There are spoilers ahead for this review of The Walking Dead. The finale is almost upon us as the series gears up the pace with its penultimate episode. If you’ve caught up with The Walking Dead and crave some more content, then make sure to take a look at our most recent review of “Faith.”
The penultimate episode of Season 11 opens with another monologue from Judith. She talks about her mother Lori, brother Carl, and Rick. She gives Carl’s hat to RJ, Michonne’s son, before declaring that the day ahead of them will change everything forever. Given what’s about to go down, it sure seems so. With the liberated prisoners from the Commonwealth labour camp, the Coalition forces prepares to return to the Commonwealth to confront Pamela Milton and rescue missing children from the settlement. We know Rosita’s daughter Coco is still missing since she’d previously interrogated the Warden last week with little success, but there’s no explanation as to who else is missing, which threatens to reduce the investment an audience has in this story.
This puts the episode on the back foot. As has been the way for some time now, it’s better to go along with it and see how it pans out. Despite this drawback, the penultimate episode is not all bad. Determined to make her family’s vision of a better world a reality (the same old speech), Judith joins the group on the rescue mission. Tyler, the Commonwealth defector joins the Coalition as they return to the settlement on the train and redeems himself by telling Connie and Kelly that he regrets his actions at the gala from Episode 10.
Tyler’s redemption arc, to use the term lightly, comes full circle, and Tyler is later killed off. His death is delivered as a shock, but we’ve all forgotten about him less than twenty seconds after he’s gone. In fairness, it’s appreciated that the show would take a moment to add this scene in. As Tyler redeems his past, Negan and Ezekiel find a way to make peace. This is one of the best scenes of the episodes, not only for a reprisal of Ezekiel’s signature “And yet I smile” catchphrase, but for Negan’s gratitude to the Kingdom leader for saving his life by standing in front of the Warden’s firing squad.
Negan asks him why, to which Ezekiel says dying as a martyr would have been too easy, while making something out of his life would stop him from giving in to anger. He doesn’t want to live his final days in bitterness. Negan is asked why he took the fall for the rebellion plot and provided his name to the Warden, citing he did it to save the others and do something right. Maggie hears this conversation, and despite earlier telling Negan that they are not friends and the New York spin-off coming up, there’s still hope Glenn’s widow could find some common ground to share with the man who murdered her husband.
Judith talks to Daryl and Carol about Michonne and that her various attempts to contact her have been met with radio silence. Judith says she wishes she had more time with Carl and more time to remember him. These are the types of scenes that make me long for the better days of the series and imagine what could have been. Princess contacts Mercer on the train, assisted by Tyler holding an aerial. Princess tells Mercer they intend to change things. Mercer is on board with the rebellion plot, further swayed by the idea that if they can bring the liberated prisoners to him, Pamela can be legally removed from power. At the same time, an alarm begins to sound from inside the Commonwealth, but more on this soon.
Mercer has pulled back a unit of troopers from a section that leaves an access tunnel into Union Station unguarded. In a later scene, the Coalition forces (including Diane last seen in Episode 12) seemingly materialise outside the Commonwealth and wait for Mercer to call the units away. With the tunnel open, the group travels up to Union Station. They find it empty until Pamela’s forces ambush them. Having rumbled Mercer’s deception, the Commonwealth Governor has the General arrested, and a firefight ensues inside the station. Tyler and several unnamed prisoners are killed in the ambush, and Judith is shot by Pamela in an attempt to protect Maggie. It’s not a fatal wound, but it doesn’t look good for Rick’s surviving daughter. Stricken with grief and fury, Pamela retreats while the Coalition meets up with Eugene, Yumiko, and Max outside the station.
Let’s take a breather and catch up with Eugene’s storyline this week before we bring this back together for it to make sense. Following Eugene’s breakout, with help from Mercer, the oddball would-be scientist is returned to Max and Yumiko, protected by Mercer and his loyalists in an apartment. As civil unrest grows within the Commonwealth, Mercer plays dumb in front of a suspicious Pamela, suggesting Eugene had help, and later questions Yumiko on where Eugene could be, despite knowing otherwise. Pamela orders Vickers, Mercer’s partner in the field, to keep tabs on the General. As for the worsening protests outside her offices, Pamela says plans are in place to quell the rebellions before jumping on the radio and using a code word: B17. More on this soon.
A mandatory inspection of the Commonwealth apartments almost leads to Eugene’s capture, who overpowers two troopers. In Episode 17, Pamela authorised a lockdown of the Commonwealth using the code word B14, and this time instructs the Commonwealth army to lead a swarm of walkers toward the community, forcing a lockdown to clear the streets of protestors. Unknown to the Governor, variant walkers are hidden inside the herd, as first seen in Episode 19.
One successfully boards a jeep and attacks two ridiculously unsuspecting troopers. Mercer instructs the army to prepare for the swarm with armour and weaponry, ensuring they are ready for anything. Following his arrest, he begs them to fortify the city as the swarm, and the variants within it, threatens to potentially overwhelm the Commonwealth. Troopers on the walls begin to witness variant walkers ascending watchtowers and climb walls. A soldier is attacked and inadvertently knocks the controls that control the main gates, which allows the herds to pour in. It’s funny to imagine one simple lever is enough to open the gates to a community sheltering more than 50,000 people. No codes or keys, just a lever. Daft and contrived.
If a variant walker had opened the gates with the lever, that would have had more impact. With the Commonwealth set to be overrun, Pamela instructs the army to defend the homes of the elite. In doing so, she’s coldly resigning those beyond the estates to their doom. She’s risking the lives of thousands to save her own. Once again, we cut away to Aaron, Jerry, Lydia, Elijah, Luke, and Jules lurking within the herd outside the Commonwealth. Their attempts to break off from the group (eerily adopting Alpha’s technique of communicating in whispers) are thwarted by other patrols leading walkers into their path. After reaching an RV, Lydia is bitten on the arm after failing to pull Elijah aboard. He’s swept away by the herd along with Luke and Jules.
Just for a minute, it’s crucial to address this development for Lydia’s character. With only one episode remaining, it seems a little strange that her character would lose an arm at such a late stage of the story. If you were to put on a bet, you’d place your money on Lydia’s demise in the finale, but regardless of what happens next, the twist is not a great one. Her arm is amputated, and she passes out as Jerry volunteers to leave the RV and find Luke, Jules, and Elijah. Luke and Jules survive the herd and re-emerge to join the Coalition as they run through the city streets of the Commonwealth.
They dodged the patrols and herds of walkers with minimal fuss – and it’s another just-go-along-with-it moment. With Judith seemingly dying (something tells me she’ll probably be fine), she looks at Daryl and utters the word daddy, alluding to their father/daughter bond or perhaps teasing the return of one Rick Grimes. Fingers crossed for the finale…, let’s hope. The Commonwealth units create blockades to trap the herds of walkers with the Coalition forces while Daryl runs, carrying Judith to the Commonwealth hospital. Negan sees a variant walker doing some uncharacteristically walker-type things and drops an F-bomb, a recurring trend throughout every episode since the midseason premiere.
Next week is the finale. That’s it. The last ever. In summary, this episode gets a solid seven out of ten. Negan and Ezekiel’s conversation, the Judith twist, and the fall of the Commonwealth are the highlights. The low points include Lydia’s sudden, if unnecessary walker bite, Diane’s reappearance into the show despite absolutely no set up for her character’s return, and Tyler’s short-lived redemption arc and death.