Speaking of Negan, “Home Sweet Home,” the episode that kicks off this “Season 10C,” draws us back into the Maggie/Negan drama a bit, without any clear resolution. When we last saw these two together it was right before star Lauren Cohan ditched the show to try her hand at a less dour, more traditional network TV adventure series (the short-lived Whiskey Cavalier on ABC). Back in Season 9, Maggie visited Negan in his prison cell with the intent to kill him but instead offered him mercy.
Now Maggie’s back and Negan is free, or “status pending,” and she’s none too pleased about the situation. Given that we’ll be dropping into Negan’s backstory over the next few weeks, it appears as though this, along with some upcoming Daryl and Carol drama, will be a running focus for these bridge chapters – because nothing ultimately gets solved here in “Home Sweet Home.”
We do get some new villains, who sort of arrive out of nowhere and are an integral part of Maggie’s saga and where she’s been for the past few years. These baddies also wind up being a bit of a “to be continued” situation, though they do provide us with some big action moments to help spice up this somewhat sour midseason opener. Maggie’s story, and where she’s been, doesn’t feel worth the lengthy absence, plus the anger she feels toward Negan (which on paper is totally understandable) feels so distant from where we are narratively these days. The “All Out War”-arc not only feels far removed from viewers in real-time, but in show years it’s even further.
Most of this episode involves a pissed-off Maggie getting distracted by a much more pressing and dangerous threat than her Negan outrage. She and Daryl have some heart-to-hearts, but Daryl’s a much better listener than he is a compelling conversationalist. The plot of “Home Sweet Home” – which is kind of thin and dredges up an old conflict for another go-round – would definitely have never cut it as a Season 11 premiere. And as an indicator of what the rest of these limbo episodes might offer, it seems to suggest we’ll be getting a lot of meditative moments of reproach and repair; which is part of the usual DNA of the series anyhow, but maybe not stretched out like this as a type of postscript.
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“Home Sweet Home” does involve Angel Theory’s Kelly a bit more than usual, who’s one of the many underserved characters in this show’s massive ensemble (honestly, most of them come from Magda’s group that arrived in during Season 9). Connie’s still missing (as actress Lauren Ridloff dropped away briefly to film Marvel’s Eternals) so Kelly and Daryl, intermittently, are hunting down clues for her. This doesn’t mean Kelly’s all of a sudden a nurtured character on the series, but it’s still good to see them get more screen time than usual.
Usually, the anticipation of where The Walking Dead is headed and how that lines up with the comic series keeps many fans (still) glued to this show. The crux of this is the enjoyment of seeing new adversaries, obstacles, and tragedies. And we’re currently headed towards the comics’ big final endgame setting – The Commonwealth. The new villains introduced here in “Home Sweet Home,” who are expected to get taken care of before Season 11 officially starts, feel fairly tacked on. Though, to be fair, you can’t really expect the show to run for six episodes purely on character stoicism and/or rumination, so it makes sense to have some stalkers out there. None of them look as cool though as Maggie’s cohort, Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari), who seems to operate like The Walking Dead’s Snake Eyes at this point, downing foes with Japanese kama blades.
The fear, with these new antagonists, is that Maggie and Negan’s eventual reconciliation, or their version of it, will come via battling these bogeymen – which is exactly how Negan smoothed things over, or his version of it, with everyone else in Alexandria. It’s not the most terrible trope in the world from a storytelling standpoint, but it’s a well that The Walking Dead has pulled water from way too many times at this point.