So how does the other half live in the Commonwealth? Let’s find out.
The episode begins with Daryl, Judith, and RJ in a mansion on a dark and stormy night. Walkers growl from every direction, but they can’t reach the three. But when one walker staggers through the door, Daryl says that this is enough.
The walker, actually a human being, calls it off. Daryl fist bumps with the man as he leads the kids outside of the literal haunted maze.
Outside, the three meet up with Jerry and start making their way through the Halloween fair at the Commonwealth. You’ve got bobbing for apples, cotton candy, costumes- this place has it all.
Totally not strange.
Day 30 in the Commonwealth and Carol has traded making soup for baking cookies. For real this time. Judith makes friends with a girl named May, who recognizes Judith as a new resident. Carol goes over to Daryl, who is still getting used to the Commonwealth. Carol figures that since the Commonwealth was up for years before she and hers arrived, maybe they don’t have to do anything to make it work.
Daryl disagrees. There’s always something you’ve gotta do to make it work.
Suddenly, the crowd erupts into applause as a woman hands out cotton candy and later judges a costume contest. This woman, my friends, is Governor Pamela Milton, played by Laila Robins. First place is awarded to some kid named Celeste, who dressed as a mini-Mercer.
Mercer probably stuffed the ballots box. The grand prize is not ten dollars. Not even ten maids. It’s ten lottery tickets. Governor Milton then takes a few pictures that I’m sure will go on the Commonwealth’s nonexistent Instagram account.
Connie and Kelly meet up with Carol and Daryl. Connie is now a reporter for the Commonwealth’s newspaper, which I assume has a declining readership. Connie’s glad to be reporting again, but Commonwealth news isn’t hard-hitting journalism.
She could always start a blog, but that would require a computer.
Turns out Connie has interviewed Pamela Milton before, and even got her uncle kicked out of Congress. As Connie and Kelly head off, Carol suggests Daryl ask Connie to dance with him at the masquerade ball. Daryl, though, opts to get back to work.
Meanwhile, Gabriel offers to take care of the baby overnight after the late shift that Rosita worked. Never one to turn down a night away from an infant, Rosita agrees.
Later, she meets up with Daryl, who lives opposite her. They mingle, with Rosita wanting to get through basic training soon so the two can have better apartments. She finds it weird to be worrying about money again, but Daryl points out that this isn’t forever.
Back at the fair, Ezekiel parts ways with Jerry and Nabila so he can tend to the animals. The kids are even playing tug of war with Shiva’s collar, which I didn’t know Ezekiel still had. One kid, Ezra, didn’t want to part with it, but Ezekiel tells Ezra that his father saved the collar from Hilltop when it burned because he knew how much it meant to Ezekiel.
But there’s something more precious than the collar, and that’s family. So the leash is Ezra’s on two conditions: it makes him as happy as it made Ezekiel, and that he honor Shiva’s memory. I would add a third condition that Ezra keep the leash clean too, but I’m not Ezekiel.
Carol joins Ezekiel, who tells her that his doctor’s appointment went fine, but he quickly shifts gears and asks if she’s heard from Maggie or Lydia. She hasn’t, but she presses Ezekiel on how he’s doing. On a beautiful day like today? Ezekiel’s never been better.
Following this, Carol heads to the Commonwealth’s hospital and swipes some an employee’s keys while pretending to bump into them. Peter Parker she ain’t. Miraculously, she gets just the key she needs and heads to the Records’ Office, where she finds and starts looking through Ezekiel’s records.
Tomi enters and, instead of alerting someone, asks Carol what she wants to know. It’ll be a long time before Ezekiel is next in line for his surgery. Patients aren’t made aware of their place in line, and Tomi asks Carol to not reveal that detail. As for whether Ezekiel knows how bad his chances are, he knows the odds aren’t good. But he won’t get the surgery unless he somehow moves up the line.
At a site named the killhouse, Mercer addresses some recruits- Daryl and Rosita among them. In this exercise, killing isn’t the primary goal. He’s looking for speed and teamwork. Two teams of two will start the course at the same time and at different houses. Each team must share one weapon. The objective? Get through the house and all the rotters inside. At the end of each house is a rotter marked in red.
First team to take out that rotter is a step closer to earning their stripes. You’ll see what you get if you fail to work as a unit. In a nice change of pace, Rosita and Daryl aren’t paired together just because they’re characters we know. Daryl asks Mercer if he can be partnered with Rosita, since they work well together, but Mercer’s not having that.
At the sound of the whistle, the teams head inside the killhouse. Daryl and Rosita put their years of experience to good use, with Daryl even making use of blunt objects instead of the blade provided. Rosita even rips off one walker’s leg and impales the rotter with it. Damn. Okay, that’s the kind of creative killing that I can get behind. While Rosita is more willing to work with her teammate, Daryl prefers to go at it alone.
So when his teammate, Jake, is almost bitten, he’s saved not by Daryl, but by a bullet from Mercer’s gun. Daryl tells Mercer that he would’ve helped, but Mercer reminds Daryl that he was looking for speed and teamwork. He congratulates Rosita, but tells Daryl to come with him.
Back at the fair, May and Judith look over some vinyl records. May pays Princess for the records and even gives a Motorhead album to Judith, who wants the receipt as a reminder of a good day. Not the typical reason people hold onto receipts, but these aren’t typical times.
Carol overhears a conversation between Lance Hornsby and the assistant from Governor Milton’s office. Apparently Pamela wants something tonight that’s worthy of tonight’s guests, and what Lance has isn’t it. Even though it’s the most that Lance could get with the time he had. Lance dumps his box and storms off, and Carol later goes through the trash can to see that Lance had brought bottles of wine.
Who would turn that down?
Carol heads to a wine store and thumbs through some receipts. She then heads to one of the addresses listed and finds an old cellar still filled with wine bottles…and walkers. But mostly wine bottles.
Mercer and Daryl escort the little shit Sebastian, played by Teo Rapp-Olsson, out for drills- nay, advanced military hunting- and are joined by Rosita. Sebastian is far too cavalier about this as he goes through various weapons to pick. He instructs Mercer to release the rotters inside the shipping container.
Sebastian does manage to take out one walker, but he struggles with the second one until Daryl shoots it from a distance. This angers Sebastian, but he quickly calms down when he sees his mother a few feet away. As Sebastian catches up with his mother, Mercer admonishes Daryl for helping Sebastian, saying that he would’ve been fine. I don’t think Mercer believes that.
Mercer gets that Daryl is used to doing things on his own. But in the Commonwealth, sometimes people have to set up one another to win. What’s that gotta do with Sebastian’s ego? This place is unlike anything Mercer’s ever seen. It can give you a decent life if you can cut it, and Mercer wants Daryl to succeed. But you have to get out of your own damn way first.
Daryl arrives home with food for RJ and Judith. It’s a bit noisier than usual since someone in another unit is loudly playing music. Judith asks Daryl if she can have an allowance, but Daryl tables this conversation because his new job needs to kick in first.
Both Judith and RJ are open to staying here, even though Alexandria will get cleaned up. As long as Judith’s mom knows where to find her, she wants to stay.
Carol brings a crate of wine to Lance, who is appreciative and impressed that Carol found a way to get outside the walls. In return, Carol asks if Lance can get a friend moved to the front of the line for surgery. It’s a big ask, and Lance first wants to be sure this wine goes over well. But no worries. Carol knows that it will.
That evening, festivities are underway at the masquerade ball. Apparently Magna lost some bet because she’s a server. She even serves some wine to Yumiko and Tomi. This party isn’t really Tomi’s scene, as he was cool being on the other side of things. It may be Yumiko’s world, but not his. Still, he may as well enjoy how the other half lives. Amen to that.
Outside, the red carpet is literally rolled out as the best and brightest of the Commonwealth arrive for the ball. Lance even thinks he’s getting a lot of applause until the crowd starts cheering Mercer’s name.
Princess compliments Mercer on his sharp suit, even though he says it’s not his thing. He hates these sorts of festivities, so to make it more interesting, he invites Princess as his +1. She apparently doesn’t fit the dress code, but she is with Mercer. Who is really gonna say no to him?
Inside, after telling Lance that the wine is just fine, Pamela quickly heads off for an interview with Connie. Also, she’d like a meeting set up in regards to her questions about Alexandria. Connie notes that literally every holiday is celebrated with grandeur at the Commonwealth. To Pamela, traditions provide comfort and structure in uncertain times. But Halloween is an extra special occasion.
Pamela then brings up her father’s time in the White House and how the masquerade ball was his favorite. Connie’s next question: what would her father say about the class divide on display? In response, Pamela says that the Commonwealth is lucky that Connie and her people found them. They appreciate and celebrate every person who contributes to the community.
After this scripted response, Pamela introduces Connie and Kelly to a woman named Carrie, who is last year’s lottery winner. This is her first masquerade ball. Pamela and her assistant head off and brush past one of the servers- the same guy who was once a Commonwealth soldier and spoke with Princess in “Splinter.”
I mean, his demotion sucks, but that episode is still awful. Princess and Yumiko recognize the man from before- even though I’m pretty sure Yumiko never saw his face- and wonder why he’s serving food when he’s a soldier.
Before the two can mull over this, Lance gets on the microphone and calls for everyone’s attention. It’s his honor to introduce someone who needs no introduction, but he gives an introduction anyway. I hate when people do that. Anyway, he introduces Governor Milton to the stage.
The Governor is honored to give the attendees a sneak peek of something special: a portrait of Pamela’s father, painted by one Alexa Park, who created this in nine months.
We keep getting shots of the former Commonwealth guard and the mean look on his face. You know that shit is about to pop off.
Thanks to the sacrifices made by Pamela’s father, the Commonwealth is putting the world back to the way it was. Yeah, just wait until the next pandemic hits. Her father would be proud of what the Commonwealth is today and how much it cares for and protects its citizens.
The former guard finally lashes out, calling bullshit on Pamela’s description of the Commonwealth. He grabs a knife and holds Pamela’s assistant at knifepoint, telling Pamela that his name is Tyler Davis, played by Cameron Roberts, and he was once a trooper. He tried many times to reach Pamela, but after one mistake, he lost everything. To Tyler, Pamela only cares about fancy parties and paintings.
Like the painting he puts the knife through. Damn it, Tyler. That took nine months! Tyler says that people like him mean nothing to Pamela, but she tells him to his face that she sees him. She wants to rectify things, but first Tyler must put down the knife and release her assistant, Max, played by Margot Bingham.
I don’t think that’s her real name, but alright. Tyler releases Max and flees. Mercer tends to her, but Sebastian wants blood. He orders Mercer to go after Tyler, so Mercer radios other soldiers to commence the hunt.
Daryl follows Tyler into the haunted maze and soon corners him. He stops Tyler from cutting his own throat. Tyler confesses that he messed up protocols with a prisoner and got beaten up. As a result, he lost his apartment and spending card, so now he has no way to help his sister or kids. Daryl points out that Tyler has what a lot of people don’t: family. Killing himself isn’t fair to them.
Tyler surrenders and is handcuffed by Daryl. The two head out, but run into Sebastian. One wonders how Sebastian knew they were here. Anyway, Daryl hands Tyler over to Sebastian, telling him to take credit for finding Tyler.
Indeed, the three return to the masquerade ball, where the audience erupts in applause when Sebastian brings Tyler to Pamela, who immediately demands that Tyler be removed. As he’s escorted out, Tyler points out that there are thousands like him and he calls for everyone to resist the Commonwealth, visibility for workers, and equality for all. If he added a hashtag, people might pay attention.
I’m not entirely joking, either.
A concerned Pamela does ask Lance if there are indeed thousands like Tyler, but Lane assures Pamela that she has nothing to worry about. Still, she wants Lance to make sure of that.
Outside from a distance, Carol observes Max and Yumiko handing out envelopes of money, while Connie and Kelly are swiftly brought back indoors. Lance comes out and informs Carol that the wine was a good first step.
Mercer, meanwhile, wants answers and assigns guards to figure out how Tyler gained access and if he had help. Rosita is instructed to see if her friend on the wait staff knows anything. Oh, so that’s Magna’s role: simple information.
However, Magna tells Rosita that she never even met Tyler. Magna believes what Tyler said. The Commonwealth is like a city from before.
Ezekiel pays Carol a visit. The two reflect on their day, the festivities, and how Henry probably would’ve loved it. He reveals a box of Henry’s belongings and gives it to Carol, against her objection that he should keep it. This place can be a fresh start if Carol wants it to be. Ezekiel, meanwhile, is doing great and still finding reasons to smile. The two then toast to fresh starts.
Day 33 in the Commonwealth and Daryl is finally outfitted in his uniform. Judith compliments Daryl for looking official, though he doesn’t feel official. He did get her a gift, though: a record player. The two then start listening to Motorhead’s “Eat the Rich.” A bit on the nose, don’t you think, Walking Dead?
The Commonwealth soldiers perform a raid on an apartment. Rosita finds a hidden room filled with resistance paraphernalia as the episode comes to a close.
Kind of an awkward ending, but okay.
You ever read Jacob Riis’ “How the Other Half Lives?” It’s a good book.
Anyway, that class warfare struggle hinted at in Acheron Part II is on full display in “New Haunts.” It does feel like a new beginning or fresh start for the survivors. Similar to Season 5’s “Remember,” the characters have to get used to a new, seemingly at-peace environment. Similar to Alexandria, the people in the Commonwealth do still go out and deal with the dead. So they’re not sheltered from them.
But at the same time, if the opening and scene with Sebastian are any indication, some people almost treat walkers like a joke. The dead are the reason the world the way it is, yet this community tries to return to the before times by having a haunted maze. That’s looking at it from the perspective from the characters we’ve followed all this time.
Perhaps, like Pamela said, traditions provide comfort in uncertain times. What’s more traditional than a haunted house or maze during Halloween? Side-note, it’s a real missed opportunity that the Halloween fair wasn’t set at night, but whatever. Would just feel more atmospheric, I feel.
But the idea of haves and have nots hasn’t been touched on in the series. Even in Alexandria, people were more or less on the same playing field. Not so at the Commonwealth. Everyone and their mother is at the fair early in the episode, but only the community’s best and brightest are allowed at the masquerade ball. Everyone has their place and role that they must perform.
We see how people fall back into the roles they had all but lost, like Magna being a waitress or Connie being a reporter. They don’t have to work hard to make this community work- the Commonwealth will make it work for them, even if they don’t like the outcome.
That said, it’s an opportunity for other characters to move up. Mainly Princess. Given how she’s been on her own this entire time and had such trouble fitting in, for her to be Mercer’s +1 and given a taste of the limelight is an entirely new experience. It’s similar to how she reacted when she learned that the Commonwealth had toilet paper.
But it all feels like a front. There’s something very phony about the Commonwealth. Most of Alexandria’s residents were sheltered from the dead and had little experience, but the Commonwealth acts as if they don’t exist. Like Pamela says, the community is focused on putting the world back to how it was. That’s hard to do unless you eliminate the walker threat altogether, which I doubt will ever happen.
So how do you rebuild society as best as you can? By having the important people step over and on top of the big ones, as we see here. Characters who pull their weight and make a difference are overlooked. Even noteworthy or important figures like Lance or Mercer aren’t given the credit you’d think they deserve. Pamela runs the Commonwealth, but it’s clear that Lance gets how it operates.
Kind of like how Deanna was Alexandria’s leader, but Aaron was the one going out and recruiting people. That’s not to downplay Deanna, mind you.
The same applies to Tyler. A man who was put in a position of authority and given some level of importance. But one mistake and he’s a nobody who may as well be invisible. I do like seeing the long term consequences of his actions. I still think “Splinter” is a terrible episode, and even though this character could’ve been anyone, connecting this to that episode and showing what happened to him was a good all, I’ll admit.
It does make you wonder if he’s bluffing when he says there are thousands like him, or if that was all for show. He can’t process being taken down a peg, but at the same time we see his desperation when he takes Max hostage and later threatens to kill himself. He’s been pushed so far down the totem pole that he has few options. But great that Daryl convinced him to live at least for his family.
Speaking of Daryl, he feels very similar to Rick in this episode. Not just in how he de-escalates the situation with Tyler, but his attitude towards working with strangers. Of course he’d want to work with Rosita. He knows and has fought alongside her. But these people? Daryl would be better off doing his own thing because he’s a survivor. Mercer realizes that.
But Mercer also understands that some people exist primarily to help lift up others. Daryl demonstrates this later when he hands Tyler over and lets Sebastian take the credit. Even though I’m sure everyone knows that Sebastian didn’t do shit.
There were a lot of little moments sprinkled throughout the episode that I enjoyed. Judith and Daryl listening to music, Ezekiel giving Shiva’s collar to Ezra, Carol going out of her way to help Lance in order to help Ezekiel, and even Rosita and Daryl just talking about money felt like very real moments. Almost like reading an issue of the comic.
Talking about Ezekiel, though, he’s on borrowed time and I wonder how much he has left. He’s not letting it dampen his spirit, and he doesn’t know how far down the list he is, but he remains as optimistic as ever.
Whether Carol’s gamble pays off is yet to be determined. Even though the two aren’t together, it’s great that Carol is still doing what she can to help.
With that in mind, I did enjoy “New Haunts.” A new status quo has been established with the Commonwealth, but the struggle between the haves and have-nots is now on full display and will continue to unravel, I’m sure. Some great character moments and dynamics helped make this an enjoyable episode to watch.
Season 11 has been very uneven, but hopefully this and “No Other Way” are indicative of the quality for the remaining episodes to come. See you next time.