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The Walking Dead 11.07 Review – ‘Promises Broken’

October 3, 2021 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
The Walking Dead 11.7 - Promises Broken Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC
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The Walking Dead 11.07 Review – ‘Promises Broken’  

This week on The Walking Dead, Maggie takes a page from Alpha’s book and lessons from Negan on how to be a Whisperer, Daryl finds Leah does have some humanity and compassion left in her, and the group in the Commonwealth aren’t having much luck fitting in.

The plot: Maggie’s group, now consisting of only four people, hatch a plan to gather a walker herd a la the Whisperers to attack Pope’s people. Negan is resistant, but gets Maggie to agree that he won’t need to keep looking over his shoulder for her revenge if he they pull this off with his help, and they have some not-exactly-encouraging, but still honest, talks. Daryl and Leah go out to scout for his friends, and run into a man neither knows, who tells them he needs help for his injured wife. They follow him back, with Leah having gotten the order from Pope to kill them though they aren’t connected to the current ‘enemies’ they’re after, and find the situation as described. Defying the orders, she tells the man to take his son and never come back here again, and the woman thanks them for their help, saying they’re an answer to her prayers, and that she’s ready to die. Leah can’t bring herself to do it, but Daryl does. Meanwhile, Eugene, Stephanie, Princess, and Ezekiel are working off their crimes by clearing walkers from nearby buildings. Ezekiel gets some medical help as his health suffers, and Eugene and Stephanie end up saving the leader of the Commonwealth’s son and his girlfriend from walkers while they picnic. The guy is an asshole who gets in their face and Eugene punches him, making things even worse. Now he needs to give up Alexandria’s location to Hornsby if he ever wants help or to go back. Yumi’s brother is randomly grabbed by Hornsby to put pressure on her to deal with him and not Pamela Milton, the governor, but she pursues this route anyways. However, her meeting is cancelled thanks to Eugene’s incident with the guy.

I find the title of this episode to be interesting, and a little confusing. “Promises Broken” contained very few promises being broken, although it did bring up a number of promises of different sorts. Maggie and Negan made one to one another, Elijah referenced one Maggie made to him some time ago, Leah has her own promises in the form of loyalty to Pope tested and certainly bent if not broken, and Eugene is torn between promises and loyalties of his own.

Let’s talk Maggie and Negan, as this continues to be the through line of this arc. Negan thinks Maggie hasn’t a chance of winning against the Reapers, but he is also invested in helping Alexandria–the whys I’ll get to shortly–so he asks her to promise that if he helps her and they pull this off, she’ll drop her vendetta. Now, as Maggie plainly states, they will never be even, but she can’t afford to be down from four to three going against this vicious group, so she agrees. Even after expressing some surprise he would take a promise from her, but as Negan accurately points out, they’re both people of their word. And his help is absolutely crucial in her Whisperer plan to gather a herd to bring to Pope’s doorstep. But key here as well is the short conversation she has with Elijah, who asks if Negan’s changed. The two big takeaways here? At this point, Maggie’s not sure if he’s changed or not–he’s been helpful, but that doesn’t mean the same thing. Also, this conversation points out that Maggie promised Elijah he would get to kill Pope in retaliation for the man having killed his sister. There’s an immediate parallel here to Maggie’s situation with Negan: he killed Glenn, she wants him to pay for that murder, maybe at her hands, maybe at someone else’s. Pope killed Elijah’s sister, and he wants revenge with his own hands for that. Like Maggie, Elijah seems to be a genuinely good person, on top of being a rather quiet, calm, collected one. He’s got his head on straight, he’s precise and efficient in bad situations. He’s a lot like her. So I can’t help but wonder, what will this quest for revenge do to him? And what will watching that do to Maggie?

It’s important that this conversation came before Maggie’s more revealing talk with Negan. They discuss what happened that night, how the Alexandrians killing the men in the satellite station prompted his retaliation, the world as it is now. Maggie insists that there weren’t families and kids in that station, nor did they kill those men in front of said families like Negan did. Now, that’s true, but also…Rick’s group killed a lot of men in their sleep. Not in battle, not in open combat, they snuck in under cover darkness and killed those men as they lie sleeping in their beds. Men they had never met nor conflicted with prior to that moment. They were hired assassins, full stop. It was a low point for Rick’s group, and I think some of them knew that–Glenn certainly did–and it kicked an enormous hornet’s nest. But that also doesn’t make Negan’s rebuttal any less vicious or bloodthirsty, or make it okay or “even” that he brutally murdered Glenn in front of her. I recently rewatched that scene and…yeah, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to judge Maggie for anything she might do to Negan after that. So, hearing him admit that if he could go back now, he’d have killed all of them? Negan, perhaps you’re not familiar with the concept of too much honesty, but you sure are excelling at it! He makes a point about them needing to be honest, and I think his point moreover is to try and make clear his dedication to Alexandria now is at this same level, but he is not making it in a very good way. After hearing this, I will not be shocked if Maggie reneges on her promise to him, or tries to.

Also, shout out to both actors for that scene. It was magnetic and amazing, from Negan’s blunt honesty to Maggie’s expression that was a masterful mix of rage, disappointment, betrayal, bafflement, and rigid control all at once. Also, I kind of love that the writers are so dedicated to keeping Negan basically an unrepentant bastard. From his cracking occasional jokes to bring levity to him not wavering on what he did wrong back then (in order to protect his people and way of life), he continues to both be himself and to change at the same time. It’s a hard line to walk with him and they’re doing it very well. Same with Maggie. This continues to be a back-and-forth where they’re both right yet no one’s wrong and they give them equal weight in that.

But in storylines where someone’s morality isshifting, Daryl finally sees some solid cracks in Leah’s good little soldier armor. Cracks that he starts applying just the right amount of pressure to, pointing out the obvious problematic behavior Pope is displaying, that her group could just stay in their safe spot and not keep hunting people down, that she doesn’t need anyone to make her strong. Leah tries to make excuses and justifications, but they sound like she’s saying them more for herself than anyone else. When this is followed on by Pope saying to kill people who have nothing to do with their current conflict, she can’t and won’t do it. She barely even hesitates in telling that man to get out of there with his son, and if the woman weren’t injured, I think she’d have told her the same thing. She’s not even able to bring herself to kill the woman at all, when she’s already fatally injured, and even asking them to do this so she won’t hurt anyone else! Daryl does, also without hesitating when it’s clear he needs to, and that’s also interesting. He’s had to do plenty of awful stuff, including torturing his ally to keep his cover just recently, but this one feels like it’s new. He’s a practical guy, though, so I can see how he’d file this under things that had to be done for multiple reasons and not feel any need to dwell on it. Duplicity bothers him, hypocrites and abusers bother him, betrayal bothers him. Killing a woman who was already dying, who wanted someone else to do what she couldn’t, and to spare someone he cares about from doing it? That’s not going to bother him at all.

It sounds like he’s about to finally tell her the truth about him, but Pope calls them back before he can. They’ve got a long walk ahead of them to do so, but the moment’s passed is my guess. Even with this small act of rebellion on Leah’s part, though, who knows how she’ll react to hearing the larger truth from him, if she ever gets to. I’m not sure it’s a great idea to do so just yet, maybe make sure she’s really feeling that Pope is off the rails first before you make a full confession, Daryl!

And speaking of confessions being given too soon, it looks like Eugene might be about to crack about Alexandria’s location to Hornsby. I of course wish he weren’t in this position, especially since it’s because he socked that arrogant jackass Sebastian in the face when he well and truly deserved it. (His name isn’t given in the episode, but it’s Sebastian.) But with what Hornsby is holding over his head now, I’m not sure he’s got much choice. Alexandria’s situation is dire, it was when they left and it’s only worse now. But perhaps more interesting is this: did Hornsby orchestrate this whole situation? Because he seems to benefit from it no matter the outcome. He makes a point of telling Eugene that had he not hit Sebastian, he would’ve been the hero who saved him, have been able to ask for anything! But there’s some insinuation that Hornsby has some conflict, be it one-sided or not, with Milton, or at least an interest in having power to potentially use against her. He doesn’t want Yumi to talk with her, after all, but does want to help her so she can help him some time in the future. So if he doesn’t like Milton, and her son is a jackass anyways, would he see Sebastian dying as a possible win against Milton? After all, Sebastian mentions they have private security, but they are nowhere to be seen until long after he and his girlfriend would’ve been walker food. So the three scenarios here for Hornsby are: Eugene, the man he brought in, saves Sebastian and is a hero; Eugene is arrested and forced to give up valuable information that Hornsby can then use as he pleases; and/or Sebastian dies and Milton is suddenly grieving the loss of her son, potentially making her easier to unseat or otherwise manipulate.

Long story short, I do not trust Hornsby. Or anyone here other than Stephanie. Speaking of, Stephanie, stop tugging on Eugene’s sleeve and just go deal with that walker yourself before it’s inches away from biting someone! They dragged that a little too long for my tastes. I know she mentioned being rusty on her walker killing skills, but she never looked to be incapable of handling that on her own well before it became a bigger problem.

Overall, a lot of things being set up for the next episode. From what I understand, this season will have three 8-episode arcs, roughly, and with where things are at the end of this episode, I expect a lot of big things happening next week.

What did you think of the episode? Will Maggie betray Negan? Will she be justified, after that poorly advised confession? Will she drop her vengeance and encourage Elijah to do the same? Will Eugene tell them about Alexandria, and what will that mean for the community? Will Leah turn on Pope, or turn on Daryl?

Of note, I won’t be covering the World Beyond spin-off for its second and final season, though I do plan to watch it. Feel free to talk about that in the comments as well, but also be sure to clearly mark any spoilers for that show when you do!

The final score: review Good
The 411
As is common for the episode before the end of an arc, or at least the second-to-last before an extended break, this episode pushes many pieces into place in preparation for a whole lot of dominos falling down. Maggie and Negan are leading a herd to Meridian, taking a page from an old enemy to defeat a new one, and they continue to dance around trying to figure out if they can ever co-exist. It's a decision that rests in Maggie's hands, and Negan knows it, and I'm still not quite sure where it will end. Daryl's seen Leah break rank with Pope now, but what side will she choose when the time comes? Eugene gives an asshole a well-earned punch in the face, but for that transgression he may have to put Alexandria at risk. Worse yet, he may have been set up for this whole situation just to further Hornsby's ends (or at least, that's my suspicion), and while Yumi has more mobility in the Commonwealth, she's yet to be able to get anywhere with that. Many promises are made and loyalties tested, though I still say the title is a little misleading as very few were broken. A good set-up to whatever comes next, though not exactly an outstanding episode on its own. The tense conversations between Maggie and Negan stand out as the best moments yet again, which is really the case anytime these two actors get to square off this season!

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The Walking Dead, Katie Hallahan