It always comes back to family in the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead.
The episode begins with Judith narrating about being a Grimes, what Michonne told her, and giving Rick’s hat to RJ.
Don’t care! Anyway, the episode begins proper in Alexandria as Tyler Davis explains to Gabriel that children without parents would be taken to the city’s children’s home. He doesn’t know where that is, but can find out. As everyone loads up, Negan asks Maggie how she plans to take out Pamela. He believes that none of them are safe as long as Pamela is alive, and he knows that Maggie agrees with him.
Together, Negan says that he and Maggie can get this done before heading into their spinoff- I mean, they don’t need the others. Maggie, though, doesn’t see a partnership between the two of them. Instead, she goes to comfort Hershel while Annie promises Negan to hold down the fort while he’s gone. He just has to come back alive is all. Shouldn’t be too hard to do, right?
Judith also wants to go, and she tells Daryl that this isn’t the future that Carl wanted. It’s also not what her Mom and Dad fought for. Not yet, anyway. What they’re doing could help everybody everywhere, and she wants to be a part of that. While everyone has been focused on the present, Carol notes that Judith is thinking of the future.
Maybe they could all do that. Daryl concedes, but he wants Judith to stay where he can see her. Why do I feel like Judith’s going to regret this? Anyway, now RJ will be in Nabila’s care.
Over at the Commonwealth, Mercer brings Eugene to an elated Max and Yumiko. Even though they lost in court, Yumiko knows that the people are angry enough and just need to be pushed past the tipping point. Before that can happen, Mercer needs to find enough troops willing to flip on Pamela. Right now, Yumiko and Max need to keep getting the people fired up. As for Eugene, he needs to keep his ass out of sight.
On the train, Rosita goes through a plan to move the prisoners into hiding and hopefully getting Mercer on their side to take out Pamela. This will be in the lower ward instead of the estates, as the estates would have more money and, as a result, more patrols. Gabriel is confident that they’ll rescue Coco.
Magna, Connie, and Kelly express their thanks to Tyler and sympathy for how the Commonwealth has treated him. He wanted Pamela to hear him, but he admits that he shouldn’t have hurt people. Pamela may not have listened to him, but soon enough, the people in the Commonwealth will.
Tyler Davis sure is getting a lot of screen time. I hope nothing bad happens to him…
At the Commonwealth, the people remain in uproar in the aftermath of the verdict. Pamela can’t believe that Mercer has no idea how Eugene escaped, but he clearly had help. It will take down to narrow down a suspect, as there have been reports of people going missing in the Commonwealth for awhile. They don’t have answers, but maybe they’ll get lucky this time. Pamela just wants Mercer to do his job.
When Mercer leaves, Pamela tells the other soldier to keep an eye on him. She wants a door-to-door search for Eugene. If he’s found, shoot on sight. She has a plan to deal with the crowd. For now, she can throw them a bone, but if things escalate, there are options to deal with it. Pamela then radios to B17.
On the road, Commonwealth soldiers continue leading a massive herd. Aaron and the others try to use this opportunity to break off into the trees, but another soldier arrives on motorcycle with a herd following him. So no chance for the survivors to break away. The soldiers and herd slowly but surely inch their way towards the Commonwealth…
Back on the train, Negan thanks Ezekiel for getting in front of the rifles, but also asks why he did it. For Ezekiel, it’s easy for Negan to die as a martyr. Living and making something positive out of his days would keep Ezekiel from giving into anger over what he lost.
Again, Jared shot Benjamin, not Negan. Ezekiel doesn’t want to live out the rest of his days in bitterness.
The dead came for Ezekiel, yet he smiled. Same with the war, if you can call it that. Cancer even came for him, yet he smiles. Ezekiel asks why did Negan give himself up to the warden instead of Ezekiel’s? Negan did it for his wife and kid, so he’d leave a better story about him than the one Ezekiel’s told. So that when it mattered, he did something right and it wasn’t to prove anything or even save his own ass.
It was to save others. Negan admits that the others are better than him, and he knows that.
Judith, meanwhile, tells Daryl that she hasn’t heard from her mother in a long time. Carol comforts Judith by saying that Michonne can take care of herself better than anyone she’s ever known. So we’re just ignoring all the stuff Rick’s done? Daryl tells Judith that her family would be proud of her. Judith believes that Carl died saving people, and not as the result of bad decisions by producers.
She wishes that she had more time to spend with Carl. Don’t we all? She also wants more time to just remember them, but unfortunately, there’s only one more episode to go. Daryl plans to tell Judith all the stories about the people who loved her, though I’m sure he’ll omit Shane from that.
To keep up appearances, Mercer questions Yumiko about Eugene’s disappearance. If she knew, she’d be with him. Then another soldier informs Mercer that someone named Aurora is trying to raise him on the radio.
Turns out that Aurora is Princess, so Mercer switches to another channel. She learns that Eugene is fine and informs Mercer that she’s on a train with prisoners that Pamela and Lance made disappear. Also, they’re taking down Pamela. Mercer’s on board, but he needs the prisoners brought to him. They’re witnesses and he’d then have legal grounds to remove Pamela.
As an alarm goes off due to a swarm approaching from the east, Mercer directs Princess to head to an old access tunnel under the west wall that leads up into Union Station. The basement entrance is guarded, but he can meet them there.
Aaron and company continue in the herd when they spot an RV. I’ve gotta say, these guys have perfected the art of whispering among the dead. In another life, they could’ve been Whisperers right alongside Lydia.
As everyone moves to the RV, Jules gets separated, so Luke goes after her. Elijah also gets stopped, so Lydia stupidly puts her arm out to rescue Elijah, only to get bitten in the process. It’s all for naught because Elijah is still separated anyway.
As some walkers bang on the RV door, Jerry and Aaron immediately know what they have to do: that arm’s gotta go!
But enough about that! Back at the Commonwealth, lockdown procedures are once again initiated. Mercer informs Max that the soldiers are being sent out to divert the approaching herd. Max realizes this is what Pamela did before: using a swarm as an excuse to clear the streets. That doesn’t change the goal. Everyone has to report home, including Max. She’ll have to wait until the swarm is cleared.
Mercer realizes that the one Commonwealth guard from before is eyeing him. He tells Max that he was supposed to meet Princess and the others, but if he can get them in, Max and Yumiko will have to meet them at Union Station. As the soldiers load up, Mercer tells Max to keep the others hidden until he returns.
Lydia cares more about Elijah than her damn arm, but Aaron reminds Lydia that Elijah will lose her anyway if they don’t do something about the bite. Aaron also tells Lydia that, remembering his own experience, this is the hardest part. Jerry gets his sword and brings it down on Lydia’s arm.
Well, that sucks. Anyway, the others have finally arrived at the Commonwealth and wait for Mercer, but they’re running low on time. Carol opts to find another way in. Maggie thinks they can take the four Commonwealth guards, but that will raise suspicions if the guards go missing. Two guards hear noise and approach the bushes, but they’re called away to the East Gate. This includes Tunnel H.
Indeed, the soldiers depart, leaving an opening for the others to head for the access tunnel.
Pamela receives a transmission from the soldier sent to keep an eye on Mercer: nothing unusual yet. He just pulled additional backup to deal with the horde. Where did he take them from, though? Sector 7, Processing, and Tunnel H. Pamela appears to have an epiphany, but she tells the soldier that she doesn’t want any guards recalled.
As Mercer works to redirect the soldiers, one walker climbs onto one of the vans. Mercer hears gunfire ring out over the radio. He looks in the distance and sees one of the trucks overturned, so he orders all units to fall back. He tells the nearby soldiers to armor up to deal with this herd before it hits the Commonwealth.
The mandatory search hits Eugene’s location, so when he opens the door, he beats the hell out of the soldier with a flashlight. Ouch.
As Lydia awakens and contemplates her future in the One-Armed Club, she still wants to go and find Elijah. Aaron and Jerry warn her to take it easy since she’s lost a lot of blood, but she’s adamant about finding the others since you don’t leave your friends behind. Jerry decides he’ll go look for the others- alone. Lydia needs a doctor anyway. He heads out, and I’m just wondering if he took his sword with him.
The others arrive inside Union Station and find it quiet. And empty. And the doors have been locked shut. Good thing that Tyler Davis and the others were on the frontlines because they’re gunned down first instead of any important characters.
Could you make it any more obvious, show?
Vickers, the soldier told to watch Mercer, arrives to arrest him for treason. Mercer does surrender, but warns Vickers to fortify the walls because something is going on that’s bigger than Pamela’s bullshit. Though Pamela believes the walls will hold, we’ll see how true that is.
A whole lot of nothing happens in this shootout until Pamela grabs a man’s rifle and trains it on Maggie. Judith rushes to get Maggie out of the way, and she ends up getting shot as a result.
It’s like Dawn shooting Beth all over again. Daryl rushes to Judith’s side and tells everyone that they’ve gotta go. He tells Ezekiel to throw a nearby fire extinguisher, and when Ezekiel does, Daryl fires.
In the ensuing smokescreen, everyone escapes while, outside, Eugene knocks out a guard just as Max and Yumiko join him. Everyone inside makes their way out.
At the same time, Commonwealth soldiers request backup to deal with the growing swarm. One soldier notices walkers, to his surprise, climbing the walls. He shoots one down, but another gets him from behind. In the chaos, he pushes the lever that opens the gate because of course he does.
Vickers informs Pamela that the perimeter has been breached and rotters are inside the gates. Pamela is confused, as this was supposed to just be a lockdown, but she’s surprised to learn that the dead are climbing the walls. Vickers shows Pamela a map and informs her that they can stem the spread and save a portion of the city, but it’s a long shot.
Instead, Pamela wants all forces pulled back to the Estates and additional troops at her home and the surrounding area. Also, divert the swarm to the lower wards to buy the soldiers time to gather essential personnel. Vickers points out that this would leave thousands of citizens unprotected, but Pamela is adamant that the estates are protected. Everything else is to be sealed off.
Ezekiel leads everyone towards the clinic, but they’re suddenly cut off on all sides by the Commonwealth soldiers. However, the soldiers aren’t pursuing them: they’re just sealing them in. Indeed, they’re leading the walkers into the surrounding area to trap the survivors.
If that wasn’t enough, these folks have their first encounter with the variants as they spot a walker climb atop a vehicle. Luke and Jules arrive- somehow- while everyone makes their way towards an alley.
Swarmed on all sides, everyone fights their way through and clears a path for Daryl to continue on with Judith, who utters the word “Daddy.” Daryl continues onward while the dead swarm the others as the episode comes to a close.
The walls are literally closing in on the penultimate episode of the series. As lackluster and uneven as I’ve felt Season 11 is, “Family” wasn’t too bad. Dare I say, it was pretty good with some heightened tension, the characters still separated, the walker herd approaching, and the X factor of the walker variant.
The theme of family resonated throughout. For Judith, she has an opportunity to continue her family’s legacy. She’s still a child, but like Carl, she’s ready to fight not just to protect the present, but save the future. Rick told Carl that everything he did was for him. The same is true for Judith now looking out for RJ. She’s fighting to make the world a better place for those that come after her.
So for her to get shot near the end of the episode was a pretty big deal. I’m positive she’ll pull through because, again, this isn’t Game of Thrones, but in the moment it’s still huge for Daryl. Here is this kid who he’s taken in as his own, a child who has grown up in this world and has all of Rick and Michonne’s attributes, and now her life is on the line.
I will commend the show for at least having a gutsy move like Judith being shot at all. Unlike the comic, the show does pull its punches when it comes to killing or harming children, which I get. So even though I’m beyond certain that Judith will live to see another day, it’s still a moment that I didn’t expect. Then again, characters on this show who are optimistic about the future often have danger in their immediate future.
As the series continued, these characters have become a family, whether through their own blood or through the ones they’ve forged. They’re willing to do any and everything to protect one another. Ezekiel didn’t believe Negan was one of those people, but after last time, he sees that Negan is equally willing to put himself on the line for others. It further proves that Negan is a changed man.
Again, the fact that there’s a Negan and Maggie spinoff in the works shows that they’ll get out of this series fine, so I’m not worried about their fates. But it’s good for others to see Negan risking his life to protect theirs.
Lydia, meanwhile, has no immediate family left with her mother dead and the Whisperers all but gone. The survivors have taken her in and care for her as they do the others. Aaron and Jerry protect Lydia as if she was their own and remind her that she’s still loved. Dumb to put her arm out there when she’s flanked by walkers on all sides, but hey, at least she made an attempt to reach Elijah.
Nice callback to have Aaron be the one to calm Lydia’s nerves. He knows what it’s like to lose an arm. Granted, his got crushed and he wasn’t bitten, but it was a painful moment nonetheless. So it’s nice for Aaron in particular to be here and understand exactly the kind of pain Lydia experienced. Also good that they got the arm off before it was too late.
Pamela knows at this point that Mercer has crossed her, but she’s dug in too deep to fall back. Now, she’ll just go down fighting and saving her own ass. She wants all resources protecting only the most privileged and is fine sacrificing the lower wards to the dead. Sebastian’s death might have been the turning point for her, but accidentally shooting Judith could be the point of no return.
This is why I bring up Dawn accidentally shooting Beth. Obviously Dawn didn’t mean to do that- Rick even said as much afterward- but Pamela shooting Judith isn’t something she can just walk back from, even if Judith survives. She blames it on these newcomers, even though she pulled the trigger. Now she’s ready to box in all unnecessary elements and leave them to fend for themselves as the dead approach.
Speaking of the dead, even though I wish the walker variants were introduced earlier, they’re still a big X factor for the others who haven’t seen them yet. Not only are walkers approaching from all sides, but now you’ve got walkers who can climb and grab objects? More than that, they aren’t Whisperers? How the hell do you deal with that?
So Judith is injured, the dead have closed in on the Commonwealth, and our survivors have yet to all reunite. The stakes are indeed high as we had into the final episode of The Walking Dead. You never know. Maybe Oceanside will save the day with surprise Molotov cocktails again. Heaven forbid. Either way, a pretty solid episode as we head into the end of The Walking Dead.
See you all for the series finale.