This article contains major spoilers for The Walking Dead comic and potentially season 11.
The end is nigh for The Walking Dead.
And we’re not just talking about the news that The Walking Dead season 11 will serve as the final season of the long-running zombie drama. We’re also referring to the fact that the show will soon no longer have any material from the original comic series to draw from.
Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead comic lasted for 193 issues and 32 volumes before concluding in July of 2019. The Walking Dead season 10 finale, in which the Whisperers are dispatched and Eugene arrives at a powerful new community called The Commonwealth, takes the show’s story up to around the start of Volume 30: New World Order.
In many ways, this final Commonwealth arc is the comic’s biggest storytelling gambit yet, with lots of new concepts and moving parts. The Walking Dead TV show now only has 30 episodes (6 remaining “extra” season 10 episodes and 24 season 11 episodes) to tell the whole thing.
So in the grand tradition of our comic book catch ups dating back to season 8, we will give you a fair share of Walking Dead season 11 spoilers here by detailing what is yet to come in the final arc of the comics and therefore what is what yet to come in the final arc of the show. Read along to find out how what The Commonwealth is and how The Walking Dead will end.
What is The Commonwealth?
When Eugene, Yumiko, Ezekiel, and Princess arrive at the train depot rendezvous at the end of season 10, the armor on the soldiers that accost them leaves absolutely no mystery as to where they are. Eugene and company have arrived at The Commonwealth. What exactly is the Commonwealth? Well to put it in the simplest terms possible: The Commonwealth is a community…a big, big, big, big, big community.
In the comics, The Commonwealth exists somewhere in Ohio. In the show it’s somewhere in West Virginia. But if this show Commonwealth takes after the book Commonwealth, then Eugene and friends can expect to have just encountered a community of 50,000 people. 50,000! That’s an above-average sized suburb just about anywhere in the U.S. in normal times. In the context of the zombie apocalypse, it’s a super-city. For comparison’s sake, the combined population of Alexandria, Hilltop, The Kingdom, The Sanctuary, and Oceanside numbers in the hundreds.
As evidenced by its highly organized and heavily armored soldiers, The Commonwealth is an extremely advanced society. It has a functioning government led by Governor Pamela Milton. It has distinct military and police forces to keep people safe. It even has a thriving restaurant scene and recreational activities like baseball games held in stadiums. All is well at The Commonwealth. But also, like…is all well at The Commonwealth?
The Rotten Core
The penultimate volume of The Walking Dead comic series is called “The Rotten Core” for a reason. Nobody at The Commonwealth is purely evil like The Governor of Woodbury, nor does any one there exhibit the sheer savagery of a Negan or Alpha. But that’s not to say that Governor Pamela Milton and the political and social institutions of The Commonwealth aren’t flawed.
The goal of The Commonwealth was to build something that would resemble the world before the zombie apocalypse. And they did so. The Commonwealth rebuilt the world as it was with all its conveniences, safety, and unfortunately: inequality. Eugene and his crew (which includes Michonne, Siddiq, Magna, and Yumiko in the comic) soon find out the drawbacks of The Commonwealth’s highly-civilized lifestyle. Instead of being celebrated like a hero for making first contact with a new society, Eugene’s new friend Stephanie is chastised and punished for acting above her station. Stephanie and Michonne’s long-lost daughter Elodie then begin to let Eugene and co. in on the various rules of The Commonwealth.
Citizens of The Commonwealth are assigned jobs and statuses based on the jobs and statuses that they enjoyed in the “before world.” When the Alexandrians are brought to meet Governor Pamela Milton, Milton is thrilled to discover that Michonne was a lawyer in her previous life. Michonne is almost immediately welcomed into the community and given a grand apartment befitting her status as someone who can help judicate matters in The Commonwealth. Eugene, despite being the most brilliant individual in his community, is not afforded anywhere near the same level of respect due to his modest high school teacher background.
One thing that is important to note is that, even though the core of the Commonwealth is rotten and the behavior of its politicians is unfair, it’s not necessarily seen as wildly nefarious. People are allowed the opportunity to “move up” to a new social caste once per year. The system makes the Alexandrians uncomfortable, but no one appears to be so weirded out by it that they feel the need to intervene. Princess even says she thinks the system of social advancement seems fair to her.
But not everybody at The Commonwealth is a fan of the current state of affairs.
A Commonwealth soldier named Mercer is one of the most important characters introduced in this final arc, and he (or a character like him) is almost certain to make an appearance on the TV show. Mercer is a physically-imposing specimen of a man and one of the Commonwealth’s most impressive soldiers. Mercer is also, quite frankly, sick of The Commonwealth’s shit. Governor Pam Milton isn’t a despot. But that doesn’t mean she’s a particularly inspiring or effective leader either. Milton lets her spoiled, truly awful son Sebastian treat Mercer like a personal lapdog. Mercer has his eye on starting a coup to overthrow Pamela, and the introduction of these Alexandrian strangers who live freer lifestyles seems to accelerate Mercer’s desires.
Eventually Milton, Mercer, and Eugene return to Alexandria so that The Governor can see where Eugene comes from and meet the great Rick Grimes. Upon seeing Alexandria, Milton calls it a “shithole” but eventually warms up to it and is tremendously impressed by Rick. Rick gives Milton and the Commonwealth community a tour and the two discuss their political philosophies.
This is another area in which this arc of the comic is pleasantly non-confrontational. The Commonwealth is definitely the “antagonist” of these final batches of issues, but Rick Grimes and Pamela Milton don’t really have an antagonistic relationship. Upon finding out how The Commonwealth does things, Rick makes it clear that he doesn’t approve of that approach, but he also says he cannot begrudge them their successes. When Rick, Eugene, and the Commonwealthers return to the massive community, Rick is absolutely enchanted by what he sees.
The relative peace and stability of The Commonwealth is mind-bending to Rick. He literally cries when having dinner out on the town with Michonne as he wishes Andrea could have been alive for this. The Commonwealth, in many ways, is the end game that Rick has been striving for. Unfortunately, that rotten core cannot be ignored much longer.
Perhaps it’s because of Rick’s presence and the knowledge of what kind of community he leads, or perhaps it’s just because they can’t handle any more bullshit – whatever the reason, the lower class of the Commonwealth eventually erupts in glorious revolution. In what is certain to be a disturbingly familiar moment when it airs on television, a Commonwealth soldier beats a citizen into a coma after finding the citizen had an affair with the soldier’s wife. The people of The Commonwealth have themselves a lengthy, destructive riot.
After the riot dies down, Rick embarrasses Pamela by helping to clean up all the debris. It’s an act that doesn’t go unnoticed among the people of The Commonwealth. Both Dwight and Mercer now see Rick as an important figure to their respective causes. Mercer believes that Rick can be the key to leading a bloodless coup. Dwight also wants a coup but not a bloodless one. He wants Alexandrian and its 100-something people to violently overthrow The Commonwealth…because Dwight is a moron. Things get so tense that Rick sends a message back to Alexandria and Hilltop to Maggie to prepare for war just in case.
Ultimately, however, Rick wants nothing to do with either plan and he is eventually forced to kill Dwight when Dwight pulls a gun on Pamela. The damage, however, has already been done. Pamela’s political powers and influence are at their lowest and the citizens’ frustrations are at their height. Mercer enlists the help of Dwight’s old girlfriend Laura to recruit other Commonwealth soldiers to their cause. The military rises up and Pamela and Sebastian are forced to flee to neighboring city Greenville.
There’s now a leadership vacuum and you just know who loves stepping into those…Rick Grimes once again accepts the burden of leadership thrust upon him and announces that there will now be democratic elections held in The Commonwealth. All is well…except…
Rest in Peace
Before we discuss the very final arc of The Walking Dead comic and The Walking Dead TV show, let’s take a brief moment to remark upon just how much has changed here. In the lengthy plot description above, you may notice that many characters involved are no longer on the show. The Walking Dead will have to try out the comic’s final arc without Rick Grimes, Michonne, Siddiq, Dwight, or Laura. Thankfully, in many cases that won’t be a big issue. Daryl and Carol can step in for Rick and Michonne pretty easily in most cases. Siddiq and Laura don’t play too significant of roles and Dwight could be really anyone from Alexandria who is annoyed with the current state of affairs (Alden maybe?).
But the lack of Rick is really going to be apparent for this final arc to the extent that the show will likely have to go in a completely new direction. Volume 32: Rest in Peace is all about the sad death of one Rick Grimes. Hammering home once again how civil this whole arc is, Rick visits Pamela in jail where she says she has no hard feelings about how things went down. Unfortunately, her son does. And that’s how one night, the mighty Rick Grimes is shot and killed in his home by one privileged brat. The penultimate issue of the comic deals with the heartbreaking fallout and with Carl Grimes (who is also dead in the show) making the magnanimous decision not to kill Sebastian. The final issue of the book then rolls right into an extended flash forward that you can read more about here.
Of course, The Walking Dead TV show doesn’t appear in a position to pull off a similar arc here. Rick is already off the show and has movie plot armor anyway. Neither Daryl or Carol will step into Rick’s death mask as the pair is getting their own spinoff. Perhaps Maggie could step in and take the bullet for Rick but even that doesn’t have the same oomph.
No, it seems likely that the conclusion of The Walking Dead TV series will deviate from the comic significantly. That doesn’t mean we won’t get a lot of The Commonwealth arc up to a certain point. But at the very end, The Walking Dead will be on its own…just like how it started with a first season full of Darabont deviations.