Hi guys, I'm back with more sporadic reviews - this time Acheron: Part. I.
We open with a great action sequence with the women of the show, as they are lifted in and out of a walker-ridden base with supplies. The mission is a success despite the lurkers waking up and Carol continuing to act irrational. Back at Alexandria things are going incredibly badly after the Whisperer war, and the group desperately need supplies and food. Maggie proposes a mission to go to Meridian, the base of the Wardens before it was overrun by new bad guys the Reapers. A group head through the city, using Negan as their reluctant guide through the subway tunnels. As they head through the tunnels they see more and more signs of death, and when Negan spins up fear Gage and Roy leave with supplies. When the group are confronted by walkers, Daryl chases Dog off in his own direction, and Negan is left with Maggie. As she is grabbed by walkers, he refuses to help her.
Meanwhile at the Commonwealth, the group are sent into processing, where each deal with the Commonwealth's extreme questioning in their own ways. The group meet Mercer, and strike up a plan to escape, but the reveal that Yumiko's brother is at the Commonwealth twists the plan and they head back.
What a great season premier! I've commented before on how Angela Kang premiers are often just 'okay' for me, but this one shut me up and completely knocked by stupid opinions away. Both a great start and a fantastic standalone episode, this one is an explosive way to start a season for sure. While not perfect, this one was a solid 8/10 for me, and had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. The episode benefits so much from the change of location, and while a lot of these moments in the episode feel ripped straight out of The Last of Us Part II (Just like a lot of the battles in Season 10 felt ripped straight out of Game of Thrones), I couldn't care because it's so amazing to film somewhere that's not a forest, road or train track in Georgia. The atmosphere was so dark and gritty and claustrophobic, and filming digitally means that filming in dark environments is actually enjoyable and you can see what's going on. My one letdown was the Commonwealth - I liked the slow reveal of Mercer, but the complete omission of showing how the four managed their escape plan makes the Commonwealth honestly feel a little stupid, which isn't good for episode one. The episode would be higher rated if it was not for cutting that entire section out. However, the inclusion of the Commonwealth story was a great pace and tone breaker from everything in the subway, mixing the past and and the future, rich and poor, advances society vs just getting by. Given the show's history of having one location per episode, the fact that these stories are running parallel is great. I would have loved o see a little more of Alexandria, especially since in the premier we don't really get proper season intros for all the characters (we haven't seen Luke in like 8 episodes now, for example). The ending really blew me away, and having Negan do the opposite of what I expected was a great note to end on.
There was some really great tiny character moments showing off character's individual skills. Princess's out-the-box-plan, Yumiko's lawyer skills, Eugene's memory, Magna's lock picking, Alden knowing about the pipes, Negan's navigation of DC, Duncan's strength - it really felt like they thought about skills each character has to offer and i like that. I'm not sure how the 'surviving family' story will play out with Yumiko (two British siblings living in the US and surviving the apocalypse? What are the odds!), but I admire the decision to fire this reveal off in episode one, and to attach it to a character who is still new in the grand scheme of things - let's see where this goes.
- Maggie - she was a perfect lead this episode, and it really feels like she was never gone. I think the show has just done enough to change her character into a harder version of herself, while also keeping the fundamentals of the character. She's never been my favourite character, but this general version of Maggie is really great.
- Daryl - great as usual - not too much to do, but his interest in what happened in the tunnels is surely leading somewhere.
- Duncan, Frost, Agatha, Cole, Elijah - These characters are so cool, especially Duncan from the newcomers. It does feel a little sad that the group is made up of mostly new people (shows how small the cast has gotten), but the way they listen to and serve Maggie makes this her story. I particularly like Duncan.
- Eugene, Yumiko, Ezekiel, Princess - I loved this group, and while I was originally a bit confused on the choices the writers made of who would go, in hindsight keeping the group small means they all get equal focus and this is a really great use of all of them. Ezekiel's illness, Eugene's rain-man memory, and Yumiko's coldness are all fantastic, and unlike the comics, I really enjoy the Princess, and I think they've adapted her in the best way they possibly could. I just hope that Eugene is not overshadowed as this really is his story.
- Mercer - great, confident introduction - given how he clashes with Ezekiel this early, I feel like they are going to be friends.
- Gage - nice to see him get a little humanity, rather than playing the role he has been the last season again.
- Roy - we finally have a name for him! Let's hope he lives a while so Michael Cudlitz gets to direct an episode with him in.
- Carol, Kelly, Magna, Rosita, Jerry, Aaron etc - this is not their episode, so obviously they don't get much to do - I do wish we got some lines from them at Alexandria, but knowing they will have focus in later episodes makes me hold my judgement.
Winners and Losers
- MVP This Episode: Maggie
- Most Improved this episode: Alden
- Please Give more to do next episode: Elijah
- Worst player this episode: Carol
So, on this section I used to cover the theme in the episodes, but the AMC Premier cut of the episodes has an interview with Angela Kang where she states the intended theme - in the future I don't think I'll cover theme for this reason. This episode she states is about class, and I see that. I think some mentions were a little heavy-handed (the racism poster, Ezekiel's smackdown of Mercer etc) I enjoy the uniqueness of the environmental storytelling and how it ties in to what's going on for our survivors. I hope the Reapers can play into that theme too, but right now I'm not sure how.
Well, I've actually already seen Part II, so no predictions this week! Thanks for reading!