Seasons seven and eight were the weakest of The Walking Dead.
Full of bottle episodes and with an incredibly slow structure overall, these two seasons really should have been merged into one.
So, in order to bounce back, the show needed to deliver a fantastic ninth season and, boy, did it.
Scott Gimple was replaced as showrunner by Angela Kang who brought The Walking Dead back from the brink, adapting one of my favourite story arcs from the comics perfectly.
However, going in I did have my concerns, what with this season being the final one with Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes.
I was afraid the show would not be able to sustain itself without Rick but, thankfully, I was dead wrong about this.
Not only did Rick get a good sendoff in episode five “What Comes After,” but Daryl (Norman Reedus) works as the new lead after Rick’s departure.
The season gets better from there with the New Beginning story arc, which saw a six year time skip.
From here, the season delivers great episode after great episode, only faltering with episode seven “Stradivarius,” which is not a bad episode but is much slower than the others.
By far the best part of this season, for me, is how the new characters from the comics are made even better that their comic book versions.
For example, I care for every member of Magna’s group in the show, while in the comics the only one I care for is Magna (Nadia Hilker) herself.
Connie (Lauren Ridloff) is an especially fantastic improvement on her comic book counterpart.
Then there are the Whisperers who are even scarier than they are in the comics, especially Samantha Morton as Alpha who knocks it out of the park.
I doubt that anyone could play this role better.
Finally, for characters, there is Judith (Cailey Fleming).
After Carl died in season eight, which is the stupidest decision the show has ever made, the series had lost one of its central pieces.
One of the main themes of The Walking Dead is how children grow up in a land of the dead and, with Carl gone, so was this theme.
Enter Judith in season nine, who so far, in my opinion, manages to be a better character than Carl and I cannot wait to see what else the writers decide to do with her.
Then there are the episodes themselves, which are stellar, as stated.
The best episodes of the season, though, came towards the end, with episodes 14 “Scars” and 15 “The Calm Before” being absolutely fantastic.
These episodes were investing, dark, and some of the best episodes of the entire series.
Overall, I would say The Walking Dead can manage just fine without Rick.
However, Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) may be another story because both are set to depart next season, which is concerning.
But Maggie is supposed to be returning so there is that.
I am also a bit concerned about how the Whisperer Arc will be handled in season ten, because, after the horrifying pike scene of episode 15, I believe the arc started to go downhill a bit.
Hopefully, the show will be able to improve on this arc in season ten just as they did with season nine.
If you stopped watching The Walking Dead after seasons seven and eight I would recommend you start watching again because the show has returned to its former glory.
I just hope that it stays there.