This The Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 11 Episode 22
One of the better things about the final season of The Walking Dead is that once again it feels like a show where all bets are off. Aside from the few people who have spin-off shows in the works, we’re back to what Joe Bob Briggs always called the number one rule of a good drive-in movie: anybody can die at any moment. Granted, that hasn’t actually happened on screen yet, but throughout “Faith” the viewer is never allowed a chance to rest easy, particularly where the prisoner portion of the show is concerned.
It wouldn’t be like this iteration of The Walking Dead to pull the trigger, but the old version of The Walking Dead never got to use this many obscenities in its dialog. Maybe the only rule is there are no rules, save for not killing off Daryl (Norman Reedus), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) because they’re all getting ready to shoot or are currently shooting their spin-off shows. But everyone else on the cast, dozens of people? They’re all expendable, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if some sort of mass casualty event happened between now and the series finale. After all, it appears that The Commonwealth is about to undergo its first revolution at the hands of the (former) Ricktatorship Truth and Reconciliation Committee.
It’s rare that the Alexandrians are seen as anything other than competent. They don’t tend to make mistakes, which is fine, but they seem to always be able to account for Murphy in their planning. Even when there’s a surprise soldier interrupting Maggie and Carol as they sneak into the Alexandria house that used to be the mayor’s office, they know how to handle the play and do so immaculately. But the prison escape is a lot more complicated, either because of the amount of moving parts to consider or the fact that there won’t be any help (at first) from a sympathetic guard and Tyler (Cameron Roberts), last seen yelling at Milton in public about her son’s many crimes before getting disappeared. It’s not that there’s no willingness to get involved, it’s just that they all have families that Milton can use to control them.
Family is a great leverage, particularly in this world. Herschel is Maggie’s main concern throughout this process. When she can’t find Coco, Rosita (Christian Serratos) starts torturing the wounded prison warden for information. Maggie, thinking incorrectly that she’s imagining Herschel’s voice, breaks down crying on Carol’s shoulder, in a very good scene for both Lauren Cohan and Melissa McBride. Not only does Milton use family against her prisoners, she uses family against her civilians (everyone has to work to support their family) and her own guards (witness the guard whose sick brother is dying get denied his transfer request). The Warden (Michael Weaver, famous to me from the faux-reality show The Joe Schmo Show) uses the same tricks as Milton on both the guards, rejecting the request to transfer because it was done without going through him, and the prisoners, dragging Negan into his office and threatening his wife and baby to get him to cooperate with his investigation into a possible uprising.
It’s set up perfectly by Nicole Mirante-Matthews and Magali Lozano’s script, with both Khary Payton and Jeffrey Dean Morgan really selling the possibility of Negan’s betrayal to save the only thing he’s ever wanted. Negan, as he points out, isn’t well liked among the remaining Alexandrians and even less by the people he’s stuck with. He’s got no friends, and there’s no one willing to stick their neck out for him except for Annie (Medina Singhore), which makes it natural that he might consider turning on the group. His heated exchange with Ezekiel also pushes that possibility forward. It’s Negan, he’s smirking in the face of authority, and he clearly has a plan that doesn’t necessarily involve the rest of his people. That’s what Negan does, after all. He spent half a season keeping secrets from everyone except Carol, so why would he let people in on his current plan?
The Spartacus moment, admittedly, is kind of nice, and it’s touching to see a bunch of people who are involved in the uprising attempt throw their lot in with Negan, and Payton does such a great job with big motivational speeches that feel more real and more part of Ezekiel’s character than they should. Once upon a time, everyone in The Saviors was Negan, including Eugene (who brings this up in his trial portion), and it was a bad thing. Now, in this moment, everyone stepping up to essentially be Negan is a touching thing, just touching enough that with the proper Ezekiel speech, the firing squad lowers their guns (except for one guy who has to be shot), and the balance of power shifts away from The Warden in a few tense moments. Rose Troche plays it well, and milks all the tension out of it possible, and the shift is well done and makes sense given the clear unhappiness of certain guards.
It’s nice that fighting the good fight on one side pays off, because it doesn’t pay off for former Savior Eugene. Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) does her best to keep him off the gallows, but as Vicki Lawrence sang in “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia,” the judge in the town’s got blood stains on her hands, and an innocent man is about to be hanged after a show trial. Not that it’s much of a show; the fix is clearly in, and all the grumbling and unhappiness of the people in the courtroom won’t change a thing as long as Mercer’s clamshells are outside with guns and bayonets and truncheons. Ezekiel’s speech changed hearts and minds; Eugene’s speech falls on deaf ears, but he makes the attempt all the same.
You win some, you lose some. The placement of Eugene’s kangaroo court ahead of Negan’s uprising is good placement, because that big loss is kind of a surprise; Eugene talks his way out trouble more than anyone should be able to, and Yumiko is an Ivy League lawyer. If anyone should be able to Perry Mason him out of this trouble, it would be her. And yet, she can’t do it, while the unlikable Negan is able to turn the tables on his jailers with the help of a group of friends and a few sympathetic guards.
Power to the people only works if the people are able to fight back, and it’s not a good idea to fight the side with guns if you’re unarmed. Those sympathetic guards turned the tied for Negan’s breakout attempt; maybe a sympathetic guard in orange plastic armor can help turn the tide for The Commonwealth. I won’t repeat Mercer’s fist-pump closing line, but he’s definitely chosen the right side this time.