‘The Walking Dead’ Season 9 Opens With an Unexpected Death and ‘A New Beginning’

Every silver lining has a cloud and, in the post-zombie apocalypse world, the newest sprouts are watered by acid rain. “A New Beginning” promises a future of possibility for the characters who survived to see “The Walking Dead” season 9. It wasn’t that long ago, they were fighting to stay alive, and now there are licking their wounds. They’ve buried their dead and set the grids for the new world.

The Saviors have been suppressed, most terminally, or at least as terminal as death can be when the specter of reanimation hangs over everyone on the planet. Season 9 begins a few months after the war to end the suppressive rule of the Saviors was won by people of Alexandria, The Hilltop and the Kingdom, and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is the new world’s first celebrity. The famous Rick isn’t comfortable with the title, not because it might swell his head, but because his fame is too close to infamy in some quarters.

Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is nowhere to be seen this episode, but his presence is felt. Sanctuary may have been brought under the rule of a cooperative but rebels are still tagging walls with graffiti proclaiming “Saviors Save Us! We Are Still Negan.” The group is united in their traditional dangers, cracking walkers over the heads with better and better delivery systems. 

The streets of Alexandria are powered by solar panels. There is very little gasoline left for power, even as Eugene (Josh McDermitt) is working on a corn ethanol fuel mix at the Sanctuary. Former sheriff Rick is a natural riding horseback, though Ezekiel (Khary Payton) brings more flair to his steed. The leader of The Kingdom is awesome, and never loses his Shakespearean-inflected regal bearing. He’s fun and so very positive, we needn’t worry when he dips into the walkers, but we do, heartily.

Ezekiel is very strong, and very fragile, and when he proposes to Carol (Melissa McBride), he invites as much danger as he does when he braves the undead hordes. The scene is very effective because both characters have a point. Ezekiel did just survive a zombie attack and the proposal may have been a knee-jerk reaction to a close shave with death. But Carol is right about not wanting to be asked on horseback. She wants the former king on his knees.

“The Walking Dead” still finds humor among the terror. “I don’t like spiders,” Siddiq says after being pulled under the covers with a hungry zombie. This works on several levels. He’s obviously kept enough of his basic humanity to still reel at the gross-outs of the world before the zombie apocalypse, even joke about it. But he also references the walker-within-the-walker that the spiders represent, feeding on the blood and dead flesh of weaker creatures.

The group is forced to go retro to bring civilization up-to-date and the group goes window shopping at a museum in the ruins of Washington D.C. They pick up an antique plow, a canoe, and a covered wagon.

There is no room for simple consideration in the new world as Ken, the son of Hilltop’s blacksmith, dies freeing the horses from the harness while they are being overtaken by walkers. Michonne (Danai Gurira) continues to be the new the moral center of the new world. Inspired by the democratic artwork she sees at the museum in Washington, she thinks it’s time the new civilization has a new charter. She plans to draw up a treaty to codify what the survivors believe and what happens when someone screws up.

Gregory (Xander Berkeley) is back to his slimy political ways. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) has been voted leader of Hilltop and Gregory sees Ken’s death as an excuse to stump for a recount. He pulls his coup by getting the boy’s parents Tammy (Brett Butler) and Earl (John Finn), drunk enough to assassinate the new leader, but they forget she’s a much more formidable foe than they could ever hope to be. Gregory “doesn’t even know how to kill someone right,” Maggie tells him before deciding she needs visual aids to make him see the point.

With Daryl as her henchman, Maggie metes out punishment in front of the whole community, plus visiting Rick and Michonne. She seats Gregory on horseback with a noose around his neck and executes him with a curt nod. She says she doesn’t like doing it, and hopes she’ll never have to do it again. But there is a part of her which will always be looking for a chance.

The new showrunner will be tasked with changing the entire fabric of the new world’s leadership this season as Famous Rick will be moving on at some point. “The Walking Dead” season premiere opens old wounds and pours in a new salt of the earth to plow the fields for the next succession.

The Walking Dead” season nine premiered Oct. 7 and airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.