NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Walking Dead” are present in this review

 

 

The Walking Dead’s Season Ten journey has certainly been an eventful one. After having to delay its initially planned season finale by six whole months, following production complications caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, AMC then decided that the season would be extended, with six additional episodes set to air in early 2021. The series will barely be taking a breath with this approach as well, now that we’ve gotten confirmation that The Walking Dead’s upcoming eleventh and final season will officially begin airing on AMC this Summer, likely immediately following the remainder of Fear the Walking Dead’s current season, which resumes airing next month. God only knows when the ten remaining episodes of The Walking Dead: World Beyond are supposed to be squeezed into this mess as well.

One advantage to the retroactive extension of The Walking Dead’s penultimate tenth season however is that the series can now specifically spend time teeing up events for its final batch of episodes, without taking up space in Season Eleven’s extended 22-episode order. At least, that’s the theory. In practice, unfortunately, “Home Sweet Home” ends up being a bit of a whiff for the storytelling, despite finally bringing The Walking Dead back again after its former season finale’s isolated October airing. This episode is also aiming to establish what Maggie has been up to in the time since leaving Hilltop, while also allowing her to reconnect with her allies, and properly return home to Alexandria, now that the Whisperer War is over. That’s all well and good, but this overdue reunion with Maggie is nonetheless a lot less interesting than fans would likely hope for.

Even with Alpha, Beta and their savage followers now being dead, plenty of threats naturally still linger in the vicinity, some of which are targeting Maggie. Chief among these are the Reapers, yet another all-new faction that doesn’t exist in the original Walking Dead comics, and seems to have been invented specifically for the TV series. These ‘Reapers’, whoever they are, are apparently responsible for decimating Maggie’s former community, and killing just about everyone in it. On top of that, Hershel is currently missing, after being left in the care of one of Maggie’s new allies. Since Maggie and her buddies, Elijah and Cole, two more characters that don’t exist in the Walking Dead comics, bailed out Daryl, Carol and co. during the final battle against Beta and the Whisperers, Daryl and Kelly agree to help Maggie track Hershel down, while Carol returns to Alexandria.

It really is great to see Lauren Cohan back among the Walking Dead TV cast again. If anything though, Cohan’s proper return makes this episode’s tedious storytelling even more frustrating. Cohan gives an especially sharp performance here at least, quietly recounting tragic events that led to Maggie being separated from Georgie, and coming into conflict with the Reapers, but despite that, we ultimately find out too little about these new foes. They seem pulled out of the showrunners’ rear ends at this point, frankly, because we need to have a bridging threat that isn’t the Commonwealth or the CRM, and can’t be as big as either of those factions.

More successful here is a budding bond that develops between Kelly and Maggie’s masked friend, Elijah. Because Kelly is still actively hunting for Connie, whom the audience now knows was picked up by Virgil, she forms a bond with the mute, deadly, but strangely emotional Elijah, who has recently lost his own sister. It’s a very eccentric, but undeniably heartfelt new friendship that actually works very well, especially when Elijah is easily the more interesting of Maggie’s two new allies. I wish Cole did something more engaging than merely whine and bitch, by contrast, but I suppose we did just meet him. Besides, it sounds like he and Maggie at least are tight, hopefully making Cole a useful ally when Alexandria inevitably comes into conflict with the Commonwealth next season.

Frustratingly though, most of this episode is spent with the characters bumbling around the wilderness, and accomplishing nothing of note. The climax at least pits them against a military survivalist-style foe, complete with a sniper rifle (haven’t seen one of those on this series in a while!), but when Maggie and co. corner him, he simply blows himself up, and doesn’t deliver any meaningful information. Well, that’s a waste! Does rescuing Hershel at least provide some legitimate thrills though? Not really. Instead, Maggie’s crew literally just finds him up in a tree, smiling, as if nothing had happened. Well, so much for the stakes behind Hershel’s disappearance, I guess…

Maggie making the decision to call Alexandria home again in the fallout of these events, resigning herself to dealing with Negan’s presence there, is another interesting turn that could yield some solid dramatic promise later, but when Maggie and Negan barely interact in this episode, this resolution similarly ends up falling flat. I was worried that retroactively tacking on six additional episodes to The Walking Dead’s tenth season would merely create a bunch of filler content, and unfortunately, “Home Sweet Home” proved some of those worries justified. It’s a boring episode that just largely wastes your time. It really is great to see Maggie again, but the hunt for Hershel quickly becomes tedious, especially when we ultimately learn very little about the threat facing Maggie’s displaced community, and what ultimately became of Georgie’s mission. I do at least like the blossoming friendship between Kelly and Elijah, but it nonetheless feels like The Walking Dead spends most of its first 2021 offering simply spinning its wheels. Hopefully Daryl and Carol can get up to something more interesting next week, since it doesn’t look like Maggie will have any desire to properly confront Negan anytime soon.

The Walking Dead 10.17: "Home Sweet Home" Review
The Walking Dead unfortunately sputters with the first of its six additional Season 10 episodes this week, mostly failing to mine interesting material from Maggie's overdue return.
THE GOOD STUFF
  • Cohan's sharp Maggie performance not missing a beat
  • Unlikely, but lovable friendship between Kelly and Elijah
  • Maggie giving Hershel a home in Alexandria, despite her feelings on Negan
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
  • Dogged, infuriatingly slow pacing throughout
  • No real stakes or fallout behind Hershel's disappearance
  • Maggie failing to truly engage Negan is frustrating
68%Overall Score
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