by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 8.
This episode created tensions with both Maggie’s group and the Alexandrians, as each of them faces a trial to overcome. In Maggie’s case, she initiated an attack on the Reapers inhabiting her former compound, using the walker horde to confuse and misdirect her enemies. This tactic had the additional advantage of signaling to Daryl that they were making their move, as he recognized the Whisperer technique for controlling a horde. It worked extremely well, creating enough misdirection that the Reapers suddenly found themselves in the middle of a walker fight, not even realizing that their enemies were concealed within the horde.
Of course, it was this confusion that lead to the climactic scene of the episode: the moment when Leah decided to kill Pope. While Pope had been something of a father figure to Leah, his fervor had taken him over the edge, to the point where he was so obsessed with killing Maggie that he was willing to sacrifice the lives of his own people. Leah knew that this was unnecessary (as she proved at the end of the episode when she called for the Reapers to retreat before firing the weapon) and understood that the only way to stop Pope was to kill him. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised that he was dispatched so easily. Pope never felt like a long-term villain, and story-wise, this was an appropriate time for him to die. Even more, it set Leah up as a future villain, one whose backstory is far more interesting than many others we have had before. Viewers have already seen the story of a former villain turned ‘good guy’ (Dwight, Negan, Lydia), yet it is far more rare to see someone we thought was a ‘good guy’ become a villain. I hope that the show follows through on this promise as we move to the second and third parts of season 11 (to come in 2022).
Leah’s point of view is understandable. Just as Daryl’s first loyalty is to the people he has known (some since the beginning of the zombie apocalypse), Leah’s first loyalty is to the people she knew from before the world turned. Whatever their current relationship, neither Daryl nor Leah can really expect the other to turn their back on their ‘family’. As viewers, we are rooting for Daryl’s group, and want Leah to join them, but it wouldn’t be realistic for her to abandon all of her comrades, despite her seeing the need to kill Pope.
The most disappointing part of the attack on the Reaper compound was the forced cliffhanger. Maggie and Negan were standing there, watching the Reaper’s weapon light up, and they really had no thought to run? Negan, at least, is smarter than that. He wouldn’t have just assumed that their enemies were retreating because they had been ‘beaten’. Maggie should have understood that as well, having seen the Reapers’ relentless nature (from the one who pursued her in the extended season 10 episodes). The entire thing felt contrived to put them in ‘danger’, to provide a weak cliffhanger for the next part of the season (what would once have been a midseason finale). I’m fairly certain that neither Maggie or Negan will be seriously harmed by this (and Negan may actually save Maggie from being injured) and that the only real casualty will be the horde. I suppose it’s possible that Elijah (still somewhere amongst the horde) might die, as viewers barely had a chance to get to know him, and his plot armor is insubstantial, at best. But I’d be willing to bet that Maggie and Negan are safe.
While the attack on the Reapers was expected and something in which viewers were invested, the storm in Alexandria was a tired repeat. There have been storms in Alexandria before (most notably, the blizzard in which Judith got lost and Negan had to go find her). In comparison, this storm didn’t really feel like a threat until the walkers came in. Even then, Rosita clearly showed that as seasoned survivors, they were capable to dealing with this kind of situation. Why did everyone retreat to the second floor? A better tactic would have been to leave the vulnerable people on the second floor, while sending out a team to lead the walkers away and take them out. This is the kind of thing the survivors have been doing since season 1, and their inept approach here felt forced.
Of course, there was the additional stress of a fire in the windmill. How is there a fire in the windmill during a rainstorm when there’s no one there? The fence blowing down was much more believable. I did find it interesting that Connie wanted to go with Carol to fix the fence. What kind of ulterior motive does Connie have? Does she want to test Carol’s mettle, see if she is unsettled by Connie’s return? Or is it a sign that Connie does not blame Carol for the cave-in? That would have been an interesting thread to follow, but it was ignored for this episode, in favor of focusing on Judith.
I like Judith, and I generally enjoy a story highlighting her, but in this case, it felt as if it was a repeat of things that we have seen before. Judith seems adult beyond her years, taking care of the other kids, but still needs to be reassured by an adult (in this case, Virgil). Newly invigorated, Judith runs off on some daring mission and gets herself into a bit of trouble (in this case, in the basement with Gracie). Does any of that sound familiar? Just as with Maggie and Negan, I don’t have much fear for Judith’s safety, although there is a possibility that Gracie might not make it… although I think that she will. The water flooding the basement sets up a perfect situation for electrocution, and I’m guessing that a number of walkers may be fried down there when the show resumes next year.
While there were few humorous moments in this episode, I have to give kudos to the writers for the moment when Pope asked Daryl why he kept him around. Daryl threw Pope’s own words back in his face, “You said God chose me.” Even Pope laughed at the incongruity of it.
The series returns February 20, 2022 with a fresh batch of episodes as part of its final series with the third batch scheduled for Fall of 2022.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, this week’s Walking Dead: No Man’s Land season episode features Maggie, Negan and Gabriel making their way through the minefield toward Meridian.
Do you watch The Walking Dead? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!