A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 11, Episode 19: “Variant”

The Walking Dead has been hit by the New Age Walker variant.

Variant- Daryl and Eugene in the crowd- AMC, The Walking Dead

The episode begins with panic in the streets of the Commonwealth. People flee the dead while the soldiers try to maintain order. Eugene searches for Max, but can’t find her. When someone in the crowd pins Sebastian’s death on him, Eugene flees. He and Daryl head into a nearby building to wait out the calamity.

Variant- Pamela and Mercer look over Sebastian's body- AMC, The Walking Dead

Following this, Pamela and Mercer overlook Sebastian’s body in a medical examiner’s office. Mercer wants to put Sebastian down before he reanimates, but Pamela doesn’t want anyone touching her son until she says so. Pamela admits she wasn’t blind to who Sebastian was. She was trying to help him, but she admits she may have been too late. They had their issues, but family’s a complicated thing.

Mercer of all people knows that. Pamela points out that Max was loyal to her for over a decade. She wants to think that Max just lost her way and maybe she can be helped before it’s too late. Pamela needs an example- someone to remind the people that actions have consequences. If Mercer finds and arrests Eugene Porter, he could stand as the example to all. Plus, it could help Max.

Indeed, Mercer orders a citywide sweep and capture, with the targets being the newcomers from Riverbend, Hilltop, and Alexandria. Any known associates of Eugene are to be brought in regarding the Founders Day riot and Sebastian’s death. Commonwealth soldiers round up Rosita, Princess, and Ezekiel.

Variant- Jerry, Aaron, Elijah, and Lydia spot a herd- AMC, The Walking Dead

On the road, Aaron, Jerry, Elijah, and Lydia run into a small herd of walkers. Jerry suggests waiting it out, though Aaron believes they can find a way around. Plus, they need to get supplies to Oceanside, and then get off to Alexandria. There’s apparently no time to spare.

The four move on, but one walker in the herd appears to take notice of them…

Variant- Mercer questions Rosita- AMC, The Walking Dead

Rosita is the first to be questioned by Mercer. He asks her to verity the information about her, which she finds pointless since he already knows her, but yes, it is true. She was at the far east end of the square during the riot. Mercer points out that several witnesses saw her together with Eugene, and they were, but a half-hour before it happened.

The two talked about how Max wanted to stay and change the Commonwealth. Rosita hasn’t seen Eugene since, and that’s fine since at the end of the day, it’s obvious where Eugene will be: with Rosita. Mercer points out that they’re family, after all. He respects her, even if in this moment, she doesn’t respect him. He wants her to tell Eugene to turn himself in.

If he shows remorse and cooperates, it’ll go a long way to helping everyone. But if he or Rosita’s people make this harder, no one goes anywhere. Plus, things will only get worse.


Variant- Eugene tells Daryl and Rosita that he needs to find Max- AMC, The Walking Dead

Rosita then heads to the church, where Daryl is sharpening his blade. He’s already been through questioning, and he tells Rosita that they all plan to leave at dawn if they can get out. Big IF there, Daryl. Eugene’s also hiding at the church, and he’s still wondering about where Max is.

Eugene apologizes for his actions, but Daryl says that Sebastian had it coming. Agreed. Daryl believes that Eugene can get out through the east gate. As he knows when the shifts change, there may be a window when they can slip out. From there, they can meet up with others on the road to Alexandria.

Eugene won’t leave without Max. At the very least he wants to know that she’s safe. Okay, so Rosita will go look for Max. If she can find him, maybe they can get both of them out.

Then we hear Pamela over the P.A. system. She says the perpetrators cannot go unpunished, so anyone providing information on their whereabouts will receive a reward. Anyone aiding and abetting the fugitives will share their fate: swift and final justice.

How ominous.

Variant- Wagon stuck on the road- AMC, The Walking Dead

As Jerry predicted, the wagon gets stuck while going off road. The horse isn’t helping either, and when the four push too hard, one of the wheels slams into Jerry’s knee. Ouch. Luckily, Aaron spots a little community that the four can head to on foot. Way to just abandon the horse, guys.

It turns out this old community apparently once hosted a renaissance fair. How nice. There, Lydia helps Elijah start a fire, but she goes to get more kindling when Elijah goes in for a kiss. Well, at least she didn’t offer him a worm.

Variant- Jerry envisions a second Kingdom- AMC, The Walking Dead

Jerry sees this place as a potential second Kingdom, but Aaron is too focused to listen. Instead, Aaron tells him that it’s getting dark, so he offers to take first watch so Jerry can get some rest. Lydia offers to sit with him.

Variant- Pamela talks to Sebastian before he reanimates- AMC, The Walking Dead

As Pamela wipes the blood from Sebastian’s mouth, she speaks to her dead son. He always complained that she chose this place over him, but there was never a choice. She doesn’t know if she was ever capable of giving Sebastian what he needed or controlling him. But now, even after all this, what are they left with? Well, at least they don’t have to disappoint each other anymore.

As Sebastian finally begins to reanimate, Pamela leaves while telling an incoming soldier to take care of that.

Variant- Mercer tells Princess that Pamela wants Eugene- AMC, The Walking Dead

Mercer, meanwhile, tells Princess that she shouldn’t still be hanging around his place of work. She doesn’t have a choice since she was ripped out of her apartment and questioned for three hours. But Mercer can’t be seen treating her differently. It’s not personal. They have orders. Sebastian is dead, and Pamela wants Eugene for it. Princess believes that if Eugene is caught, the soldiers will kill him.

Princess points out that when she was on her own, she was losing her mind and scaring off anyone who came her way. But Eugene believed in her and accepted Princess for who she was, no judgments. Bad people don’t do that. That’s not entirely true. The first thing Princess did when she saw Eugene, Ezekiel, and Yumiko was greet them like they were the first people she’d met in years.

Whatever. Anyway, Eugene didn’t know any of this would happen. It still did, and Princess can’t change that. Mercer has to look out for his family, and he says that Eugene will get a trial. Princess asks what the point of the Commonwealth is if a good man is put to death. Before Mercer can answer that, a soldier informs him that Max has been spotted.

Variant- Aaron talks to Lydia about his past relationship with Eric- AMC, The Walking Dead

Back at the renaissance fair that time forgot, Aaron offers Lydia a chance to rest so she can do the later shift with Elijah. But she’s fine. Aaron asks if everything is good between the two of them, and Lydia tells Aaron that there was a moment that brought back memories of Henry. She doesn’t think that she can love someone again.

Aaron talks about his past marriage. You remember Eric, right? He doesn’t talk much about it because, like anyone else, he moved on. The two met and had an instant connection in D.C. Eric asked him out that night, and Aaron said no. Rude. He even kept saying no for six months. Still rude. Aaron thought he was too busy or wasn’t ready, or maybe just afraid. Soon enough, he said yes.

Their time together in Alexandria was the happiest moment of Aaron’s life. After Eric died, Aaron thought he’d give anything to take back one of those no’s so they could have one more day together. Aaron tells Lydia that loss is inevitable. Always has been. The only thing they can control is when they say yes. Like Aaron didn’t do for six months.

Variant- Walker at the gate- AMC, The Walking Dead

Meanwhile, a walker is at the gate…

Variant- Rosita watches as Max is captured- AMC, The Walking Dead

Max sneaks through an alley and into a clearing where she spots Rosita. Nothing suspicious about that. When Rosita motions for Max to get back because of approaching soldiers, she runs back towards the alley…and into the custody of more soldiers.

Variant- Mercer presents Max with a confession for her to sign- AMC, The Walking Dead

Mercer presents Max with a written confession that needs to be her words. She also suffered from bouts of depression and recently stopped taking her medication. In her confusion and paranoia, she manipulated recordings to slander the Miltons and cause chaos. Her actions were immoral. Eventually, Mercer cuts Max off and tells her to just sign it. She gets a pardon, while Eugene gets the blame.

But Max couldn’t stand being a part of something rotten. She brings up that Eugene stopped Sebastian from killing her. Mercer warns Max that she’ll be executed for treason. He’s trying to save her, but Max is trying to save the Commonwealth. She says something their dad used to say: speak truth, no matter the cost. Even as a general, he never forgot his responsibility as a citizen.

She thinks Dad would’ve liked Eugene. Not to mention he’d have been ashamed of Mercer. Still, Max won’t sign the confession.

Variant- Eugene acts like he's going to fight Daryl- AMC, The Walking Dead

Daryl catches Eugene looking out of a window as he monitors troop activity. Eugene is tired of sitting on the sidelines, but if he wants to leave, he’ll have to go past Daryl. Eugene’s a tough guy when he wants to be, sure, but when he puts up his dukes for a good old fist fight, Daryl doesn’t flinch. They both know how this would end anyway. Daryl even challenges Eugene to try, but Eugene just lowers his fists.

Eugene notices that Daryl doesn’t try to stop him from leaving, but Daryl knows that Eugene isn’t going anywhere. Not because Eugene’s a coward, but because he’s smart. Eugene admits that he’s always relied on others to survive. He only made it this far because of his lie. It’s his only good skill. Eugene asks Daryl if he thinks people are born brave or if they become it. Daryl, ever the indecisive, says it’s both.

Make up your mind, Mr. Dixon!

Variant- Ezekiel reminds Princess that he's not leaving the Commonwealth- AMC, The Walking Dead

Ezekiel, meanwhile, confirms to Princess that the others are working to smuggle out Eugene. She figures Eugene can hide for a bit until the Commonwealth gets bored of him. Ezekiel reminds Princess that he’s not leaving, even after what the Commonwealth wants to do to Eugene. If anything, that gives him even more incentive to stay. Eugene and Max showed that people want change.

What better time to fight for it than when the powers that be are frightened. Princess, though, doesn’t feel like fighting. She believes the seedy underbelly of the Commonwealth sucks and might not be worth fighting for. Ezekiel asks Princess if she believes Mercer is a good man. She does, but she’s known many good guys who didn’t turn out to be good men.

Though Ezekiel hasn’t always agreed with Mercer, he knows that people are trying to make the best of what’s in front of them. Mercer might be doing the same. Fair, but Princess believes she deserves more than just the best of a bad situation. That much Ezekiel can agree with. Still, he has no intention of leaving. Whatever Princess decides, Ezekiel will be there.

Variant- Pamela blames Lance for Sebastian's death- AMC, The Walking Dead

Pamela pays Lance a visit, as he hoped she would. He has a lot to say, but what matters most is that she’s here. Pamela is too focused on Sebastian and blames Lance for his death. After all, his people killed eight workers, which turned them to rotters. Then they were released on the public. True, but Lance needed to get Pamela’s intention. He never intended for Sebastian to die. Lance just took a gamble.

Lance and Sebastian had their difference, but Lance was always there for him. When Sebastian needed people for his side projects, Lance helped because Sebastian was Pamela’s son. Pamela strokes Lance’s face before pinching the nerve on his collarbone. Lance blames this on the newcomers from the other communities. The dissent and chaos started when they arrived.

Unless they’re controlled by someone who knows how to handle them, they won’t stop until they’ve taken everything. Okay, so what to do with Lance? Pamela goes through his pocket and pulls out his coin. She puts it in one hand and then puts both behind her back. If Lance picks the right one, he gets to live. If he loses? Well, you know what happens. Lance picks Pamela’s left hand, which ends up being the correct pick.

Variant- Lance sees Sebastian as a walker- AMC, The Walking Dead

Pamela returns Lance’s coin as Lance promises to do better. He’s 100 percent at the Milton family’s disposal. That much Pamela knows. The guards bring in Sebastian’s reanimated body. As Lance is at the Milton family’s disposal, this walker is all that’s left. The guards bring in a fresh corpse, cut Lance loose, and leave him a blade. As the body is still warm, Lance has to feed Sebastian.

From one governor to the next.

Variant- Princess tells Mercer why she has to leave- AMC, The Walking Dead

Mercer catches Princess before she leaves so they can talk. He doesn’t want her to leave. He’s doing everything in his power to make sure Eugene doesn’t die. Princess loves Mercer, and even though the Commonwealth isn’t perfect, nothing’s been easy for her. Before all of this, it wasn’t easy. We go over Princess’ history and her mom remarrying, so new dad and evil stepbrother acted like her Dad.

Mom just let it happen just to keep hew husband around. Princess raised hell in response. So new Dad and brother tie her up and put her in a closet when she acted out. They even took turns beating her. All the while, she just heard them saying that it could that it could be worse.

To Princess? Fuck that thinking. Well, nice of them to give Princess an F-bomb. You can really hear Paola Lázaro emphasize the “F” when she says “Fuck.” Anyway, Princess believes that it could and should be better. Right now, the Commonwealth is starting to look like her stepfather.

If she sits by and watches, that makes Princess her mother, who probably wasn’t a Queen. So Princess has to leave. Because of what happened to her, when she sees a man, she sees a monster. She’s seen them like that long before they were dying and coming back as actual monsters. She knows that isn’t Mercer.

Take that last part and you almost have a great scene.

Variant- Lydia and Aaron keep watch- AMC, The Walking Dead

Aaron and Lydia continue their watch when they hear a creaking sound in the distance. Aaron tells Lydia that they triple-checked everything and all the doors are locked. It’s probably just the wind. But the creaking doesn’t stop. They decided to do another sweep when they spot walkers exiting one of the homes.

Variant- Walker grabs Lydia's weapon- AMC, The Walking Dead

They start taking them, but when Lydia puts her staff through one of the walkers, the walker grabs it instead of going down. Lydia and Aaron fall back as Elijah arrives.

Variant- Jerry is a badass with a sword- AMC, The Walking Dead

Also, apparently Jerry got really badass with a sword at some point offscreen? When the hell did that happen? Did Michonne give him lessons before she left?

The four head into one of the homes as the herd advances. As they four wonder how the walkers got in the walls, they notice the door knob turning. The door opens, but Jerry slams it shut. For good reason, Aaron believes these are Whisperers. He tells Elijah and Lydia to get on the roof.

Variant- On the roof to escape the walkers- AMC, The Walking Dead

All four end up on the roof and find a clearing where they could jump down, but there’s still the matter of Jerry’s knee. It’s too risky, but Aaron tells Lydia and Elijah to jump down and flank the walkers on one side. Aaron can go down to help separate the Whisperers from the rest of the herd.

Variant- Aaron puts down the variant walker- AMC, The Walking Dead

A walker climbs to the roof and grabs a rock, but Aaron fights it off. He beats the walker’s head in, convinced that this is a Whisperer. He even rips off what he believes is a mask, but no. He gets a skull instead. This is no Whisperer. The two are stunned as Jerry asks how the hell a walker could even do that.

Variant- Jerry and Aaron talk about the walker variant- AMC, The Walking Dead

The next day, with the walkers put down, Aaron and Jerry wonder about the climbing walker. Aaron points out that they’ve seen walkers that come back to the places they remember. Aaron’s heard stories about walkers that climb walls and open doors, but he was never sure if they were just stories. There could be other kinds, too.

As Lydia and Elijah load up, the two have a quick kiss before everyone departs. Aaron brings up Jerry’s one-sided conversation from yesterday and believes that this place is fit for King Jerry. Even Queen Nabila, too.

Variant- Eugene tells Rosita that he's staying to make sure Max is safe- AMC, The Walking Dead

Over at the Commonwealth, Rosita returns to the church to tell Eugene that she was too late to help Max, who is now in police custody. She’s not coming. With the patrol shift about to start, Daryl’s ready to leave, but Eugene is staying put.

Daryl heads out, giving Rosita and Eugene a chance to talk. Eugene’s path leads elsewhere. He at least wants to try to save Max. It’s not logical, but love rarely is. If he leaves, there won’t be any life worth living. Being with Max has made Eugene better and he doesn’t see a path without her. He goes where she is or ends up who he was. Eugene reminds Rosita that she told him that he’d his special someone.

Variant- Eugene and Rosita hug- AMC, The Walking Dead

He didn’t believe it, but he trusted Rosita because he always does. Now, Eugene has found that person. He needs Rosita to trust him and let him go. He also gives Rosita his pendant to give to Coco. The two hug in what they must believe will be their last encounter.

Variant- Eugene surrenders to the Commonwealth authorities- AMC, The Walking Dead

Why? Because following this, Eugene heads to the authorities and surrenders himself. He confesses that made a recording of Sebastian and played it at the Founders Day celebration. He also confesses to causing Sebastian’s death. When Mercer asks if there’s anything else, there is: Eugene acted alone. Max may have been present, but had nothing to do with any of it.

Mercer tells the soldiers to take Eugene. He’s soon put in a cell while Mercer breaks the news to a stunned Max.

Variant- Rosita fights off two intruders- AMC, The Walking Dead

Rosita packs up and is ready to hit the road, Jack. However, she’s interrupted by two men who eventually get a bag over her head as the episode comes to a close.

So in the real world, we’ve got virus variants, while in the world of The Walking Dead, we have walker variants.

Walking Dead- Morgan's wife at the door

I want to start there because it’s an interesting idea. This series has had walkers in the past do things that seemed human, like Morgan’s walker wife turning a doorknob, or the little girl walker that picked up her teddy bear. Both of these instances occurred in the pilot and we haven’t seen actions like that since then. But the notion that walkers can come back to places they remember presents an interesting X-factor.

Variant- Aaron horrified after seeing the walker variant- AMC, The Walking Dead

One that I don’t expect the series to fully explore at this point near the end, but interesting nonetheless. Also, it makes sense that Aaron would assume this is a Whisperer. Those people were hiding in walker skins and seeing ‘walkers’ run or dodge attacks helped highlight the new threat the protagonists face.

Variant- Walker variant picks up rock- AMC, The Walking Dead

The Whisperers are yesterday’s news, but there will always be a sense of unease that the walker coming towards you is just a human in walker skin. How else do you explain a walker climbing a ladder or picking up a rock? Otherwise, the sequence at the renaissance fair was fine. I wish more had been done with the location, but it does set up a potential second Kingdom for King Jerry.

Variant- Aaron remembers Eric- AMC, The Walking Dead

Aaron’s advice for Lydia in seizing the moment with someone she likes was nice. He’s learned from the many times he turned down Eric to take advantage because who would’ve imagined that Eric would die in battle? That’s a lot of missed time since then and even more missed time from all the instances of Aaron rejecting Eric’s advance.

Variant- Elijah and Lydia kiss- AMC, The Walking Dead

So it’s fine for her to take a chance on love. Nice of her to still remember Henry, but live in the moment because you never know when the end will come. I’m still curious how Elijah and Lydia became a thing off-screen, but it’s not imperative that everything is spelled out. Also, like the Rick and Sophia mentions last time, the talk of Henry and Eric feel more organic than how much the series has reminded us of Glenn.

Variant- Max won't throw Eugene under the bus- AMC, The Walking Dead

Let’s talk about loyalty, though. The Commonwealth, like Alexandria and even Woodbury, seemed too good to be true. Some of the residents know that, and the main characters are always hesitant, so they could smell it from a mile away. But people like Mercer still have their loyalty to the community. Same with Max, and they don’t like it, but they’re trying to bring about change.

Variant- Max and Mercer talk about the Commonwealth- AMC, The Walking Dead

They know the Commonwealth needs to improve. But to just abandon their home is a drastic move. They toe the line.

Variant- Mercer tells Rosita that Eugene needs to turn himself in- AMC, The Walking Dead

Take Mercer’s conversation with Rosita. He knows her ability and respects her as a fighter- such as she is. Rosita knows this. But there’s still an order to things and Mercer is a soldier trying to keep things from falling apart. God knows the Miltons won’t do that.

Variant- Max tells Mercer that Eugene saved her- AMC, The Walking Dead

Yet, for Max, sometimes you have to say fuck toeing the line and go with your heart. It’s why she won’t sign the confession saying she was responsible for Sebastian’s death and why she believes her father would be ashamed of Mercer. It’s why Ezekiel prefers to stay and make the change at the Commonwealth instead of going home.

Variant- Eugene tells Rosita to let him go- AMC, The Walking Dead

I think that’s part of what Eugene likes about her. Him giving himself is one of the most selfless things he’s done. He’s putting himself at risk and though he has a deep friendship with Rosita, he’s developed something special with Max. Damn the consequences, Eugene would sacrifice himself to ensure Max’s safety. Eugene may have started out as a liar, but he’s become a hero.

Variant- Daryl and Eugene talk about bravery- AMC, The Walking Dead

Daryl said it’s possible to be born brave and become brave, which is true. You might be born with that inherit ability to do the right thing, but that can develop over time. Daryl himself is a product of that. He was a bit of a rough guy who certainly wasn’t Rick’s best friend, but he also put his neck out to look for Sophia, and look at where he is now. Bravery is born, but you can develop it as well.

Hell, look at Merle. An asshole who said and did a lot of shit, but he proved his worth when he took on the Governor, even though he knew he could die.

Variant- Pamela asks Lance to pick- AMC, The Walking Dead

Lance has been out for himself, but now he must show his loyalty to Pamela in order to save his own ass. Pamela does see something in Lance, but she still needs to make an example. Though having Eugene as the fall guy may not be enough to satisfy her need to punish someone.

After all, she’s still want something to be done about the newcomers. Will she get her vengeance? We’ll see.

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