Review of episodes 17 and 18 of the last season of The Walking Dead – Walking into oblivion

Through two-thirds of its lengthened final season, The Walking Dead hasn’t really felt like it’s coming to an end. Sure, the surviving heroes have once again faced extinction at the hands of a seemingly insurmountable threat, but the enmity between them and the Commonwealth has felt no more dramatic than past conflicts with the Saviors, the Whisperers, the Governor and soon. Now, with only eight episodes to go, I was looking forward to getting to the part of the season that illustrates this drama as the show’s true last act. After watching the first two episodes of season 11C, I’m still hoping that the train feels like it’s pulling into the station.

I think the problem stems from AMC’s plans for a much grander Walking Dead universe; it is even marketed as “TWDU” in the Marvel style. There are no fewer than four spin-offs that are already airing or have been announced, in addition to the two we’ve seen in previous years, leaving aside the should-be-questionable fates of the main characters, even as their lives supposedly are threatened in these final episodes. I’ve written before about how the spin-offs have deflated some of the tension in this important final season, and while I’m enjoying the episodes despite that, I think the show’s biggest problem goes beyond those self-inflicted spoiler wounds.

The problem with these first two episodes of Season 11C is that they don’t seem to bring the show close to saying anything about its world. The show has always hooked me with its permanent characters, and I’m involved enough that I never miss an episode because I want to see what happens to them. I really care about Daryl, Rosita, Maggie and the rest. But the closure of the character, in large part, comes in the spin-offs of the most important characters in the series, so what must happen in these last two months of episodes, and unfortunately what is missing so far, is a final thesis for the series. What has living in a world of the undead taught these heroes and antiheroes? After every loss, every burned community, every beheading of a leader, what has all this led to?

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The images within The Commonwealth have not been subtle.

It’s clear what the show would like to say at times: how rebuilding the world gives these survivors a chance to right the wrongs of the past, how raising society from the dead gives you a chance to reimagine something better and more equitable. . This is illustrated by how Commonwealth leaders are all too excited to resurrect the past status quo (in their world) of haves vs. have nots, class inequality, and political maneuvering so shady and treacherous that would often make our reality. The global campaign ads look tame by comparison.

Much of that revolves around the ongoing drama surrounding the recently exposed scam run by Sebastian Milton, spoiled brat and heir to the leadership role of the Commonwealth, in which he was sending the lower-class people of the community to areas dangerous to retrieve the loot for their own benefit. , killing many of them and covering his tracks as often as he needed. The demise of dissidents, the exploitation of the poor for profit, and the greed and nepotism of all these are heavy-handed offshoots of history to take, making it hard to come up with a revealing thesis. The Walking Dead doesn’t say anything about those things that haven’t been said countless times before.

While the screams of protesters outside the lavish Milton estate are meant to generate images of our real-world upheaval of the underserved seeking justice, they ultimately ring hollow with some odd writing decisions, like how the small but fierce mob is so easily deterred. by the people who are there to protest. Frankly, it all seems a bit bland when you compare it to the mass protests, and outright insurrections, we’ve seen in real life in recent years, and perhaps even worse when you consider the world these people live in. and how they have probably been changed by such harsh conditions before they found (or founded) the Commonwealth. After more than a decade living in such a cruel world, even if many of them occurred within the security walls, those who survive in the Commonwealth are all too easily pacified.

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A better thread to pull, which these episodes suggest can be pulled with more time, concerns how our central heroes are negotiating their own peaceful exit from the Commonwealth, even knowing that those left behind will continue to be subjugated by an exploitative regime. . Judith takes the voice of moral consideration in this regard, pressing Daryl to explain how he and other leaders can justify walking away to save themselves, acting as if they are unaware of the ongoing fighting within the Commonwealth. The two come to verbal blows, even though one is about 11 years old, and it honestly works. It is a road much less traveled than the cartoonishly evil characters of Miltons and Hornsby. I hope we get to see more of this angle in the last six episodes.

These first two episodes do a good job of reminding me why I love the characters, at least, even if in a specific way, they manage to do this with a pretty cheap heartstring pull. At the beginning of both episodes, and presumably all eight on this final list, Judith narrates a continuous montage of the show’s best moments. Rick waking up in the hospital, Daryl finding his undead brother, Herschel’s heartbreaking last scene and more.

The Walking Dead may drag itself to the finish line, but I'm still here because of the characters I love.
The Walking Dead may drag itself to the finish line, but I’m still here because of the characters I love.

Set against the backdrop of Judith’s wisest words and some heartfelt music, these nostalgic images hit home. By the season finale, this will probably feel like a long fan edit of the show’s best moments, and I’ll admit, it really works on me. But I find that it’s a cheap way to generate intense feelings in the fans, so I have a bit of conflict every time an episode starts with these montages of melancholy. It feels like a shortcut to making me care. I’m already interested in babysitting, so just tell a good story.

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Other times, fortunately, the present story still has the same effect of reminding me why I am still here looking when so many others have gone. I really care about the characters, their interpersonal dynamics, and their well-being. When Daryl almost decides to kill someone in a fit of rage, he can only stop looking red and be dissuaded when Carol intervenes. Their story together is my favorite of all, but others, like Maggie and Negan, Rosita and Gabriel, and more, are shown to poignant effect. In that way, the series feels like it’s coming to a poignant ending that I look forward to seeing. I just wish it had an overarching message to convey as well, and with only six hours left for me to watch, it’s nowhere in sight.

I love a series that makes its ending seem epic, like everything is coming to an end in the most dramatic way. It fulfills the promise of years one may have gone before, which makes the payoff incredible. I think Lost, for all its faults, does it well. Imperfect games like Mass Effect 3 do too. There’s room to be flawed, like The Walking Dead Season 11 was always meant to be, but still memorable. Maybe it’ll still get there with the last six episodes I haven’t seen yet, but I’m concerned that these last 12 years with the show will soon come to be seen as the world’s longest prequel.

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