Maggie Brings Enemies Old and New as ‘The Walking Dead’ Takes a Detour Before the Final Season

“Home Sweet Home,” the first episode of the extended 10th season of “The Walking Dead,” is what happens when you film around Covid delays. The pandemic bumped the original finale, “A Certain Doom,” by a couple months, and instead of jumping into Season 11, we’re on minor diversion. It’s only six episodes, about the length of a mini-series, which should give them enough time to find a way for Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus to slip away unnoticed for their Carol and Daryl spinoff, which may also go unnoticed.

Carol, the abused wife of zombie food, and mother of, well also zombie food, and Daryl, a backwoods tracker whose big brother was a minor villain turned zombie food, bonded early in the series. She is the Cherokee rose to his thorny rebel. They jointly survived walkers, Whisperers, Wolves, Saviors, the cannibals of Terminus, and Andrew Lincoln’s long tortured takes as Alexandria leader Sheriff Rick Grimes. But they are both loners. It’s what keeps them together. Carol died in the comics during the prison arc, but cut quite the path on the series. Why, just recently she let Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)  out of captivity. Isn’t that wild?

Opening the episode with a post-Apocalyptic twist on wild west headgear, Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan) is back on the scene, and not too thrilled when the first person she sees after Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming) is Negan. This is the first time they’ve seen each other since Season 9, when Maggie dropped by the prison cell of the conquered Savior with murder on her mind. Against her own design, she offered him mercy. How’s that working out? Negan is “status pending” in the compound, having saved whatever he didn’t burn down. All Maggie’s son Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller) knows is the “bad man” who killed his dad got what he deserved. 

Because subtlety isn’t paramount on “The Walking Dead,” for anyone who might not have caught it, Maggie’s bearded friend Cole (James Devoti) lays out all the emotional subplot by way of an introduction. To paraphrase: Hello, we’ll be moving next door to the guy who burnt down a community and killed your husband. Please pass the jerky.

Maggie doesn’t come back empty handed. Her last village got destroyed and the marauders who did it are hot on her trail. She doesn’t quite get into it, but it seems the community she was with before that came to very similar ends. Daryl is a good listener, mainly because Norman Reedus isn’t paid by the word. Though he does get in a shot about medical theoretics. Maggie begins to tell the story but she’s too tired and it’s too tired a story to begin with. It’s Cole who once again breaks it down. “They must have followed us,” he lets out. “They wipe out anything in their way.” Maggie might have mentioned that before dragging them along into the now-decimated home base. If it was still standing, the Reapers would have destroyed it too. Maggie doesn’t think things through. 

The Reapers are exclusive to the series, they don’t appear in the comics, so we’ll probably forget about them soon. They could possibly be foreshadowing the Civil Republic Military which will be the Season 11 bad guys. The new villains arrive out of nowhere, and give off a similar vibe to the Horde on “Xena: Warrior Princes.”  But only for a moment as a few of Maggie’s cohorts grab at their necks and fall over without any warnings. The man in the sniper’s nest in the woods is wearing intense camouflage and military-style body armor. He’s booby-trapped the woods with snare traps. Daryl was out there kicking over rocks looking for sneaker prints. Maggie really should have mentioned something about militia guerillas in the woods. Just out of common courtesy. You do have to admire the captured Reaper’s commitment to closure. When he blows himself up, we know he won’t be reanimating. No muss, no fuss, and plenty of mess. Everything you want in a monster of the week. 

This episode could have stuck with Maggie’s squabble with Negan, he could easily have carried villain of the week. Can’t we all be Negan? There is barely any mention of the Whisperer War. Just hours ago, the Whisperers were the worst ex-people on the planet. The very idea of the seeing faces of dead people among a sea of dead people kept the communities on their last nerves for two seasons. So, Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari), samurai swordsmith in Maggie’s group, isn’t doing himself any favors by being the kid in the iron mask. He doesn’t even have mottled scars to hide. It’s an affectation. He wants to be on a “Mad Max” zombieverse when he grows up. 

A lot goes unsaid on “The Walking Dead,” and it can’t all be laid at Daryl’s forementioned phonetic forbearance. Elijah bonds with Kelly (Angel Theory) over shared loss, but no one brings up how Kelly’s sister Connie (Lauren Ridloff) is missing because Carol went off the rails chasing Alpha (Samantha Morton).

The episode had plenty of action, from the clearing out of walkers for an overnight stay, to the clearing out of new characters as the Reaper sniped away. As the group make their way to Alexandria on the blip between seasons, we can be assured of a fair amount of danger and an awful lot of backstories. Maggie and Negan will probably reconcile after the upcoming and highly anticipated episode 6, which will focus on the former leader of the Saviors. It will also tell us all about Lucille. 

“The Walking Dead” is ambling toward the comics’ final frontier: the war with the Commonwealth. “Home Sweet Home” is an entertaining installment on what Maggie would call “a detour.” The series is off the path and free to meander. The season 10 postscript won’t be a new chapter, offering more filler than fodder to the show’s overall canon. But it’s nice to catch up with old friends, especially when they bring new enemies.

The Walking Dead” season 10c premieres Fe. 28 and airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.