Sunday night’s episode of The Walking Dead—the penultimate episode of this first third of Season 11—was quite good.
I think a large part of the problem with this show is that there are simply too many episodes, and too many of these become dull (and often nonsensical) filler while we wait for the good stuff.
Well the good stuff has arrived. I enjoyed last week’s totally preposterous “house of horrors” episode also. It was completely implausible and ridiculous, but had such a fun horror movie vibe I enjoyed it and just let the plot holes and general absurdity of the feral people slide.
MORE FROM FORBES‘The Walking Dead’ Season 11, Episode 6 Review: House Of Horrors!By Erik Kain
This week’s episode, Broken Promises, is much more grounded. We follow three storylines this week, and each one is solid in its own right, but the Negan/Maggie sequences were by far my favorite.
Watch my video review—and subscribe to my YouTube channel!—below:
Maggie Is The New Alpha
I love the image at the top of this post. It’s Maggie (Lauren Cohan) in her brand new Whisperer mask. It’s quite unsettling. Maggie wasn’t there for the vast majority of the Whisperer war. She never met Alpha, only showing up at the last minute—just in the nick of time—to help mop up Beta’s horde.
In any case, she hast he idea to use the zombies this way after Negan points out that they hardly have the numbers to realistically take on the Reapers. Negan basically says that Daryl was urging them to go home when he gave them all the information in last week’s episode while they hid in the basement. Maggie disagrees, saying that she won’t leave everyone in Alexandria to starve to death (though they’re doing fine with all that horse meat).
This is rich coming from Maggie who has now lost every single one of her own people except for Elijah. Clearly Negan has a point when this many of their group have perished. There is a time when you have to call it quits, lick your wounds and count your losses. But she insists and so he makes her promise that the two of them are even if he sticks around. She says “We’ll never be even!” but relents and shakes his hand.
They gather the zombies up and make some masks and then Negan trains Maggie how to be a believable Whisperer, having learned form the best himself. She almost gives up but he tells her she just has to believe in herself and she’ll get it eventually.
Later, Negan tells Maggie she’s doing great and they have a friendlier-than-usual chat. He tells her that he understands how it feels to have your community invaded and your people killed, at last addressing the other elephant in the room: The fact that Rick’s people attacked Negan first, raiding one of their bases and killing many of them in their sleep. This remains, to me, one of the most awful things that any characters have done in this show and, at the time, made me really start to think of the “heroes” as the real bad guys.
Negan says the world has changed since then. Fewer people to protect, less stuff to fight over, fewer enemies to fight with. Maggie asks if he would do things differently if he could and Negan doesn’t beat around the bush.
Negan tells Maggie he would absolutely do things differently: He’d kill all of them instead of just Glenn and Abraham if he could do it over again. This would have protected his people from what ended up happening in the end. You have to be realistic about these things. When Maggie asks why on earth he would tell her this, he says that the only way the two of them will be able to work together is radical honesty.
What makes this moment work so well is the fact that Maggie ends up aping the Whisperers and their tactics to fight against the Reapers. She’s copying one of the show’s most diabolical villains in order to protect her people and get the food they need. It really drives home Negan’s point, that even the “bad guys” are often just trying to protect their own.
So when we see the image of Maggie in Whisperer attire leading a massive horde toward her enemies, we once again have to question the line between good and evil, between heroic and just doing whatever it takes to keep your people safe, even if it means taking up the tactics of your enemies—or killing just two of them and showing the rest mercy.
Eugene The Brave
Elsewhere, Eugene’s group is now paying the price for breaking the law. Hornsby has intervened (or that’s how they want it to look anyways) and stopped them from being exiled. Instead, Eugene, Ezekiel, Princess and Stephanie are all given zombie clearing duty as punishment.
Princess insists on Ezekiel going to the doctor at one point so apparently they’re not monitored too closely and can take breaks, but it doesn’t look like a fun job at all—though one that our heroes are uniquely suited to.
At one point a young couple is escorted past them by some stormtroopers and the man says something about how they’re being led too close to the gross peasants and it smells revolting. Fun guy.
This is Sebastian (Teo Rapp-Olsson) the son of Pamela Milton, the leader of the Commonwealth and its most powerful citizen. Sebastian is a spoiled brat and all around [insert expletive of choice here] and Eugene learns this the hard way.
He and Stephanie see some zombies just waltzing their way free headed toward Sebastian and his girlfriend who are making out and blissfully unaware of the impending danger. So Eugene and Stephanie run over and kill the zombies, putting their own lives at risk.
Rather than thank them, Sebastian starts berating them for ruining their afternoon. When Eugene points out that they just saved their lives, Sebastian says “we have a security detail for that” although said security is nowhere to be seen.
When a zombie sneaks up behind them, Stephanie runs over and spears it just before it gets Sebastian’s girlfriend. Blood sprays on her nice clean clothes and she let’s out a shriek. Again, rather than thanking Stephanie for saving his woman’s life, Sebastian berates her: “You stupid bitch!” he hollers, and Eugene punches him in the nose.
Eugene doesn’t realize who this little twerp is but I wonder if he’d known would he have done anything differently? Clearly this guy needs quite a few punches and probably should have been taught some manners as a kid. He is now officially this show’s Joffrey Baratheon.
I have to say, while they did a good job establishing him as a new antagonist, even the most stuck-up brats would probably not act like this after having their lives saved. Hornsby tells Eugene in jail “You were supposed to save him. If you’d done that you’d be a hero and could have asked for anything you wanted!” (Or something to that effect). But he did save him! He saved him and was insulted and yelled at for it. It’s frustrating and just a little unrealistic.
I would have preferred that he just acted snooty and didn’t thank them, or went off and told people that he was the one who killed the zombies, leading to Eugene getting miffed and decking him then. But it’s not a huge deal. They’ve made sure we know Sebastian is terrible and we already all hate him passionately.
We get a bit of Yumiko—who cleans up nicely—and her brother, who is randomly arrested for some reason. Yumiko has set up an appointment to meet Pamela who she will be providing legal services to but it falls through after Eugene pops Sebastian in the nose.
Which brings us to . . .
Daryl The Merciful
The third, and shortest, of the storylines centers around Daryl and Leah who are out scouting trying to find the “dozens-strong” group that Daryl told Pope he was traveling with. So far, none of the Reaper scouts have found them. Since they don’t exist.
We haven’t found out what made Pope so jolly last week. This week he seems royally pissed off, eager to track down these evasive enemies and put an end to them. Pope’s only strategy seems to be “kill anything that moves” which makes me genuinely wonder how he has any followers at all. How do you recruit people if you kill them all on sight? How did he recruit Leah and how exactly could a man like that be “like a father” to her?
They find a guy who says he’s searching for food for him and his wife. I thought he said she was sick but when he leads them to her she’s clearly wounded—and badly. Pope has, of course, ordered Leah to kill anyone she finds but she tells the man to take his boy and run and never come back.
The woman asks them to put her out of her misery but Leah can’t do it, so Daryl does instead, showing mercy to both women at once. It’s this glimpse of Leah as a more compassionate human being that makes Daryl very nearly reveal the truth to her. If not for an incoming message from Pope, I think he’d have spilled the beans. Maybe he will next week. I just don’t think it’s going to go over well.
Odds & Ends
The only thing we’re missing now is a weird scene between Gabriel and the man in the above picture. This is Mancea, and he’s basically the Reapers’ priest. He gave funeral rights in a previous episode for one of their fallen brethren. Here he does some creepy praying while Gabriel watches from the bushes. Mancea almost spots him but doesn’t—or at least, he pretends not to. I’m not sure. Gabriel is relieved when he doesn’t have to attack.
It’s strange, though. Later, when Maggie asks if he encountered anyone he lies and says he didn’t. Is some spark of Gabriel’s old faith rekindled in this moment? Did the prayer speak to him somehow? I’m not really sure. All I know is that Gabriel is infinitely more tolerable than he used to be and that I’m curious how he’ll react to Pope and Mancea’s twisted brand of religion.
There was also a moment while Maggie and Elijah were herding the horde that Elijah looks over and sees an older black female zombie shambling along and he starts to cry. Was this his mother or some other family member?
This was kind of an interesting moment because it sort of transported me back to Season 1, when the zombies were a lot more human. In the very first episode we have that little girl with the doll, and zombies who try to open doors via the knob and so forth. There’s just more humanity in them still somehow, some flicker of conscious thought. And we see that—at least a shadow of that—in the woman as she shambles alongside them. I’m not sure if that’s just me or if other people had similar thoughts, or even if it was intentional.
All told, I really enjoyed this episode. I like that they pushed the Maggie/Negan storyline into uncharted waters, even if it’s just a dipping of toes at this point. They’re clearly not going to hook up, but we do need to see their story evolve which seems to finally be happening.
Maggie tells Elijah she “wants” to keep her promise to Negan, which is in itself sort of surprising. But with an episode titled “Broken Promises” who knows what to think?
I’m also impressed with Eugene who continues to grow into a braver and more confident character despite his various lapses. It does look like he’s going to give Hornsby the location of Alexandria, which is probably how the next episode will end, with some kind of cliffhanger as the Commonwealth shows up to survey the settlement.
Did you enjoy this one as much as me or am I completely off-base and crazy? Let me know your thoughts on Twitter or Facebook.
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