‘The Walking Dead’ Season 11 Premiere: Tunnels of Terror (RECAP)
Acheron, Part I
Season 11 • Episode 1
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 1, “Acheron: Part I.”]
Whoever thought Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the guy infamous for bashing two beloved group members’ heads in with a barbed wire baseball bat and spluttering a near-constant stream of off-color jokes, would be the voice of reason?
Yet that’s exactly the role he takes in The Walking Dead’s last-ever season premiere. As Maggie leads a quest to her currently Reaper-infested community called Meridian in hopes of ousting the baddies and getting food for Alexandria, it’s Negan who speaks up to urge caution in an increasingly perilous scenario—a warning that Maggie (Lauren Cohan) ignores. Meanwhile, Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Princess (Paola Lazaro), Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) make a startling discovery about the Commonwealth.
“That Sound Is God, Telling Us to Turn Around.”
After discovering that the food they swiped from an old military base in the super-cool episode opener won’t last more than a couple of weeks, Maggie puts together a team consisting of Daryl (Norman Reedus), Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) Alden (Callan McAuliffe), Gage (Jackson Pace) and a few of her people to take back Meridian. Negan is forced to tag along because he knows the city they’re passing through, but as they venture out, a thunderstorm descends upon the group and forces them into the decrepit subway tunnels. Negan suggests laying low and waiting for the storm to pass. Maggie says they have to push on. So Negan gets insulted and ignored, and push on they do, into the depths of the crumbling, eerie structure.
Unsurprisingly, Negan was right. Not only do the tunnels seem to flood when there are storms, but the group runs into a large group of walkers in plastic bags who were—at least, according to Maggie—killed at the start of the apocalypse. They have to go one by one and eliminate each walker, which almost gets Gage killed; Negan saves him, but then he almost dies. After that, he and Maggie have a tense conversation about why he’s really there: He knows Maggie brought him out on the mission to kill him far from Alexandria, to end his life on her terms. But he’s not willing to go out when she deems it’s convenient, so he tries to spark her wrath with a nasty comment about Glenn (Steven Yeun). That earns him a punch from Daryl, but Maggie simply gives Negan an icy warning against “pushing [her].”
But Negan’s continued expressions of trepidation about the journey in the tunnels do have some effect: Gage and another Alexandrian take off into the shadows with the team’s supplies, leaving the group without batteries for flashlights or any food. Naturally, a horde of walkers arrives on the heels of that realization. And the group is stuck down below, because a subway car is both locked and jamming their exit. Great!
I Have to Stay
Team Eugene can’t figure out whether to trust the Commonwealth. Each of them is subjected to hours upon hours of questioning, which consists of seemingly irrelevant questions (“When was your last bowel movement? What did you use to wipe?”) interspersed with inquiries as to what it seems the Commonwealth really wants to know: the location of their community. The group has an airtight story about finding one another on the road, so no one gives anything away. But everyone except Eugene is ready to be done with the whole thing—especially after they discover that “reconditioning,” which occurs if they fail the questioning process, looks to be months of torture. The questioning scenes also serve as our first introduction to Mercer (Michael James Shaw), who doesn’t get along with Ezekiel.
Thanks to a little keen observation from Princess, the group puts together a plan to break out. They steal suits from a couple of soldiers and head out the exit, but they pause as they find the community’s “wall of the lost.” There’s little time to lose, but Princess stares at the sea of faces and names—and in it, she finds Yumiko. Apparently, her brother is at the Commonwealth, and he’s still searching for her. “I have to stay,” Yumiko says, stunned, so it seems they’ll cooperate with the inquiries into their bathroom habits after all.
As the episode ends, Maggie and her group are pushed back against the stuck subway train. Daryl and Dog escape through some rocks (technically, Dog escapes and Daryl goes after him), but the rest of the group climbs on top of the subway car to evade the walkers closing in on them. Maggie brings up the rear, but in a twist of awful luck, a walker grabs her foot and she can’t shake it. (How are these walkers still so strong after all these years of decay? Don’t question it.) As she tries to pull herself to safety, Negan glances down at her from above. Her life is in his hands, and she knows it. Desperate, she calls out to him—and he turns away, leaving her to fall into the crowd of walkers below. Let’s hope there’s a Dumpster for Maggie to crawl under somewhere in that tunnel…
- So, Maggie’s clearly not going to die here. I’ll laugh, though, if she survives by crawling under the subway cars. Who needs a Dumpster?
- A couple of neat callbacks to “Days Gone Bye” in this episode: the subway tunnel graffiti (“If there is a God, he will have to beg my forgiveness” vs. the pilot’s “God forgive us”) and the stuffed animal both hearkened back to the show’s first installment.
- I’m worried about Negan. Not necessarily from the “Is Maggie going to kill him?” standpoint, but I’m not sure he’ll make it out of the final season—someone will probably take Rick’s comic death. One way to remix that would be to have Hershel kill Negan, rather than Sebastian killing Rick. But this doesn’t necessarily mean TWD couldn’t do a Negan spinoff at some point in the future; we still haven’t really seen how he formed the Saviors.
- Would’ve been nice to have a couple lines of dialogue between Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl in this episode, if only to determine where they’re at. We know they’re going to get back to good (or the spinoff is going to be awkward), but I was half-expecting her to say something to him after he volunteered for Maggie’s mission, and she didn’t. This promo picture seems to imply something between them was cut.
- Rating: 4.5/5. There were a few moments where disbelief just had to be suspended in “Acheron: Part I,” and it’s obvious Maggie is going to survive, so the cliffhanger loses its teeth. But the setting of this episode was unique and compelling, and it’ll be interesting to see how things end up for Team Eugene at the Commonwealth. For the show’s last-ever premiere, this was a solid start.
The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC