Here we are, two and a half years on, still knee-deep in The Walking Dead season 10, which first premiered back in 2019. Coronavirus is partly to blame, of course, delaying production on season 11, but that sense of staticism doesn't help shake the show's perception as slow-going at the best of times.
At least we now have an endgame in sight with next year's season being the show’s last, and all things considered, "Home Sweet Home" is hardly a bad way to dip our toes back into The Walking Dead's waters.
The writers have called these six bonus episodes of season 10 “in-between-quels" – smaller-scale, anthology style stories filmed during the (real-life) pandemic to lay the seeds for season 11, and that's very much what we get here.
Focusing on Maggie's return to the show, "Home Sweet Home" follows her alongside new characters Elijah and Cole as they are helped by Daryl and Kellywhile escorting the rest of their group to Alexandria.
The details of what Maggie's been up to since leaving the show in season 9 are left intriguingly hazy: she helped Georgie industrialise a number of communities around the country, before tragedy struck, leaving her group on the run and in need of a new home.
The information she shares with Daryl is enough to satisfy many of our questions about her recent absence, but still leaves us interested in learning more, especially as Lauren Cohen's performance beautifully conveys the character's hesitance to drop down her emotional barriers and simply reveal all.
It's also heartwarming to finally see grown up Hershel by the episode's end, wearing a baseball cap just like his Daddy did back in season 1. N'awh... let's hope he doesn't ask Uncle Negan for a round of baseball over in Alexandria.
Speaking of, with Maggie now back at the centre of events, a reckoning for her husband's killer is no doubt on the cards. The pair's first icy reintroduction was awkward at best, and certainly puts us in an uncomfortable position as the viewer.
We've seen first-hand Negan's redemption arc, something the others haven't been privy to, yet also understand why Maggie still yearns for justice to prevail in the form of his capital punishment. As Daryl admits, the jury is still out on what to do with the former Saviour now that The Whisperers are gone, but something has to give, one way or the other.
"Home Sweet Home" also introduces a new enemy group to fill the hole left by The Whisperers, but unlike Alpha's cult, this community doesn't seem to hold any connection to the show's comic book source material.
The Reapers appear to be an elite military force who have been hunting Maggie's group down for reasons that aren't yet clear: are they related to The Commonwealth, a remnant of the US army, or perhaps the same people who airlifted Rick out of Virginia all those years ago? The ghillie suited stalker that Maggie and Daryl capture is more willing to blow himself up than reveal any intel about The Reapers' true intentions, but expect to see more of them as we round out season 10.
The Walking Dead is at its best when it moves things along with meaning and purpose, but the show should also be commended for when it manages to successfully hide its usual lack of action by foregrounding compelling character drama.
That was the case with episode 17, whereby a lulled pace didn't undercut its entertainment value as a slice of Walking Dead worth watching. The whole episode was beautifully shot, too, all close-ups and natural lighting that elevated strong performances across the board. If the next five episodes of season 10 are as easily enjoyed as this, then we're in for a welcome prelude to the show's concluding narrative arc.