The Walking Dead recap: Flashes of light

Danai Gurira as Michonne - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC. Acquired via AMC Networks Press Center.
Danai Gurira as Michonne - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC. Acquired via AMC Networks Press Center. /

The Walking Dead moves on without Rick Grimes, and the time jump electrifies the series with a new energy that’s both surprising and compelling.

Let’s get this out of the way first, people: AHHHHH! RICHONNE BABY! We don’t find out his name, or even see him interact with anyone but Michonne, but he exists! So I suppose you can’t say that Rick Grimes is completely off The Walking Dead – this adorbs little boy carries on his genes, of course – but his pending absence was certainly worrisome. However, the infusion of fresh story and character shakeups provided by the six-year time jump gives the show a much-welcome boost. Richonne baby is deffo part of that. He has blessed us all.

Within the six year jump, it seems as if Michonne has become a fiercely independent and protective momma bear. This episode kicks off with a stirring monologue as she addresses Rick’s spirit about her day to day worries and fears, hopes and dreams, and it’s all interspersed with visual updates on Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride). All three are still surviving and thriving, finding the beautiful in the everyday. Michonne even manages to find a small sheriff action figure in a car. She muses over it for a moment before putting it in her satchel.

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The extended episode very much centers on Michonne taking the reins and replacing Rick as the core of the series. But, given that rising Hollywood star Danai Gurira’s contract is still under negotiation, it’s not clear whether or not she’ll stay with the show past Season 9. We’ve got her for the next eleven episodes though, and I’m cherishing every moment.

As soon as Michonne steps back through the gates of Alexandria, she’s got problems. At Judith’s insistence, the group has brought back the five unknown survivors from the woods. Oddly enough, Aaron (Ross Marquand) – the man who originally led our gang to Alexandria in Season 6 – is in agreement with Judith’s wishes, standing up for her when Michonne balks at letting the newbies in.

It’s interesting because our gang has been in the very same position of this new group many times before. They’ve had to make these decisions at Hershel’s farm, at the walls of Woodbury, at the gates of Terminus, when confronted with the Saviors, and, most recently, when headed to Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom. More often than not, these communities have been on the up and up… but sometimes they haven’t been. And when they’re bad, they’re very very bad. Since we’ve doubted the intention of communities so many times before, it’s only natural for our sympathies to go with the new group, especially when they allude to a few places gone bad, including an ominous community called Coalport.

Quite frankly, Michonne is kind of terrifying. in her interaction with the new group. She rides up like a badass on her horse, clearly the leader of the community. Then, she’s distant, curt, and borderline confrontational with her people. She’s not the Michonne we know. But then Judith, true little leader that she is, speaks up and vouches for them.

The Walking Dead Time Jump
Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter, Nadia Hilker as Magna, Lauren Ridloff as Connie, Dan Folger as Luke – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC. Acquired via AMC Networks Press Center. /

They decide to keep the group in Alexandria overnight so they can go before the council for a decision the next day. And they do.

The council seems to have scrapped Rick’s traditional three questions. (How many walkers have you killed? How many people have you killed? Why?) It’s probably for the best though, because the new queries are more telling. They ask: Who were you before? Who are you now? What did you do before?

As the newbies answer these questions, the scene brims with emotion. It’s a sequence that’s directed and acted with heart and humanity, camera panning thoughtfully over the faces of the new people, allowing them the space and time needed to tell their stories effectively. It’s a tearjerker of a scene… until Michonne hits the buzzkill button.

She approaches Magna (Nadia Hilker) and calls her out on a bunch of BS. First, she uncovers a prison tattoo on Magna’s wrist, and then makes her give up a knife cleverly hidden in her belt. With her uncanny ability to suss out weapons and hidden intentions, it’s like Michonne has channelled Mike Ermantraut from Better Call Saul all of a sudden.

But there seems to be good reason for her doubt. Throughout the episode, there are many allusions to a traumatizing event that happened in the six years we fast forwarded through. I had vague hopes that this event would be revealed when Magna went to go speak with Michonne later on in the episode, but that didn’t happen. Instead, at the urging of Judith, Michonne decides to help the new group.

Cailey Fleming as Judith Grimes – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC. Acquired via AMC Networks Press Center.
Cailey Fleming as Judith Grimes – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC. Acquired via AMC Networks Press Center. /

Judith reminds Michonne that both Carl and Rick would have helped these people. (For the record, she’s right. In the comics, Rick welcomes the new group with open arms.) It’s a sweet scene between the mother daughter duo, and even sweeter because Judith calls Michonne “mom”. SOB! DOUBLE SOB BECAUSE HERE COMES RICHONNE BABY! I’m sad that the two Grimes children didn’t get to share any scenes together, but there’s still time. Please make it happen, TWD. Please and thank you.

Ultimately, Michonne decides to bring the group to Hilltop to meet an unidentified woman. As last week’s episode was Lauren Cohan’s last of the season (and maybe ever), it’s possible that someone other than Maggie is leading that community now. Could it be Enid? Or does Michonne not know of Maggie’s departure yet? It’s all very curious.

All paths lead to Hilltop, apparently. Early on in the episode, we see Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Carol chat about preparations for a fair (you can read more about the fair here) before she leaves to bring Henry to Hilltop so he can apprentice for the rehabilitated blacksmith, Earl Sutton. They take a detour along the way and encounter the group of defected Saviors.

How those ragamuffins survived for six years in the wild with no help from anyone else is beyond me, but they’ve devolved into a traveling band of sad and violent weirdos. After they steal the majority of Carol’s supplies, Henry is appalled that his adoptive mom would just let that happen. So are we. That is, until she goes full ninja Carol on their asses and burns them to a crisp. Justice served, Queen Carol stylez.

The children of the apocalypse seem to be bringing all the big players to their senses, because at the end of Carol’s detour, they stop by the woods to pick up feral Daryl and presumably bring him back to society to act as Henry’s guardian at Hilltop.

Elsewhere in the woods, shizz is going down. At her new boo Gabriel’s request, Rosita (Christian Serratos) has agreed to take a radio relay box to a designated area so they can try and contact other communities. The friend-zoned Eugene (Josh McDermitt) comes along to help with the technical stuff.

The two pass fresh tracks made by a herd, but they feel safe because it seems to be headed off in the opposite direction. WRONG. As Eugene attaches some radio doodads to the top of a water tower, he spots the herd coming back in their direction. This seems impossible, so they panic. Eugene scrambles down the tower, accidentally kicking the supplemental ladder off of the water tower. This leads him to jump off the final ten feet, injuring his leg. Uh oh.

Rosita doesn’t give up on her buddy though, grabbing him a shovel for a crutch and helping him along. Eugene is about to give up, but Rosita won’t let him. She pulls them down into a muddy embankment, frantically camouflaging Eugene and her body with mud. It works, but they hear whispers in the passing herd. Wherrrreeee arreeeee theeyyyyy?

Until next week…

Next. The Walking Dead Recap: What's Your Wound?. dark

Random Thoughts Before I Go:

  • Michonne and Rick once bonded over how they used to talk to their dead partners (in Season 4 episode “Clear”), and Michonne carries on that tradition here. But she’s not crazy this time. Thank goodness for small favors.
  • Dammmmmnnnnn, Eugene! How far our mullet man has evolved when it comes to killing walkers.
  • Aaron and Gracie! So cute!
  • It was crazy to see the credits this week. No Lauren Cohan. No Andrew Lincoln. This is indeed a new beginning.
  • The interaction between Judith and Negan is adorable, and somewhat predictable given that Carl is gone on the show. In the comics, Carl continues to forge a relationship with the prisoner, stopping in for chats on a periodic basis. The relationship between Judith and Negan is even more pure though given that she’s younger and he seems to paradoxically be really good with kids.

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