Last week’s penultimate episode of The Walking Dead concluded with Daryl running to find aid for Judith, who’d been shot by Governor Milton. If that didn’t make you hate Pamela enough, she also ordered her new Commonwealth Army Commander (Vickers) to pull back and defend the Estates (i.e. the rich folks) while letting the city’s poor and middle-class population get swarmed by a giant walker herd. Vickers was okay with taking Mercer into custody, but definitely wasn’t happy about following this order.
The governor’s ruthless plan has left the rest of the Coalition members in a seemingly inescapable situation. We know most of them will survive due to upcoming Walking Dead franchise projects and/or main character plot armor, but things still appear to be pretty dire — especially when you consider that some of the zombies have begun to evolve and can climb over things now.
Meanwhile, Lydia is still recovering from having her armed chopped off so she wouldn’t turn into a zombie. Aaron is now charged with protecting her while Jerry looks for Elijah. I guess he’s technically looking for Jules and Luke, too, but it’s pretty clear those two were brought back just to die.
In tonight’s series finale (!), we get to see how the fall of the Commonwealth will frame the end of an 11-season story.
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.
Daryl runs into Commonwealth Hospital calling for help. As he lays Judith down on a gurney, we switch to her point of view, which is understandably foggy. She sees troops running out of the hospital and knocking Daryl out, leaving her alone behind a wall of glass…and one carelessly opened door. Judith musters enough strength to get up and close/barricade it before falling back down by Daryl’s side.
Back outside, the Coalition members fight for their lives. Jules is bitten and dragged away by walkers while Luke gets his leg chomped. Following those “shocking” moments, Carol manages to lead everyone back to the hospital. Luke’s old friends (Yumiko, Magna, Connie, and Kelly) are able to amputate his leg, but he still bleeds out and dies.
As Magna tearfully stabs her friend’s brain, Daryl has Carol help him give Judith a blood transfusion. Lest you wonder about blood compatibility, Daryl tells her that he knows he’s a universal donor because his brother used to make him sell his blood for money.
During the transfusion, Judith wakes up long enough to finally reveal that Michonne left because she is looking for Rick. When she expresses her fear of dying before her family can be reunited, Daryl assures her she won’t.
Breaking In & Out
Mercer is stuck inside a cell when Max and Princess suddenly bust in to rescue him, leading to a pair of great reunions. The group then joins Ezekiel, Maggie, and Negan, who are prepping for battle at what appears to be a Commonwealth Army supply depot. Negan sees Maggie loading a sniper rifle and offers to help her kill Governor Milton, but she turns him down.
Moments later, the giant walker herd appears, although the zombies are polite enough to ignore all the tasty humans mere feet away. Mercer is about to raise a pistol and start firing (thus dooming them all), but is stopped by Ezekiel when he sees Aaron and Lydia whisper-walking with them.
The happy reunion is cut short when it becomes clear they need to find medical care for Lydia as soon as possible. The group jumps into an armored car (with only two walkers seeming to care) and takes off.
Elsewhere, Rosita, Eugene, and Gabriel bust into the daycare to attempt a daring rescue of Coco. Despite the walkers enjoying an all-you-can-eat buffet, Rosita cuts through them like a boss and finds her daughter still safely imprisoned inside a cage. The group then exits the building and gets into an ambulance to go to the hospital.
Speaking of the hospital, it’s now completely under siege by zombies. Things get even worse when one of the evolved walkers uses a rock to break the glass walls, allowing them to flood in. This leads to a fantastic one-take shot of our heroes going through the hospital hallways with Judith on a gurney, desperately searching for an exit.
Meanwhile, Eugene, Gabriel, and Rosita (with Coco in tow) pull up near the hospital and are immediately swarmed by walkers. All three exit the ambulance and begin fighting for their lives. They eventually decide to shimmy up an exterior pipe and enter the building through one of the windows. Eugene and Gabriel make it, but Rosita falls back into the herd…
…only to pop back up and go full momma bear on any zombie within three feet of her and her child. She then climbs the ambulance and leaps to the window.
*Side Note: Yes, it was an absurd sequence, but it was also pretty cool.
Team Rosita must’ve linked up with Team Daryl/Judith and found a way out of the hospital, because we next see them with Team Mercer/Aaron at the Commonwealth Army Supply Depot. From there, they’re transported to a safe house that’s been set up so Tomi can save Judith.
While this is happening, Lydia (who also received some badly needed medical treatment) is comforted by Aaron about losing her arm. She’s personally much more worried about Elijah and Jerry, though — especially after learning that Luke and Jules are dead.
Meanwhile, Maggie goes outside to stop Negan from leaving with the sniper rifle and taking out Pamela, who is huddled with Vickers’ troops in the nearby Estates. He insists that he needs to do this because whoever kills the governor will have hell rained down on them — something he deserves and she doesn’t. Negan then goes on to explain how when he was nearly executed (and about to lose his wife and son), he finally understood what it felt like to lose everything. This leads to an incredibly powerful apology.
Maggie responds by taking the rifle and asking if he’s going to join her.
Back inside the safehouse, Eugene sees Rosita looking at Coco and offers to help so she can rest. Rosita responds by saying that she wants to enjoy her time with Coco before revealing that she was bitten after she fell. As Eugene begins to break down, she tells her friend to be strong. After exchanging some platonic ‘I Love Yous,’ he goes back to sit with Max, who he doesn’t say anything to about his friend’s impending death.
Later, Judith comes through surgery and apologizes to Daryl for not telling him why Michonne has been gone. Daryl assures her that he’s not going anywhere.
Their conversation is interrupted when they hear Milton-loyalist soldiers killing people who are trying to get inside the Estates. Mercer tells the Coalition folks that he can sneak them out, but Ezekiel gives a stirring speech proclaiming that Mercer is one of them and that the people of the Commonwealth are worth fighting for.
Maggie lines up the sniper rifle on Governor Milton with Negan spotting her. Before she can shoot, however, Mercer shows up with his troops and Coalition forces. As the two armies stare each other down, Mercer lays out all the ways Milton has failed as both a governor and a human being.
Meanwhile, the herd begins closing in on the crowd outside the Estates. In a complete 180 from where he started as a character, Gabriel walks over to the gate to let the doomed people inside. Milton tries to stop him, but is interrupted by a speech from Daryl about how going back to the old way of life was a bad idea. He closes with a horrifically cheesy line that also brings the series full circle:
We got one enemy. We ain’t the Walking Dead.
The Milton loyalist troops must have liked it, though, because Vickers immediately sides with Mercer and places Milton under arrest. As Maggie watches this all take place through her rifle scope, Negan assures her that it’s a fate much worse than death.
Gabriel manages to open the gates just in time. As people flood in, Elijah turns out to be part of the crowd, allowing him to have a sweet reunion with Lydia. Jerry also appears and asks about his family, who Ezekiel says are safe in Alexandria.
Meanwhile, Milton walks toward the gates and recognizes Walker Hornsby. She attempts to let him eat her, but Maggie snipes him before declaring that they’re going to take the Commonwealth back.
Mercer then puts a plan into place that will clear a path to evacuate everyone to safety while taking down the entire herd. After filling the Estate’s sewer system with gasoline, they hook up a PA system to play Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” and lead the walkers toward a fuel-drenched fountain. When the song is over, the tone arm on the record player triggers a switch that ignites a series of explosives, destroying both the walker herd and the McMansion neighborhood.
Later, Milton sits in a prison cell and warns the Coalition about how hard it is to lead a community. Carol responds that they’ve already made one difficult decision by keeping her alive.
The next morning, Maggie comes outside and sits with Negan. She thanks him for his apology and what he said to her, but also admits that she’s not ready to forgive him despite being genuinely grateful that he saved her son. That said, she also wants to try and stop hating him — if for no other reason than so her son doesn’t see what an awful grip that hatred had on her life. As far as she’s concerned, Negan and Annie have earned their place in the community. He’ll just have to realize that there will be times when she can’t even look at him because of the way he forever tainted Glenn’s memory.
Later, everyone (except Daryl) sits down to a joyous dinner. Daryl looks out a window and sees Negan leaving. Yumiko and Magna go much further with their reconciliation and get back together.
Rosita takes everything in and smiles. She then tells Gabriel about the bite. Judith sees the look on their faces and immediately realizes that something’s up.
Some indeterminate amount of time later, Rosita lays in bed with Coco one last time (which seems a bit risky, but whatever). After Gabriel tearfully reads her last rites, Eugenes gets a moment alone to thank her for helping him become the man he is today. Rosita tells Eugene that she’s glad he is the one who’s with her at the end.
We then jump to one year later. Eugene is visiting Rosita’s grave with Max and their infant daughter, who they’ve named Rosie. Meanwhile, Ezekiel gives a unifying speech as the new governor of the Commonwealth and Coalition communities with Mercer as his Lieutenant Governor.
After the speech, Connie catches up with Daryl and tells him that her job as a journalist is going well. Meanwhile, Lydia and Elijah (still happily together) see Judith and give her a delivery, which turns out to be a touching note from Negan along with the compass she gave him years ago.
Everyone is happy, healthy, and thriving — even Gabriel, who is now taking care of Coco by himself. In the midst of all these positive vibes, Maggie pulls Carol and Daryl to talk about the future (which we have to assume will involve her upcoming miniseries with Negan).
Later, Daryl and Carol sit together. Daryl says he wishes Carol were coming with him (although he doesn’t reveal where). After the two share a genuinely touching goodbye, he bids farewell to Ezekiel, RJ, and Judith, who he promises to bring Rick and Michonne back. Judith tells Daryl he deserves a happy ending too before he rides off.
Cut to Rick Grimes (!) and Michonne (!!) in separate areas striking a match and writing letters. Both discuss the people they care about and how they will always be a part of their lives. From there, Michonne puts on a badass suit of leather armor and rides out on a horse while Rick puts his note in a bottle and throws it into a lake. We also see that he is wearing a jacket with the Alliance of Three/Civic Republic Military symbol.
*Side Note: Those are the people from the random helicopters we kept seeing a few seasons ago who Jadis gave Rick over to. They also play a much bigger role in the other Walking Dead shows.
Rick is found by a helicopter and told to turn himself him. He’s distraught at first, but smiles after thinking about all the people he loves. He also throws his bag onto a ship before the helicopter gets there, which appears to be the same bag Michonne has in her possession (meaning their voice overs take place at two different points in time).
We then see Michonne riding toward a gigantic walker herd, determined not to let anything stand in her way as she searches for her husband.
If you took away this episode’s job requirements as a series finale, it was pretty good. In addition to the incredible action sequences, there were also some incredibly powerful moments. Both conversations between Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) were superb — especially the second one, where Maggie’s emotional intensity was matched by Negan’s silent reactions.
There was also that incredible moment with Gabriel saving everyone by letting them into the Estates, completing the journey he started as a man who saved himself by locking his congregation out of the church. Even Milton’s comeuppance was enhanced by Maggie’s decision to let her live and face justice instead of blowing her head off.
And then you have Carol and Daryl’s goodbye, which was about as beautiful and heartbreaking as you could ask for.
Unfortunately, the episode also had way more contrived moments than a typical episode of The Walking Dead, which is really saying something.
From the start, it was clear the writers expected us to be much more upset about two characters dying who we barely remembered. From there, we were inundated with so many speeches that I half expected someone to turn and speak directly into the camera.
Additionally, there were some technical aspects of the narrative that were hard to overlook — like how the people at the hospital managed to escape when Rosita clearly said that their ambulance was totaled (and they were surrounded on all sides by zombies).
Speaking of Rosita, I’m not sure why it was decided that she needed to be the series finale sacrifice. I appreciate that she at least got to enjoy some happiness before the end, but it didn’t really bring her story to any sort of satisfying conclusion. Instead, a character everyone liked died in service of Eugene’s story while leaving their child without a mother.
Thankfully, those issues still weren’t enough to keep “Rest in Peace” from being an entertaining episode. It wasn’t the blockbuster season finale many of us were hoping for, but that was always going to be hard to deliver when so much of The Walking Dead‘s narrative will continue to play out in miniseries form next year.
In its defense, “Rest in Peace” was a good microcosm of how The Walking Dead has been these last few seasons. While it never returned to the greatness of the opening seasons, showrunner Angela Kang managed to rescue the series from how awful it had become and reforged into something that was fun to watch again. There might have been a few too many contrived moments and plot holes, but it was still a lot of fun…and just enough to make you still want to see what happens next.
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