This review contains spoilers for episode 1017.
After an unexpectedly long break between the first half of the season and the season finale, The Walking Dead added six bonus episodes to the season. “Home Sweet Home” is the first episode. The story features Maggie’s return, and it offers a taste of where Maggie has been since she left. Daryl and Kelly join Maggie and two of her friends to retrieve Hershel and the rest of Maggie’s people for integration into Alexandria.
We pick up where we left off after the late-airing mid-season finale, “A Certain Doom.” The survivors of the stand-off with Beta and his remaining Whisperers are packing up their supplies, and heading back to Alexandria. After Maggie’s clutch rescue of Gabriel, Alden, and Aaron with her masked friend Elijah, she walks with Judith to meet up with the rest of the group.
It is a rule of life that even in a human-barren apocalypse like this one, the world is still small enough that you manage to run into people you never want to see again in your life. And so it is with Maggie, who watches a wagon pull away only to reveal an unfettered and free Negan standing in the road. Negan, as always, reads the situation and feebly notes that he did not escape from prison.
Maggie had previously said that metaphorically, the man that had killed Glenn was dead, and that was why she had chosen not to kill Negan. But seeing a broken shell of a man in a prison cell is a lot different than seeing him roadside and buddy buddy with the team. In his trademark leather jacket no less. Maggie’s ability to compartmentalize and spring into leader mode is still strong it seems, as she bites her tongue and focuses on returning to her group.
Old Family, Meet New One
Maggie introduces Daryl and Carol to her friends Elijah and Cole, and she explains that they were burned out of their village. When Maggie notes her desire to settle at Hilltop, Carol and Daryl escort her to the remains of Maggie’s former home. Carol, who has learned a thing or two about when to show your hand, tells Maggie that Negan had worked with the Whisperers, by her design. Though Daryl tells Carol later that it was a bold move to tell Maggie what had happened up front, Carol knows better. Carol knows that information like that needed to come from her directly. Of course Maggie understood the strategy of Carol’s decision, and she says as much later in the episode to Daryl. “God knows what I would have done,” Maggie says about Carol’s decision to use Negan against Alpha.
This Parking Lot is Paradise
The first hint that Maggie has changed, is when they need to stop for the night on their journey to rendezvous with her group. Daryl prepares to set up camp on the hillside, but Maggie insists on a more secure parking lot filled with shipping containers. Daryl and Kelly don’t relish the idea of clearing out the dead from the lot, but Maggie insists. Once night falls, Maggie explains her fears to Daryl as she recounts the Reader’s Digest version of her life since she left. Though Maggie had started with Georgie and the twins, when they had decided to head out west, Maggie had stayed behind with Hershel in Knoxville. Maggie had taken her son to her grandmother’s house by the sea, a place she and Glenn had talked about.
“[Hershel] asked how his daddy died. I knew he would. I knew it was coming. I told him that a bad man killed him. And he wanted to know if that man got what he deserved. He wanted to know if that man was dead. Truth is, I left home because I couldn’t have Negan taking up any more space in my head. And then I realized I didn’t want to bring Hershel back to that. And the next morning we met a whole community of people who needed us as much as we needed them. And it felt like it was meant to be. But that’s over too.”Maggie Rhee
“You could come on home. It’s not decided with Negan. Not yet,” Daryl tells Maggie. It is telling that both Maggie and Daryl refer to Alexandria as home. Maggie could have stayed seaside, but she chose to go back into the world. Eventually, Maggie and Hershel had met up with the village, and they had stayed with them until a group called the Reapers had burned it down. When Maggie’s new society fell apart, she chose to return “home.” Unfortunately, the Reapers have pursued Maggie and her people ever since. Maggie’s insistence on sleeping in the containers was a necessary precaution. Daryl knows Maggie does not get rattled easily, so despite the little she says about the enemy, it is enough to stress the danger ahead.
In the morning, the travelers learn that Kelly has left her watch. Maggie is understandably worried that the Reapers have found them, and she is furious when they find Kelly searching a truck in the woods. Daryl explains that Kelly is looking for her sister, Connie, and Maggie softens immediately. Elijah is in the same boat. When Maggie privately chats with Daryl later about Connie, he confirms that he has looked numerous times, to no avail.
“Some people are just gone, you know?” Daryl says. When Maggie notes that Connie might come back undead, Daryl stresses that it is best if Kelly doesn’t know. Maggie, like Carol, knows the best way to help someone emotionally is to tell them the truth. Daryl does not mention how close he is with Connie, but it seems that truth would not be his preference.
When the group reaches the rendezvous point, they find a burned out husk of a camp. Everyone is gone, including Hershel. Panicked, the group tracks the missing village refugees through the woods until they encounter a sniper. After a fight in which the assailant gets the better of both Maggie and Daryl, a well placed arrow by Kelly saves the day. Maggie pulls a “who are you working for?!” interrogation, but the camouflaged assailant pulls the pin on the conversation. Literally. The man’s grenade explodes into many many pieces, and let me tell you, the foley folks earned their paycheck on this one. The liquidy sounds of blood and chunks of man smacking against trees is still echoing in my head.
Home Sweet Home
Little Hershel has taken to not only dressing like his father, but thinking like him too. Hidden in a tree, a grinning Hershel greets his mother when they finally track him down. With no clue as to whether the man was part of the Reapers or not, the group decides to take their time and make sure that they are not followed. Maggie decides that a home is more important than avoiding one. “I’ll deal with Negan if I have to,” Maggie says. When Maggie arrives at Alexandria, she takes her son’s hand. With her head held high, Maggie has returned home.
While I like the effort to tease out the new “villains,” the commando in the woods isn’t all that interesting. Clearly the group is versed in guerilla war tactics and hunting, which makes them formidable. I don’t understand the purpose of his exit. Surely the commando was trained to resist torture if he was trained in all the other facets of warfare. So if that was not it, then the purpose would be tactical, but his exit isn’t tactical either. The commando warns the group when he shows the pulled pin. It doesn’t really make sense, so I’m interested to see if the reason is ever explained in the final stretch of episodes.
As for Maggie’s struggle to return home, I think Daryl said it best. Maggie is never going to come around on Negan. There is a lot a person can forgive, but the image of Glenn’s violent death is not something Maggie can or will forget. The audience certainly has not. Maggie needed to return home. Why should Negan take home away from her too?
This episode also has a nice examination of how we fill roles in a crisis. Kelly has not given up on finding her sister, but she steps into Connie’s role as a caregiver when she helps Elijah. Likewise Maggie steps into the role of leader in order to continue to protect her people. As Kelly notes, Maggie is an obvious older sibling. Those may not have been their roles in a past life, but it is what is needed in this one.
This episode is low on plot, though we do get some sense of what Maggie has been through. The music and tension throughout make the episode worth a watch, though the villain is a bit of a dud so far.
Odds and Eggs
- Best Undead End: head popping like a zit in the shipping container
- Still no sign of Dog – here is hoping he is hunting rabbits for the Alexandria pantry
- Lots of talk of Connie, but she surprisingly does not make an appearance – One assumes she is on her way to Alexandria since Virgil is not exactly Mr. Congeniality at Oceanside
- Are the Reapers a band of hunters? Ex military?
- What happened to Georgie and the twins? If they headed west, did they meet up with Virginia over on “Fear the Walking Dead?” And if so, will we learn that the twins’ middle names are like Caroline and Dakota?
- The music of this episode had a particularly ominous feel. It was excellent, but between that and the camouflage assassin, it felt a little like one of those survival movies from the early 90’s.
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