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The Walking Dead 11.01 Review – ‘Acheron: Part 1’

August 23, 2021 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
The Walking Dead 11-1 Image Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC
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The Walking Dead 11.01 Review – ‘Acheron: Part 1’  

Welcome back, friends! The beginning of the end of The Walking Dead, and what a long, amazing, heart-wrenching journey it’s been. I can still remember when this show was first starting, being so excited to see the graphic novels come to life on the screen, appropriately starting on Halloween night of 2010. How the world and we have changed since then! But we’ll have plenty of time to reminisce over the course of the season. For now, let’s talk about the premiere episode of the final season. Or rather, part one of it!

The plot! In Alexandria, things are not going well. While things are being rebuilt, it’s slow-going and they are desperate for food. Maggie suggests they go to a former home of hers, Meridian, which has plenty of supplies but its people were killed by the Reapers. She thinks there aren’t many of the Reapers, though, and that they could take the place back from them. The trip takes them through DC, and thunderstorm drives them into the Metro tunnels. Negan consistently says it’s a bad idea and even accuses Maggie of not listening to anyone because his presence and her desire to kill him are a distraction to her. She pushes back on this and they continue through a sea of bagged walker bodies, killing them off one by one, until the way is blocked by a stopped train and collapsed tunnel ahead, and free-roaming walkers are pushing in on them from behind. Daryl chases Dog down a separate route while most of them climb to the top of the train. Maggie is the last one up and struggles to get there, her grip slipping just after Negan turns away when he could’ve helped her up. Meanwhile in the Commonwealth, Eugene, Yumiko, Ezekiel, and Princess are subjected to hours of questions about their respective pasts before the Fall, and upon learning they might be here for months or face some terrible “reprocessing” threat, make good on an escape plan. However, just before they’re clear, Yumiko sees a photo of herself and her brother on a wall of the lost and says she needs to stay.

While this episode is very clearly only a part one of two, and we’ve got plenty left unfinished, I enjoyed all of what was going on. After the added-on Season 10 episodes we got last Spring were a little lackluster, it was nice to have something that felt more like a complete episode up to TWD’s usual level. There was plot, there was character development, there was action, things moved forward, there were more than 2-3 people on screen together at a time! The add-ons tended to kind of only give us one or maybe two of those at most, with a distinct lack of action or group scenes. Again, we all know they were working with some very real limitations, but…suffice to say, it was good to see the show back to its usual form.

While there are a lot of dynamics going on, the big one is very clearly the Negan and Maggie conflict. We all know the long history here, and these two are picking up right from where we left them at the end of the season 16 finale. Negan’s decided he’s not giving up being part of this community he just helped save without a fight, and Maggie still rightfully despises the man who brutally murdered her husband and wants to see him dead. I think, too, they’re both being honest in this episode about who they are and their motivations, and they’re both not entirely being steered well by their first instincts. Negan’s right when he calls her out on wanting him dead and hoping it can happen away from Alexandria, ideally even not by her hand directly, and she doesn’t deny it even though she’s not trying to actively kill him. She’s very driven to make this solution work for Alexandria for the reasons she states as well, though. Between her attitude, the desperate situation, and the questionable decisions, not to mention Negan dropping a keyword, Maggie right now reminds me a lot of Rick in his “Ricktatorship” phase. He always had the best intentions and motivations for his people, the drive to make things happen for them, but the choices he made along the way weren’t always the best.

At the same time, Negan makes a colossally bad call at the end of the episode in not helping Maggie up onto the train’s roof. He should know better by now, he should be better by now, and while I think overall he is, I can see why he made this choice. He’s absolutely convinced Maggie is going to kill him, Maggie has as good as said she’s going to kill him, and absolutely no one is going to stop her or even question that, as evidenced by the scene where they finally have their confrontation. When he’s looking down at her, he sees two choice: his certain death or hers. Negan, not shockingly, chooses himself. Hell, he probably thinks to himself that she wouldn’t help him but kill him were their roles reversed (thanks Talking Dead for pointing that out!). I won’t be surprised if he comes to regret this, though–because I don’t for a second think he’s going to get away with it. I will be absolutely shocked if they kill off Maggie, especially if they do it here and now in this way. Hell, based on the physical scenario, I think she’s about to borrow a move from Glenn’s and squirm under that train to survive. So, Negan’s going to have to first somehow sell this situation to everyone else, and have to deal with Maggie whenever she’s reunited with the group. Good luck getting out of that one unscathed, dude.

Also–why are all these bagged bodies here? Who put them there? Are they really from closer to the Fall or are they more recent? I get the feeling they’re not all that old, but I’m not sure if we’ll ever find out or not.

Meanwhile in the Commonwealth! I enjoyed the interviews the foursome go through and got a few legit LOLs in at the more oddball questions and their responses, especially Ezekiel just saying “Pass!” to the ones about bowel movements. It and other moments in this plotline brought some good moments of levity to the episode. Still, the Commonwealth’s questions and their whole set-up here are highly concerning. They’re hiding information, they’re well-armed and well-off (in the ways people can be in this world), and they are 100% intensely controlling. Now, we’ve seen our heroes do similar things along these lines, but this is on a whole other level, and this group is far more well supplied than our survivors have ever been, what with their uniform stormtrooper armor and everything. I wasn’t shocked Eugene, the only white male in the group, is the one who thinks the situation isn’t too bad and that these people have been strict but polite and this will work out if they cooperate, and the three minorities are the ones agreeing that hell no, this is a bad scene and they need to get out of here.

Princess’s reading of the guard drama was another hilarious moment. It makes so much sense that this woman who’s been starved for human interaction and was in her teens when the world fell is immediately all about the relationship drama and hot gossip amongst the guards, though! Also, it made for a hilarious way for them to make their would-be escape, and the set up to skip over stealing the armor was perfect. This twist of learning that Yumiko’s brother is in the Commonwealth changes things significantly, though. If they leave, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll never get back in. But if they go back in, they need to not be caught having attempted to sneak out or I doubt that will go well either. And the threat of “reprocessing” still hovers over them all. Can Yumiko even ask about her brother without raising suspicions? How can they make sure they all get in, and soon?

A lot of questions up in the air here! How’s this Negan-Maggie situation going to resolve itself? What about Daryl and Dog, who have also now run off on their own? Are there people in the tunnels the group is also going to need to be wary of in addition to the walkers and, let’s not forget, the threat of flooding as well? And how will the foursome in the Commonwealth get out of the sticky situation they’re in? What about Ezekiel’s health, while we’re at it? He’s lied about his cancer, but he’s also starting to cough up blood. Generally speaking, not a good thing!

What did you think of the final season premiere? What are your hopes for this final season of The Walking Dead and where do you think it will all end? Sound off in the comments below and see you back here next week!

Random thoughts:
– Acheron is the name of the “river of pain” or “river of woe” in the Greek underworld. To reach Hades proper, the dead were ferried across the Acheron by Charon. Though one ancient source described it as a place of healing that cleansed and purged human sins. All of which are interesting parallels to the situations and conflicts in the tunnels, and I fully expect to see that place turn into an actual river in Part 2.
– Seriously, Negan, bringing up Glenn? Saying his name? How did you think that was going to go!
– The opening mission was pretty cool, I do enjoy when they do these speechless openers for intensity. The dormant walkers thing…it feels a little weird to just now bring that in, but sure, fine, whatever. I suppose we’ve seen some walkers be sort of dormant before, albeit not so many at a time, and then twice in the episode at that (the ones in the tunnels).
– Since the Fall happened 10-12 years ago, Negan is officially the creator of the “living rent-free in your head” meme in TWD.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
A great episode full of tension, conflict, some action, and group scenes! A very welcome back to form after the added-on Season 10 episodes that were kind of lackluster, though these did build on things introduced and developed in those episodes. They're leaning hard into the Maggie-Negan tension and not trying to play favorites; it's a complicated situation with complicated feelings on both sides, and no one's letting anyone look away from or forget that fact. And it's playing out in true TWD fashion against the backdrop of a life-and-death situation. The Commonwealth situation is getting intense as well, albeit in a very different way, and likewise getting complicated for all involved. Looking forward to part 2 next week!