New world. New rules. The Walking Dead returns for Season 9 on Sunday, October 7 at 9/8c.

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Have we not been discussing this season yet? I could swear I've read some comments. But last night (Nov. 4) was a pretty big deal, so let's talk!

Lat night was Rick Grimes' final episode on the series. Since that wasn't a secret and has been advertised, I hope that's not a spoiler. There was a big announcement in The Talking Dead that is Spoiler City, but I'll save that for another post.

I saved up his last three to have a mini-marathon last night, and overall I was pleased. There were the usual TWD unforced writing errors, but they weren't overpowering and there was a real story to tell, with real repercussions, so they got to it and I enjoyed it.

(As I said, I'll save the Spoilers for a second post. This is just general reactions and speculation.)

I don't know what the fallout will be, since TWD is now in uncharted territory. I think they'll still follow the comics in general, in that next up is The Whisperers, and then probably the Commonwealth. But with most of the lead characters from the comics now gone from the show, it's difficult to predict.

The two leads I suppose will be Carol and Daryl, the former dead in the comics and the latter non-existent. (Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie, is also scheduled to leave this season.) The implication for Daryl is that he's going to feel guilty about the episode's climax, and run off into the woods alone.

Carol says she's going back to The Kingdom, although the episode's end may change that decision.

It may not matter, since the series is going to jump ahead six years, per the previews and The Talking Dead. Which I applaud! The politics of the four communities is the least interesting part of the show to me (even though realistically the most important) and I hope it's all settled in our new future.

It looked like the bridge-building party had been turned in the last episode, or at least I thought I recognized some of them. Maybe that means the Sanctuary will be depopulated, simultaneously making them less of a threat and more dependent on the others. Maybe they'll close the damn thing down and incorporate those people into the other three communities, as they should have done at the first.place. Or, at the very least, move them somewhere with arable land that's closer to the others and doesn't require a bridge!

Regardless, I hope the show has moved on. And, like in the comics, the new status quo has immediately introduced a clutch of new, young, pretty and diverse characters. I expect they will be the focus of the series going forward, since so few of the originals are left.

One of which is Michonne, who seems to have embraced her warrior side and is something of a hard-ass. She's shaved one side of her head, which is not only a terrible look for anyone, but is shorthand in adventure fiction these days for someone who's gotten "edgy." Hrm. Well, at least she didn't run off to be a pirate, like in the comics. And I assume she's leading Alexandria.

I don't know about Hilltop. Is Maggie still the boss? Probably, but not, as noted, for very long. In the comics she is, but given the actress is moving on, we must assume someone else will step up. Jesus? We saw Aaron in Alexandria, so not him. Heath might be back (the actor left temporarily to do another job). Dwight (and possibly his Lady MacBeth of a wife) could come back to lead the Saviors, as he does in the comics. Enid isn't exactly leadership material, but maybe she's grown a bit in the interim. I dunno. Running out of recognizable characters. Except for Negan, who's probably still alive, the cockroach.

Ezekiel (and Jerry!) are probably still running The Kingdom, with Carol, unless she's taken over.

We see that Li'l Asskicker has grown a bit and into her childhood nickname. That's welcome. Babies serve no function in adventure fiction except to get kidnapped and/or killed,so I'm pleased to skip over those dangers. I really have to suspend my disbelief that a little girl can A) shoot a hand gun five times without breaking her wrist and B) get a perfect head shot every time. Oh, well. Daryl never misses, either.

And, hey, where's Tara? Haven't seen her for a while. We saw Rosita in the previews, so she's around. Eugene, too, who has a grown-up haircut now. Hmm. I think I've run out of regulars.

Did anyone recognize the guy who was the evil Russian in Agents of SHIELD as the trouble-making Savior? I had a large reservoir of hatred for his SHIELD incarnation and really didn't want to see him causing trouble on this show, too! Fortunately, that didn't happen.

And we're obviously going to The Whisperers, since that was teased. And maybe the Commonwealth. I'll discuss that in a SPOILER post.

And now, the Spoilers!

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Spoiler photo:

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OK, so on Walking Dead, we saw that everyone on the show thinks Rick Grimes is dead, but instead he survived and was kidnapped by Anne, formerly known as Jadis, queen of the trash people. Kidnapped by helicopter, last seen choppering to parts unknown.

I'm guessing that will be the Commonwealth, although I don't know what "A" and "B" people are, since that's not a thing in the comics, or why Jadis was trying to turn people into walkers before turning them over to her sponsors. (She started to with Rick, Negan and Gabriel, although with all three something interrupted the process.)

And the big announcement we heard on The Talking Dead is that Grimes will return -- but not on The Walking Dead. Instead, he'll star in three made-for-TV movies on AMC following Rick's adventures in ... wherever he's been kidnapped to. One will assume he will be trying to return to his wife and daughter in Alexandria, but we'll have to see what circumstances prevent that. Or how many Walking Dead (of Fear the Walking Dead) actors will also appear in the movies.

So what do y'all think about this? I mean, the y'all that are still following this show, which at this point seems to just be me and Jeff!

“Have we not been discussing this season yet?”

I’ve been waiting for you to start.

“The two leads I suppose will be Carol and Daryl…”

…and Michone, I would think.

“I don't know what ‘A’ and ‘B’ people are…”

Last week on Talking Dead, Pollyanna McIntosh seemed to suggest that the answer would be revealed by the mid-season hiatus. With Rick out of the picture, I wonder if Jadis (I still think of her as “Jadis”) will be gone with him…? I’m curious about “A” and “B” people, too, but I’m not too concerned about it; I figure we’ll know when we need to know. In the meantime, it could be anything. It could be as simple as “A” is for “ambulatory” (because Gabriel was classified ‘A’ and Rick ‘B’), but I hope it’s more interesting than that.

“…which at this point seems to just be me and Jeff!”

Tracy has forwarded to me several articles about TWD’s dwindling viewership. Apparently, the show has had some of its lowest ratings ever recently, and every time a main character is killed the ratings take a hit. I must admit, I just don’t get that. It wouldn’t be realistic (well… “realistic” in quotes) if all the main characters lived. Why doesn’t this phenomenon affect Game of Thrones? Those conclusions have been borne out by my co-workers, though. A season or two ago, there used to be six of us who watched and dissected the show religiously. Now we’re down to two.

We’re finally up to the introduction of The Whisperers. I have been waiting for the scene in which the dead apparently talk (I expected it to be the climax of the previous season), and there’s no one at work to discuss it with in person. I hoped they would do it as well as they did, but my work friend is already hip to what’s up with the Whisperers. Tracy freaked out, by the way. (She left off reading a couple of volumes ago, plans to get caught up, but hasn’t yet.) Great reaction (from her, anyway)! She’s a little p*ssed at Rick Grimes spinnig off into a series of movies. She feels as if she’s been “lied” to. I think she’ll come around, but it’s still early stages.

Last night’s episode was like a season or mid-season finale, but there’s still more to come!

Also, Rick's "death scene" reminded me a whole lot of The Bridge on the River Kwai.

It did seem like a climactic episode, didn't it?

That's because of one of TWD's most irritating structural problems, of holding big moments (that comics fans know are coming) until a mid-season or season finale. So they spin their wheels and pad episodes and have really badly staged and inconclusive gun battles to drag things out until the season ends and they can have the big death or plot climax.

Did we really need two years of "All-Out War"? If they let the thing end organically, somewhere just after the midseason return last year, it would have been more exciting, more satisfying and it would have been over far sooner.

Also, in retrospect, it really was a mistake to kill Glenn, and do it so graphically. The disgust with that scene seems to have driven people away, and the lack of Glenn -- a charismatic actor who felt like the heart of the show -- kept them away.

I agree that the show frequently drags, but I think the comics have done the same. "All Out War" basically occupied three TPB collections (although I think a bunch of those issues were originally issued biweekly). Reading it in collected form I felt like it could have easily been six issues shorter. The Whisperers arc went on for twice as long! I really hope the TV show shortens that dramatically. That's where my reading has stopped, for now. The Commonwealth had just been teased, but I'm guessing the helicopters may be from there (in the comics the teasing consisted of shortwave contact only).

As I've mentioned before, my enthusiasm for the comic book waned after Glenn's death -- but for other reasons than those who were offended by the TV depiction. That's because the scene -- and the lead-up to it -- revealed, at least for me, Kirkman's weaknesses as a writer. Once seen, they were impossible to ignore. They were simply underscored by the interminable "All-Out War" (and interminable Negan dialogue, which I found tiresome). And the mass slaughter of important characters that launched "Whisperers" killed off characters I found more interesting than the plot-armored Rick, Carl, Maggie and Negan. TWD the comic book has become something I read more out of duty than enjoyment.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Apparently, the show has had some of its lowest ratings ever recently, and every time a main character is killed the ratings take a hit... Why doesn’t this phenomenon affect Game of Thrones?

I haven't watched either show. Might the difference be Games of Thrones has an overarching story, and The Walking Dead does not?

I think it’s really cool that the Walking Dead shows, both of them, not only feature disabled characters but actually hire disabled actors to play them. The new deaf actresses were a delight on The Talking Dead afterwards.

Last night’s episode blew a hole in a little pet theory of mine. For a long time I thought the best way to overcome the Dead would be simply to wait them out. They’re dead, right? So they should be decomposing. Eventually they’re going to decompose to the point where their muscles are no longer able to move their skeletons. Up until now I had assumed that the ranks of Walkers were being reinforced with more or less “freshly dead,” but I guess that’s not the case. That moss-covered walker would have had to have been dead a long time for that tree to grow around it. For whatever reason, Walkers don’t decompose as we would expect. But they don’t do anything else we would expect of corpses, either, so at least they’re consistent in that respect.

I am intrigued by the places the newcomers mentioned they had visited. I’m always curious about what’s going one elsewhere in the world (same with Planet of the Apes). One thing I remember from fairly early on in the comics but never carried over to TV, is that cold weather retards Walkers ability to ambulate. My other pet theory is that there are safe havens in areas of ice and snow.

Yeah, the idea that upper Canada and Russia would have had less trouble than the rest of the world occurred to me as well. Of course, it's not easy for people to live there, either, especially if they have to grow their own food. Maybe a nice middle ground where it does get real cold a few months out of the year, but an undiminished growing season, might be the ideal place. Winter would be a weird hunting season where teams would go out and annihilate nearby walkers before they thawed.

And what if it the area was depopulated to begin with? That occurred to me while watching Fear the Walking Dead this season, set in rural Texas. There shouldn't have been many walkers in the early days, so people might have been able to have time to build walls and such. But it might be that walker herds from Dallas, Houston or Austin would arrived too quickly.

But what about a place like Utah? Not many big cities nearby, not many people to start with, and cold weather in the mountainous areas. Walkers don't climb very well, either, so an arable plateau might be ideal -- entire herds couldn't climb up there as a mass (and would be rare in any case), it would be easy to defend from the occasional, more persistent walker, and snowmelt would provide water.

Of course, this brings me around to one of my complaints about both Dead shows, which is that our heroes discover ways to deal with the walkers and then forget them by the next episode. Call it the Hal Jordan Syndrome, in honor of John Broome, who never let Green Lantern use the same method twice to beat yellow.

Point being that the gang knows several low-tech, easy methods to deal with walkers and simply don't use them. The most obvious to me is bonfires. Start a bonfire near a walker herd, and they will all walk right into it. It won't kill them all, but it will kill a great many and disable a great many more, and the remainder will stick around as long as the fire burns.

Or expand an existing trench -- don't dig any more than you have to -- near a herd and put a radio at the bottom of it. Watch it fill up while you take lunch.

I keep thinking about the vultures (or whatever they were called) in FTWD, who defeated uncounted walkers by the simple expedient of a bicycle and a radio. And, while it snapped my suspension of disbelief, Madison drew an entire herd into a baseball stadium with a single flare.

You don't have to overthink this -- walkers aren't exactly smart, so any number of low-tech distractions should keep the bulk busy while you rebuild civilization. When your foe will walk into a fire or off a cliff on his own or blindly follow any light, movement or noise, your solutions present themselves. And keep using these methods over and over -- it's not like they're going to learn from their mistakes.

But, OK, it's a TV show, and showing our heroes build bonfires and then take naps every episode would be boring. But the longer the show goes on, the more difficult it is to ignore this train of thought. I would like the show to address it at some point. Like having a foraging group come upon a town with a lot of walkers -- and therefore untouched by other foragers -- and, after getting all the food out of a house on the edge of town, set fire to it. Then they could loot the other side of town unmolested. That could be done in a quick, wordless cold open.

Anyway, as to the first post-Rick episode, I have to say I'm enjoying his absence. It's obvious now how Rick-centric this supposedly ensemble show had become, if for no other reason than I know that Rick would always drive the narrative. So whenever there was a non-Rick scene, my mind would be wandering to wherever RIck was, because that's where big things will happen. It's sorta like reading a big summer crossover, and you buy the tie-ins just to be complete, knowing full well nothing of importance will happen there.

Anyway, with the sun gone, we can see the other stars.

I don't know why Michonne was so adamant about keeping out newcomers. Did she forget how SHE came to Alexandria? Did she forget that Carl died to bring someone to the safety of their walls? Did it not occur to her that most of the people on the council were "immigrants"? (I mean, Siddiq is RIGHT THERE.) And given the population boom of Alexandria, I don't think they lack the resources to keep four newcomers under watchful eye until they're sure they're not spies for a larger group. And, heck, Alexandria could use a music teacher.

So Michonne eventually comes around and ... what, dumps them on Hilltop? The Kingdom? That's not very thoughtful!

Elsewhere:

  • I loved the Whisperers intro. My wife was spooked!
  • I loved Eugene's new badassery. Although how he hurt his knee was stupid. Don't jump from the ladder, Eugene, hang down as far as you can and let go.
  • I hated the Gabriel/Rosita pairing. Zero chemistry, and utterly unconvincing.
  • "Don't make this weird." Said while running from flesh-eating zombies. Maybe the best line on the show so far.
  • I loved LI'l Badass growing into her name. I'd have preferred they hired a taller actress -- even though the girl is supposedly 11, she looks younger, and too small to be facile with a Colt Python. And she'd better be collecting her spent shells, or even Eugene won't be able to keep her in ammo.
  • So we have a Rick Jr. Good! We need more youngsters on the show, or Alexandria is going to look like San Francisco. (I've been there twice, and never seen anybody under the age of 30.)
  • I loved Carol's revenge. She's still got it, folks.
  • Carol and the king's teen is really annoying.
  • Are we to assume the Sanctuary is done and gone?
  • Looking forward to seeing who's in charge at Hilltop.
  • It looks like Carol's "son" (Dammit, can't remember his name!) is going to take Carl's storyline from the comics of going to Hilltop and becoming a blacksmith apprentice. Maybe he'll take Carl's storyline of hooking up with Alpha's daughter as well.

“I don't know why Michonne was so adamant about keeping out newcomers.”

I don’t think we’re supposed to know… yet. I imagine it has something to do with that “X”-shaped scar on her back. I’ll bet we’ll get a lot of flashbacks in the second half of the season to fill the six-year gap.

“I loved the Whisperers intro. My wife was spooked!”

Mine, too!

“Although how he hurt his knee was stupid.”

So stupid!

“Don't jump from the ladder, Eugene, hang down as far as you can and let go.”

Or… “Hey, Rosita! Can you get the ladder? I knocked it over.”

“It looks like Carol's ‘son’ (Dammit, can't remember his name!) is going to take Carl's storyline from the comics of going to Hilltop and becoming a blacksmith apprentice. Maybe he'll take Carl's storyline of hooking up with Alpha's daughter as well.”

Henry. Yeah, I had the same thought about him taking Carl’s stories. I don’t know if you watched The Talking Dead, but that actor is the older brother of the kid who played young Henry, and they are both brothers of the girl who played Sophia.

I did watch Talking Dead. I don't routinely any more, but sometimes I do if the show has intrigued me enuogh that I'm intersted in the backstory.

Yeah, "Rosita, get the ladder, will ya? You know, the one I just stupidly kicked over." "Sorry, Eugene, I've just become blind and can't see that you need help, and deaf in that I cannot hear you should you think to answer my shouts, which I am currently using to attract walkers, in order to gin up some fake drama."  Sheesh. Or just climb up out of sight, Eugene, and wait for the walkers to leave.

So stupid.

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