[Editor’s note: Spoilers follow for “The Walking Dead” Season 9, Episode 6, “Who Are You Now.”]
This Week On “The Walking Dead”
Last week’s episode ended with such promise: Rick had been written off to go star in movies and the timeline jumped a significant number of years. What effect would the intervening years have on our heroes? Would their nascent society take hold? What new adventures would await them? Sadly, the answers to those questions are, “Very little,” “Kind of,” and “The exact adventures they’ve always had, except Rick’s gone.” It’s still a tad too early to declare the big time jump a colossal misfire, but “Who Are You Now” does not engender confidence.
Man Is The True Monster
The primary issue with “Who Are You Now” is that Michonne is now the knee-jerk xenophobe, immediately distrustful of the newbies Judith has saved in the wilderness. This is particularly distressing because before Rick’s disappearance, Michonne was the one most focused on the future, establishing a government and so forth. Now she’s judging newcomers for their prison tattoos.
The show makes a passing effort to justify the change, as Michonne monologues to Rick’s spirit about how after his death she felt she needed to do anything to protect everyone, like Rick did with Carl. And it’s clear Michonne is in the wrong – when Negan agrees with you, you know you’ve lost the plot – but it’s still such a bummer direction for the character, especially knowing she’s been stuck in this purgatorial funk for years now. Not to mention it makes Michonne seem like a doofus for taking the exact wrong lesson from both Rick and Carl’s deaths.
It’s not utterly derailing – Michonne comes around by the end of the episode – but it’s still disheartening on top of being repetitive. This is the exact arc Rick went through all last season after Carl’s death, and “trust no one but your own” was “The Walking Dead’s” primary theme before last season. Do we really need a mini recreation of it now, especially when in the real world we’re deploying thousands of troops to turn migrants away from the border? Surely the show could make better use of its time.
Community Tension Assessment
With all this screen time dedicated to Michonne being an asshole, there’s surprisingly little establishing the new status quo. Rick’s symbolic bridge is still gone and while there doesn’t appear to be hostilities between Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom, they don’t seem particularly connected, either. Sanctuary appears to have failed, and a group of the remaining Saviors are marauding through the countryside (at least until Carol burns them all alive for stealing her wedding ring, yet another sign that the show is returning to its cynical ways).
Those Saviors’ fate is particularly frustrating because the conflict between the communities is what drove the season up until this point, and it seems to have been abandoned off-camera. Now instead of “Can we move on from this war?” the problem seems to be “My friends never call anymore.” Various characters refer to something bad that happened in the past that drove the communities apart, but it’s unclear if it was Rick’s death or something during the time jump. It could also maybe be the Kingdom/Savior gunfight that mostly happened off-screen a few episodes ago. If these hints are supposed to be intriguing, it’s not working.
A Shred of Humanity
Still, despite all that, the newbies introduced last week have some potential. There’s tough ex-con Magna, garrulous former music teacher Luke, deaf journalist Connie, and her young sign translator Kelly. There’s also Yumiko, but she gets injured and is recovering for most of the episode, so she doesn’t really register yet. The show probably doesn’t need this many new named characters at this point, but hopefully they’ll all have something to do.
Obligatory Zombie Action
Eugene and Rosita head to some distant water towers to try and get a radio signal going, but stumble across a herd. Eugene gets a patented stakes-raising leg injury (TM) so they’re forced to hunker down and smother themselves in mud. As the herd passes, they can hear a voice among the zombies, encouraging the herd to find them. Well that’s disconcerting! One has to assume that it’s an insane person going zombie native rather than some sort of zombie mutation. Although, let’s be honest, the show would get pretty exciting if it went full “Gremlins 2” with its zombies. Bring on the Brain Zombie!
- Now to what’s really important: how did everyone’s hair change? Michonne’s new wig is good. Carol’s is a crime. Eugene’s hairstyle is still bad but a step up over the mullet.
- Not much Daryl this week. He’s out in the wilderness, brooding, like Wolverine any time Jean Grey dies.
- Shout out to Aaron’s new prosthetic, which may or may not have caused this reviewer to yell “Robot arm!” out loud while watching this episode.
- This week in l’amour: Eugene wants to tell Rosita something, which is probably that he’s in love with her, but she probably figured that out way back when he used to watch her have sex with Abraham. Rosita’s kissing Gabriel now, because underutilized characters have to find something to do to fill the time.
- It seems clear now that we’re never getting a reckoning about Eugene’s time working for Negan, despite several episodes dedicated to how into it he got.
- Speaking of which, remember Negan’s wives??? Where’d they go? Will all the missing Saviors show up at Hilltop next week? Fingers crossed.
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