Hi everyone - here's my review for episode 11x02, Acheron: Part II. Be wary for spoilers down below as this episode has just dropped on AMC +, and is not officially released yet. I'm not sure what official Wikia policy is on posting before the official launch, so I'm happy to take down the post and reupload later.
- Maggie survives falling off the subway train and heads underneath. The others move forward without her, and Negan is suspected. As they head through the train cars they are reunited with Maggie, and Negan admits what he did to an uneasy group who still need his help. They head forward, but when Gage returns alone and brings a horde with him and Maggie condemns him not worth saving, so Gage stabs himself before he's consumed. While trying to open the door, Maggie tells the group a story about the worst thing she's ever seen, and illustrates how she's changed. Meanwhile Daryl and dog head through subway tunnels and check out the dark history of what happened down there - Daryl runs into Roy, who's injured, and takes his stuff. The groups reunite in a battle in a train and head forward. They finally get out of the subway tunnel and into Reaper territory, where Roy is shot dead, Cole's hand is cut off and the group are sent running by the arrival of the Reapers.
At the Commonwealth the group are paranoid that their escape plan was witnessed, and Eugene begins to crack. One by one the group split up and are taken away, and Eugene, despite getting emotional, manages to retain a lie to Mercer and his people. Mercer sees an angle to use this, so the group are processed to join the Commonwealth, and Eugene meets 'Stephanie'.
What a firecracker of an episode. Honestly a 9/10 for me - a real near-perfect episode, and one unlike what we've ever seen before on the show. Now the introductions and setup from episode one is out the way, this is a perfect time to utilise the setting, characters and premise to it's fullest potential. Negan and Maggie get some great moments, and honesty once again Maggie is the MVP of the episode two episodes in a row (not something I ever thought I'd say), with her using the people as assets perfectly showing off her new personality, her willingness to keep Negan around, and the respect she commands. Honestly the highlight of the story was Gage's death, who I never expected to feel this way for, so it's great to see the writers twist a character I don't really care about in this way into me feeling sympathy for them. The story Maggie told was amazing, but it feels like the Maggie of the bonus episodes and the Maggie here are two different people which is kind of a shame, especially as I prefer the character a lot here. I liked the supporting crew a lot here too, especially Alden, who is becoming the moral centre of the group (not good for his potential fate) - I like that he was the one to stand up for Gage, and how he confronted Negan, but I wish they used a little more of his history to fuel the character (Negan mentions heads on spikes, but no reaction from Alden who lost Enid. No mention of Negan being his old boss either, despite this being their first major interaction ever). Honestly the lost point for this episode solely comes down to the character of Roy and the way they used him. This old man leaves like a coward in the last episode, returns here, somehow loses Gage and all the kit, and is injured - I'm not even sure what the injury is (his eye is covered later but his eye is open and fine in the tunnel?) but the way he's talking indicates he was bit. He tells Daryl to tell his kids he died with honour, and gives Daryl his stuff like he's going to die. The he's magically back with the group after not being in the train firefight, admittedly looking cool as hell with the eye patch, but dying mere seconds after you realise he's still alive. It honestly felt like the director came up with the cool death on the spot and brought him back, thinking editing could smooth over what they'd previously filmed. Having this in Part II and the magic escape in Part I, I honestly didn't predict my two nitpicks with the episode would be editing and not showing us certain events, but here we are. It also kind of makes me sad that Michael Cudlitz created the character of Roy for one episode in his directorial debut, but even though Roy is finally back (after being absent in Season 10), he dies before Cudlitz gets a chance to direct an episode this season. Weird.
Loved all the Commonwealth stuff this episode more than last - I wasn't 100% invested in Eugene's feelings as I wasn't really sure what emotion he was showing, but once it clicked into place he was using his nervousness as a mask to lie I felt like that was really great. I loved how the group were taken from him one-by-one as they isolated the weak link in the chain, it made the Commonwealth feel like a new type of villain for the group, who are not out to kill you or hurt you but something much more indirect. More stuff about this in the predictions.
- Daryl - I liked the mural in the subway bit and his video game inspired train shootout. Here's hoping all the looking at the history of the tunnel leads somewhere for the character personally, beyond just setting an atmosphere.
- Maggie - absolutely killed it, I'm in love with this version of the character, her ruthlessness, her seemingly becoming the bigger person that Negan, and the way she explains why she acts the way she does.
- Negan - amazing, but maybe for the first time ever overshadowed by Maggie (not a bad thing) which is an interesting turn to take. It's really great to see his redemption not played straight, and show some imperfection and humanity in him.
- Gage - deserves a shoutout for turning him from a character I care little about, to one of the most memorable death scenes in the entire series for me.
- The Others - Duncan gets some good moments, but I'm waiting for Gabriel to get something to chew on and for the other Wardens to showcase their personalities a little bit more.
- Commonwealth crew - Eugene gets to star which helps overcome my worries from last episode. Ezekiel gets the short straw this time, but I think that's fine as he will definitely get focus later on once we get to the Commonwealth. Yumiko is stepping up to the plate to be a main player this season, and Princess continues to grow on me every episode.
- Roy - not the fault of the actor, but the stuff this character is and isn't given in the episode and the way he just pops back up after looking like he died off screen is my one fault of the episode. We barely knew him before he died!
Winners and Losers
- MVP this episode: Maggie
- Most improved this episode: Alden (again)
- Needs more to do next episode: Gabriel
- Worst player this episode: Roy
So, not the hardest twist to spot, but worth mentioning that Stephanie is black in the comics, and there's no way they would swap the character's race (especially after the anti-racism poster in last episode lmao) so it's clear that this Stephanie is fake, and is going to be used to weasel information about the communities from Eugene, which is a great way to give Eugene a win in this episode for his lying, but also not make Mercer and the Commonwealth look like idiots. Big things to come! I honestly hope when Eugene meets the 'real' Stephanie, they just become friends and Eugene is able to leave his women-lead behaviour behind, but with talk about virginity and love, I don't see that happening. I'd love for his story to just end with self-acceptance.
So, shit is going down with the Reapers. I'm hoping in the fight Gabriel gets something to do as he hasn't really served any purpose on the mission yet - one or two of the wardens are going down (Agatha, Frost, Cole probably) across the next couple of episodes - I'd be upset if they took out all of them right away. I can't wait to see if Elijah has something to do with the group, and I'm really hoping that the Reapers themselves have a motivation that is more than just 'likes killing' especially if (potential big spoiler), like the trailer infers, that Leah is a member of the group.
Excited to see Alexandria next week - hopefully we see some characters we haven't seen in a while, and hopefully the plot there isn't treated like a side mission but the main story. I'd love to see Aaron leading things, and I want more time with the kids as they are growing up and therefore more capable of holding scenes. Can't wait to see Meridian either, or what remains of it.