Review: The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 16 – “Acts of God”

There are major spoilers ahead for this review of The Walking Dead. What a finale. The Walking Dead’s eleventh and final season has been uneven at times, but that’s nothing new with AMC’s horror drama, but it has its moments. Much like this latest episode, ominously titled “Acts of God”. Season 11’s mid-season finale brings the second act of the trilogy to an end, and there’s only one more left. 

The situation is pretty dire as Lance Hornsby tightens his grip on the communities and releases his ultimate weapon: Leah. The former Reaper and Daryl’s short-lived lover are out for revenge against Maggie. In Episode 9, during the conclusion of the Reaper saga, Maggie killed off the mercenary group, and Daryl allowed Leah to escape, warning her never to return. Naturally, the Reaper is back. In Episode 13, a cache of weapons belonging to a Commonwealth convoy was stolen, orchestrated by Leah. 

Later, Lance Hornsby made a deal with the Reaper in last week’s penultimate episode. The episode opens with a flash forward, (yet again). Lance walks through the Hilltop grounds. A corpse lies at his feet, and his shoes are covered in blood. Overhead, bizarrely, a fleet of cicadas swarm through the night air. Eerie and weird. Then we jump back nineteen hours and one ‘act of God’ earlier. Fortunately, this is the only time jump in this episode, and all the better for it. Joined by Elijah and Marco, Maggie takes Hershel to a secret underground cave system previously installed by the Whisperers. 

Lance Hornsby - The Walking Dead.
Lance Hornsby – The Walking Dead. (Pic: AMC).

It’s handy for the Hilltoppers as it keeps Negan, his wife Annie, and the Riverbend cult survivors out of harm’s way. The episode delivers an admission that changes the face of Maggie’s fraught relationship with Negan. The widow, who once waged war against the Savior tyrant, openly admits that she trusts him with her son’s life. Negan had previously protected Hershel following a tense fight with Toby Carlson’s rogue Commonwealth unit at the Riverbend complex. 

This moment solidifies the foundations of a future where Maggie and Negan may actually see eye to eye. It’s unlikely they’ll ever become friends as Maggie affirms that she’ll never forget, nor will she ever be able to forgive Negan for his actions. With AMC’s “Isle of the Dead” series premiering this summer, it’s an interesting premise to explore the relationship between these two characters beyond The Walking Dead

While Lance flips his lucky coin, the Commonwealth soldiers are curious about what Hornsby has planned. Maggie intends to bring the fight between the communities to an end. The value of her people outweighs the value of the Hilltop, and rightfully so. It’s extraordinary that after everything, the Hilltop remains standing. Courtesy, of course, to the wars against the Saviors and the Whisperers. So, as a small group of Commonwealth mercenaries heads out with Leah, Lance waits eagerly for confirmation from the Reaper that Maggie is dead and the job is done.

Maggie - The Walking Dead.
Maggie – The Walking Dead. (Pic: AMC).

Sadly, they’ve all failed to consider the strength of Maggie’s plot armor. As we know, plot armor always trumps the bad guys in the end. Maggie, Elijah, Marco, and Lydia prepare explosives within Hilltop’s Barrington House. Leah’s mercenaries move through the building in silence but stumble into the trap, and the building explodes. Despite being fire-bombed by the Whisperers in Season 10, the building is still standing. Post-apocalyptic architecture is built to last. 

Leah, however, is not among those within the building. She emerges from the fiery ruins like the Terminator and kills Marco with a headshot. He’s given an iota of screen-time to confirm that once again, he’ll be dead by the end of the episode. As Maggie, Elijah, and Lydia flee, Leah decides not to fire her weapon again, pacing after them at a casual pace. Plot armor working its magic once again. 

A little time later, Lance and a small team find the devastation. Lance’s lucky coin is evidently not helping him much at this point. He’s having a bad day. By this point, we’re all caught up with the flash-forward from the start of the episode. Maggie and Leah’s showdown reaches a climax as they hunt for one another in the woods. Maggie successfully hits Leah with a bullet, but it’s not long before Leah overpowers the widow. 

Negan - The Walking Dead.
Negan – The Walking Dead. (Pic: AMC).

Leah and Maggie’s only interaction lasts a couple of minutes. Plus, there are only eight minutes left of the episode. So, no monologues. No time for forgiveness or redemption. Plus, no time for Leah to securely tie Maggie to a chair. Naturally, the laws of TV plot armor dictate that Maggie must be able to escape her bonds in a matter of seconds. Maggie breaks free, and this leads to an intense fight. Leah has the upper hand against her opponent right before Daryl shoots his former lover through the head and kills her. 

It’s rare in The Walking Dead to miss a villain once they’re gone. Sure, many have come and gone, and all the better for it. Examples include Pope from Episode 8 and Toby Carlson from Episode 14Leah’s death hits a bit differently. She was initially introduced during Season 10c’s extended run of bottle episodes, Episode 18. After establishing a romantic connection with Daryl, Leah would disappear, only to return as a Reaper at the start of Season 11.

In the years that followed, Leah’s allegiances changed. She swore loyalty to the Reapers. This appeared to end any chance that Daryl and Leah would rekindle their romance in the future. As a sucker for a happy ending, this soppy writer hoped for a different outcome. Daryl, after ten years, had had very little meaningful, purposeful character development. 

Leah - The Walking Dead.
Leah – The Walking Dead. (Pic: AMC).

Then, Angela Kang and the team behind the show decided to do that. However, fast-forward the clock about a year, and Leah’s story fizzles out with a bullet to the head. Daryl is unfazed by his actions. He resorts to his grumbling, post-apocalyptic action hero archetype. Leah who? Sadly, Leah’s death hits hardest in this episode, despite her murderous intentions toward Maggie.

In an alternative universe, things could have been different. Before Daryl can mourn, Lance and the Commonwealth military surround their location. Daryl lets off a shot and astonishingly hits Lance. A bullet grazes his face. So, once again, slimy Hornsby catches up with events as Maggie and the others rejoin Negan, Annie, and the Riverbend cult. 

Lance finds Leah dead before coldly declaring his intentions to seize control of the communities. Here we go again, another war. Before Leah’s showdown with Maggie, Daryl, Aaron, and Gabriel sweep locations with a Commonwealth unit. Eventually, the Commonwealth unit turns on Daryl’s group as an intense firefight ensues in a desolate junkyard.  

Aaron - The Walking Dead.
Aaron – The Walking Dead. (Pic: AMC).

Meanwhile, Max takes risks in uncovering a conspiracy within the Commonwealth. After stealing documents from a file cabinet in Pamela’s office, the secretary is almost caught by Sebastian, who looks a tad worse for wear, and is suspicious of her shiftiness. With Eugene, Connie, Kelly, Magna, and Ezekiel, they conspire to investigate the conspiracy at the heart of the Commonwealth while their rebellion gains more supporters. 

At the mid-season stage, the conspiracy remains incredibly vague, and since around Episode 11, this subplot has fallen below the standards of the show’s best material in the Commonwealth saga. However, a newspaper report landing on Max’s desk that the Commonwealth’s elite have been lying to the community threatens to unravel everything. Pamela’s not happy, that’s for sure.

Then there are the poor Oceanside residents, captured by the Commonwealth military and lined up with their hands bound. Lance is sneering smugly as sinister music plays over these final moments. 

The Commonwealth - The Walking Dead.
The Commonwealth – The Walking Dead. (Pic: AMC).

There are cutaways to the Hilltop and Alexandria as Commonwealth banners are hung from the walls, solidifying their official takeover. As far as pacing goes, “Acts of God” is a bit haphazard, but it’s an exciting finale. There’s a shock death or two, a few firefights, and Maggie’s admission to trusting Negan. Now we wait for the third and final act of the trilogy. The end nears.

What do you think of the eleventh season of The Walking Dead with one episode before the mid-season break? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!

Matt Bailey

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