I told you that last nights premiere of The Walking Dead season 9 was going to be good, and if you watched, Im guessing at least some of you probably agree with me.
Not only is the writing better, not only does Daryl have lines again, but the show has figured out how to use big character deaths in a way that serves an actual purpose again, rather than purely shocking the audience a-la-Glenn, Carl, etc.
Were going to get into spoiler territory here, so turn back now if you havent watched last nights Walking Dead yet.
Im speaking of course about Maggies decision to hang Gregory, a haunting moment in the history of the series, and one that represents an important turning point not just for the show, but for Maggie specifically.
I thought this entire sequence was well set up.
We learn that Gregory held an election to be ruler of the Hilltop, and that Maggie won, and he was taking his defeat surprisingly well. But all he was really doing was waiting for his moment to strike, stirring up anti-Maggie resentment in the shadows in the meantime.
Gregorys opportunity came when during the gangs big DC mission, the blacksmiths son was bitten by walkers and killed. Both Gregory and the mans wife start prodding him, and eventually Gregory makes him fall off the wagon after decades of sobriety, getting him blackout drunk and setting him upon Maggie. Maggie survives, because of course at this point she can fight off some drunken oaf, and when she confronts Gregory, he finally tries to do the deed himself by attempting to stab her. Maggie handles him too, and declares that the punishment fits the crime on the Hilltop, and hangs him in front of the entire town.
Maggies execution of Gregory for attempted murder isnt just a moment to shock the audience (though it does), its representative of her split with Rick in terms of governing philosophies moving forward. Negan murdered her husband, Abraham, Spencer and many others, yet Rick let him live to rot in prison. Gregory merely attempted to kill her, and she strung him up within hours. And given that Daryl was essentially acting as her hangman, its clear that hes on board with this kind of thing too.
One of the central conflicts of this season is how to govern these communities. Maggie is pro capital punishment, and resents sending food and supplies to the Saviors who are essentially surrendered enemy combatants, at the expense of her own people. Rick believes in reinstating criminal justice to some degree, as seen by Negans life sentence, and that the more profitable communities should be helping out the less fortunate ones, no matter their past crimes. Post-apocalyptic socialism, if you will, while Maggies more of an authoritarian.
This is why Gregorys death is so meaningful. He wasnt the most beloved character in the world, but he always seemed like the cockroach who would always live another day. Last night, Maggie stamped him out for good, and his death should resonate throughout this season. We have lost so many characters for pretty much no reason at all. Glenn and Abraham were sacrificed just so wed all hate Negan. Sasha died because her invasion plan of the Sanctuary was stupid. Carl died…because Scott Gimple made a terrible decision. But Gregory? In the Angela Kang era, hopefully most deaths will mean something, and even if this was an adaptation of a comic storyline, it was handled especially well, I thought.
I really do hope this is a new leaf for The Walking Dead, and having seen the next two episodes already, things are looking up (episode 3 is especially great). Stay tuned, and dont give up on TWD yet, I guess.
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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero