AMC’s The Walking Dead returns to kick off its ninth season on October 7, 2018. Because it’s been confirmed Andrew Lincoln is leaving the series, season nine will be setting up the exit of Rick Grimes. It will also be examining the aftermath of the war with Negan and the Saviors and how the communities pick up and carry on with life after so many of their own were killed fighting Negan’s reign of terror.
Season nine episode one titled “A New Beginning” opens by showing Alexandria has come together as a community. Crops are thriving, solar panels provide power, and the wind is being harnessed as an additional power source. Life seems peaceful as Rick watches Judith paint until Michonne’s guidance.
A while later the happy little trio watch birds circling and are all smiles.
Over at the Sanctuary, community members work on the apparently dwindling food supply while others work in a garage fixing up motorcycles. Daryl (Norman Reedus) receives word that members of the community are using a walker as a scarecrow to fend off the birds, and he immediately shuts down that solution by putting an arrow through the walker’s head.
Elsewhere, Jesus (Tom Payne), Tara (Alanna Masterson), Aaron (Ross Marquand) and others are out doing other tasks, including putting down walkers. Life is apparently also going well over at Hilltop and Jesus has been teaching kids self-defense classes.
Horses are a common means of transportation in this new world, and Rick, Michonne (Danai Gurira), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Carol (Melissa McBride), Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), Enid (Katelyn Nacon), Anne (aka Jadis, played by Pollyanna McIntosh) and more ride through the streets of Washington D.C. taking out walkers. Daryl, however, still prefers his motorcycle.
The group’s mission is to retrieve specific relics from the nation’s capitol. There are random walkers inside the buildings but nothing the survivors can’t handle.
Spiders and a grotesque walker momentarily sidetrack Siddiq (Avi Nash) from his relic search, but he quickly recovers. Cyndie (Sydney Park) gets nostalgic over the sight of a canoe, explaining to Daryl she and her brother used to fight over one at the county fair. It’s a random memory and Daryl acknowledges most of his memories of his brother are ones in which they were fighting. He admits he has moments where memories of the friends he lost along the way overcome him.
Rick and a small group bust into the horticulture management area. They’re on the hunt for packets of seeds which they find, thanks to Anne. She reveals she brought her students there, so she knew right where to look.
Maggie, Michonne, and Carol catch up on the news as they hunt for items on their list. Apparently, Gregory (Xander Berkeley) called for an election at Hilltop and lost. Maggie says it’s weird, but Gregory is being friendly. Michonne congratulates her on her win as they locate what they came for.
The group helps work the frame of a covered wagon down a large flight of stairs. It’s difficult, but they get the front end down to the base of the stairs. Unfortunately, the floor in that area is made of thick glass. They see walkers ambling along in the area under the glass which is actually just another level of the building. The floor’s made up of large glass squares within metal frames, and it’s on the frames that Rick walks out to lead the wagon down the final stairs.
The glass begins to crack in certain places as they push the wagon over the floor. They’re forced to walk slowly and carefully over the glass, sticking to the frames as they bring the other items (including the canoe) across the glass. They’re almost done when the floor opens up and Ezekiel falls through. fortunately, he has a rope around his waist. Unfortunately, he’s stuck dangling above the walkers.
The rope begins to fray as the group frantically attempts to pull him to safety. Daryl takes out a walker on the verge of biting Ezekiel, and finally he’s pulled to safety. He and Carol fall into each other’s arms, and then Carol gives him a lengthy kiss on his lips. (The rumors of the Carol/Ezekiel relationship are confirmed.)
Outside, the supplies are loaded up and the wagon becomes part of their caravan home. Daryl rides ahead to clear the road of any walkers. The group’s traveling along Route B which has been painted on the old speed limit signs.
In one of the most stunning moments of normality in a series that has very few, three young guys ride next to each other just talking about training and shoeing horses.
Carol and Ezekiel ride together, and Carol tells him she’s glad he’s okay. Ezekiel proposes marriage and tries to give her a ring. Carol, in typical Carol fashion, replies, “Put that thing away. It’ll snag on everything. I told you not to ask me that, especially after something like this. And this is not happening on a horse.” Ezekiel laughs and says, “I love you and I always will. I’ll keep this until you’re ready.” (It’s fantastic to see Carol happy.)
Daryl returns with Rosita to warn the group a bridge has been taken out by a herd, and Route A isn’t an option because it’s too close to the herd. Michonne suggests they head to Alexandria for the night while the herd passes, but Maggie wants to get home to Hershel! Carol then suggests Route D, saying it’s early enough to make it safe.
Rick takes charge, ordering Rosita to keep an eye on the trade road. Gabriel and some others are sent back to Alexandria while Rick and part of the group will head to Hilltop or the Sanctuary. Rick reminds them all to take care and get home safe.
Shortly thereafter, the horses need a break and are having problems pulling the supplies through the mud. Maggie wonders if they can leave the supplies behind for a day or two, but Michonne believes a herd could come through in the meantime and destroy them. Rick agrees to giving the horses a break and they pull the wagon out of the mud while the horses rest. As they’re almost finished, a large group of walkers arrive. One scares a horse and they’re being overrun when Rick yells for everyone to flee. Ken from Hilltop cares for the horses and refuses to run until he can free one who’s still harnessed to the wagon. Ken’s bit as he’s attempting to set the horse free.
Siddiq, Enid, and Maggie stay with him as the rest fight off the walkers. He dies from his wound and Maggie’s overcome with grief. She cries as she makes sure he doesn’t turn.
Back at Hilltop, Ken’s parents are dealing with the news in vastly different ways. Ken’s mother is angry her son died for a broken plow and to help the Sanctuary. Ken’s father absorbs his grief inside and doesn’t visibly react to the news other than shaking his head.
Ken’s mother confesses she voted for Maggie, but doesn’t consider her a friend. She realizes Gregory’s a scoundrel, but at least he puts Hilltop first. “Those damn Saviors eat our food and take everything that Hilltop bled for,” she says, adding, “It ain’t right.”
Ken’s body is prepared for burial and Alden (Callan McAuliffe) sings at his funeral. Maggie wasn’t invited and remains up at the main house, cradling Hershel and listening to the song.
Over at the Sanctuary, Daryl and Rick enter the warehouse/factory to check in with Eugene (Josh McDermitt). Murmurs are heard through the crowd because Rick is in the building. One man shouts that he hopes Negan is suffering. Eugene has a list of items he needs, but Daryl’s not willing to hold that discussion right now. He’s too upset from Ken’s death to deal with anything else.
Michonne gets Daryl’s attention and points out “Saviors save us. We are still Negan” painted on the wall inside the factory. It’s been happening since the crows have been dying. Eugene and Jerry don’t know who did it, and Daryl orders Justin to paint over it. Justin (Black Sails’ Zach McGowan), reluctantly, follows orders.
Gregory speaks at Ken’s funeral, calling him a good-hearted young man who wasn’t a fighter. He will be remembered as a son, a friend, a shining example of Hilltop strength and fundamental decency, calling his death a terrible tragedy.
After the speech, Gregory has tears in his eyes when Jesus praises his speech and tells him it was beautiful. Gregory claims to be grateful for where he is and what he has.
Back at the Sanctuary, Rick informs the people he’s got farming tools and seeds. The Sanctuary’s crops are dying and food is in short supply, other than what’s brought in from the other communities. Rick says they’ll pitch in and make sure Sanctuary has what it needs, and the Saviors applaud his speech.
Daryl has a talk in private with Rick, revealing he no longer wants to lead the Saviors. He doesn’t feel right being behind these walls, but Rick reminds him he kept this place together. Daryl says nothing grows there; it’s just a factory. Negan needed to rely on people to provide food when he was in charge, and that still holds true.
The situation is pretty dire at the Sanctuary. Daryl reminds Rick the bridges leading in are out and there’s no gas to be found anywhere nearby. Daryl doesn’t think the other communities can continue to feed the Sanctuary. He also doesn’t like the fact they’re all split apart. He liked it much better when they were a small group working together. He wants to go to Hilltop, but if he’s determined to leave Sanctuary then Rick needs him at Alexandria. Their group is helping Oceanside, Hilltop, the Sanctuary, and the Kingdom, and Rick could use Daryl back home.
Daryl is obviously not happy with Rick’s current leadership.
Next, Daryl and Carol have a talk. They joke about Ezekiel’s ability to sleep while they’re suffering from many restless nights. Daryl approves of the relationship although he thinks Ezekiel’s a little corny. He admits he misses seeing her and Carol volunteers to take over the Sanctuary for a little while. (She overheard Rick and Daryl talking.) She hasn’t told Ezekiel her plans, and then she admits Ezekiel asked her to marry him. She doesn’t know why she didn’t say yes, although it’s probably because she wants to help out. She assures Daryl she doesn’t need him to stay at the Sanctuary.
Back with the ever-scheming Gregory, he’s drinking with Ken’s father. They talk about Maggie being responsible for Ken’s death. Gregory thinks the election was a farce and Maggie only won because Jesus counted the ballots. He also doesn’t think Maggie’s acting in the best interest of Hilltop and he proposes a coup.
Later in bed, Michonne teases Rick about being famous. The talk turns serious as they agree they don’t envy Maggie right now. Michonne confesses that after seeing Negan’s name on the factory wall, she’s not sure they did the right thing by keeping him alive. Rick admits he thinks about that too, but it wouldn’t change anything if Negan was dead.
Michonne also believes they need an agreement between the communities about how they’ll treat each other and what the repercussions will be when someone breaks the agreement. Rick thinks that might bring the communities together. Daryl has Rick worried and Michonne’s sure if Daryl’s worried, there’s a reason.
Michonne will get the communities to agree to a charter. Rick thinks the next step he should take is repairing the bridge.
Over at Hilltop, Maggie takes the baby out for a late night stroll. Gregory meets up with her and he claims to have done some soul-searching. He also assures her he thinks she won the election fair and square. He then drops a bomb that someone’s defaced Glenn’s grave. He wonders if it was someone who was angry about her leadership.
Maggie hurries off in the pitch black to check on the grave and is jumped by someone wearing a hooded sweatshirt. The baby’s stroller is overturned and he falls out, crying. Maggie struggles to get the upper-hand after being surprised, and it becomes a life or death fight. Enid rushes to help and the assailant knocks her away. She hits her head and passes out.
Alden comes to help save Maggie and it’s revealed the man in the sweatshirt is Ken’s father.
Maggie checks on her baby and then barges into Gregory’s room. She accuses him of trying to have her killed. “You want to lead this place? You can’t even murder someone right,” growls Maggie.
Gregory claims Hilltop wouldn’t exist without him, and calls Maggie Rick’s lackey. She reminds him Rick ended the war and that he’s had multiple chances even after everything he’s done. Gregory attacks her with a large knife, claiming he’ll say she attacked him and he was forced to defend himself. Maggie wrests the knife away and holds it to his throat.
In a much more peaceful setting, Carol says goodbye to Ezekiel, assuring him she’s not running away. She wants to help her friends, but she also wants to make sure she has a home with him to come back to. They kiss (multiple times) and Carol asks Jerry to take care of Ezekiel for her – just for a little bit. Ezekiel and Jerry ride away as Carol watches.
Daryl, Michonne, and Rick arrive at Hilltop and are shocked to see Maggie’s injured face.
Rick holds the baby, calling him perfect and Maggie jokes that she thinks she’ll keep him. Rick invites her to visit Alexandria sometime, if she’s up to it. Judith talks about Maggie all the time, but Maggie refuses Rick’s offer. She wants him to talk about what he really came for, and he admits it’s because he needs her help fixing the bridge. Hilltop is the community in the best shape, and that’s due to her leadership. He knows Hilltop has given more than their fair share, and he wants to know if she’ll help out supplying people to work on the bridge and with a little more food to the Sanctuary.
Maggie says she won’t stop anyone who wants to work on the bridge, but she won’t give away more food or supplies without something in return. She wants the Sanctuary to provide most of the bridge labor and give her all the fuel they’ve made out of their dead corn.
Rick reminds her the Sanctuary’s barely holding on, but Maggie has absolutely no sympathy for the Saviors. She has her own problems at Hilltop to deal with and can’t save the Sanctuary, too. She reminds Rick that not long ago he said he’d wind up following her lead eventually. She wasn’t someone to follow then, but she is now.
After night falls, Maggie addresses the community. She admits she doesn’t want to do what she has to, but she’s been forced to because the punishment must fit the crime. Gregory has a noose around his neck, and he begs everyone to stop this. He thinks she’s doing this at night because she’s ashamed. Maggie disagrees, and nods to Daryl to swat the horse out from under Gregory.
Michonne screams for Maggie to stop when she notices two children are now watching. Rick holds Michonne back as Maggie goes through with the hanging.
Maggie delivers a speech as Gregory dangles. She declares this isn’t the beginning of something and she’s not going through this again. The episode ends with Daryl cutting the now-deceased Gregory down.
More on The Walking Dead:
- Recap of The Walking Dead Season 8 Finale
- Season 9 Photos and Plot Description
- The Walking Dead Season 9 Cast Interview
- The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 2 “The Bridge” Recap