There are spoilers ahead for this review of The Walking Dead. This is a good episode, there are no two ways around it, but there is a drawback. Everything plays a bit safe, and it drags its feet, narratively speaking, for about three-quarters of the runtime. There are a small handful of shining moments worthy of high praise that we will go into, from a big death to an empowering speech that makes you pump your fist into the air with joy. It’s just a bit drab and predictable. Let’s set the scene a bit and recap where we are. With most of Daryl’s group abducted, including Dog, Daryl and Carol find themselves on the run as Commonwealth agents hunt them down.
Daryl comes surprisingly close to death in a fight against a Commonwealth agent with the unusual ability to almost pierce Daryl’s unbreakable plot armor. That’d be the day. That’s until Carol saves her best friend. The agent is bitten by his partner, who Daryl had killed off-screen. With a lack of options available, Daryl and Carol break Lance out of his prison cell following his arrest in Episode 18. The last we saw of the Deputy Governor, he’d been forced by Pamela to feed Roman Calhoun, one of his agents who’d helped orchestrate the Founders Day attack with Shira, to Sebastian’s reanimated form.
He’s done just that, and it’s not a pretty sight inside his cell. It’s worse for Pamela who finds the devastation in the cell later, but more on that soon. Daryl kills Sebastian’s reanimated form, while Lance remains entranced on his lucky coin amid guts and gore, having gone a fraction mad in the process. The successful prison break leads Carol and Lance far beyond the walls of the Commonwealth to an abandoned infrastructure from the early days of the community’s build. During their journey, Lance contemplates the concept of a power vacuum should things worsen within the Commonwealth, and Pamela falls.
He pitches the question to Carol of what they’d do if they were given control of the Commonwealth following an absence of leadership. What would happen to the Commonwealth and all of its inhabitants? Their group would have 50,000 lives in their hands. Lance raises the ever-familiar question settlements will sooner or later face in the apocalypse, what about the children, the next generation, their future, and most importantly, how will this show end?
After another predictable, weak encounter with a handful of walkers, the gunfire from the fight leads to Lance and Carol’s capture. Save for Daryl, it looks like it’s game over, but the archer is on hand to stealthily evade their detection and kill the Commonwealth soldiers despite their armor and heavy weaponry. The Commonwealth goons are pretty useless when the writers need them to be. Lance explains that the Commonwealth has a train in operation with plans to expand the community’s already expansive reach, and with no further need of Lance, Carol kills him.
This is one of the few saving graces to an otherwise low-key, predictably formulaic forty-something minutes of television. His death has come a lot sooner than I’d first imagined it would, and with four episodes still to go, there’s still a considerable amount of story to churn through. The episode’s other saving grace comes from an unexpected source, but an otherwise severely underutilised character since their induction into the horror drama in Season 9. Yumiko. You would be forgiven for forgetting these characters are still loitering about somewhere. At this late stage of the series, there are too many characters to keep track of.
The first thing Yumiko does is slap a man in the face, and in the presence of stunned Commonwealth benefactors in a meeting with Pamela Milton. Milton was a once mild-mannered figure in authority. In the past few weeks, she has become increasingly frosty and calculated, primarily in the wake of Sebastian’s death. Yumiko demands an update on her group who’ve been “removed” for their disobedience against the Commonwealth.
As for Eugene’s trial, an ice-cold Pamela seeks impartiality to restore order during these troubled times. She coerces Yumiko to prosecute the oddball would-be scientist at the trial, threatening her brother Tomi if she fails to play along with her scheme. Tomi, however, chooses acceptance over the situation in a bid to survive, intimidated by Pamela’s power and the corruption at the heart of their community.
Meanwhile, Eugene accepts his fate, having made his choice to surrender to the Commonwealth peacefully. Yumiko feels cornered with no choice but to prosecute him. Before the trial is announced publicly, Yumiko overhears a radio transmission from a soldier. The radio confirms Daryl, Carol, and Lance are still at large, which restores her faith that their friends can be found. Despite how bleak things appear, there are better ways to beat a corrupt system than by submitting to power and oppression.
Yumiko reads a pre-arranged speech to attendees at the event but flips the script on Pamela in spectacular fashion. Firstly, she openly praises Tomi for his selfless contributions to the Commonwealth before declaring her intentions to defend Eugene at his trial. Yumiko scatters her speech by Pamela’s feet, her equivalent of a mic drop, and walks away. She leaves Pamela stony-faced and silently enraged. As for the missing residents, with Ezekiel among them, we see them on a bus being transported to somewhere unknown.
The highlights: Yumiko’s speech. Eleanor Matsuura has had little impact on the series despite the pivotal role her character plays in relation to the comic books, so it’s satisfying to have her come to the forefront of the story and challenge a series antagonist. The final few weeks, especially for her character, will be interesting. The episode conveys the ideals of family and faith in those you love confidently, delivering these themes in abundance from start to finish. Yumiko’s declaration to defend Eugene illustrates their importance. Things may be bleak, and others, such as Tomi, may throw in the towel to survive, but for Yumiko, Daryl, Carol, and the others, there is still hope.
Despite the uncertain future of many of the series regulars, whose fates remain unknown until next week, the episode ends on a mostly positive note. Lance’s death is a surprise, but it brings his story to a satisfying close, and neatly at that. Hornsby has been slimy and sneaky as he subjugated the other communities by force, operating under Pamela’s nose without arousing the suspicions of his superior. The implications of his death could be massive, as he earlier suggested “alliances” would fall apart should anything happen to him. As for Josh Hamilton, who plays Lance, he’ll be missed. He was a solid, compelling villain.
For more The Walking Dead content, check out last week’s review of “Variant”. What do you think of the eleventh season of The Walking Dead with only four episodes to go? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!