REVIEW: Walking Dead ends … until next season

Dead
 – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 24 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

So, after eleven seasons, some high (missing you Frank Darabont), some low (how many seasons did we spend on Hershel’s farm?), and some in between (Negan seeking forgiveness) The Walking Dead as we know it came to an end last Sunday night.

But the 90-minute finale didn’t really serve as a satisfying closure to the adventures of Daryl, Carol, Maggie, Negan and Judith with so many new series rising from the Dead. I mean there’s Daryl Dixon in London. Negan and Maggie in New York. Fear the Walking Dead. Walking Dead: World Beyond. And Rick and Michonne.

I’m wondering if they can add Walking Dead: The Seinfeld Monologues.

The point is as hard as it already is to stick a series finale that people love (M*A*S*H is still the most loved and watched), it doesn’t help when a series that built itself on gutting its audience emotionally by knocking off its cast members like Game of Thrones, doesn’t offer up any real emotional deaths.

And that’s what we had with the finale.

The eleventh and final season pursued an overarching plot, as our favorite living characters sought to bring down yet, another Governor. Remember Philip Blake was our first villainous evil officeholder in seasons 3 and 4.

Titled “Rest in Peace?” the episode saw the end of Pamela Milton’s tyrannical reign (Laila Robins) over the Commonwealth. One-time loyal militia leader Mercer (Michael James Shaw) helped bring her down while a horde of walkers approached.

The episode starts off exciting enough picking up from where the previous episode left off – Daryl rushing into a hospital to help Judith, Rick Grimes’ daughter, who was shot by Milton. As Judith floats in and out of consciousness on a gurney, Daryl seeks out help, only to return bloodied and beaten.

Cailey Fleming as Judith – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 24 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

The pacing seemed a bit off as we jumped from Judith and Daryl to another horde of zombies attacking while Carol fought them off. Then all of a sudden, Daryl is lucid enough to give Judith a blood transfusion. Is he the right type? Who knows?

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 24 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 24 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Meanwhile, Jules is devoured escaping from the horde while Luke is fatally bitten and dies shortly thereafter in the same hospital. Who let them in since Judith locked the doors?! Who knows? Rosita, Gabriel and Eugene successfully rescue Coco, but Rosita is bitten on the left shoulder while escaping.

Angel Theory as Kelly, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Lauren Ridloff as Connie, Eleanor Matsuura as Yumiko – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 24 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

After getting Judith to a safe house, she is treated by Tomi and reveals to Daryl and Carol that Michonne had left in search of a still-alive Rick.

Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Nadia Hilker as Magna, Angel Theory as Kelly – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 24 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
Kerry Cahill as Dianne – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 24 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

In another area of the Commonwealth, Princess and Max break Mercer out who leads his men and the Coalition forces in confronting Pamela as she barricades herself in the Estates.

With the people outside about to be buffet, Daryl delivers an inspiring speech that causes Pamela’s guards to turn on her and allow everyone inside. Mercer arrests Pamela for her crimes, but she tries to feed herself to a zombified Lance instead.

Recognizing that prison is a worse fate for Pamela, Maggie, who has been determined to kill her, puts her gun down and saves her. United by Aaron, Lydia, Jerry and Elijah, everyone lures the herd into the Estates and blows it up, destroying the herd and saving the Commonwealth.

The second half of “Rest in Peace” is a lengthy epilogue. Finally, we do get one cast member’s death – Rosita peacefully succumbs to her bite. This is the age-old trick TWD has used. Oh, I’m fine. Oh, I’m not fine I’ve been hiding a bite. Been there.


REELated:


Negan finally apologizes to Maggie who is unable to forgive him, but decides to try moving past her anger. I guess they will have an entire series to explore their feelings. Who knows?

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 24 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 24 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

We cut to a year later and we now have Ezekiel as the governor of the Commonwealth, with Mercer as Lt. Gov., while the communities remain united in creating a better future.

Daryl decides to set out to find Rick. But he makes sure to tell Carol that he loves her. Elsewhere, Michonne continues her search for Rick. On Bloodsworth Island, where Michonne would eventually find his belongings, Rick writes a message for Michonne before being found by a CRM helicopter and forced to surrender.

For me, the more intimate character moments stood out. Rosita (Christian Serratos) briefly turning into a superhero when the horde jumps her and her baby. The conversation between Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan). Daryl (Norman Reedus) parting from Carol (Melissa McBride) to ride away onto his new spinoff series.

The Walking Dead became a pop-culture phenomenon because of its unpredictability and boldness. The first six episodes under Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, The Mist) presented TV as we had never seen before. While the series had highs it never quite met the loftiness of those first episodes and even the first episodes of the second season. Darabont’s take was really special, and the series never got back there even though I remained a loyal follower. Take a look at his The Mist to see where TWD could have gone had AMC not fired him.

But the departure of Rick Grimes, played by Andrew Lincoln, in 2018 really turned out to be a creative blow to the show. The show started with Rick and should have ended with him. You could also feel AMC’s corporate hands rubbing together in anticipation of creating a Marvel-like universe.

Executive producer Angela Kang told Entertainment Weekly that the series, like the comics, couldn’t end in a definitive way, calling it “the zombie story that never ends.” On Talking Dead, the talk show devoted Kang said, “We tried to give everybody a moment in the sun.”

So goodbye to Dead. Thank you for the zombientertainment. But don’t fret, thanks to decisions made on a corporate level and not a creative one, we know the Dead will rise again in a few months.


Shriekfest

Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at colin@reel360.com

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