As always, before you read on, there are spoilers ahead for this week’s review of The Walking Dead. There was little in the way of carnage and bloodshed, but we can probably expect that next week, as Maggie’s crew, with the help of some freaky Whisperer masks and a horde of the undead, roll up on Meridian, ready to do battle. The majority of the episode with Maggie and Negan revolves around their attempts to rally together an army of the undead, corralling them together with Whisperer skins to avoid detection. I’ve always wondered if the mask would be enough of a deterrent, but apparently so. Regardless, it’s a smart play and an effective way to take on your enemies when you’ve got not the numbers at hand.
But not everybody is on board with the mission to take back Meridian, with Negan voicing his concerns and bargaining a startling deal with Maggie. He asks her to forgive him for the past (bashing in Glenn’s brains with a baseball bat, and the rest) and he’ll support her mission and stick around to see it to the end. Maggie reluctantly agrees with a hasty handshake, and as the title suggests, there’s an overwhelming sense that Glenn’s widow will soon enough back out of that deal.
Between preparations for the mission, some revelations come to light. Chief among which is an admission from Negan that, if he had the chance to do so again, he’d kill everyone from Rick’s group in the line-up, the iconic sequence from Season 7’s opener. Negan has had his doubts about the mission for some time, and it’s no secret the former Savior tyrant and Maggie have been locked in a nervous truce since her return. This particular scene establishes the dark truth that both sides are as bad as the other in their actions, consumed by a cycle of violence and hate which have led to countless deaths, the fall of various communities, and the risk of losing their humanity altogether.
In the Commonwealth, there’s only one character that we need to talk about. Sebastian Milton. The self-entitled, arrogant rich son of the Commonwealth’s Governor, Pamela Milton has arrived. Sebastian is in summary, almost identical in personality to Game of Thrones’ King Joffrey, if he existed within the post-apocalypse, and not ruining the lives of millions in King’s Landing. Oddly, Teo Rapp-Olsson, from his casting as Sebastian and introduction to the show, was surprisingly refreshing and his performance utterly engaging.
It’s amazing to imagine that all these years on, through all of the bloodshed and war and devastation, there are still those like Sebastian Milton, oblivious to the larger world beyond their community walls, full of pomposity and self-entitlement over those they see as inferior. Naturally, most of us will be pulling our hair out in frustration as time wears on, praying someone will sneak him a poisoned glass of wine, but for those who’ve read the comic book source material will know, Milton will be sticking around for some time yet, later serving as the show’s final major antagonist. For too long, we’ve had vast militia groups and armies of savages threatening the communities, so it makes a change that the next big threat could come in the form of a selfish man-child.
It’s fair to say, things don’t go well for Eugene. In saving Sebastian and his girlfriend, Kayla from an approaching group of walkers, Sebastian angrily laments them for ruining his date and getting blood all over Kayla. As if reading our minds, Eugene acts and punches Sebastian. This of course lands him in jail, before he’s later forced to make a choice for his future. Lance Hornsby’s ultimatum is damning but simple. Spend the rest of his days in a Commonwealth jailhouse, or give up the location of Alexandria. Bear in mind they’re still set to stand trial for breaking Commonwealth laws to make contact with Alexandria from “Out Of The Ashes.”
Elsewhere within the Commonwealth, there are questions to be asked about Tomi (Ian Anthony Dale). If one thing is for certain, the life he’s set up as a baker with the vast community is not as sweet and tasty as the cakes they sell. His refusal to disclose his previous employment as a surgeon is beginning to raise some alarm bells and make us wonder what it could be Tomi’s hiding, or better yet, why he wouldn’t want the Commonwealth to know the truth. Let’s just hope they’ve not been throwing their surgeons into a fire like Negan.
The Reaper storyline, meanwhile, meanders nowhere truly meaningful, and it’s beginning to grow tiresome. Daryl’s double-act is beginning to waver, and at one point, he comes close to telling his former Reaper flame, Leah, the truth. With Pope increasingly deranged and frustrated by a lack of progress in finding Maggie’s group (not to mention this storyline), Leah and Daryl take to the road in search. There’s a growing rift between Pope and Leah, despite Daryl’s flame describing the Reaper leader as a father figure.
She makes an admission that in hunting down Maggie’s group, they’re protecting the community. It’s an admission you can understand, but after Pope orders them to kill a desperate family they later find on the road, it null and voids Leah’s previous statement. In summary, the Reaper arc has lived long enough and should mercifully come to an end in Episode 8. They began as a formidable, and at times, a genuinely frightening threat, but since they’ve wiped off most of the secondary cast (namely Maggie’s new crew), the Reapers function poorly as series antagonists, since their targets are protected by some serious plot armor.
As they go, “Promises Broken” was far from the most thrilling but it did what most penultimate episodes before a mid-season break do best, they ramp up the tension, pull together multiple story threads, and prepare us for an imminent battle right before the credits roll. The key highlights include a dark conversation that revealed some disturbing home truths between Negan and Maggie, the arrival of Sebastian Milton and his brilliantly obnoxious performance as the spoilt rich kid, Eugene punching said spoilt rich kid, and the heartbreaking final minutes of the episode as Elijah, in a Whisperer disguise, discovers his sister amongst the herd of undead, bringing his search to a painful conclusion.
This is, however, another of the downsides to the episode. It’s hard to recall much time ever being dedicated to fleshing out Elijah’s character after his introduction to the show during “Home Sweet Home” in April. It’s a cruel blow, discovering a loved one under such circumstances, but the shock factor was almost non-existent since he’d been so underdeveloped previously.
It’s not all and gloom, however, and it’s best to end this review on a high note. Ezekiel, despite his battle with thyroid cancer, is on hand with lollipops and looking far better for it. If you’re all caught up with The Walking Dead, then make sure to take a look at last week’s review for “On The Inside.”
What do you think of the eleventh season of The Walking Dead so far? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!