There are spoilers ahead for this review of The Walking Dead. The finale is almost upon us as the series steps up the pace and heads toward its endgame. If you’ve caught up with The Walking Dead and craving a little more, then make sure to take a look at our most recent review of “Outpost 22.”
We open this week’s episode, as we have since the mid-season premiere, with a monologue from Judith and a montage of Negan’s best and worst bits. She talks about Rick Grimes choosing mercy over his wrath, a reference to a storyline from Season 8 as Rick struggled with his need for vengeance against Negan in the Savior War. If they lose their mercy, Judith says, they risk losing everything. So, much like the last few weeks, Episode 22 focuses on Negan as he struggles to survive at the Commonwealth labour camp. He’s under the watchful of the Warden, a generic, thinly written sadist (if we can even call him that – he’s hardly done anything sadistic), who looks like a long-lost relative of Kenneth Branagh. We’ve got Kelly secretly relaying information to Magna and keeping tabs on the guards as Princess spots Tyler Davis, the Commonwealth soldier/defector last seen being arrested by Daryl in Episode 10. The passage of time is clearly evident by his long hair, and since his incarceration in the labour camp, Davis is now subdued and complacent by his imprisonment.
Returning to Negan, he asks a soldier, 197, the only name he goes by, if he can take extra shifts to give his wife Annie, also heavily pregnant, a break from labour duties. This goes down like a lead balloon. Negan is ambushed by the soldiers while Annie is thrown to the ground. During a break, Negan and Ezekiel attempt to persuade Tyler to join their revolt against the Warden and his Stormtrooper-styled goons. No luck. Tyler believes any attempts to escape will result in the deaths of innocents, while Ezekiel reaffirms his core belief that together, and by keeping the faith, they can overcome anything. If they lose it, it’s over. Negan is swiftly escorted to meet with the Warden, who employs him to find out who is conspiring against the camp. We meet 197 again, who is informed by the Warden that a transferral request has been denied, which prevents him from seeing his dying brother. It’s fair to say 197 is aggrieved, and Negan notes this. The Warden is curious about Negan and recognises the qualities of a leader that he possesses.
Annie later remarks that it’s not much of a surprise the Warden likes Negan, considering the latter’s past with the Saviors. Admittedly, this interaction is a neat way to bring Negan together with the Warden, but its a shame the Branagh double act fails to survive the end of the episode. Despite Negan’s initial refusal to assist the Warden, he threatens Annie if he fails to comply. With the Warden wary of the labour camp revolt, Negan is criticised for complying with the Warden and coldly suggests that the Savior tyrant, despite his sizeable redemption arc, doesn’t deserve to be a father. Ezekiel further laments him for his apology over Benjamin’s death, dating back to Season 7, if anyone can remember the episode or even the character. Following this interaction, Negan returns to the Warden and offers him a name.
At night, the Stormtrooper goons raid the camp and identify the guilty parties behind the revolt. Negan is betrayed by the Warden and dragged away for execution by a firing squad. Then the Warden puts Annie in the crossfire, much to Negan’s remonstrations. It’s only until the others, including Ezekiel, Magna, Tyler, Princess, and Kelly come to defend Negan and Annie, creating a protective wall around them. The Warden is swiftly killed as soldier 197 turns his gun on the Warden. As another soldier intervenes, 197 kills him as the Warden takes Kelly at gunpoint right before Daryl puts a knife into him. Then other things happen, but we might need to backtrack, so this all makes sense.
Beyond the walls of Alexandria, we have Daryl, Carol, Connie, Maggie, Gabriel, and Rosita planning to infiltrate their former home. Daryl and Connie take the sewers. Gabriel and Rosita are on overwatch with their long-range weapons, despite the latter’s insistence to get inside to find Coco, her daughter. Carol and Maggie slip into Alexandria to find Hershel. Carol reiterates the importance of making the world a better place for their children and not feeling selfish for bringing them into it. It feels like filler since we had a scene last week that touched on the same themes. Maggie finds Hershel, which puts an end to the theory that the last of the Greene family will travel with Negan to locate him in New York. This brings us back to the Warden and the knife in his neck. Daryl and Connie sweep in to save the prisoners, and Rosita interrogates a dying Warden for information on Coco’s whereabouts. The sneery Warden is committed to taking the knowledge to his grave right before Rosita lets a walker, the dead soldier shot by 197, to eat his face. Good riddance.
Sadly, Branagh’s body double doesn’t make it to the end of the episode. Two episodes. Called it. Much like so many other short-lived villains. Somewhere in the endless woods of Georgia or Virginia, we’ve got Aaron, Jerry, Lydia and Elijah, last seen a few weeks back fighting smart zombies. They remain wary at every snap of a twig or movement in the trees, but it’s not a smart zombie with a calculator this week, it’s actually Luke and Jules. These are two Oceanside residents, and one of them’s played by Dan Fogler, who took an extended hiatus to film the recent Fantastic Beasts film.
He’s been absent since the original Season 10 finale that saw the fall of the Whisperers, and he’s been missing ever since. Anyway, he’s alive, but Oceanside is under Commonwealth rule. Nothing new to report. This surprisingly endearing couple are still kicking, and I’m happy for them. They later approach the Commonwealth in skin disguises, inspired by Lydia’s late Whisperer mother, Alpha. Commonwealth units keep tabs on the herd and scan them with their lights, and after dropping a knife, a zombie picks it up. This might be a problem later. Inside the Commonwealth, we’ve got Eugene’s kangaroo trial. We’ve got a corrupt judge and crocodile tears from Pamela Milton, save for Yumiko’s argument that the Commonwealth lottery is rigged and is nothing more than a lie.
Pamela looks like a teary-eyed deer in headlights. She further coldly claims the recording of Sebastian’s voice was not his own. The trial teeters on whether the defence can persuade Mercer to help them convince the public of Pamela’s corruption. Mercer is not easily swayed, despite knowing about Princess’s incarceration at the labour camp. He stays on the fence as Eugene gives a passionate speech at his trial. Eugene admits he should have been killed long ago, save for the efforts of his friends, many of whom are gone. He selfishly teamed up with the Saviors to stay alive, but his one good deed at the end of the Savior War changed everything.
There’s a look from Mercer that suggests he’s about to turn good. He does, and after Eugene is found guilty and sentenced for execution, Mercer and those loyal to him break Eugene out. It’s time to f*** s**** up, Mercer says. That’s the best way to wrap up the episode and set us on the course for next week’s penultimate episode. Yes, the second to last one ever. To summarise, I’d give this episode an eight out of ten. Ezekiel and Eugene’s big speeches and Negan’s interactions with the Warden are the highlights. The low points are Maggie and Carol’s filler scenes.