This The Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 11 Episode 12
When it comes to untrustworthy characters on The Walking Dead, there’s not a ton of subtlety. Sure, the Governor talked nice, but he had an eye patch. Eye patches are evil; anyone who has ever seen a soap opera knows that. Negan was introduced killing two beloved characters in brutal fashion; tough to come back from that even if you traditionally keep your word. And then, there’s Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton), with his insincere smile, dead eyes, and used car salesman haircut. Maybe it’s his suits that make him so naturally unlikable; he’s a dandy in a world where the closest tailor is probably chewing on someone’s head, and that’s something innately troublesome outside of the confines of The Commonwealth. In Alexandria, being bathed is a worrying sign, let alone being as put together as Lance is.
Lance’s sliminess is on full display this week, as “The Lucky Ones” goes deeply into the politics behind being admitted to The Commonwealth. Lance is wheeling and dealing, and it seems like everyone is wise to his action and buying it anyway, be they Pamela Milton, who knows he’s an inveterate weasel, and Aaron, who should know better but doesn’t have a lot of choice but to turn to the Commonwealth for help since Hilltop is nothing but a dream and some rubble piles and Oceanside is Oceanside. The offered assistance from The Commonwealth is worth the cost, at least as far as Aaron is concerned. He’s not the only one willing to overlook his better judgment in desperation.
Then again, Aaron was part of Alexandria when Deanna was in charge, so maybe he’s looking for a more familiar home after years of struggling in the wilderness.
The mission is simple: recruit the three communities and bring them in as a part of the Commonwealth’s sphere of influence. To what end? Well, that isn’t revealed immediately, but it’s Lance, and it’s established early on in Vivian Tse’s script that Lance is nothing if not ambitious. That point is only driven home further with his every interaction with Aaron at Alexandria, Oceanside, and Maggie at Hilltop. He’s not open with them with his true plan, but that’s beside the point. The point is he wants them to join up, badly, and he’s willing to press for it with every opportunity.
While Pamela Milton (Laila Robins) is a little bit better at hiding her true aims, Lance is more openly willing to make deals and add contingencies in the open. He lacks Milton’s charm and political skill, even if he outpaces her in both vision and ruthlessness. Josh Hamilton does a phenomenal job of embodying the lick spittle Lance; he’s both a toady and a ruthless conniver at the same time. He’s never convincing enough to win someone over completely, but he’s convincing enough that hunger or need would drive someone to taking up with him out of necessity. He makes deals you can kind of live with, while still knowing that he’s got something else up his sleeve that probably won’t be great.
Not that there’s a lot of choice out there. The Commonwealth is 50,000 strong. They have an army, armored vehicles, weapons, food, and security… all the things that the original triumvirate of survivor communities sought with one another. Dianne (Kerry Cahill) has been involved with The Kingdom, Hilltop, Alexandria, Oceanside, and has gone through the Saviors, the Whisperers, and who knows how many numbers of walkers, bandits, thugs, and other ne’er-do-wells.
She’s exhausted and hungry; the offer of security for a little while is enough to turn her head, along with quite a few members of all three communities from the looks of things. Tse makes that clear in every interaction between Milton, Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Lance, and Aaron (Ross Marquand). These people have all hit their limit of struggle, and it might be worth giving up a little freedom in exchange for a full stomach and a safe place to sleep at night.
People have sold out their communities for less. From the amount of work needing to restore Alexandria and Hilltop, it’s not surprising to see people defecting. Alexandria at least has the bones to rebuild from, but Hilltop is nothing but a half-destroyed fence and a barren patch on the ground. They’re not repairing as much as building from scratch, which seems like a poor use of resources and time. Another recurring theme for “The Lucky Ones” is knowing when to throw in the towel, and Maggie just can’t seem to give up when it’s probably time to move on.
Director Tawnia McKiernan and Tse do a great job of highlighting Lance’s instability, particularly at the very end of the episode in which his initial plans are delayed by Maggie’s intransigence. Hamilton is a dead-eyed ball of panic, with a rictus grin and rictus hair. He can’t crack, and yet he’s clearly fracturing under pressure as he sees his opportunities passing him by. No wonder he’s uncharacteristically open with Aaron, assuming you can believe anything he says at any point. This is his best chance at carving out a niche of his very own out of Wilton’s shadow, and it’s being held up by a dirt farmer and her raggedy group of half-starved friends.
Undoubtedly this will lead to a lot of problems for both Lance and Maggie as the two of them fall into a battle of wills and resources. Maggie has the will, Lance has the resources, provided he doesn’t get too distracted from his real work with The Commonwealth. This won’t go well for Lance. Maggie is resourceful and vicious, and she’s got friends who’ll back her. Lance is clearly in the process of going rogue, if he’s not already there, and he’s not got many friends judging by the way Stephanie AKA Mercer’s sister goes running to Eugene when she sees the opening left by fake Stephanie AKA Shira.
Lance’s ambition is noble, if the vision of the future he spins for Maggie is accurate. He holds the party line with Aaron; he wants to remake the world. He just wants to make sure he’s in the driver’s seat when this newly remade world comes to fruition. And, it seems, he’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.