Review: The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 9 – “No Other Way”

As always, before you read on, there are spoilers ahead for this week’s review of The Walking Dead. It’s all about hope and faith. In a dying world, everyone is out from themselves. Daryl and Maggie’s group contend with the last of the Reapers in a tense showdown, while Aaron and the Alexandrians fight to reclaim their home from the undead and a terrible storm.

In the closing moments, the Alexandrians are offered a lifeline from the Commonwealth, offering a new opportunity. The chance of a better future in this bleak, dangerous world, should they choose to accept. In the last scene of the episode, there is a time jump that’ll be discussed at length, and many, many questions that come with it. Without further ado, I’m going to start ranting. 

In last year’s mid-season episode, “For Blood”, an instalment that delivered on its violent premise, the Reapers lost their head honcho, Pope. Daryl’s loyalties between Leah, a Reaper and former love interest, and his group, finally snapped, and in the closing seconds of the episode, left Daryl, Maggie, and Negan trapped in a courtyard as Leah launched a fiery aerial assault from the Reaper’s most lethal weapon, a 15th-century Hwacha.

Maggie - The Walking Dead.
Maggie – The Walking Dead. (Pic: AMC).

We start with Maggie narrowly avoiding a rain of arrows whistling out of the sky onto a horde of the undead, who explode left, right, and centre, including a Reaper, caught in a desperate attempt to survive the rocket launcher. Maggie regroups with Negan and Elijah, the latter injured in the fight, and take shelter inside a secret room behind a shelving unit within Meridian’s Infirmary. Leah barks orders to Carver, another Reaper, over the radio, ordering the deaths of everyone with Meridian’s walls. This leads to one final stand-off between the two warring groups, with Leah and Daryl’s future hanging in the balance. The archer is determined to avoid violence, taking Carver hostage in exchange for them leaving Meridian unharmed with what they need.

There’s a thin chance this plan will actually work, and naturally, it falls apart. Elijah is determined to seek revenge against the Reapers for his sister’s death, having discovered her among an undead horde as they approached Meridian in “Promises Broken”. From a rooftop, another Reaper looks down on them with a sniper. Outnumbered and outgunned from an aerial position, Daryl and the group appear to be out of options. That’s when Carver is shot by the sniper, and it’s revealed that Gabriel has manned the position and taken out the Reaper. He coolly delivers a line to rival some of Rick Grimes’s very best throughout the season, asking Leah to call him Gabriel. It’s a hell of an entrance and a power shift that works in their favour.

Leah attempts to salvage a deal as they realise they have no other cards to play. The Reapers are instructed to abandon their weapons and Meridian. If their paths ever cross again, there’ll be no second chances. In a moment that echoes Rick against the Terminus cannibals in Season 5, Maggie breaks the deal and consumed by her need for vengeance, brutally guns down two Reapers, including Carver with a pickaxe, and injures Leah in the process who makes her getaway. Daryl gives chase, furious at Maggie’s actions, while Negan coolly watches on, anticipating this from the very start of the standoff.

Aaron - The Walking Dead.
Aaron – The Walking Dead. (Pic: AMC).

Additionally, Bear McCreary’s piano score echoes bring across a Westworld vibe and suit the moment perfectly. Conveniently, Maggie hits two Reapers with headshots but only glances off Leah’s shoulder as the Reaper runs away. Daryl later tracks her down, admitting he wanted to avoid violence, and tells her to run before he changes his mind, or before Maggie reloads her revolver. Since Leah’s still alive, there’s a safe bet she’ll be back sometime soon, but whether or not she’ll return for vengeance or waving a white flag, this is yet to be seen.

Maggie makes a return to the church where they’d previously left Alden in “Hunted”, the third episode. Sadly, Alden dies from his wounds and Maggie discovers him reanimated. After he’s buried, Negan departs on his own, after witnessing Maggie turn on her deal with the Reapers. Negan’s not waiting for her to do the same with him. 

In Alexandria, things have been going from bad to worse to absolutely dreadful. In last year’s mid-season finale, a storm-battered the community. Lightning set fire to a windmill, walls fell and the undead entered, while Aaron’s adopted daughter Gracie and Judith were trapped in a flooding basement with walkers at the door. These are arguably some of the most fraught and ludicrously daft moments in the episode, and perhaps the season as a whole.

Aaron successfully saves Gracie and Judith, only to be outnumbered by the undead while the basement continues to flood. Courtesy of the world’s strongest overhead ceiling pipe, Aaron narrowly claws his way over the basement, escaping the walkers with help from Lydia and a length of rope. It’s not quite clear how this escape is managed, due to time constraints on an already short forty-minute episode, and a convenient scene cut right before we find out how they pulled off this MacGyver-style escapade. It’s daft enough to challenge the Rick hiding under the bed scare from back in Season 4. Say what you will, but if I’m asked, what’s still good about The Walking Dead, I’ll likely say Ross Marquand, amongst other things.

Lance Hornsby - The Walking Dead.
Lance Hornsby – The Walking Dead. (Pic: AMC).

With the storm easing off, the Alexandrians regroup as Daryl and the others return home, bringing with them supplies from Meridian. Daryl’s reunion with Connie is sweet, news of Alden’s passing is a sombre one, and Dog (Daryl’s pet Alsatian) tries to eat an apple. These moments of recuperation and happiness are interrupted by Jerry at the gates, who announces the arrival of visitors. A small army of Commonwealth soldiers arrives as the Alexandrians prepare for a potential battle. It’s then that Eugene runs through the soldiers to the gates to defuse the situation, updating the Alexandrians on everything they’ve been up to since the end of Season 10.

Lance Hornsby then steps up to offer the Alexandrians the opportunity to rebuild their community or offer them something better. Daryl glances across to Maggie, but the cut across to Maggie reveals a scene from six months in the future. Maggie and Elijah watch from the walls of Hilltop as a small group of Commonwealth soldiers arrive and order them to open the gates. Maggie tells them that it doesn’t have to be this way before the soldier pulls off his helmet to reveal it’s actually Daryl, who disagrees with Maggie. 

The time jump is unexpected, and this offers a lot of questions. Chief among which is why has Maggie separated from the Alexandrians, why are their Commonwealth soldiers at her gates, and why is Daryl on the opposite of the wall heading up this group from the CW? 

Daryl and the Commonwealth - The Walking Dead.
Daryl and the Commonwealth – The Walking Dead. (Pic: AMC).

“No Other Way” neatly concludes the Reaper saga violently, sweeping us forward at a breakneck pace between two dying communities before the Commonwealth make their introductions to the Alexandrians. Themes of faith and revenge are handled effectively through Maggie and Gabriel’s interactions with the Reapers during a fraught, final battle with the murderous militia faction.

Alden’s death hits home the hardest considering he only appeared in less than half of Season 11, while Lauren Cohan, Seth Gilliam, and Ross Marquand’s performances as Maggie, Gabriel, and Aaron are worthy of strong praise. What do you think of the eleventh season of The Walking Dead so far at the mid-season break? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!

Matt Bailey

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