The first third of The Walking Dead‘s final season came to a conclusion on Sunday night with For Blood. With the Alexandrians trying to figure out how to protect their community from a combination of bad weather, shoddy craftsmanship, and walkers gathering at the wall, Maggie launched her assault on Meridian.
Considering that it was the first finale of the final season, it was a surprisingly low-key episode. The majority of the running time was taken up with Darryl, Leah, and Pope watching Maggie, Negan, and the walkers they had culled approaching Meridian. When Pope revealed a willingness to sacrifice Reaper lives, Leah killed him and then took over the Reapers herself. Darryl revealed to her that he was a double agent. Leah proceeded to start shooting fireworks at the invaders and, as the episode ended, it looked like a rocket was heading straight for Maggie.
It was simple but it was effective. I liked it. In the past, talky episodes like this one have driven me crazy but, in this episode, all of the talking actually advanced the story. We learned more about Pope. We learned more about Leah. We even learned a little bit more about Darryl, a testament to the fact that Norman Reedus has managed to keep the character fresh for 11 seasons.
The highpoint of the episode, not surprisingly, was the death of Pope. Personally, I’m happy to have Pope out of there. Pope always came across as being a less effective but somehow even more longwinded version of Negan and it was hard to take the Reapers seriously as long as he was in charge. It was like finding out that a town’s most fearsome gang was led by someone who played Dungeons and Dragons every weekend. I was seriously dreading the prospect of having to spend this entire season with Pope as the main villain. But now, Pope is dead and Leah is in charge and Leah seems as if she’ll be a much more worthy adversary. Certainly, her relationship with Daryl adds a new element to her battle with the Alexandrians.
Darryl tried to convince Leah to join the Alexandrians. Leah, instead, starting shooting fireworks at Maggie. My hope is that Maggie will duck out of the way but still, this episode dealt with something that I think is too often ignored on The Walking Dead. Not everyone wants to be a member of Alexandria. That was something that Rick Grimes never quite understood and I think it’s also something that Maggie needs to learn. Just because the world has changed, that doesn’t mean that people don’t want to find their own community. Some people just aren’t going to want to embrace the Alexandrian way of life, which is something Rick, in his attempts to nation build, often missed
It was a good episode. I look forward to seeing what happens when the show returns next year. I’m looking forward to seeing what else is going to happen with the Commonwealth. I’m definitely looking forward to the moment when Maggie and Negan realize that they’re in love. (Sorry, Glenn. But, that’s just the way of the world.) I’m looking forward to Gabriel’s inevitable sacrifice. (Seriously, Gabriel is so obviously doomed.) I’m looking forward to Darryl and Carol going off to have adventures in their own spin-off. And I’m looking forward to seeing what Leah can do with The Reapers.
If you have told me last year, at this time, that I’d be looking forward to the return of The Walking Dead, I would have given you one of my epic eye rolls. But these past few episodes have won me over. Here’s hoping the rest of the season lives up to the potential of the first third.