There are spoilers ahead for this review of The Walking Dead. The final chapter of the Season 11 trilogy is here, and it’s sad to think going into this episode that the series is only eight episodes away from the end. We’ve got a new title sequence dripping with Commonwealth emblems and a mildly remixed rendition of Bear McCreary’s soundtrack. It makes me even sadder to realise we won’t be hearing it for much longer.
In April’s mid-season finale, Lance Hornsby had gone rogue and tightened his grip on several communities outside the Commonwealth, including Alexandria, Hilltop, and Oceanside. As for those captured by Hornsby’s forces at the latter, this latest episode fails to indicate whether the residents are still alive. I’d vote for alive – but something tells me we won’t find out any time soon.
Unfortunately, it’s one of the narrative pitfalls the writing team behind The Walking Dead finds themselves in far too often. The scope of the series is so vast it’s hard to keep track of everything on a weekly basis. On the bright side, “Lockdown” makes for great viewing, and it’s a solid 45-minute episode with plenty of action, blood, gore, and walker intrigue (more on this narrative thread later).
Starting where we left off from the mid-season break, we’re back with Lance Hornsby. The Deputy of the Commonwealth continues to track Daryl and Maggie’s group through the wastelands with an army of Commonwealth soldiers in tow. Daryl pitches an idea to get word to their friends inside the Commonwealth about Hornsby. He sends Negan into the sprawling community to meet with Mercer. Negan will slip under the radar as they’ve not met him yet.
Together they ambush Lance Hornsby’s crusade on the road, and Negan succeeds in escaping the Commonwealth army in a sharply choreographed car chase sequence. As for the soldiers in their clamshell suits, to coin the term from Negan, despite their armour and top-tier weaponry, they go down quite lamely to a tiny handful of the dead. No armour like plot armour. Lance Hornsby remains as slimy and power-mad as usual, but surprisingly the focus is taken off the Deputy this week.
Instead, he sends Calhoun and Shira (otherwise known as the original and fake Stephanie), two of his best Commonwealth agents, to track down Judith, RJ, and Gracie. If they can find them, they can use them in a bid to lure Daryl from hiding. They lose their pursuit in crowds of protestors, and Jerry keeps them protected with the help of a Commonwealth resident. With Daryl’s group successfully evading the Commonwealth goons, they go underground and put a plan in place to ambush Hornsby’s group. As Daryl takes Lance at knifepoint, the Commonwealth unit surrounds the archer, Maggie, Gabriel, and Aaron. As plans go, it’s not one of their finest moments.
Negan – The Walking Dead. (Pic: AMC).
Almost any interaction with Negan in the series these days can be considered a highlight, from abandoning Maggie in the Season 11 opener to playing video games in the Negan-centric finale of Season 10. The former Savior leader’s first interaction with Mercer at the Commonwealth finds a spot on the list. Once released into the community, without much of a background check into his bashing heads in baseball bat days, Negan’s reaction to the Commonwealth is priceless. The former Savior is astonished by this vast, vibrant community unaffected by the world beyond the walls. We need to mention Negan’s F-bomb, the second since Daryl’s surprise outburst in Episode 15.
Lately, it’s beginning to feel like AMC is relaxing its rules on the F-bombs. The tensions between Maggie and Negan have cooled off, at least for the time being, and his marriage to Annie becomes a focal point of the episode. There is a point of concern with Negan’s marriage to Annie, however. It comes in the form of an upcoming sequel set in Manhattan. Negan will be joining Maggie for the adventure, so whether this means Annie will reprise her role and survive Season 11 is uncertain. If history is anything to go by, nine times out of ten, it doesn’t end well.
Inside the Commonwealth, amidst protests against Pamela Milton for Sebastian’s crimes against the community’s residents in Episode 14, Negan meets with Carol, and the two team up to search for Pamela’s spoilt son. He’s gone into hiding since sending people to retrieve valuable loot from a house overrun by the dead. Inevitably, the rich kid sent them to their deaths. He’s later found and offered a lifeline once returned to Pamela. The Governess of the Commonwealth, a character continually underutilised in the series, is angered by her son’s actions, but Carol has devised a cunning plan. Pamela learns that Lance has gone rogue, and there’s a feeling that they’ll use the deranged Deputy as the fall guy for Sebastian’s scandal. Something tells me, however, that King Joffrey’s post-pandemic twin won’t get out of this unscathed.
With the protests spiralling out of control, curfews in place, and tear gas used on the protestors, the facade of a perfect sanctuary is fractured – and as Magna says, the problems will almost certainly worsen. Pamela instructs the Commonwealth into lockdown as a horde of the dead close in on the community. The sounds of the flesh-eating corpses beyond the walls are a chilling and sobering reminder of the dangers beyond the safety of the Commonwealth. As this new wave breaks through every perimeter the Commonwealth army sets, Mercer is quick to assume the soldiers under his command are failing in their jobs. Something tells me this is not the case.
Some of these zombies are, at a guess, the ‘smarter’ ones, as reported by FlickLuster. It’s a shame they’ve introduced this new variant into a series that desperately needed a narrative shake-up many years back, but here we are. Mercer’s respect for Rosita grows, and he further implies that if she and her family need to make an escape from the Commonwealth, he’ll be on hand to assist.
“Lockdown” was a surprisingly entertaining episode and a humble reminder that despite the low stakes and lack of real threat to any of the main cast (most of whom have a spin-off in the works), this mid-season premiere sets the horror drama off to a strong start. Highlights include Negan’s interaction with Mercer and his arrival into the Commonwealth, the interactions between Magna and Yumiko, Mercer and Rosita, the escalating tensions within the Commonwealth as Pamela Milton faces scrutiny for Sebastian’s actions, and the car chase between Negan and the Commonwealth unit in the first act.
We also need to mention the opening monologue from Judith, Rick Grimes’ surviving daughter. A montage of familiar locations and characters plays across the screen as Judith recounts her memories of when the world fell. We see our survivors come together and build families. We see Rick and the OG group, Carol and Lydia, Ezekiel, Jerry, Daryl and Judith, and many more. We also see the faces of The Walking Dead’s most iconic villains, from Shane, the Governor, to the Whisperers and Lance Hornsby. Judith asks what the future will hold as the monologue ends. For those who know how the comic book ends, this monologue could foreshadow how the showrunners will adapt Robert Kirkman’s material for the eventual finale.
Seasons 1-10 and the current seventeen episodes of Season 11 of The Walking Dead are available to stream on Disney+. For more The Walking Dead content, check out what Greg Nicotero had to say on directing the season finale. What do you think of the eleventh season of The Walking Dead? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!