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'The Walking Dead' season 11 episode 23 'Family' recap/review


‘The Walking Dead’ season 11 episode 23 ‘Family’ recap/review

The Walking Dead’s penultimate episode gets an A+ for action (and a great scene between Negan and Ezekiel), but the rest was a contrived mess.

Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead concluded with Mercer finally deciding to join Eugene and the other Coalition members in ousting Pamela Milton as governor of the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, Negan & Ezekiel managed to successfully lead a revolt at Outpost 22, aka Alexandria. Unfortunately, Rosita’s daughter Coco was not found among the children who were saved.

If that isn’t enough drama for you, then Lydia & Co. are still whisper walking inside a herd of walkers (who may have an evolved member or two in their ranks) toward the Commonwealth city gates.

This week, the Commonwealth and Coalition finally get to have a direct confrontation, but it’s going to include some unforeseen issues that both sides aren’t prepared to deal with.

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.

Why We Fight

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

This week’s Judith Voice Over features a montage of multiple main characters in the midst of battle throughout the years. This brutal display is accompanied by Judith reminiscing about the type of life her family always fought for. In the end, however, taking on that fight will always come with a cost.

We then cut to Judith in the present, who picks up Rick’s revolver (now hers) and puts Rick’s hat on RJ. The voice over ends with her discussing a secret saying that her family used to share — something that she was afraid to say out loud. We don’t get to know what it is yet, but Judith goes on to explain that today will be the day everything changes forever.

*Side Note: Seems like those sorts of days happen pretty frequently.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

After the opening credits, we’re treated to a great one-take shot of the Coalition members regrouping after successfully retaking Alexandria. Gabriel asks Tyler about where the Commonwealth may be keeping the other children while Maggie and Rosita get others loaded onto a bus that’s headed for the train, which will then take them to a showdown with the Commonwealth Army.

Negan finds Maggie and suggests that the two of them have the best chance of taking Pamela Milton out — something that needs to happen if anyone ever wants to feel safe again. Maggie counters that they are not a team before finding Hershel and hugging him goodbye. Negan’s feelings are hurt, but he’s comforted by Annie, who instructs her husband to return in one piece.

Meanwhile, Daryl tries to tell Judith that she isn’t coming and gets brutally shot down. There’s no way she isn’t going to be right in the middle of the fight for the future her mom and dad wanted. After some prodding from Carol, Daryl tells Judith she can come as long as she stays close to him.

Once everyone’s on the train, Gabriel assures Rosita that they’ll get their daughter back while Tyler apologizes and makes peace with everyone else (which all but guarantees he’ll be used as emotional cannon fodder soon).

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Later, Negan utilizes an awkward silence to thank Ezekiel for saving him back in Alexandria. When he asks why he did it, Ezekiel explains that Negan getting to die a martyr would’ve been too easy. Lest you think this was a hostile conversation, Ezekiel goes on to say that seeing Negan make something positive out of his life helps to abate his own anger — an anger he doesn’t want to overtake him during whatever time he has left.

When Ezekiel turns the question back on him, Negan explains that he attempted to sacrifice himself for the sake of his wife and child…and for the Coalition, who he recognizes are good people who didn’t deserve the person he was before.

Maggie appears to hear this conversation take place and responds with a pensive stare.

Meanwhile, Judith tells Carol and Daryl that she hasn’t heard from her mom in a long time. After assuring her that she’s out there somewhere, the pair tells Judith that her mom, dad, and brother would all be proud of her. Daryl then promises to tell her stories about all the people she never got enough time with once their war with the Commonwealth is over.

Judith also makes a comment about how she and her brother have a lot and common and how he died trying to help people. Call me crazy, but that might be a bit of foreshadowing.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Over in the Commonwealth, Max and Yumiko are overjoyed when Mercer and Eugene show up together at their makeshift safe house. Once the hugs are out of the way, Mercer tells the group he needs more time to get enough soldiers together who are willing to move against Governor Milton — a task that will be easier if Max and Yumiko work to keep the already discontent populace mad at her. Mercer instructs Eugene to stay put while he and the other two get to work.

Over at the Governor’s office, Milton watches the angry crowds outside before chastizing Mercer and one of his colonels (Vickers) for Eugene’s escape. Mercer tells the governor that it was likely an inside job, which will require time for him and his team to figure out who’s responsible. He also takes a legitimately subtle jab at the governor before departing her office. Once he’s gone, Milton instructs Vickers to keep an eye on the Commander and to kill Eugene on sight if/when he’s found.

After Vickers departs, Milton picks up a radio and says “B17,” which is either part of a long distance Battleship game or a sinister order code.

Outside the city walls, the herd with Lydia & Co. becomes even larger when a soldier on a motorcycle leads a large pod of walkers toward them. With their potential escape route cut off, the Good Guy Whisperers decide to stay the course and remain with the herd, which the troops are leading directly toward the Commonwealth

*Side Note: I understand that the governor wants an excuse for a lockdown, but this still seems like an exceptionally bad idea.

Giving a Piece of Yourself

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Mercer does an admirable job interrogating Yumiko (in front of Vickers) and appearing to suspect her of helping Eugene. After Yumiko and Vickers leave, Mercer takes a call on the radio from Princess. Upon learning that she and the rest of the Coalition are bringing former prisoners, Mercer tells her how to get them into the city so they can testify against Governor Milton.

*Side Note: Does Mercer really think the train’s arrival is going to lead to a court proceeding?

Their conversation is interrupted by an alert about the giant herd of walkers heading toward the Commonwealth. As Mercer readies his troops for battle, he tells Max that she’ll need to meet Princess and the others from the train when they arrive.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Elsewhere, the Good Guy Whisperers attempt to covertly zombie shuffle over to an abandoned RV. Aaron and Jerry make it, but Jules is pushed away, causing Luke to zombie-walk after her. After Lydia makes it inside, she reaches out to help Elijah and gets her armed chomped by a walker before Aaron and Jerry can pull her away.

Lydia tries to go back outside to save her boyfriend, but Aaron and Jerry stop her, explaining that they have to save her first before they try to help him. Jerry then uses his belt to make a tourniquet while Aaron gives Lydia a pre-arm chopping pep talk.

After Lydia prepares herself, Jerry apologizes before slicing off her arm.

Hours later, Lydia awakens and immediately demands that they look for Elijah. Unfortunately, the massive flesh wound and blood loss she’s just experienced require expert medical care sooner rather than later. Jerry tells Aaron and Lydia to seek help while he goes looking for Elijah, assuring both his friends that they’ll find each other again.


The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Train Team arrives at the Commonwealth and is nearly spotted by a patrol. Luckily, the soldiers are called away to help with the incoming walker herd. Daryl then leads everyone to a storage shed filled with automatic weapons.

Meanwhile, Vickers reports to Governor Milton about Mercer pulling troops from their regular patrols to help with the herd. Milton is concerned that he took soldiers from a potentially vulnerable area (which the Train Team just entered), but Vickers assures her that the Commonwealth Commander’s order isn’t out of line — especially when they need all the help they can get.

This point is driven home when a zombie climbs into one of the jeeps corraling the herd and kills two of the most inept soldiers imaginable. Upon seeing the smoke from the wrecked vehicle (and hearing his troops’ panicked final moments on the radio), Mercer orders everyone to fall back and prepare the heavy ammunition they have.

Keeping with the inept soldier theme, one of them enters the apartment where Eugene was staying only to be beaten to death by the Mulleted One with a flashlight.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

After the freshly armed Train Team makes it inside Union Station, Daryl notices that the doors have all been locked from the inside. Just as he yells out a warning, a bunch of Commonwealth operatives pop out and begin firing their weapons, killing Tyler and a few extras.

A massive shootout ensues. Thousands of rounds are fired, but the only casualties are another Train Team extra and one of the operatives. Milton walks in, picks up the fallen operative’s gun, and takes aim at Daryl. Judith sees this and shoves him out of the way, taking the bullet instead.

In response to this shocking turn of events, nearly everyone stops firing their weapons while Milton looks on in shock. Carol attempts to take advantage of the moment and kill the governor, but pops an operative standing near her instead. As the firefight resumes, Milton backs away and screams “YOU DID THIS!” at the Colation intruders while her troops are gunned down left and right.

Meanwhile, Daryl sees that Judith is still alive (barely) and tells everyone they have to go. He then instructs Ezekiel to throw a nearby fire extinguisher in the air, which he shoots with Rick’s revolver to give them cover for an escape. After Daryl picks up Judith, the group manages to get a door open right as Eugene is taking out the guard standing near it…and as Max and Yumiko appear.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

While all this is going on, Mercer’s pre Zombie War pep talk is interrupted by Vickers, who arrives and says he’s under arrest on the orders of Governor Milton. His loyal troops prepare to fight back, but Mercer orders them to lower their weapons. As he’s hauled off, he pleads with Vickers to take the incoming threat seriously — especially since something weird appears to be going on with the walkers. Vickers replies that the governor believes the city’s walls will hold…so that should turn out well.

*Side Note: Didn’t Vickers just tell Milton that she thought Mercer wasn’t up to anything — and didn’t Milton take her word for it? If you say the arrest was called for after the Train Team snuck in where Mercer removed the guards, then I’d counter that there wouldn’t have been enough time for that to happen.

Predictably, the walkers begin climbing the walls, which allows one of them to attack an inept trooper. The comedy of errors continues when the dying soldier flails his arm and hits the switch to open the city gates. The two remaining troops guarding the gate wisely turn and run in the other direction.

Vickers goes into Milton’s office (where she’s wiping operative blood off her face) and tells the governor that the city is being overrun. Milton responds by going full supervillain and ordering the Colonel to institute a classist version of the Radeker Plan – i.e. protect the rich folks while diverting the walkers toward the poor and middle class people.

Vickers is repulsed by the order, but still agrees to follow it.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Meanwhile, the Train Team sprints with Daryl toward the Commonwealth Hospital to get help for Judith.

*Side Note: I agree that Judith is awesome, but do we really think they would’ve done this for Tyler or one of the extras if they were still alive after getting shot?

The group is stopped by Commonwealth soldiers, who hop out of armored vans, box them in with barricades, and funnel the walkers in their direction. After the troops leave, the Train Team has a brief moment of joy when they reunite with Luke and Jules. Negan also sees a walker climbing over something and has a wholly hilarious and appropriate reaction.

As the herd moves in, Carol spots a nearby alley and tells them to clear it so they can get Daryl and Judith through to the hospital. Judith groggily refers to Daryl as “Daddy” while he darts through the opening. Meanwhile, Negan (who we know can’t die yet) and the others are swarmed by the zombies.

The Verdict

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

While “Family” gets an A+ for action (and that great scene between Negan and Ezekiel), the rest of it was a contrived mess.

I get that you don’t want to kill everyone off in the penultimate episode, but to have that much carnage with no major characters going down is absurd — especially after Lydia and Judith were protected by some of the most ridiculous main character plot armor we’ve ever seen. You could argue that their lives still hang in the balance, but I’d bet my right arm they both survive next week’s series finale.

The show also attempted to compress Tyler’s redemption arc so that his death was more meaningful. In reality, it (and his appearance these last two episodes) was more random than it was impactful.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

And what’s with all the coincidental meet ups? It’s like every time a character turns around they’re reuniting with someone else at just the right time. The most egregious of these moments was Eugene popping up just as the Train Team was leaving Union Station — a situation made possible by his sudden ability to take out armed and armored soldiers with nothing more than willpower and blunt force.

Add in Governor Milton’s brief appearance during the firefight (where she somehow had better aim than the other ACTUAL SOLDIERS) and this episode had more eyeroll-worthy moments than the last two combined. Fortunately, it also had lots of great action sequences along with a couple of genuinely powerful moments.

I should also note that I’m absolutely loving Vickers. It would’ve been easy to portray the character as an unsympathetic stooge, but Monique Grant imbues her with a perfect mix of reluctance and pride in her job, thus making the Commonwealth Colonel much more compelling to watch.

Let’s hope the rest of The Walking Dead‘s concluding narrative follows suit and gives us a compelling series finale next week.

'The Walking Dead' season 11 episode 23 'Family' recap/review
‘The Walking Dead’ season 11 episode 23 ‘Family’ recap/review
'The Walking Dead' season 11, episode 23 'Family'
The Walking Dead's penultimate episode gets an A+ for action (and a great scene between Negan and Ezekiel), but the rest was a contrived mess.
Reader Rating0 Votes
The action is outstanding (even though the main character plot armor was also in full effect).
The episode had a few really nice moments -- especially the one between Negan and Ezekiel.
Vickers has only been around for a short time, but she's already become an excellent character.
As stated before, the main character plot armor in this episode was absurd.
How does everyone just keep randomly meeting each other and the perfect time?
A lot of contrived things had to happen to get us to the the episode's cliffhanger ending.

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