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The Walking Dead (AMC)
The Walking Dead (AMC)


‘The Walking Dead’ season 11 episode 12 ‘The Lucky Ones’ recap/review

Despite setting up some intriguing plotlines, ‘The Lucky Ones’ broke the series’ recent streak of strong episodes.

Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead revealed that the “Stephanie” who Eugene fell in love with was actually an agent working for Lieutenant Governor Hornsby named Shirah. Just as his world hit rock bottom, he was approach by the real Stephanie, who’d we’d previously known as Governor Milton‘s assistant, Max.

This bombshell revelation was accompanied by another: Max/Stephanie is actually Mercer‘s sister.

Speaking of the Commonwealth Army General, he appears to have joined Connie and Kelly in suspecting that something shady is going on within the city’s government. This possibility truly hits home when Tyler Davis (the Commonwealth Resistance member who held his sister at knifepoint) gets “disappeared” without his authorization or knowledge.

While all this was going on, Carol got a crash course in how ruthless Hornsby can be when it comes to making sure the Commonwealth keeps running. The lieutenant governor knows she doesn’t share his devotion to Governor Milton or the city’s well-being, but her desire to get Ezekiel moved up on the list to receive life saving surgery ensures she’ll continue helping him.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

This week, we get to see Eugene interact with the woman he’d actually been communicating with via radio before arriving in the Commonwealth. We’ll also get an inside look at how Hornsby and Milton regard the other Walking Dead communities and what their plans are for them.

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.

Double Take

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The episode opens with Stephanie walking us through a flashback, starting with how she was able to communicate with Eugene.

After finding ham radio parts in a dumpster, she rebuilds it, which leads to the start of her serendipitous connection with Eugene back in Season 10. From there, we witness two of their sweetest and most critical conversations, this time from Stephanie’s perspective.

Things take a turn when her brother (Mercer) discovers that she’s been communicating with someone outside the city. As if that weren’t bad enough, he’d actually been charged with investigating the very same “communications breach” that led to her and Eugene agreeing to meet.

Stephanie knew that her brother wouldn’t turn her in, but she also realized that meeting up with Eugene just became an impossible task.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Later, Stephanie was shocked and heartbroken to see Eugene appear in the Commonwealth alongside another woman using her name and voice. This leads to a heart wrenching replay of their first meeting from Stephanie’s crestfallen perspective.

*Side Note: I’m not too sure about the “voice” part, but let’s just roll with it.

After seeing how happy Eugene seemed, she decided to keep her head down and not say anything. That all changes, however, during a chance encounter in Governor Milton’s office. As she’s leaving to get some ice cream for her boss, Hornsby excitedly bursts in to reveal some new intel he’s gathered about Alexandria.

Unfortunately, the door closes before she can learn exactly what his plans are.

*Side Note: Although it’s not critical to the current storyline, it was great hearing Milton talk to Max/Stephanie about how awful her son is. Cutting off Sebastian‘s credit clearly wasn’t enough to change his behavior, but at least we know her maternal blindspot has its limits.

We then jump back to the present, where Stephanie admits to Eugene that she doesn’t know what Hornsby’s plans are for Alexandria. She also confesses that her real name is Max. This final revelation is too much for Eugene, who can’t bear to hear anymore lies or deception.

He storms away, leaving Max alone and guilty over the pain she’s caused him.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Later, Rosita sees Eugene by himself at a park and sits down beside him. He’s happy to see her, but clearly upset about something. After a bit of prodding, he finally reveals that his missing girlfriend had actually just ghosted him (without any of the other unsavory details). He also ties how awful he feels to a renewed sense of guilt over the lies he told Rosita about himself when they first met.

*Side Note: I totally hadn’t thought about that in a long time, nor how how it parallels his current situation in some ways. Also, good on Eugene for recognizing that.

Rosita gives her friend a hug before assuring him that he’ll find his person one day. This may sound like boiler plate words of encouragement after a breakup, but you can tell it means a lot to him coming from her.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Later, Eugene goes to visit Max, who has the audacity to be terse with him for his rude behavior. Never mind how she lied to him and allowed the whole Shira/Stephanie thing to happen.

But I digress…Max also points out that Eugene should have been able to tell that Shira wasn’t her, especially after everything they shared with each other over the radio (which is a good point). Eugene responds by explaining that he’s never been good with interpersonal relationship — especially romantic ones. A part of him was worried that what they shared might’ve all been in his head. When he arrived in the Commonwealth and “Stephanie” didn’t push him away, he was more than willing to believe her about everything — even if it was too good to be true.

Eugene then asks Max if she’s willing to forgive him. Max responds that she isn’t sure. Eugene takes this as his cue to leave, but is stopped when she asks him about his novel. As the pair talk, they begin to laugh and enjoy each other’s company again like before.

Earned Blessing

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

During what he believes to be a routine check up, Ezekiel (and Jerry) are surprised to learn that Tomi will be performing surgery on him that week to remove the tumor from his neck. He’s also informed that the expensive procedure has already been paid for.

Jerry is thrilled at the news, but Ezekiel is both confused and wary of how this turn of good fortune came about.

Later, when Carol comes to visit, Ezekiel tells her about what happened. Upon seeing her reaction, he immediately sniffs out that she was the one who got him to the top of the list. Despite the whole “potentially not dying” thing, he’s furious at being unwittingly placed above so many others who need help.

Carol admits it was her (via favor she was owed from Hornsby), but makes no apologies. Milton would certainly do the same for her douchebag son, so why shouldn’t a good man like Ezekiel have a miracle thrown his way?

Carol also points out that he doesn’t deserve to die just because of a broken medical system when there’s a way to potentially save his life. Her argument must have been enough to sway him, because the next time we see Ezekiel, he’s getting prepped for surgery with her and Jerry by his side.

Calm Defiance

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

As a military convoy heads toward Alexandria, Hornsby and Governor Milton discuss things from the comfort of a luxuriously modified armored vehicle. Hornsby tells her that the people of Alexandria are perfect for “what they have planned,” but Milton isn’t convinced. She points out that growing an empire too far from its base of power is a good way to lose your empire all together

Milton also tells him that if things on this trip don’t go well, she’s making the call to stop assisting with Alexandria’s rebuild. Alexandria’s people are more than welcome to stay in the Commonwealth, but her own community has enough to worry about without expending resources on a few small/distant communities.

As you might imagine, this declaration puts Hornsby a bit on edge.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Aaron sees the convoy approaching and quickly tells the workers to hide some of Alexandria’s rough spots that they haven’t fixed yet. He then greets Milton and Hornsby (who are joined by Mercer and Daryl) and leads them on a grand tour.

As they walk, Aaron explains how Maggie and her people from Hilltop helped Alexandria become a self sustaining ecological community. Behind them, Mercer is surprised to learn that Daryl was a leader of what appears to be a thriving town despite its isolated location. When Mercer asks what Daryl did before the dead began to rise he replies that a person’s past has never mattered to his people.

Later, Milton finds a picture of Alexandria’s former leader (Congresswoman Deanna Monroe) and reminisces about how they knew each other before society fell. Daryl tells the governor about how he admired Monroe, both for her willingness to take his people in and what she built. When Milton points out that Alexandria eventually fell, Daryl responds that they “always brought it right back.”

Milton is surprised to learn that Alexandria has fallen multiple times. Before she can ask Daryl to expound on that, Mercer walks in and announces that there’s been a breach. As he and Daryl go outside to take care of a lone zombie wandering the streets, Milton asks Aaron what happened to Deanna. He tells her that she was bitten and was forced to be put down.

This chilling bit of info convinces the Commonwealth governor that she’s heard enough.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Later, Milton takes Aaron along on a trip to Oceanside. This visit goes significantly better, thanks in no small part to how much the governor loves where the community is located. When she offers a partnership deal with the Commonwealth, however, their leader(Rachel) turns it down. When Milton asks why, Rachel explains that her community is loyal to Maggie and Hilltop.

It’s at this point we learn that Maggie already turned down an alliance with the Commonwealth — something Hornsby knew about, but never bothered to tell the governor. Rachel declares that her people will do the same unless Maggie decides to change her mind.

This response obviously doesn’t sit well with Milton, but it hits Hornsby even worse.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

On the ride back from Oceanside, Hornsby chides Aaron for giving them a heads up about the rejection they just walked into. Aaron claims he didn’t know that would happen, but also adds that it’s not his problem. His ambivalent demeanor changes when Hornsby warns him that if Maggie doesn’t come around, Milton will cut off all the help the Commonwealth has been providing to Alexandria.

The pair’s conversation is cut short when the convoy conveniently comes upon Maggie, Lydia, Elijah, and Dianne getting “swarmed” by five walkers. Despite being some of the best fighters on the show, the group is nearly killed, thus allowing Daryl to save them.

This incident also gives Milton a strong position for what turns out to be her first face to face meeting with Maggie.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

While Maggie gets cleaned up from what would’ve been the most unlikely/embarrassing way she could’ve died, Aaron and Daryl attempt to sell her on joining forces with the Commonwealth. When she questions why they trust these people, Daryl counters that he doesn’t. He does recognize/appreciate how much they’ve done to get Alexandria back up and running, though.

Aaron is in the middle of his pitch when Hornsby and Milton ask if the three of them want to go hunting. They head out into the woods, where Milton tells Mercer and the rest of the boys to break off in another direction. Now finally alone with Maggie, the Commonwealth governor admits that she didn’t want to go on Hornsby’s tour at first. After seeing how strong and resilient all the communities are, however, she wants to be allied with them.

Milton also states her belief that a strong partnership would be about so much more than supplies and survival. It would also ensure a much brighter future for their children, helping to kickstart the type of progress that could never be possible with a bunch of tiny city states fighting each other for resources. As far as she’s concerned, their alliance is a key element to restoring the world to its “natural order.”

The look Maggie gives Milton in response to this is very similar to the face most of us also likely made.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Psssshhh…(The Walking Dead/AMC)

When the two stop by a river for some water, Maggie flat out says that the Commonwealth is a meritocracy. When Milton attempts to push back on this, Maggie points out that the governor drives a nicer car and lives in a nicer home than any of her citizens. She wants Hilltop’s people to look up to her because of what she’s done, not because of what she has.

The pair end up bagging a couple wild birds and return to Hilltop, which is buzzing with joy thanks to all the help they’re getting from Commonwealth with the rebuild — especially Dianne.

Lydia sees Daryl and hugs him before immediately jumping into a heavy conversation about wanting to “walk away” from everything. Before that can go any further, Hornsby and Mercer enlist him to help pass out supplies to everyone. As they get to work, Mercer offers a rare glimpse of his paternal side by palling around with Hershel and giving him his helmet. He then asks Daryl why Maggie likes “torturing” herself as the leader of such a beaten down community. Daryl explains that Hilltop used to be a special place before it was destroyed. He fully believes it can be special again.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The conversation then turns toward the Commonwealth, which Daryl admits is starting to win him over. Surprisingly, Mercer tells him not to let his guard down too much. He also reveals that Daryl isn’t wearing his stormtrooper armor for the sake of appearances, implying that Milton and Hornsby care much more about what he can do for them than his own safety…I think. I’m not sure this observation made the point that Mercer (or the show’s writers) thought it did.

Later, Hornsby attempts to connect with Maggie via a story about a lucky coin his father gave him, which is exactly as painful as it sounds. He also finally reveals his reasons for wanting the Alexandria, Hilltop, and Oceanside to partner with the Commonwealth. Turns out the lieutenant governor simply has an eye and desire for expansion, which is a bit disappointing.

*Side Note: There’s another layer to Hornsby’s motivations, which we’ll get to in a bit.

It’s also clear that Hornsby wants the world to go back to how it was before society fell, something Maggie doesn’t seem terribly impressed with.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The pair’s conversation is mercifully interrupted by a “swarm” of socially distanced walkers. Maggie, Elijah, and Dianne head out along with Mercer to do some cool looking slow motion zombie kills. Just when the group is about to be overrun, Mercer orders his troops to fire, dropping the entire horde in less than five seconds.

During the zombie clean up, Dianne points out how much easier it would be to handle walker attacks if they had the Commonwealth’s help (or at least their weapons). Maggie agrees that Dianne has a point, but her face tells a different story — especially after watching Daryl fall in line with the rest of the soldiers at Mercer’s command.

After taking one last moment to think things over, she goes to Milton and officially passes on Hilltop forming an alliance with the Commonwealth. When the governor asks why, Maggie alludes to her belief that there’s an unspoken cost (i.e. her people’s independence) that would be attached to a partnership with them.

Milton and Aaron are disappointed by the decision while Hornsby looks downright apoplectic.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Later, as the Commonwealth contingent packs up to leave, Maggie is shocked to learn that Dianne and two other Hilltoppers are going with them. Maggie tells her departing right hand that she needs to be careful who she trusts. Dianne replies that she has a ton of respect for the Hilltop leader, but she needs to recognize when it’s time to ask for help.

Meanwhile, Milton commends Hornsby on his efforts despite things with Hilltop and Oceanside not working out. When he pleads with her to let him keep trying, Milton suggests that his desire for the three alliances is so he can be the one in charge of then. Hornsby futilely attempts to deny this, but Milton isn’t buying it. She also tells him he can continue working to expand their community/empire. If his work for the Commonwealth suffers, however, there will be consequences.

Hornsby responds to this by heading into the woods, firing his gun in the air, and headshotting the walkers that are drawn towards him. When Aaron sees this and asks if he’s okay, Hornsby responds that he’s “A+” before declaring that Pamela is still on board with an Alexandria partnership (which is a bit of a stretch, but sure).

He then declares that they’re going to bring even more people in (?) and “remake the world” before blasting a nearby zombie’s head off.

The Verdict

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

While I appreciate what The Walking Dead is trying to set up, “The Lucky Ones” breaks the series’ recent streak of strong episodes.

Part of this is due to its central character’s motivations and how others react to them. Ambition is one thing, but Hornsby’s desire to rapidly expand the Commonwealth (and subsequently rule its suburbs) doesn’t seem genuine. If anything, it feels like a bizarre contrivance to turn him into the suit wearing antagonist he was destined to be anyway.

If his frantic ambition is genuine, however, then why is Milton letting him off the leash so easily?

And since when did Maggie become one of those extreme libertarian types? I get wanting to be independent, especially when armor clad troopers are marching through your home. But Maggie’s always been good at recognizing what’s best for her people, who are currently not doing well. Once Dianne left, it should have become obvious that she at least needed to consider Milton’s offer. Instead, she proceeded to dig in her heels.

Based on the six month flash forward we saw a few weeks ago, it’s clear that her decision not to join the Commonwealth is going to be vindicated in some way. Unfortunately, it appears that our narrative path to get there will involve Hornsby having a psychotic break. If things played out in a more natural manner, her behavior would appear much more selfish and stubborn than brave.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

There were some really good moments in the Max/Eugene storyline, but I’m still struggling to understand how she could be mad at him for getting upset with her. Yes, it’s weird that Eugene immediately assigned the closeness they attained to another woman. But Max still allowed him to be blatantly deceived and gave him a false name. Dude was understandably shook.

I really did like their first real conversation, though. You don’t think of Eugene as someone who has chemistry with anyone, but Josh McDermitt and Margot Bingham definitely make it work.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

As for the Ezekiel storyline, it almost felt too easy. Maybe there’s more fallout planned for later, but I didn’t expect him to go along with what Carol did to help him. Even when you take into account how much he loves her, the weight of all those people he jumped in line is sure to weigh on him.

For now, however, we got Carol’s admittedly strong argument immediately followed by him prepping for surgery and arguing with Jerry about pineapple as a pizza topping.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

None of those issues were enough to tank the episode, but the “The Lucky Ones” was also hurt by some pretty lackluster action sequences. Don’t tell me that Maggie was able to escape from under that subway car at the beginning of the season only for her and some of Hilltop’s best fighters struggle with a small pack of walkers…twice.

I’m still of the opinion that this is the best season of The Walking Dead that we’ve seen in years, but tonight’s episode certainly didn’t help my argument. Let’s hope that the plotlines this one set up get the show back on track next week.


Next Episode: ‘Warlords’

The Walking Dead (AMC)
'The Walking Dead' season 11, episode 12 'The Lucky Ones' recap/review
Despite setting up some intriguing plotlines, 'The Lucky Ones' broke the series' recent streak of strong episodes.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Even with their rocky start, chemistry between Eugene and Max was great.
We're finally starting to see why Daryl and the Commonwealth end up invading Hilltop...
...unfortunately, that reason (Hornsby's rabid ambition) is pretty disappointing.
If things played out naturally, Maggie's behavior and decision would be be seen as selfish/stubborn instead of brave.
Ezekiel accepting what Carol did for him after a brief argument felt much too easy.
We haven't seen fight scenes this lame in a long time.

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