Let’s pretend that most of 10C didn’t happen, okay?
The season begins with some of our survivors entering a military base. The base is littered with resting walkers because even the dead need a power nap. The survivors play the quietest game of hopscotch as they make their way around the walkers. Soon enough, Kelly and Magna find some food.
As the food is brought outside, the rope attached to one bag snaps. Daryl grabs the bag before it can fall, but some of his blood drips onto one of the walkers. The dead awaken from their slumber. With bullets, arrows, and good aim, the survivors hold off the walkers long enough to secure the food and themselves to the ropes and escape the walkers.
Day breaks as everyone returns to Alexandria, which has seen better days. Repairs are still underway. Maggie is reunited with some old friends of hers: Duncan, played by Marcus Lewis, Frost, played by Glenn Stanton, and Agatha, played by Laurie Fortier.
After Gabriel breaks up a fight, he reports that the food brought back will only last them a week. With two new communities, no crops, and no backstock, things won’t get easier. Agatha and Frost offer to help scavenge, but the ground is all spent. The last big horde scared away the animals. Maggie suggests going to Meridian, which is where she was before all of this happened. Problem is there’s no more food there.
When Rosita asks what happened, Maggie explains that her team was on a mission leading away a walker herd. Maggie circled back with Elijah and Cole. On the way back, they got stuck on the road, which may not have been an accident. Then, they heard screams in the distance and raced back home, but it was too late. Their people had been slaughtered and the rest barely got away with their lives.
As for who attacked them, Maggie knows two things: they come at night, and by the time you see them, you’re already dead.
Ah, so they’re vampires.
Anyway, this was before Maggie and Daryl caught one. You remember that extra episode, right? But he came at Maggie alone because there must not be that many. They must still be at Meridian since there’s plenty of food. Maggie plans to take back this community. Aaron sees no point in Maggie chasing ghosts. He thinks they’re better off securing Alexandria since the walls aren’t stable. Walkers will get in.
But Maggie is doing this for Alexandria. So what’s different if these people are such killers? Well, Maggie has Meridian’s best fighters in the form of Duncan, Frost, and Agatha. How convenient that they’re the three to show up in Alexandria at this very moment. Sounds like a suicide mission, as far as Rosita is concerned, but that’s just every Sunday. Plus, if they don’t have any food, it won’t matter.
Except for Aaron, Carol, and Rosita, everyone heads out to join Maggie on the mission. Luck isn’t on everyone’s side, though, as it rains that night. Negan leads them through the city, but they’re still hours out and he suggests they hunker down and wait for the storm to pass.
They happen upon a Metro station, which is unlike any Metro station I’ve ever seen in Virginia, but whatever. Negan tells everyone to head north on the Yellow Line and switch off to the Blue at National Airport. From there, they can take the Red Line route to Bethesda.
I guess they’ll transfer at Metro Center.
So they head through the tunnels, but the storm’s pushing in through the pipes and making them groan, which explains the noise. Luckily, nothing to worry about. Not yet, anyway. Negan believes this is God telling them to turn around, which Gabriel believes God would’ve run past him first.
Okay, I do like that line. Negan points out the water line mark. The tunnel floods on a regular basis, like when it rains.
So what about Eugene, Princess, Ezekiel, and Yumiko? They’re still being held captive. Eugene is the first to be questioned. He’s brought before two auditors: Clark, played by Carrie Genzel, and Evans, played by Matthew Cornwell. Though Clark does all the talking here. Evans just takes notes.
They aren’t alone, though. Also present is a guard in orange armor as opposed to white. We’ll talk about him later, but remember him for now. Clark explains that they’re auditors for the Commonwealth, and Eugene is under Level One assessment.
If Eugene passes, he’ll move onto Level Two. If not, he’ll go onto reprocessing. The four are soon asked some normal and sometimes invasive questions about their lives, including their zip codes- which Eugene remembers, while Yumiko does not. They even get asked if they’ve been vaccinated…for measles. There’s no way that line was an accident.
They’re also asked why they were at the train station, and them all give similar statements, though Eugene would like to speak to Stephanie. Soon enough, they’re asked prior questions, so Ezekiel turns his attention towards the silent guard and asks if he’s in charge. The man finally answers to confirm that he is apparently in charge.
Ezekiel starts asking the man questions, saying he’s been cooperative this entire time. He soon erupts in a coughing fit, so the guard slides him a glass of water.
The four are reunited as Ezekiel confirms that he asserted himself. The residents don’t know about his condition yet, though. Yumiko and Princess are ready to bail, but Eugene remembers Stephanie told him about how cautious the Commonwealth is. He reminds them that Michonne shut people out from Alexandria for years, so this is all a test. Their people need help, and the Commonwealth may be able to provide that.
Princess asks two prisoners how long they’ve been here. They give differing answers, but it’s been at least a few months. The guards yank away one hapless civilian for reprocessing, thus swiftly changing Eugene’s mind. It’s time to bail.
Back in the tunnels, the survivors happen upon an innumerable number of bodies wrapped in plastic. One comes to life as Daryl approaches it, but it doesn’t make a noise. After Daryl puts it down, he sees that the walker’s throat had been cut deep enough to almost take off its head. Not the work of the people Maggie dealt with, though. These people were killed during the fall.
However, Negan asks Maggie if they were all killed during the fall. After all, this mass grave could still be in use. Rather than answer, Maggie orders everyone to take out the bodies to clear a path. She’s adamant about pushing through, but Alden and Gabriel clearly disagree.
One walker almost gets the jump on Gage, but Negan puts it down. Maggie’s response is for people to pay better attention, and it’s here that Negan has had enough. He calls out Maggie for playing dictator and not listening to anyone. They don’t even know if there’s a way out of this tunnel. He asks if anyone’s considered the possibility that whoever killed these people could still be down in the tunnel. It’s a fair question.
Negan calls this a death march, with Maggie as the pied piper. If people want to continue this, that’s fine, but Negan is fine. As is Gage. Agatha suggests letting Negan go on his own, but Maggie is adamant that they need him around because he knows the city. Except Negan knows that’s not the case. Maggie brought him here to die. If he makes it out of this, he’s not coming back.
Maggie will find a way to maybe do it herself, away from Alexandria. Negan figured Daryl was in on it, but neither he nor anyone had a clue. As far as Negan is concerned, Maggie’s head isn’t in the game because Negan is living rent free in her head. He won’t die on Maggie’s terms, so he prefers that she just do it right now. He won’t have her put him down like a dog, like Glenn was.
For that last part, Daryl again gets an easy punch on Negan. There’s no Dwight to hold him back this time, though. Maggie steps forward and stares down Negan. They’re in the tunnels because death is above. She’s calling the shots because that’s how everyone voted. I don’t remember that, but alright.
She pulls out a gun and tells Negan that yes, killing him is always on her mind. The Maggie who left six years ago isn’t the same one standing before Negan now, but a part of her is still there. That little bit is the only thing keeping Negan breathing, but Maggie doesn’t know how long that’ll last. So she dares Negan to keep pushing him.
Kind of an empty threat when you already spared him before, Maggie, but you do you.
We return to the Commonwealth where Princess makes a huge admission: two guards, Livits and Zell, are flirting. Princess can not only tell them apart, but remembers specific details from when they came on the wagon. One such detail is that they change shifts every six hours. When one is on break, the other takes off and the other disappears three minutes later. For about an hour, at least.
So the four concoct a half-assed idea that pays off. In Commonwealth armor, Eugene and Yumiko take Princess and Eugene away for reprocessing. In reality, the four head outside, where they find a wall filled with photos of the lost. Above it reads “Flag for Expedited Assessment and Admittance to the Commonwealth.”
Before the four can leave, one photo gets Princess’ attention. She calls over Yumiko and sees the photo- it’s of her. Below it is a note which reads “Have you seen my sister Miko. Contact Tomi at H.” Overcome with emotion, Yumiko must now stay at the Commonwealth.
Underground, a train car blocks further progress. Plus, Alden’s flashlight goes out, but Gage and Roy- as well as the supplies- are missing. To make matters worse, walkers are approaching from behind. With the path below blocked, the only way forward is up, so everyone starts climbing the train car. Except Daryl who, with Dog, decides to head under and find a way through the chokepoint.
That leaves Negan and Maggie. Negan gets atop the train just fine, but a walker grabs Maggie’s leg before she can climb up. As Maggie yells for Negan’s help, Negan finds himself the one staring down this time. After mulling it over, he decides against helping Maggie and instead continues down the tunnel.
Alone, Maggie’s grip on the train finally loosens as the episode comes to a close.
So here we are, starting off the final season of The Walking Dead with a slower paced episode filled with some good tension. It doesn’t blow the door off the handles or have a lot going for it. Nor does the underground group take us someplace new, story-wise, but it’s a decent enough start. I guess that’s to be expected where we are with the series- decent enough.
I’m coming at this from the perspective of someone who watched those additional episodes tacked onto Season 10. Except for “Here’s Negan,” you can skip all of them and, for the most part, miss nothing. I didn’t include “Here’s Negan” not because it pushes the plot forward, but because I think it’s a great episode.
But this is Season 11, and right off the bat, this premiere does have good tension. The military site with the resting walkers, as well as the train tunnels, had some good, slow building moments with the survivors trying to avoid disturbing the dead. With food dwindling at Alexandria, not to mention the place being in ruin due to the Whisperers, they’re short on time with limited resources. Their situation is dire.
In most situations, I’d question taking so many people away from Alexandria and only leaving a handful to defend the formerly Safe Zone. But in this instance, having people on the ground take out the walkers and gather the food while people above do the heavy lifting made use of everyone’s strengths. So that I liked, even though you knew no one was in danger.
Sticking with this lot, I question why people are still giving Negan the cold shoulder. I can understand Maggie still wanting the man dead. Carol did warn Negan that if he came back to Alexandria, Maggie would be gunning for him. Why everyone else, though? The man has already proven himself between saving Judith and killing Alpha. There’s no need for people to still show him so much hostility.
Negan will always be seen as an outsider. I get that. He doesn’t have the list of offenses that other Saviors like Alden have. You can’t just blink and forget how he killed Glenn, Abraham, Spencer, and countless others. But to keep acting like he’s that exact same person is pointless. We’ve already been down this road. At least Negan’s smart enough to realize that Maggie is walking him into a trap.
Again, I get Maggie is still livid about Glenn’s death. She has every right to be. Plus, she now has a kid around and wouldn’t want him to wind up in Negan’s hands. So Maggie’s sitting on a lot of rage and could pop off at any moment. She has no idea how long she’ll be able to hold back.
I’d buy this argument if Maggie hadn’t already spared Negan’s life in “What Comes After.” Hell, Negan practically begged Maggie to kill him, yet she didn’t. Why would her feelings suddenly change when Negan’s actions since then have been to help the community? He killed Brandon, but I doubt anyone misses him. If Maggie wouldn’t kill Negan at his lowest, I don’t get what would change that now.
She may have more reason after Negan didn’t help her, but that was after she pointed a gun at him and dared him to keep pushing. Either way, like Rick, it wouldn’t be surprising if Maggie and Negan came to a begrudging understanding. She may hate his guts, but she’ll need his help at some point. As long as it’s not the sacrificial play, because that would be too predictable.
Just to demonstrate how pointless some of these extra episodes were, I find it funny how the encounter with the Reaper in “Home Sweet Home” is reduced to a throwaway line. A lot of those extra episodes could be described as offscreen adventures not worth seeing. But considering the threats that the Reapers pose, you’d think confronting one would be a bigger deal, but it wasn’t. Not according to how little time Maggie spent on it here.
But let’s move over to the Commonwealth. If anything, the plot here proves how pointless “Splinter” was. The four are still held hostage, and the question and answer segments from “Splinter” amounted to nothing here. More so since it was just Princess questioned.
I like how the four aren’t on one accord at first. Like any other community, the Commonwealth isn’t trusting of strangers. I appreciate Eugene mentioning how Michonne froze out others, but I wish he’d gone further. It wasn’t that long ago that Alexandria questioned Magna, Yumiko, Luke, Connie, and Kelly. Not to mention Michonne giving Magna the cold shoulder upon learning that she was in prison.
So being imprisoned and interrogated should be nothing new. Hell, it should be expected. This isn’t Terminus where people are just welcomed with open arms- before being butchered, anyway. Still, I got a kick out of how circular the line of questioning was and how each person responded. I’m still not fully sold on Princess, but I liked how her ability to remember key details helped play a part in the four escaping.
As for the reveal that Yumiko has family in the Commonwealth…it’s a strong moment, but it doesn’t have the impact that the episode wants to have.
It doesn’t have the emotional weight that the comics had when Michonne realized that her daughter lived at the Commonwealth. We had years to know Michonne, but Yumiko is still a newcomer.
This doesn’t rob the scene of any impact it has on Yumiko specifically, but we as an audience don’t have the long running history with her compared to other characters. The moment isn’t bad, but it’s not what it could have been. But when the show no longer has Rick, Carl, or Michonne, and when the majority of the longstanding characters are back at Alexandria, there’s only so much the show can do.
That’s not an excuse, but it’s the best way I can try to rationalize it.
So The Walking Dead is back, and no longer restricted to just three or four characters on screen at once, at that. The final season is off to a so-so start as it treads familiar territory after an uneven finish to its tenth season. The tension between Negan and Maggie could prove interesting, but we’ve been here before. The Commonwealth plot could prove interesting, but hopefully things pick up there.
With that said, welcome back for the final installment of this series and see you all for the next episode.