The Walking Dead recap: The pit of despair

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

Maggie’s threat looms large as Rick and Michonne stand guard over a fair and just future for this new world.

Four episodes in to The Walking Dead Season 9, and something is definitely different. The stories are gelling, the dialogue is popping, and the pacing is near perfection. Showrunner Angela Kang knows how to make a balanced and compelling hour of television, and I’m so glad she’s at the helm as we say goodbye to our beloved Rick Grimes.

As much as it pains me to see discord between the main gang on The Walking Dead, this episode marks the first time we’ve seen Rick (Andrew Lincoln) be so blatantly undermined by his own people. And, quite honestly, it’s fascinating to watch. The cognitive dissonance allows us to be fully invested in each side of the argument, because how can we choose alliances? In regards to Negan – the new symbol of this reborn new world – we can see Maggie’s point, but Rick’s side is also convincing. As we creep towards Rick Grimes’ demise, our once solid gang is fractured down the middle. Daryl (Norman Reedus) has sided with Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and Michonne (Danai Gurira) has Rick’s back always and forever. Poor Carol (Melissa McBride) is caught in the middle.

The episode opens on Michonne as she works tirelessly to improve life in Alexandria. She spends her days breaking up fights, gardening, sweating over piles of legal books, and being a great mom to Judith. But her nights are spent as a fiery warrior, clearing the woods around the community walls.

Danai Gurira as Michonne – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Danai Gurira as Michonne – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

For Michonne, there’s no immediate threat in play. She is unaware of Maggie’s approach, but there’s another problem with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Seems as if he’s not eating. Michonne investigates and, as a result, has a series of fascinating conversations with the bearded beast.

A lot of this episode is about remembering back to the past. The Time Before. The Land Before Time. Whatever you want to call it. The world before zombies. Early on in the episode, Rick touches base with Carol and Eugene (Josh McDermitt), reminding them both of who they are and how far they’ve come. These conversations are sweet and poignant, especially given that we know Rick’s time is rapidly ticking.

Oddly, one character The Walking Dead has been reluctant to reveal too much about pre-apocalypse is Michonne. She’s one of the most powerful leaders in the story, yet we know more about Eugene’s life in Texas than Michonne’s in Georgia. It’s a shame because her story is one worth telling. In the comic, she was a powerful lawyer who didn’t know if her two young daughters had died or not. On the show, we know her son died due to her boyfriend’s incompetence early on in the apocalypse. Her partner couldn’t hack it in this new world, and their son Andre died as a result. It wasn’t her fault. In both cases, this brutal new world took him before she became a lean, mean, killing machine.

Now, as she talks to Negan, he appeals to her humanity. He argues that they’re the same, and Michonne chafes against that comparison. In a tense and thrilling dialogue, the two volley back and forth over lost loves, lost children, and lost opportunities. They end in a stalemate, but not before Michonne tells Negan that Lucille is “still out there”, prompting him to slam his head against the wall in a furious rage. Yikes. The bat love is real, people.

Elsewhere, Maggie has made her decision to go on a Negassassination trip. Despite words of caution from Jesus, she heads out on the road with a sturdy crowbar and a prayer, confident that her plan to undermine and betray Rick Grimes is in place.

Again, with our allegiances so set for all of these core people for so long, it’s hard to tell who the villain is here.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

Back at the camp, Oceanside’s chickens come home to roost. Both Rick and Carol learn of the murderous and vengeful plot twist, and they both end up facing unintended consequences of the women’s actions. Rick realizes that Maggie is headed to do the same with Negan. He tries to radio ahead, but he’s blocked by a young Oceansider who willfully neglects to relay the message.

Daryl offers to drive his old pal to Alexandria because it will be faster. Et tu, Daryl? You’re breaking my heart, dude.

They get ten feet past the turnoff, and Rick realizes something is up. The two come to a stop and immediately start brawling, like they’re apt to do as brothers and hot heads. Almost instantly, they tumble into a giant pit of despair. Magically, they land at the bottom, unhurt, and they start arguing. Daryl invokes Glenn, circling back to the very first episode of the series. Last week, Rick pulled the past card on Daryl, reminding him of the situation with Merle, but Daryl shows that he can play that game too. Glenn deserves justice.

(Side Rant: I do believe that if Glenn were alive he would be on Rick’s side. Glenn was always one for mercy and believing in good. The man didn’t kill anyone until six seasons in to the show, AND THEN HE DIED! His gentle soul lives on in their memories, but if Maggie manages to kill Negan, she’d 100% be doing it for herself, not for her hubby. Rant over.)

Daryl encourages Rick to let it go with Negan, to which Rick responds, “I never asked anyone to follow me.” The two team up for what is very likely going to be the last time – sob! – to claw their way out of this pit. They may be at odds ideologically, but they still love one another.

Walking Dead Season 9
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

Gunshots ring out, interrupting the argument. Little do the guys know, but some of the Saviors have found their way back to camp to threaten Carol and the group. Of course, the loud shots attract Walkers from the horde Eugene mentioned earlier in the episode (yay foreshadowing!), and reanimated bodies start to cascade into the pit of despair. Boosted by Daryl, Rick scrambles up the dirt wall, aided by a strong tree root. Daryl knifes a few zombies with expert precision, and then makes a stepstool out of the dead, scrambling up the side.

When they get free, they realize that the herd needs to be diverted away from the camp. Daryl recommends that they use the bridge, but Rick isn’t willing to make that sacrifice. Instead, he grabs a random horse and starts to distract the herd.

Man. I’ve ridden maybe five horses in my lifetime, but even I know that you can’t just take someone else’s horse and ride it into distressing territory. Horses are animals that get spooked even in the best of circumstances. Riding a rando into a herd is probably not the best idea. But I digress.

At a crossroads, Rick realizes he’s made a huge mistake. The two herds begin to converge, starting the horse, and resulting in Rick getting thrown onto a pile of rubble shot through with rusty rebar. Rick’s midsection is impaled on one of the metal spikes, and the final shot leaves us with one helluva cliffhanger as the dual masses begin to approach our fearless leader.

Until I saw helpless, injured Rick, struggling and then going limp on that concrete slab, I thought I was ready for his death. Turns out I’m not. And Rick Grimes does not deserve to die this way. Prediction for next week: in the last moments, Rick is nipped by one of the walkers, only to be saved by Daryl and Carol. He gets to go home to Alexandria, feverishly flitting in and out of memories ala Tyreese, as he says goodbye to his loved ones and secures his legacy in the future. I can hope, right?

Until next week…

dark. Next. The Walking Dead Recap: No Exceptions

Random Thoughts Before I Go:

  • Gabriel is again relegated to the footnotes of this episode. Sorry, Gabie baby. It was such a compelling hour that I didn’t feel that his story was really needed – I would have been ok pressing pause on the A vs B thing until after Rick’s death – but Kang’s new era of even pacing seems to include a check in on every story going on in each episode, and I can’t argue with that logic. When Anne threatens Gabriel, he pulls some priestly reverse psychology on her, and forgives her sins, leading her to leave without him. To be continued…
  • Loving Nora, Michonne’s new advisor. She’s going to need all the friends she can get after she loses Rick.
  • When Eugene is talking about the threat of the two herds potentially merging, he laments that the names of ‘Tordolt’ and ‘Cordelia’ wouldn’t have meshed for a good couple name. He’s right. And we all know that the best couple name of all is Richonne.

‘The Walking Dead’ airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.