Season 10 Episode 17 of the Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is not a show that is “problem-free.” Since the first season, the show has developed a practice of presenting a group only to have that group self-destruct, vanish, or die, either on-screen in the instance of the West Georgia Correctional Facility in season three, or off-screen in the case of the eponymous Vatos from season one’s “Vatos.” When a group of people shows there, they usually die quickly. Maggie’s gang of seasoned survival companions is no exception. A handful will stick around, but for the most part, they’ll be ready to leave as soon as they appear on the screen.
Of course, it’s in the service of a bigger, worse foe, as is customary. This one appears to have a personal vendetta against Maggie (Lauren Cohan) since they pursued her and her group of survivors from their former home south of Knoxville to Alexandria, Virginia, crossing many state lines and crossing the Appalachian Mountains (or what were once state lines).
By car, the journey takes 7 hours if you take the short route and nearly 9 hours if you choose the route that does not pass over the mountains. The trek is substantially longer and more dangerous on foot or by horse, as it passes through bear country in one direction and many large cities in the other. Choose your poison.
The majority of “Home Sweet Home” serves to set up Negan and Maggie’s inevitable one-on-one conversation. It’ll take a long, but it has to happen at some point, and director David Boyd makes sure to close the episode with shots of Negan and Maggie establishing eye contact before one or both of them go back to their respective tasks. It only took a couple of scenes, as well as a brief dialogue between Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus), to establish that.
Otherwise, the primary purpose of the episode is to catch Maggie up on the events of the previous season while also introducing the new enemies for Season 10’s final quarter. There are a few wonderful moments of character development, particularly between Kelly (Angel Theory) and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari), Maggie, and Daryl discussing the missing Connie, as Maggie and Daryl search for the missing Hershel Rhee and the few remaining survivors who survived the voyage from Tennessee.
In comparison to Maggie’s hard-luck anecdotes about how every group she encountered ended up falling apart by the conclusion of her stint with Georgie, there are a few beautiful moments in Kevin Deiboldt & Corey Reed’s script when Kelly leaving the group unsecured to go seeking for her sister stretches a bit.
That notion has merit. All things, including human civilization, are subject to entropy. Maggie failed despite having a whole post-apocalyptic survival manual and a lot of expertise in constructing and upgrading communities. According to the little she says about her time away from Hilltop, she did a lot. To return home and discover that the situation at home is just as awful, if not worse, than what she fled.
The Whisperers may have vanished, but their legacy lives on. Although there isn’t a huge battalion of Reapers chasing Maggie, the one who appears is a fearsome foe who throws Daryl and Maggie around like Jason Voorhees before quitting the show dramatically and mysteriously.
It’s hardly surprising that another armed group is wreaking havoc on the countryside; it’s been a thing since the first episode of The Walking Dead. However, Carol, Daryl, and the others must be terrified to witness a gang with enough ammunition to shoot people and working grenades at this time.
Resources are important, especially when the opposing side lacks them. With only one genuine force multiplier, one gunman killed four of Maggie’s people and nearly killed two more. Consider what would happen if a dozen fighters of that caliber arrived with guns while Alexandria is vulnerable, or while a group is making the long trek to Oceanside. It’d make the bloodbath of the Whisperer War look like a walk in the park.
They must, of course, arrive first. Reintroducing Maggie (and her new friends) slows things down a lot, and it rehashes some old ground with the Maggie and Negan debates, so the first episode of 10C doesn’t get off to a fast start. Apart from that, it’s catching up. There’s one decent zombie-killing set-piece and a very solid action sequence when the Reaper shows up and starts killing people, but it’s mostly catching up. There’s not much substance here, but it’s more about setting the tone for the rest of 10C and going forward than it is about correcting a major issue from last season. After a respectable, but unspectacular, reintroduction of a fan-favorite character, the hope is that patience will be rewarded, and Season 10’s strong writing will continue.