Spoilers ahead. Last week’s Season 11 premiere to The Walking Dead ended with Maggie clinging to the outside of a train carriage and Negan coldly deciding to let her fall into the path of the approaching undead. Skip forward to Episode 2, and Maggie does indeed fall… about five feet safely to the ground. It looks dicey for a few moments as walkers swarm her, but it’s the golden rule in television if you’ve survived eleven seasons into an apocalyptic horror drama, your plot armor will save you in the writer’s room.
A little later on, as Maggie climbs up from beneath the train, we realise she took a leaf from Glenn’s book of hiding under a dumpster for three episodes only to emerge completely unscathed. The same, however, cannot be said for Gage, who’ll we get to later.
So the group is trapped within a train car, with the doors rusted shut at both ends and the undead surrounding them. The situation is about as bleak as the editor’s choice of colour in post-production. That being said, it could be worse, as Negan faces Maggie’s wrath after abandoning her, but the good news is, she’s not dead. Big surprise.
Now, this episode is not short on death, and most notably, we’re talking about Gage. The Hilltop resident was first introduced in Season 9 and has remained relatively subdued as a character of relevance and importance until now. It’s a key sign in The Walking Dead that a secondary character is about to meet their fate when they’re given something resembling a personality, or a fleeting storyline within an episode.
Here we are, Gage has become separated from the group, only to find them in the next train car over, and with no way through to them. With little ammo and a flood of walkers closing in on Gage (really slowly I might add), Maggie leaves him to his death. Bizarrely, Gage decides not to take on the seven or eight walkers coming through the car with his two knives, but instead stabs himself to death to avoid a worse fate. Gage’s death could have been avoided and seemed unnecessary.
Then we need to speak about Roy. In all honesty, C. Thomas Howell’s character was one most of us had forgotten existed. He made a fleeting cameo appearance in the middle of the season, not to be seen again until last week. Roy, much like Gage, had such little screen time on The Walking Dead, and it’s a shame. Their deaths, like so many before, were predictable and left me uninterested.
Meanwhile, in deeper Grottsville (a new name for the dingy subway), Daryl discovers a tunnel decorated in eerie shrines to Washington DC and ominous messages. As for the photo Daryl finds of two young kids separated from their parents, Tom and Jesse, we’ll assume that’ll tie into a story later down the line.
Despite the odds seemingly stacked against them, Maggie and the group breezily fight through the small army of the undead, helped in large part by a one-take sequence of Daryl gunning down zombies through the carriages, before dispersing of the rest with a grenade. Zombie jam, lovely.
Out of the subway, the group makes it back onto the road, and it’s at this point, they’re probably thinking it was better to be trapped in the train carriage. We’re given our first chilling impression of the Reapers’ handy-work, as we see dozens of their victims hung from trees upside down flanking both sides of a road. Soon, arrows are flying and Cole has lost a hand, as a large group of the Reapers emerge and begin their terrifying approach.
In the Commonwealth, Yumiko flips the script on the Auditors, and rather brilliantly as a former lawyer, before Eugene (who flaps about panicking for the most part in this episode – how did he survive this whole time?) recounts how he’d encountered Stephanie on the Hilltop radio.
In the final moments of the episode, Eugene, Ezekiel, Yumiko, and Princess are reunited and officially welcomed into the Commonwealth. This is before Stephanie makes her first appearance… until you realise this is not Margo Bingham, who was cast in the role. Let’s just hope Eugene rumbles this fake Stephanie as a spy.
“Acheron Part II” was a satisfying conclusion to last week’s slow and stagnant opener, with highlights including Daryl’s walker takedown spree through the train carriage, Maggie’s grisly story about life on the road to the final chilling moments as the Reapers make their entrance, and at last, signs that the Commonwealth story is coming into play.