The final season of The Walking Dead begins with “Acheron: Part I”. The episode opens at night on Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) repainted jacket. He, Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Carol (Melissa McBride), and a group from Alexandria are on the roof of a building at Fort Connors in Virginia. They open a ceiling pane to see starved walkers lying motionless on the ground. Maggie, Rosita (Christian Serratos), Kelly (Angel Theory), Carol, Lydia (Cassady McClincy), and Magna (Nadia Hilker) are lowered to the ground by ropes. They tiptoe around the walkers and start to explore for MREs.
They find food caches in various rooms. Packing them in bags which are then raised by the others to the roof. Daryl catches a falling bag, but a cut from his arm drops blood onto the walkers. They slowly reanimate and attack the group. It’s a zombie killing frenzy as they fight off the undead. Maggie and Carol find M-16 rifles. They unleash a barrage of gunfire to cover the others as they are lifted up.
Carol is the last person left. Daryl shoots arrows to clear her path. She runs away from the lifeline to gather one last batch of MREs. Daryl throws his knife to kill a walker right behind her. Carol yanks it out before grappling on. She’s lifted to safety as the walkers clamor at her feet.
They return to a wrecked Alexandria. Daryl hugs Judith (Cailey Fleming) and RJ (Antony Azor). Maggie looks at Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) with pure venom as he helps to unpack the food. Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller) runs toward Maggie’s old friends led by Duncan (Marcus Lewis). She thought “they were dead.” They also look at Negan with pure hatred. Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) breaks up a skirmish over the MREs.
At a council meeting, Father Gabriel says they have one week of food. Daryl wants to search for “more territory”, but they don’t have time. Maggie says Meridian, the place she was before, has enough food, water, and supplies to sustain them. But Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) points out it was destroyed. Maggie recounts how the settlement was attacked as she led away a herd. It “was no accident.” Everyone but them was killed. The attackers “came at night.” She and Daryl caught one. They can’t have many numbers.
Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Rosita are against a suicide mission. But they need food. The council votes and a team volunteers to go on the mission. Aaron, Rosita, and Carol stay behind. They embark that night in a raging storm. Negan is with them and wants to hunker down, but Maggie refuses. She leads them into the Washington DC metro. Negan thinks it’s a mistake to enter the tunnels. Maggie “doesn’t give a sh*t” what he thinks, neither does Daryl.
They hear creaking in the walls as the storm inundates with water. Negan believes the tunnel will soon flood. Daryl shuts him down again and they lumber on. Meanwhile, a hooded Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Yumiko (Eleanor Matsura), Ezekiel (Khary Payton), and Princess (Paola Lázaro) are brought behind barbed wire by their white-armored guards. They are each taken for “assessment.” Where they are asked countless personal questions for hours by two business dressed interrogators. A fierce man in red armor observes the questioning.
Eugene tells them about his radio contact with Stephanie. He’s very detailed, but none of their group gives up the location of Alexandria. Ezekiel turns towards the man in red who admits to being “in charge.” He’s not remotely threatened by a “power-trip” in a “pumpkin suit.” He begins to cough spasmodically. Ezekiel lied about the growth on his neck. He’s given a glass of water.
Later on at dinner, they discuss the Commonwealth in their barbed wire pen. Everyone but Eugene thinks they need to escape immediately. He admits the questions are strange, but done “in a polite manner.” Princess asks the other prisoners how long they’ve been there, for months. They watch as another man is taken for “reprocessing.” Eugene changes his position after the violent encounter.
In the subway tunnel, they come upon walkers stuffed in plastic bags. Their throats cut to prevent them from making noise. Maggie refuses to stop. She orders them to dispatch the walkers as they go along. One escapes and attacks a younger member of the group. Negan saves him, but is done with Maggie’s leadership. He accuses her of “playing dictator”, because this was meant to be a one way trip for him. This is a “death march” and she’s the “pied piper.” She can kill him away from Alexandria.
Maggie refutes him. She needs him because he knows the DC underground. Father Gabriel thinks he’s paranoid. Negan refuses to die on “her terms.” He calls Glenn a “dog” and is decked by Daryl. Maggie pulls her gun. She reasserts her control over the group. She’ll keep Negan alive, but not for long “if he keeps pushing” her.
At the Commonwealth prison, everyone realizes that Princess can identify the guards under their armor. She notices two of them are shacking up during their breaks. They use that chance to overpower them and take their uniforms. A disguised Eugene and Yumiko lead Princess and Ezekiel out of the prison barracks. But just as they’re about to escape outside, Yumiko sees a wall of those “Flagged for Expedited Assessment” into the Commonwealth. Princess notices Yumiko’s picture is on the wall. Her brother, thought long dead, has left a note to find her. She “has to stay.”
In the subway tunnel, they realize that two of the group left and took their supplies. Anger at Negan is short-lived as walkers come up behind them. The tunnel is blocked by a subway car. Dog scurries underneath and is quickly followed by Daryl. The others climb to the roof to escape. Maggie is the last one up. But as she struggles to hang on, Negan refuses to help her. She screams his name as walkers yank at her feet and Negan leaves her behind.
“Acheron: Part I” was a decent start to the super-sized, twenty-two episodes finale of The Walking Dead. The march to Meridian does give Maggie a chance to dispatch Negan away from Alexandria. He’s wily enough to recognize that, but the cliffhanger ending is sort of silly. There’s no chance Maggie is killed off in the premiere. It’ll be interesting to see how she deals with another betrayal from Negan. As for the Commonwealth, we still don’t have a clue what’s really happening. Let’s hope that storyline heats up because it’s getting stale. The Walking Dead returns every Sunday night on AMC. The following week’s episode is available immediately after on AMC+.
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