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The Walking Dead 11.05 Review – ‘Out of the Ashes’

September 19, 2021 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
The Walking Dead - Out of the Ashes Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC
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The Walking Dead 11.05 Review – ‘Out of the Ashes’  

‘Out of the Ashes’ is a very apt title for this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, as everyone is trying to climb out of the shadows and the ashes of the past and struggling to find a new future.

The plot: This episode covers a lot of ground as it jumps between a number of different storylines. Negan & Maggie make their way to a safehouse she knows of and argue more than once about whether to keep on the mission or go back with what supplies they have. They ultimately stay, are joined by Elijah and Gabriel, and decide to try and wait for the others as well (only Daryl & Frost are possibly still out there). In Alexandria, the walls are fragile and falling apart, and Judith is dealing with bullies and the fact that all of the adults in her family aren’t here anymore. Rosita and her friends her own age comfort her and help her repair the broken porch wood that she and Carl put their handprints on before he died. Aaron, Carol, Jerry, and Lydia go to Hilltop to get supplies and run into a small group of Whisperers, and are exceptionally harsh with one of them, Keith, torturing him and letting a walker bite his hand to get info before Carol finally pulls Aaron aside and warns him to not go down this dark path. They let Keith go, cutting off his hand so he won’t turn, and he tells them he’s seen Connie alive and roughly where. And finally, in the Commonwealth, the group are given job and housing assignments, but Eugene doesn’t want to forget that they’re here to get help for Alexandria. While Yumi reunites with her brother, a surgeon-turned-baker, they break into the town radio room and make contact with Rosita and Judith. They lose signal before they can talk much, and are arrested and about to be charged with crimes, but a man of importance around here, Lance Hornsby, steps in to help them. But who knows why and who knows what punishment they’ll yet receive.

Lots going on tonight! After a few episodes focusing on one place or group, this episode felt very fast-paced as it jumped around. That can sometimes be a detriment to a show, but these different stories shared a common thread of all being focused on saving Alexandria made it work for me. Even Judith is doing her part, training the kids on how to fight and how to kill walkers with a sword! Her story diverts from that more than the others, but still stays on the theme given by the title. For Judith, the past that looms are the people she’s lost–her birth mother, her big brother, her father (I assume Judith doesn’t know about Shane possibly being her biodad here, I’m only referring to Rick), and the only mother she’s known going off on a mission to maybe find said dad. But Michonne, and Rick, may never return as far as she knows, and being taunted by these bullies is not only a huge jerk move on their part, but it shakes her up. Let’s not forget she’s only 8 years old! That kid’s an asshole, and also she was 100% right in that they shouldn’t be taunting walkers at all, much less at the piece of the wall that just fell down earlier, leading to at least one person dying as it is! I felt so bad for her–once again, Cailey Fleming is a fantastic young actress, doing great work with some great writing for this young character. We don’t often see Judith vulnerable, much less seeming…I wanted to say “so young”, but she doesn’t seem so young, it’s just so easy to forget that she is so young. As much as my heart broke to see her crying, I enjoyed having a scene where she gets to be young and be vulnerable. I also loved how Rosita comforted her. She didn’t talk down to her, she didn’t dismiss her worries, she was honest while also being uplifting and reassuring. Bravo and A+ parenting, Rosita.

Speaking of vulnerabilities and fears, let’s talk about Aaron! Aaron’s been inching towards darkness for a long time now. He’s perhaps the only original Alexandrian still left? One of very few, at the least. So he not only lost his partner back in the Saviors war, his good friend (and maybe more) Jesus to the Whisperers, and dozens of other friends and loved ones, he also lost his home to the Whisperers. And they didn’t just attack them like the Wolves and the Saviors did, they did everything they could to break them and leave them destitute. They burned down Hilltop, burned their crops, broke their walls, and now he’s overwhelmed with grief, rage, and fear. His very evocative nightmare makes it clear he’s especially worried about providing for and protecting his daughter Gracie. I think this worry extends to everyone who’s left, and it’s why he’s fighting so hard to find supplies and food. Seeing a Whisperer again, however, makes him snap bigtime. While his rage and actions are understandable, however, I do think he goes too far and I’m so glad Carol stopped him, warned him not to fall into the trap that she did before it was too late. Leaving this man without a hand is still harsh–nothing compared to what the Whisperers took from them, but then again, effectively the Alexandrians did the same to these last Whisperer survivors, too. Their entire way of life and everyone they knew, their security, is gone as well. These former enemies end up in probably the best place they possibly can, staying the hell away from one another and having an uneasy agreement to stop trying to kill one another.

Which is almost where Negan and Maggie are at! We don’t get much of these two, and their personal clashes are the same they have been. I do kind of wish we got to explore them having to work together directly a little more and see that perhaps evolve, but it’s also understandably too soon to see any change of note here. Honestly, it may always be too soon. The most interesting thing here is that they’re both right in what they’re arguing about now. Going home now will mean they’re back where they started, basically, but with so many of their number already dead or unaccounted for, they may also not stand a chance of taking Meridian. Now, we happen to know that the Reapers are only 15 in number, but also they’re pretty hardcore military elite at this point. Our survivors are also very capable, but not exactly in peak condition here. Given that Daryl’s on the inside now, I think it’s possible for our team to pull this out with careful planning, but put the emphasis on careful in that sentence.

And finally, in the Commonwealth, the foursome of Alexandrians are likewise in a precarious situation. Their opponent takes quite a different shape, bureaucracy instead of religious zealot killers, but they also need to proceed carefully if they’re going to get any aid for Alexandria. Unfortunately, they rush their planning a little out of desperation and get caught. Not shocking that they rush, I had almost forgotten that they left in the middle of the Whisperer War and that it’s been weeks since then, they didn’t even know if their friends were still alive at all. I hope that Eugene was at least able to hear that Alpha & Beta are dead before they lost the signal, but they’ve got bigger issues now. If they get kicked out and banished, then all hope is lost for getting aid–but this twist of Lance Hornsby, star of what is clearly a shiny propaganda orientation video for the Commonwealth, stepping in on their behalf is…intriguing. Why is he doing this? What exactly is his role in this place? And as Stephanie implies there will still be some punishment to deal with, what’s that going to look like?

Princess flirting with Mercer was a fun moment of seeing a hint of a softer side to him, however, speaking of the security. He’s clearly a tough exterior, serious sort, and her compliments and general demeanor throwing him off even briefly was fun.

Before this group gets into trouble, however, the exploration of Commonwealth we do get is downright jarring. Seeing a place this clean, this peaceful, and apparently there are more than 50,000 people living here?! They clearly never had a Negan or and Alpha to deal with. Seeing Eugene go to an ice cream truck and Yumi’s brother as a baker at a cake shop, making elaborate decorative cakes and other treats, things that are entirely not essential, signs of a community that is well beyond scarcity, it’s almost alien compared to everything we’re used to seeing. Even Alexandria at its peak could barely compare to this! But the shininess of it obviously hides some unsavory aspects. This regimented job system is concerning, as is the propaganda and strict security everywhere. The shadow of the past here is more about the Commonwealth trying to emulate a world that itself is in the past, and while it clearly works in many regards, these people can’t pretend the world isn’t the way it is. Protecting their people is paramount, of course, but hiding the reality out there is another thing altogether.

With so many avenues being explored, the question becomes, can the Alexandrians find a way to rise from their own ashes? Can they find a way to survive? And what will they have to do? What will they need to let go of, what compromises do they need to make, and what sacrifices, to survive this time? Though some violence will ensue, this time it isn’t about beating an enemy to survive, ultimately, it’s about securing a future.

The final score: review Good
The 411
A lot going on in this episode, but while the locations were far removed, the themes carried through to tie things together. After the slower pace and focus of the last few episodes, it was an interest change, but a welcome one to keep this final season moving along. While there weren't any singular action sequences, though we did get that tense opening of fixing the fallen wall panel, we got a lot of tense and intense moments, some happiness in the midst of the lengthy struggle to save their home, and some excellent character moments for a number of people. Judith's vulnerability, Aaron's darkness, Negan and Maggie's continued struggle to coexist, and Eugene's determination. While this has the clear feeling of being a 'mid-season' episode, it's doing well all the same.

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The Walking Dead, Katie Hallahan