The Beginning Of The End Of ‘The Walking Dead’ Will Arrive In This Weekend’s Episode

The following is a preview of “Home Sweet Home,” season 10, episode 17 of The Walking Dead, which has already aired on AMC+ and will air on AMC this Sunday, February 28th. Details about the story — AND MINOR SPOILERS — will be revealed, so if you want to go in fresh, please skip this post.

There has only been one episode of The Walking Dead over the last 325 days, which was the original Season 10 finale that saw the defeat of Beta, but The Walking Dead universe itself has been mostly centered on the first half of Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 and the first season of The World Beyond. The latter seemed to find its legs near the end of its first season, while Fear featured its best season at least since the front half of Season 4.

With that said, there’s always something very comforting and satisfying about watching episodes of the parent series, and seeing these characters we’ve been with for the last decade feels, fittingly, like returning home (the title of the first episode back is “Home Sweet Home”). That is doubly so this time around, because not only will these six bonus episodes be the first string of episodes we’ve seen in nearly a year, the opening episode also spends an extensive amount of time with Maggie for the first time since Episode 5 of Season 9, about two and a half years ago.

For Maggie, it’s actually been much longer than that, because of the time jump after Rick was abducted by the Civil Republic Military (i.e., the villains in The World Beyond). It’s been about seven or eight years for Maggie. It’s also been that long since she’s seen Negan, the guy who killed her husband. Their first confrontation is awkward and tense, to say the least. It’s doubly weird because while Negan made considerable strides with Daryl, Carol, and the others (especially Judith) after he killed Alpha, Maggie has no such history with Negan. It’s also Maggie’s rightful home, and her return immediately leaves Negan as the odd man out, which is both understandable and somewhat disappointing given his redemption arc. It feels like Negan will have to re-earn all this goodwill back with Maggie, although it is unclear whether the two will ever be able to co-exist.

In the episode, however, Maggie doesn’t really have time to deal with her concerns with Negan, because she has other pressing matters. There’s possibly another group of big bads called The Reapers, who may or may not have followed Maggie from her previous camp. We don’t see where Maggie’s been in flashbacks, but she does reveal her whereabouts over the last several years to Daryl in a heart-to-heart the two have. It’s not a particularly compelling backstory — at least not yet.

In fact, most of the pressing concerns with Negan and with rebuilding what the Whisperers destroyed (Alexandria and The Hilltop) are likewise put on the back burner, as the episode instead has something of a story that I sense will exist as a part of a stand-alone arc limited to the next six episodes. In fact, these six episodes will probably do more to catch us up with moments we missed offscreen (like Negan’s origin story, or Daryls’ whereabouts during his lengthy absence after Rick’s abduction) than they will in advancing the story. That’s not to say that the story will not be advanced at all in the next six episodes. It’s more that this arc will serve as a bridge between the tenth season and the final season. Hopefully, that will also include some sort of resolution to Maggie and Negan’s relationship, one way or another. This new outside group of villains, The Reapers, may in fact provide Negan with an opportunity to earn Maggie’s trust.

Otherwise, the first episode back introduces us to two new characters who came with Maggie, Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari), the masked ninja who is not quite who he seems, and Cole (James Devoti), who actually seems to serve a function similar to the one that Dante served in the comics. He’s a sort of right-hand man and potential (but not likely) love interest to Maggie.

Without giving anything away, however, I will note that the biggest moment in the episode involves the introduction of Glenn and Maggie’s son, who it is clear shares a lot in common with both his mom and dad. His introduction to the series makes the first episode back worth watching alone, and I’m very excited to see little Hershel eventually meet Judith Grimes. I suspect they will become fast friends.

Will the bonus episodes be necessary viewing? Perhaps not. They’re likely to be smaller in scale and tell more intimate stories given the COVID-19 protocols in place. Without a doubt, however, it feels good to spend some time with these characters again, and while the other The Walking Dead universe series (and the Rick Grimes movie) will serve as able replacements in the years to come, this serves as the beginning of the end for The Walking Dead. We all need to prepare ourselves for a future in which most of these characters, who have been in our lives so long, will no longer be around.

AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ officially returns on Sunday, February 28.