard armor to make a run for it, their escape leads them to a discovery that freezes Yumiko in her tracks. On a wall, dubbed the “wall of the lost” by Ezekiel, pictures of people fill its frame. Princess’ keen eye spots Yumiko’s picture which is accompanied by a note. Realizing that the note is written by her brother Tomi, she is unable to leave and scuttles the group’s escape plan. The other twist occurs in the tunnels beneath DC. Along the way Gage and Roy abandon the group and a new hoard force Daryl and the others to reroute their path. A subway train makes avoiding the walkers difficult and when Dog takes off, Daryl splinters from the group. Finding refuge atop the subway car, the group scrambles to safety except for Maggie who is tracked down by the hoard. Her cries for help to Negan are ignored and the look of indifference he gives her is chilling as the screen fades to black.
Acheron Part 1 is a moody, tension filled and entertaining start to The Walking Dead’s final season. The Commonwealth gets some screentime and several aspects of their society are revealed, including their disdain for the currency of the world before the fall. The savagery of the Reapers is established, and the Negan/Maggie conflict, ready to explode at a moment’s notice is punctuated by a great cliff-hanger.