by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 18.
This episode is titled ‘A New Deal’, which apparently references the bargain Carol made with Governor Milton to allow her people to leave and be safe. Yet that deal was also harmful. The Alexandrians were splitting apart, with some wanting to return to their former lives, and others wanting to stay, to help the Commonwealth become a better place. While there were multiple examples of this divided viewpoint (Negan and Annie, Ezekiel and Carol, Eugene and Rosita) the most significant was between Daryl and Judith.
Daryl was thrust into parenthood when Rick disappeared, yet he admitted in this episode that he feels that he is doing a terrible job of it. But ultimately, it turned out that Daryl’s instincts were natural ones. Daryl was willing to sacrifice in order to keep Judith and RJ safe. Yet Judith was the one insisting that they had to make things better for everyone, not just their small group. And when push came to shove, Daryl agreed, helping Judith fight the walkers to protect the Commonwealth citizens. Judith did not choose to take a gun because she wanted to think of the world as a place where such things were no longer necessary. Yet Judith understood when danger struck that she had been wrong, and accepted the need to ‘get her hands dirty’ to keep others safe.
We all knew that the Commonwealth was rotten at its core. Yet this episode deeply explored that core. Pamela Milton has no concern for the citizens, only her own position and legacy. Pamela doesn’t even seem to care much for her son, other than knowing that he is the one who will take over after her: someone who bears the Milton name. We learned this episode that Pamela had another son, whom she apparently preferred; Sebastian’s only use now is in being her sole heir. This doesn’t excuse Sebastian’s behavior, but it does make his selfishness, his callousness, and his sense that no one could ever like him for himself, more understandable. Pamela only knows how to keep herself in power, and is ready to throw anyone under the bus if it gets her what she wants, as Lance has discovered.
For his part, Lance is following the advice he gave to Eugene, to ‘burn it all down’. Eugene came to Lance, asking for dirt on the Miltons, to take them down within the system. Yet Lance is done playing by the rules, as shown by his orders to Roman and Shira. Lance had his goons kill innocent sanitation workers just to cause havoc within the Commonwealth. I suspect that Lance does not want to simply escape. He wants to take over, killing off the Miltons (either literally or figuratively) and seize power for himself. This was shown when Lance told Mercer that the soldiers were ‘not your (Mercer’s) men’. Lance controls the people who keep Pamela in power… at least, he thinks that he does.
Of course, Lance also screamed like a baby when Daryl stabbed his hand. I am sure that it was extremely painful, but it is difficult to imagine Daryl, or Maggie, or Negan, or Carol, or even Eugene, crying out that much, or for that long. The Alexandria group is made of survivors: people who have become stronger, thanks to the hardships that they have had to endure. In comparison. Lance has clearly never known any kind of serious discomfort.
Lance’s scream foreshadowed how the Miltons’ power games have not only corrupted the Commonwealth, but also weakened its citizens. This was symbolized by the wrestling match, with its fake fighting and false victor. The citizens of the Commonwealth are committed to a false sense of security, unable to imagine a world without it. If walkers shambled into the middle of Alexandria, its people would grab their weapons and fight back, while protecting those who could not fight. Yet the Commonwealth citizens simply ran in circles, not knowing where to go or what to do. They were all still trying to process what was happening when Sebastian was struggling with the walker; they were unable to do anything to help. It was up to Mercer, Daryl and Judith to fight back. The idea that the Miltons were pushing, that the ‘old world’ still exists, made the people defenseless, unable to deal with harsh realities when faced with them.
In this light, we can see how far Eugene has truly come. He began as soft and as weak as any of the Commonwealth citizens, yet when Max was threatened, Eugene did not hesitate to face the walker bare-handed. Pushing the walker off of Max was Eugene’s only thought, and yet, seeing the walker crash into Sebastian was its own kind of poetic justice. Unfortunately, that one instinctive act is likely to have severe consequences for Eugene, as Pamela will now be out for vengeance, since Eugene has inadvertently killed her only remaining son. Mercer will likely also pay a price for telling the Governor that his job is to protect the Commonwealth, and not her.
While there wasn’t really any humor this episode, I did appreciate the nod to Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, with the scene that had RJ reading an Invincible comic book (a series also written by Kirkman). Even more, this was a flashback to season 6, when RJ’s half-brother Carl was also reading an Invincible comic book.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, this week’s Walking Dead: No Man’s Land season mission shows Daryl, Mercer and Ezekiel fighting off walkers to save the citizens of the Commonwealth.
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