by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 5.
This episode went off in a number of different directions, as if trying to catch up from last week, when only one storyline was addressed. Maggie and Negan went to the safe house. Aaron’s group went to the remnants of Hilltop. Judith had to face her own fears, while Eugene risked everything at the Commonwealth to contact home.
After doing such a great job keeping the existence of Alexandria from Mercer, Eugene came completely clean to Stephanie, telling her that his people ‘back home’ needed help. Eugene was the most distressed of anyone to receive a ‘permanent’ job assignment, because it was never his intention to stay at the Commonwealth. He wants to bring aid to the people of Alexandria, but isn’t really going about it in the correct way. It would appear that the only thing saving him from being booted out of this society is Yumiko’s standing as a lawyer, which is a pretty thin leg on which to stand.
In comparison, Princess appeared excited to be at the Commonwealth, taking to her assignment in retail sales, enjoying the ice cream, and flirting (in her own way) with Mercer. Yet Princess helped Eugene when he needed it and didn’t show any sign of reticence. Yumiko also appears to be finding a place, having reunited with her brother and seeing how happy he is in this new society. Ezekiel’s feelings are uncertain, yet he was also ready and willing to assist Eugene.
The depiction of the Commonwealth as an ideal society is interesting, and the welcome video had me laughing. Everything, from the cheesy images, to the 1980s production values, to the warped music, was surreal, yet it conveyed the message of the Commonwealth very clearly. They are attempting to re-establish as much of the ‘before’ society as they possibly can, even if that means acting in a heavy-handed manner when it comes to governance. For those longing for the past, it may feel perfect, yet people who have been living free in the world would naturally chafe at all of the rules and restrictions. However, it is clear that the elites have their own perks, and Lance Hornsby’s interest in Eugene’s group has ominous potential.
Aaron experienced more role reversal this episode, building on his experience with Mays and Father Gabriel in Episode 1019 (extended season 10). Originally tasked with bringing in new people to Alexandria, Aaron has always been open and welcoming. Even then, while he was terrorized by Mays, Aaron was intending to give Mays a second chance. Aaron was horrified when Gabriel killed Mays. Now, Aaron has slipped further toward Gabriel’s way of thinking, spurred on by his fears for Gracie’s safety. Aaron has become the opposite of what he once was, torturing a stranger rather than empathizing with him. Oddly, it was Carol who brought Aaron back from the brink, as she admitted to going too far in her vendetta with Alpha, and seeming to show remorse for the people who were hurt by her selfish actions.
I was also taken aback to see Jerry (normally so easygoing) going along with Keith’s torture, but as with Aaron, this may be explained by fear for his family. Finding Nabila’s scarf in the former Whisperers’ hideout must have been emotionally terrifying, realizing how close they had gotten to his wife. Yet Jerry rebounded quickly, being the first to admit that they had been right to let Keith live.
I was extremely surprised at how forgiving Keith was, especially given that he lost a hand in this encounter. I guess, given that he had fully expected to die, he was just grateful to be left alive. I have a feeling that we will see his group of leftover Whisperers again.
While her scenes were short, I appreciated seeing more of Alexandria from Judith’s perspective. This episode highlighted the fact that she is still very much a child, and while she is smart and can defend herself, she still has a lot of growing to do emotionally. It is natural for her to fear losing her memories of Carl and Rick (and possibly Michonne), especially in a world without photos or video. When Judith’s and Carl’s handprints were damaged, she felt as if everything was slipping away, and this caused her to break down. Fortunately, Rosita was able to assist Judith in dealing with these feelings, in part because she had experienced something similar herself, growing up.
The weakest part of the episode was the scenes with Maggie and Negan. Maggie’s hatred of Negan and his strained patience with her is getting old, and there needs to be some movement in this storyline to make it interesting once again.
Overall, this episode felt a little thin, spread out catching up with a large number of characters. Once again, the Maggie/Negan storyline got short shrift, and felt tacked on. The Hilltop/Whisperer plot felt a bit contrived, as if its only purpose was to deliver the information that Connie was still alive. However, the Commonwealth and Judith storylines were much more compelling. I am hoping for more of those plots in future episodes.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, this week’s Walking Dead: No Man’s Land season episode has Carol, Jerry and Aaron fighting off walkers as they repair Alexandria’s walls.
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