It’s life after Rick, six years after, in fact, and while life might have carried on in his absence, Michonne was still feeling his loss keenly, judging by the opening monologue she gave, crouched by the spot where her partner disappeared. We got to see the changing dynamics of Alexandria through the introduction of the new group of survivors, as Gabriel, Aaron, and co. prepared to vote on whether to accept the strangers into their community. While Rick’s influence was apparent in the questions posed by Gabe, Michonne had grown harder in the years since Rick’s disappearance, and exposed newcomer Magna as an ex-con with a prison tattoo. It was clear from her out-loud conversations with her missing spouse that Michonne felt responsible for the welfare of everyone in the way Rick used to with Carl, and the revelation that Judith now has a little brother made this a little more understandable. But it still seems like a backwards step in terms of Michonne’s character development over the years.
Elsewhere in Rick’s former abode, Judith was getting help with her maths lessons from the incarcerated Negan, but had the good sense not to trust his advice on dilemmas of a moral nature, continuing the tradition of Negan being weirdly invested in Rick’s offspring. And Rosita was in a relationship with Father Gabe – who seems to have discovered his inner Lothario since his extremely short-lived relationship with Jadis – much to the chagrin of poor old Eugene, who was trying to summon the ‘testicular gravitas’ to confess his own crush on Ms. Espinosa!
Over at The Kingdom, King Ezekiel and Queen Carol were reigning supreme, and had adopted an older but no less sullen Henry. But despite harmonious appearances, The Kingdom had fallen into a state of disrepair, and was under siege by a group of rogue Saviors, who’d conveniently been hanging out in the wilderness for over half a decade, only to show up just as we rejoined the action. After Jed and his cronies stole Carol’s food, her wedding ring, and slapped Henry about, it seemed like Carol had returned to her old, meek ways, turning the other cheek. But it was all a ruse, and Carol soon proved revenge is a dish best served flambed by dousing Jed and his friends in petrol and setting it alight!
Daryl had become a lone wolf by all accounts, spear fishing and engrossed in watching a bird pick worms from a barely animated cadaver to feed its young like a nightmarish Disney princess. He crossed paths with Carol, fresh from torching her enemies, but there was a sense that the two hadn’t seen each other for some time.
This leaves the mystery of who is running Hilltop. Michonne sent Judith’s strays to the farming community, but there was no mention of who the leader was. With Lauren Cohan bowing out of the show, is Maggie still in the picture somewhere, or has control passed to Jesus, Enid, or Tara? That wasn’t the only puzzle posed by “Who Are You Now?” How did Michonne come by her scar? What happened to Maggie? Why is Daryl isolated, and what’s happened for the various settlements to become so disconnected?
But clearly the biggest enigma is the horrible, rasping voices heard by Eugene and Rosita as the zombie horde shuffled past? Are the walkers evolving somehow? Are the dead being harnessed as a weapon? Will The Whisperers be the main adversaries for the second half of the season, or are there greater dangers lying within the survivor groups? For all Carol’s talk of ‘cracking to let the light shine in’, she sure is showing some of those dark, psychopathic tendencies…
Final Grade: C
+ While it fell into some repeat patterns, the time jump was a bold move for the show, and there was enough intrigue to make me want to watch the next episodes, despite the absence of Rick and Maggie.
+ Props must go to young Cailey Fleming who did a fantastic job of making Judith sweet, smart, and likable.
+ Aaron has a robot arm, and I’m very much here for that!
– Am I missing something, or is it weird that no one’s hair really changed for YEARS, then everyone has suddenly undergone a dramatic makeover in the time since Rick vanished??
– The little Rick-alike action figure was supposed to be moving but was a little ridiculous (ridRickulous?!)
– The Rosita/Gabe romance just served to highlight how much more fleshing out both of these characters need.
Extra Thought: Maggie’s departure was possibly the most understated departure of such a major player ever ever to grace the small screen. Given that I still wonder what happened to Heath, I’m really hoping for some answers here!
What did you think? Is this the shot in the arm the show needed? Or did your interest leave with Rick and Maggie? Sound off in the comments, or over on Twitter!