It’s been a while since part one of The Walking Dead‘s final season concluded. Here’s what you need to know as we head into part two:
- Maggie led a mostly successful assault on the Reaper‘s compound (her former home of Meridian) via the Whisperer method of zombie wrangling. They also got a huge assist from Daryl working as their man on the inside.
- Leah finally figured out that Pope was evil and killed him. Instead of rejoining Daryl, however, she frames him for the murder and took over the Reapers. She then turned a rocket launcher toward Maggie, Negan, and Elijah. Gabriel wasn’t in the line of fire, but this turn of events didn’t bode well for him, either.
- Back in Alexandria, low food rations, collapsing city walls, and a fire had made things extremely dangerous. While a large group of main characters struggled to keep everyone alive, Judith and Aaron’s daughter Gracie found themselves trapped in a basement about to be flooded with water and walkers.
- Over in the Commonwealth, Eugene gave Governor Milton‘s son Sebastian a well-deserved punch to the face. Unfortunately, this landed our mulleted hero in jail, which allowed Deputy Governor Hornsby to coerce Alexandria’s location from him. In the meantime, Yumiko’s brother Tomi was imprisoned for no discernible reason. We also still have the whole fake Stephanie thing going on, but who knows when that’ll get resolved.
This week, all three of these plot lines will be explored in ways that are much more interesting/explosive than The Walking Dead typically pulls off — especially for an episode that’s technically “midseason.”
As always, the recap portion of this review will contain plenty of spoilers. The sequence of events has also been streamlined for the sake of clarity.
To the Finish
The episode opens right where things left off last season with rockets flying all over the place, many of them landing inside walkers and magnificently exploding their guts everywhere. Maggie finds a place to take cover, but is quickly discovered by one of the Reapers. They tussle for a bit before she’s saved when a rocket lodges into her assailant and blows him up.
Maggie runs inside a nearby building and crosses paths with Negan, who’s holding up a severely injured Elijah. She quickly locates the infirmary (it is her old stomping grounds after all), grabs some supplies, and hides everyone inside a secret room. Instead of patching up Elijah’s leg, however, she and Negan begin arguing about what to do next. Negan thinks it’s time to cut their losses and leave, but Maggie insists they wait and attack again the next day. She claims her plan is so they can rescue Daryl and Gabriel and not be followed home, but Negan is understandably skeptical of her true motivations.
Their argument is interrupted when Carver bursts into the infirmary looking for them. Maggie watches through a peephole as Leah tells him over his walkie that none of the people who attacked their base are getting out alive.
The next day, Gabriel tries to make a break for it and gets spotted by Austin. The Reaper is about to shoot him when Daryl runs in and knocks him off balance into a classroom. The pair proceed to engage in a brutal knife fight. Daryl wins and manages to hide just as Leah and Washington burst in to discover their teammate’s dead body.
Leah briefly grieves her fallen friend before declaring that no more Reapers will die that day. After they leave, Daryl reemerges and escapes in the opposite direction.
Meanwhile, Gabriel runs inside the compound and ends up in the chapel (of course), which just so happens to be occupied by Mancea, the Reaper’s priest.
As the two draw knives on each other, Mancea tells Gabriel that he knows God will stay his hand just like He did the other day. Gabriel is surprised that Mancea knew he was there, but is even more shocked to learn that the Reaper priest believes God speaks to him — especially when he serves a group that massacres people without remorse or provocation. Mancea admits he has his doubts, but still chooses to do what he believes to be the Lord’s bidding.
Gabriel decides he’s heard enough and tells the priest to step aside and let him pass. Mancea puts away his weapon and obliges, but not before accusing Gabriel of no longer hearing the voice of God. He asks his adversary if he’s willing to cut down another man of the cloth instead of potentially working together to bring both of their flocks a step closer to peace.
Mancea then declares that no one is above saving and offers his hand to Gabriel, who appears deeply affected by his fellow priest’s words. Upon hearing a gunshot outside, however, he shoves his blade into Mancea’s chest. As he sinks to the floor and dies, Gabriel expresses his disagreement about the whole “no one is above saving” thing and departs.
Elsewhere, Carver manages to track down Maggie and corners her in a hallway. When Negan and Elijah emerge from two nearby doors, it becomes clear that she was actually leading him into a trap.
Instead of panicking, Carver thanks the group for saving him some time and proceeds to kick all of their asses. Just when he’s about to kill Maggie (and right after dislocating Elijah’s knee) Negan uses an old school fire bell and some water he found to surprise Carver and knock him out.
I wish I was kidding.
After silently thanking Negan for saving her, Maggie attempts to give Elijah one of his kamas back to finish off Carver, allowing him to avenge the death of his sister. Instead of accepting the opportunity, he places the weapon back in her hand. She hesitates, but the decision is made for her when Carver starts to wake up.
She’s just about to stab him when Daryl bursts into the hallway and stops her. He knocks Carver out again and explains that instead of killing the Reaper lieutenant, they should use him as leverage for their escape. Maggie is skeptical of his motivations, but eventually agrees that it’s the right move despite Elijah’s protestations.
Daryl takes Carver’s walkie, radios Leah, and says that they need to talk.
A few minutes later, we see the group leading a bound and gagged Carver out of the compound despite the brain damage he would’ve likely suffered from back-to-back concussions. Elijah tells Maggie to leave him if they have to, but to make sure Carver still ends up dead. Maggie replies that they won’t leave him no matter what happens, which is dangerously close to a death sentence.
When Leah emerges from one of the buildings, Daryl demands that she and the rest of the Reapers put down their weapons. Leah counters they’ll do no such thing until she sees that Carver is still alive.
Daryl puts a knife at Carver’s throat and leads him out into her sightline. Upon seeing him, Leah steps out with Washington and Boone and asks what Daryl’s demands are. He tells the trio (who surely can’t be the only surviving Reapers) that they are to leave their weapons and head north without turning back. If he sees any of them, Carver dies.
Once the Alexandria group is far enough away, they’ll release Carver and allow him to escape.
Daryl then makes an impassioned plea for Leah to understand how wrong she and the Reapers are for the way they’re doing things. He also presents his demand as a way for both of them to save their respective families.
Instead of accepting his terms, Leah radios a sniper (Jenson) to fire a warning shot before demanding that Daryl’s group step out into the open. She also commands Daryl to lower his knife and cut Carver’s bindings, which he does after she begins telling Jenson to shoot Maggie.
Elijah is understandably furious at this turn of events. He attempts to hobble forward and avenge his sister despite Maggie and Leah’s warnings to stop, but ends up falling over. When Carver moves to kick him, a bullet from Jenson’s sniper position rips through his leg. Leah picks up her walkie to demand that Jenson explain himself only to be answered by Gabriel, who killed the sniper and now has the gun’s scope trained on her.
Leah tells Boone and Washington to stand down before asking Maggie if the deal Daryl negotiated is still good (HA!). Maggie replies that since Leah and her crew would have surely tried to kill them, she’ll have Gabriel do the same. Leah admits that Maggie is probably right, but she and her remaining Reapers could still take down a couple of them before it was all said and done.
Leah then turns the tables, asking Daryl for both of their families to be spared. Maggie agrees, telling them to drop their weapons and go. Leah demands that they be allowed to take Carter with them, but she refuses.
After the Reaper trio leaves, Maggie bends down next to Elijah, who begs her to take vengeance for all the people they lost. In what might be one of my absolute favorite moments of the series, Maggie calmly walks behind the Reapers and begins firing, mortally wounding Washington as Daryl screams at her to stop. A stunned Boone turns around only to get nailed right between the eyes. Leah attempts to flee but gets hit in the shoulder.
Maggie then walks back toward Carver, finishing off Washington along the way and ignoring Daryl’s angry demands for an explanation. As he runs to check on Leah, she fires at Carver only to discover that her gun is empty. He grasps for a nearby knife to defend himself, but is unable to reach it before she buries one of Elijah’s kamas in his chest.
*Side Note: There are a lot of reasons I love this scene, most of which I’ll delve into during the review portion of this article. In the meantime, I’d still like to point out how incredibly well shot and scored this entire sequence was.
Meanwhile, Daryl tracks Leah (who Maggie should have made sure to finish off) and figures out where she’s hiding via the blood leaking from her shoulder. He tells her that this isn’t what he wanted and they could have had a second chance before allowing her to leave.
*Side Note: BOOOOO!!!!
Later, Elijah gets his leg stabilized while the rest of the group takes supplies out of Meridian and loads them onto a horse drawn cart.
*Considering the zombie horde, fireworks, and barrage of gunfire, they must have found a horse that was either incredibly brave or completely deaf.
Maggie avoids eye contact with Daryl despite having absolutely nothing to be ashamed of/sorry for. Before we all start hating Daryl, however, he does find and reunite with Dog, which is definitely a point in his favor.
Maggie tells Gabriel that she needs to head out on her own and will catch up later. She then hugs Elijah goodbye before going to find Alden, who they’d previously left in a church when his injuries prevented him from continuing to Meridian.
Maggie enters the church and kills a walker only to find that her friend has been turned into a zombie, as well. With a heavy heart (and her hands way too close to his face), she drives a knife through Alden’s head before finally breaking down beside him.
Later, while she’s burying her friend, Negan unexpectedly saunters up holding a metal pipe. He tells her that he knew she’d always planned to kill the Reapers no matter what the circumstances were — a mindset he didn’t blame her for one bit. Unfortunately, it confirmed for him that no matter what promises were made, she was still going to find a way to kill him…and he wasn’t going to let her have that opportunity.
Maggie begins reach for her weapon, but the situation quickly diffuses when Negan declares that he’ll be going his own way and departs.
She catches up with the rest of the group that evening, interrupting a ridiculously introspective conversation between Daryl and Gabriel to deliver the bad news about Alden. She also vaguely tells them that Negan left.
Through the Storm
Over in Alexandria, Diane interrupts Rosita and Lydia’s zombie slaying to inform them that Judith and Gracie never made it upstairs. Unfortunately, the path to get to them is completely swarmed by walkers.
Meanwhile, the walkers menacing Judith and Gracie break through the door, forcing them back down into the flooded basement. Judith manages to protect her friend from an approaching zombie, but loses her mom’s katana blade in the process.
Back outside, Jerry tells Aaron that he thinks the windmill that was struck by lightning is lost. Even with the battering rain, they can’t stop the flames from consuming the structure. This presents Alexandria with a number of problems far more concerning than the lost of their rustic aesthetic. If the windmill falls, it would likely cause an even bigger breach in the the city’s already crumbling defenses.
Not ready to give up yet, Aaron calls in a group of main characters to see what their options are. Magna and Carol inform him that they can’t do anything about the windmill until one of the breaches on the wall has been found and sealed off. Connie volunteers to go with Magna to find the breach while the others work on putting out the fire.
As they’re about to get to work, Aaron hears Gracie blowing a whistle she has for emergencies and takes off to save her. He reaches the basement’s hopper window, sees his daughter (and Judith) about to get eaten, and jumps in like a total boss to save them. One of the walkers manages to pin him underwater, but he smashes its head before popping back up and boosting the girls to safety.
Unfortunately, Aaron’s act of heroism has also left him surrounded by water and zombies.
At some point during a commercial break, Aaron is somehow able to climb onto a pipe and begins inching his way back toward the hopper window. The pipe eventually breaks, but his main character antibodies prevent any of the zombies from grabbing and pulling him back into the water.
Meanwhile, Lydia climbs out an upstairs window and runs to the basement to check on Judith and Gracie. Upon seeing Aaron’s predicament, she gets a rope and somehow pulls him to safety. We don’t get to see how he managed to grab the rope and climb to the window without getting eaten, but whatever.
After Aaron confirms with Lydia the girls are safe, they share a moment before heading back to help the others.
Things must have gone well from that point on, because the next day Jerry announces to Carol that it’s “all quiet” as the sun shines down on Alexandria. Despite this miraculous turn of events, Carol is much more interested Maggie & Co. returning from their supply mission to Meridian, albeit with much fewer people than they started with. Everyone is thrilled to be reunited with their loved ones except for Lydia, who is bummed that Negan apparently decided to bail.
I suppose the friends and family of those who died on the Meridian mission would be sad as well, but we don’t see them.
This forgivable oversight is completely forgotten when Daryl sees Connie, drops a bucket of apples (c’mon man), and embraces her. Gabriel tells Aaron that Alden didn’t make it, but his sadness is mitigated by the fact that Alexandria’s residents won’t starve.
This brief moment of reckoning is interrupted when Jerry announces that something is headed toward the town. That something turns out to be a brigade of armed soldiers from the Commonwealth. Daryl and Maggie are about to lead an attack when Eugene runs out in front of the group and tells them that they’re here to help.
After entering the city, Eugene briefly recaps what he and his group have been up to before introducing Lance Hornsby. The Commonwealth’s Deputy Governor pledges to supply Alexandria with materials and labor to help them rebuild, but claims he has another offer that may interest them even more.
Before we can learn what that offer is (although it seems pretty obvious), the story fast forwards six months later. Maggie and Elijah stand at the gates to Hilltop, which is still in the process of being rebuilt. Maggie looks down at group of Commonwealth soldiers standing in front of her community. When a soldier in the front demands that they let them in, she replies that it doesn’t have to be this way.
The soldier takes off his helmet, revealing himself as Daryl and insisting that it does.
I’m not sure The Walking Dead has ever had an episode that so starkly portrays the series’ strongest and weakest aspects.
Let’s first dive into that scene with Maggie gunning down the Reapers. This wasn’t some fake out where Negan leaves her for dead only for them to have to face each other again like nothing happened. There were no magic dumpsters, no ridiculous changes of heart, and no cowardly resets to the status quo. Maggie straight up rejected the humane option to go with her baser (and arguably correct) instincts, all while Daryl screamed at her to stop.
It was an absolutely shocking and glorious moment…until she winged Leah and casually let her run away. There’s no way someone so murderously determined would just turn around after clearly not scoring a kill on the woman in charge of the Reapers.
It wasn’t enough to ruin the scene, but it certainly took some of the shine off it.
On the flip side of that dichotomy, the Alexandria subplot was about as painful/stupid as it gets. Just when we’re barely able to stand it anymore, however, we get a truly shocking and well-crafted conclusion via the appearance of Eugene and the Commonwealth detachment.
The entire episode is filled with great moments fighting against ones that are liable to make your eyes roll out of your head:
Great: Gabriel appearing to have a crisis of faith before burying his knife in Mancea’s chest.
Not Great: Negan defeating Carver by throwing water in his face after randomly finding an old fire bell.
Great: Gabriel taking out Leah’s sniper and turning the tables on the Reapers.
Not Great: Lydia and Aaron’s off-screen rope gambit.
Great: Maggie finding Alden and grieving for him.
Not Great: Daryl letting Leah go when he knows she’ll come looking for revenge.
Let’s talk about that last one because I know some of you aren’t going to agree. I also get where you’re coming from if you don’t. Even as a straight man who totally ships him with Connie, I definitely love me some Sensitive Daryl — especially when his heart is being filled or torn via his feelings for Leah.
But Daryl is also ruthlessly smart. There’s no way he would’ve let Leah go after seeing what she was capable of. I’m not saying he had to kill her, but he wouldn’t have just said “go before I change my mind” and walked off — even if it meant holding Maggie at bay while defending his injured former lover. The Daryl we know and love would’ve have confronted the situation head on. Instead, he’s now firmly on the hook for the extras and sole main character Leah’s likely to kill during her inevitable revenge subplot.
In an episode with some truly shocking moments (like what we saw with Maggie and Gabriel), Daryl’s decision was a contrived and painfully obvious plot set up. I’d like to note, however, that “obvious” isn’t synonymous with “bad.” None of us really thought Negan was going to throw down with Maggie before he left, but the scene was still incredibly well done. It had great dialogue, great tension, and (most importantly) it made sense.
Daryl’s decision wasn’t enough to ruin what was otherwise a great scene, but it was by far the weakest/laziest part of the narrative.
All that being said, “No Other Way” was still a strong opening to this batch of final season episodes. In addition to the aforementioned surprises, the production values and cinematography were somehow even better than usual.
You also gotta love that cliffhanger. Instead of a death fake out or something the main characters can/will clearly survive, we’re teased with what looks to be an incredibly interesting story. The path we’ll take to get there also lines up with the actions we just witnessed. Maggie proved that she has no problem going completely against the grain for what she believes in. Meanwhile, Daryl (for better or for worse) has proven that he’ll go far beyond what we’d expect from him when his deepest loyalties are involved.
Once again, Season eleven has me consistently looking forward to the next episode for the first time in years.
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