This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead season 11 episode 18.
People of the zombie apocalypse, rejoice! Sebastian Milton (Teo Rapp-Olsson), son of Pamela, nepotism baby of the Commonwealth and all-around monster, has officially been devoured by walkers as of season 11’s eighteenth episode, “A New Deal.” Though it would be disingenuous to say he will be missed, it is also true that the impact of his death is sure to affect the final episodes of the series. For instance, we now know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the show will not end the same way the comic did, where Sebastian played a markedly different role as the final antagonist of the series.
While it would have been clear to any fan of the comics that the show was not following the same blueprint as far back as the second season when characters like Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) began to diverge from their counterparts, this means absolutely nothing is certain for the final episodes of The Walking Dead. Who will survive and what will be left of them? We can’t say for sure, but one thing we do know is that Sebastian united TV and comic fans by being one of the most universally reviled characters ever introduced to the franchise.
In the comic and TV series alike, Rick Grimes faced down many big bads over his time as the de facto leader of our crew. While Rick’s live-action portrayer Andrew Lincoln left the series with season 9, he’s set to return to the franchise in an as-of-yet unnamed miniseries exploring what became of him and Michonne post-TWD. Whether he’ll return for the final episodes of the main series remains to be seen, but if so, it’ll be in a different capacity than he closed out the comic with.
Likewise, Sebastian’s basic personality is much the same between the series and the show, appearing as a deeply unlikeable man in his mid-20s, brought to life by Teo Rapp-Olsson for the live-action adaptation. In the comic, Sebastian is the man who finally kills Rick after he evaded death so many times, shooting him point blank during an exceptionally nasty power trip. Despite this, not even Rick’s son Carl took undue vengeance on Sebastian, and he lives past the conclusion of the series, albeit in prison.
The TV series took the commentary on the bad grace that familial dynasties can impart on their youth to the next level by emphasizing that Sebastian’s grandfather served as a U.S. president. This helped to instill a much larger familial legacy and added some context to Pamela’s stark disappointment in her son while building the political commentary of the Commonwealth. In either case, the Miltons represent an upper-class that exploits the people and cares little about what becomes of them, pushing the importance of image and luxury over tangible social justice.
Indeed, one of the most interesting elements of Rick’s comic book death is that over the course of the series, he goes from being a survivalist to a true man of the people, rallying and saving lives, only to be pointlessly killed by Sebastian. Taunting him, Sebastian asks him how powerful he feels before firing at him, then realizes his error and apologizes but shoots several more times out of panic.
The lack of real consequences for Sebastian throughout his early appearances versus his eventual fate of a life sentence served as a poignant note for the series protagonist to go out on. Rather than losing a fight, Rick actually wins it, but sometimes even winning doesn’t mean a happy ending. Likewise, not even a Milton is fully free of accountability for their actions. Sebastian demanded unquestioning respect and became the most reviled man on the planet while Rick won the love of the people by simply acting in their interest.
Meanwhile, the show has steered away from relying on singular leadership since Rick’s departure, which has granted space for its ensemble cast to shine. Sebastian still brings about his own downfall, but in a pointedly different way. Rather than emphasizing his feelings of inadequacy as the comic did, the show instead saw him deliver a nasty speech revealing his true feelings about the people of the Commonwealth. Disdainfully, he refers to them as sheep and derides them for being too foolish to recognize that they are now and will always be exploited. As his secretly recorded speech plays over a town assembly, walkers flood into the square. He attempts to attack Max Mercer (Margot Bingham), the secretary that brought him down, only to be quite literally torn to pieces and eaten alive.
Though Sebastian plays different roles in either series, he serves a similar purpose in making it clear that even in the zombie apocalypse, corrupt political systems are the biggest threat to peaceful coexistence among the various communities. Yet, while the comic shone for telling the story of one man’s legacy, the TV series has become increasingly relevant in its final seasons due to its commentary indicating that the rich will seldom if ever act in the people’s best interest.
Sebastian is seemingly untouchable, but a young woman that everyone underestimated became his most effective opponent simply by allowing the people of the Commonwealth to hear what he truly thought of them. In that way, Sebastian’s grisly death may yet prove to be one of the most resonant moments of the final season. Despite his power, he left the tools to his own defeat lying everywhere, and it only took one equity-minded person to pick them up and change everything.