by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 22.
Last week, I was concerned that it would be difficult for the storylines to finish in the remaining three episodes. It seems as if the producers came to the same conclusion themselves, because things were happening at lightning speed this episode. Eugene’s trial basically skipped to the end (although to be fair, that was a good cut) but the liberation of Alexandria happened so quickly that it felt as if it was barely a challenge at all.
The re-taking of Alexandria actually happened on a few different fronts, but if you blinked while watching the episode, you might have missed this. Daryl and Connie were coming through the sewers (ironically, the same sewers where the whole town hid from Negan during the Savior war) but somehow took hours to do so, only to arrive at exactly the moment they were needed. Carol and Maggie came through some kind of basement access hours earlier, and somehow ended up in the one building where Herschel was being held. I’m not sure how they knew which building to enter. Rosita and Gabriel were apparently hiding somewhere on ‘sniper’ duty, yet Rosita appeared in time to kill off the smirking Warden (an exceedingly short-lived villain whose name we never knew).
In comparison to all of this, Negan’s plans almost seemed leisurely. First, he created a distraction by interacting with the guard, of which Ezekiel did not take advantage. Wasn’t the plan last week for Negan to create a ruckus and Ezekiel to use that to gather people and run? After this, Negan spent some time smirking at the Warden, knowing that the guy was just a shadow of what Negan used to be. Negan was also trying to recruit people again at the ‘cafeteria’. He visited with his wife. Then he was back with the Warden. And finally, Negan’s ultimate deal, to sacrifice himself to save the others, was made off-camera.
Despite the slightly disjointed speed at which the climax arrived, it did feel like a powerful moment when Ezekiel stepped in front of the firing line to protect Negan and Annie. Ezekiel was a King for a reason; he knows what needs to be done and he is not afraid to take a stand. Bystander syndrome is real. Everyone else might have just stood there and watched what was happening, had Ezekiel not stepped in and done something. While I knew that Negan had to survive (as the upcoming Dead City ads prove) I thought that Annie might not make it. Yet when Ezekiel and his followers were all in line, I suspected that they were likely all safe. As such, Daryl’s sudden appearance to save the day was somewhat anti-climactic. The true hero was Ezekiel.
And somehow, in all of this, Aaron’s group still hasn’t made it back to Alexandria, although they did meet up with Luke and Jules. I was wondering what had happened to Luke! Apparently, he had been wandering around in the woods, escaping from the Commonwealth takeover of Oceanside, since the end of the last mini-season.
Eugene’s trial did not take up a large proportion of the episode, yet it moved things along well in the Commonwealth. Governor Milton gave a cringe-inducing performance on the witness stand, then told a lie so obvious that it is astounding that she thought the people would believe it (no one likely has the technological ability and resources to alter a recording post- apocalypse). It was clear that the people were against her, and the shouts of ‘Free Eugene’ were an indication that they were on his side. Presumably, during the trial, Yumiko explained the circumstances and the people understood that Eugene was saving Max, making Sebastian’s death an accident. I have to admit that the cry, ‘Free Eugene’ reminded me of the ‘Free Negan’ campaign from the comic book series.
While Mercer was unwilling to testify during the trial, I believe that he had planned to act afterward all along. Mercer was already doubting Milton’s intentions, and Princess being sent away would have been the last straw for him. Yet Mercer is not the kind of man who lets others order him around; Mercer does things on his own agenda, as he proved at the end of the episode. I’m guessing that next week we will see his plan come into action.
There are some unanswered questions still remaining. First, where are the rest of the children? Was Coco the only child they did not locate? Were they able to find Judith, RJ, Gracie, Jerry’s kids (since his wife Nabila was a captive in Alexandria, presumably her kids were taken too)? Next, what about the other Commonwealth soldiers? Soldier 197 was clearly unhappy, and it’s not unreasonable that he turned on the Warden. But what about the others? Are they ‘with’ the Alexandrians, or just going along with it so that they don’t get killed? And why were there so many bloodstains on the side of the Alexandria mill? Were there really that many people who had been executed in the short time since the Commonwealth had taken over?
And of course, there was the ‘smart’ walker who picked up the knife. I just don’t see a way that this storyline could be brought to any kind of satisfying conclusion before the end of the series. It has to be a ‘tease’ for the sequel series.
I did enjoy the references to older episodes. Tyler’s storyline is relatively recent, having impersonated a waiter and confronted Governor Milton at a fancy party. But Benjamin was a deep pull. He was Henry’s older brother, and was killed by Saviors during a ‘deal gone wrong’, although Negan did not order the death and was not even present (Jared is the one who pulled the trigger, while Gavin gave the order to kill). I’m not even sure that Negan would have known who Benjamin was.
If the end of the television series mirrors the final issue of the comic books, then the fall of the Commonwealth should be wrapped up next week. However, the television show might change course, as a way to introduce the multiple new spinoff series. We shall see what is to come in the penultimate episode.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, this week’s Walking Dead: No Man’s Land season mission has Carol and Maggie going through the tunnels underground to get into Alexandria.
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