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The Walking Dead 11.11 Review – ‘Rogue Element’

March 6, 2022 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
The Walking Dead 11-11 Image Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC
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The Walking Dead 11.11 Review – ‘Rogue Element’  

Tonight on The Walking Dead, it’s noir week as a femme fatale breaks poor Eugene’s heart, dogged reporters Kelly and Connie are determined to dig up the truth, Carol’s brought in to help with some drug dealers, and a mysterious conspiracy is confirmed to exist inside of the Commonwealth!

Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC

The plot: Tonight we followed three distinct stories, though they all danced around each other and touched on the same overall plot of the conspiracy. In one, Carol accompanies Lance Hornsby when he visits an opium farm to help settle a labor dispute of sorts. She finds out the main representative of the place is pocketing payments and abusing the workers, resulting in him being arrested, but the point is more that Hornsby wants to bring her to the inside of how this place works. By the end of the episode, we see just which group of insiders he means by this. Meanwhile, Connie and Kelly try to get the truth about Tyler Davis, last week’s disgruntled former trooper: why is he being held under guard, what charges is he facing, what made him turn against Governor Milton when he’d been a model trooper previously? They get stonewalled left and right, but someone slips a list of names, including Davis’s, under their door by the end. Finally, Eugene is enjoying some romantic bliss with Stephanie, dropping the l-word and sharing a key to his place, but then she vanishes. He digs into what happened, refusing to accept phony cover-ups, with Princess’s help until he finally uncovers the very harsh truth: not only is he right that there’s a rogue element in the government connected to Stephanie’s disappearance, with none other than Lance Hornsby leading it, and worst of all, Stephanie was never real but a clever ruse of Hornsby’s to manipulate Eugene’s trust and get Alexandria into the Commonwealth. Hornsby says it all worked for the best for everyone, but that doesn’t erase Eugene’s heartbreak. However, then his real radio sweetheart seemingly shows up and it’s Max, the governor’s assistant who was held hostage last week and who is also Mercer’s sister!

This was a twisty one! I enjoyed the layers of the conspiracy mystery and how they were peeled back in these three storylines. Eugene’s story at the center of it really is some classic noir: the femme fatale, the man obsessed who sees conspiracies everywhere, falling for a woman he never should have but unable to accept that, breaking into homes, lurking in the shadows, stalking suspects, etc. And then in the end, his world is shattered by the truth that he uncovered, but which is still worse than he imagined, and no one will ever believe him! I felt so bad for him in that scene with Hornsby in the end, the fact that on top of everything else, Stephanie wasn’t even real but a total lie made to manipulate them. And worse yet, a lie that worked. He confessed everything in order to save a person who wasn’t rea, potentially putting his people in danger.

Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC

But on the other hand…everything Hornsby says to him in return is also true. They lied when they showed up as well, and in the end, the Commonwealth also really bailed Alexandria out of a bad situation. They merely asked they be ‘productive members of society’ in return. Is that so bad? Well…is it? I mean, the same question can be thrown on just about any first world nation. Sure, for most people things are just fine, and is that a bad thing? Well, no, but the catch is, what about those people it’s not so great for? Is that unavoidable, or is it totally fixable if people are willing to work a little harder and maybe sacrifice some of their own comfort?

But what are those less fortunate areas like, really? We’ve gotten glimpses of how some folks are in rougher living conditions, or have a harder time making ends meet, but no one seems to be totally forgotten by the Commonwealth. And there’s an implication still lingering here that some darker secret has yet to be revealed. We the viewers already know that Tyler Davis messed up and got demoted and had trouble helping his family thereafter, but Connie still keeps asking why did he turn on the Commonwealth so completely, leading me to believe there’s more to say here. Her investigation is also fun to watch, too, and she’s not about to be thrown off either. She digs up that Max is Mercer’s sister, and her question to him that he may want to ask just who and what he’s risking his life for hits home. Soon followed up by him learning that yes, someone is going around him despite the final authority he’s supposed to have in some areas. So when this list of names is shoved under Connie’s door, is that from Mercer? If not him, from who? And what does it mean? Are these people who’ve disappeared, like Tyler? Are they people who’ve turned against the Commonwealth? What’s it mean?

Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC

Finally, with Carol’s storyline, we get a deeper glimpse at how Hornsby operates, the ways in which he truly is the power behind the throne. But how trustworthy is he? He’s arranging for opium to come into the Commonwealth, seemingly just for legitimate medical use, but there’s a slippery slope if anything ever was. But he seems to be trying to deal fairly with these workers, and when Marco is shown to be skimming off the top and mistreating them, he doesn’t hesitate to remove him. But the fact that we don’t see the conversation Carol has with the other woman is notable. Carol’s crafty, and she’s had firsthand experience with abusers, so it seems strange that this is left out. Unless there’s something else going on: is Carol making her own connections, forging her own loyalties? Did she arrange with the workers to get Marco removed so they would be grateful to her over Hornsby? Or was she merely reporting the facts? Either way, she’s showing herself to be useful to Hornsby and he looks to be grooming her to be part of his inner circle.

Now that we know there is a conspiracy and that he’s at the center of it, though, the question remains: What is the conspiracy? What is Hornsby doing? Is this simply the seedy, less-than-honest truth to how this place runs so smoothly? Hornsby’s clearly been the one making the magic happen despite Pamela Milton being the face of their community. Is this network of underhanded spies just how things happen, albeit with lies and manipulation at its heart? Or is this something more than that, is this Hornsby secretly plotting to undermine and overthrow the Miltons, and rise up in their stead? We’ve also seen his envy of not being appreciated or in the spotlight, is he angling to finally get the credit and position he feels he deserves? He talks about mercenaries and patriots, true believers of the cause, and this group looks like the real true believers he’s thinking of when he says that. So what is his true cause, in the end? What’s he after?

Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC

For that matter, what side is Max on? I feel like she’s being honest with Eugene, because pulling the same trick twice isn’t very interesting. But why did she wait, why did let this lie play out? At what point did the first switch happen, and is she with Hornsby, the Miltons, or a third group in the Commonwealth? Whatever the answers are, let’s just hope poor Eugene doesn’t get his heart broken again. That guy deserves the real thing!

Last but not least, Princess made a fun sidekick on Eugene’s investigation. Loved that she was there for her friend, both to support him and try to get him to accept the hard truths. But most of all for pulling that trick with the fake lasagna!

What did you think of TWD’s noir mystery? What do you think Hornsby’s really up to? Who gave Connie that list and what does it mean? Sound off in the comments and see you next week!

The final score: review Good
The 411
The mystery-focused episode was a fun change of pace for the show, and well put-together. It had a lot of classic mystery moments and tropes, but with a TWD-style spin. Plus, with the continuing mystery of the Commonwealth overall, it worked well for peeling back some of the layers of that. Hornsby being part of the shadow government or whatever it is exactly I should've seen coming, but it was just hidden enough to still be a surprise to see him at the end, and Stephanie being a complete fake (well, sort of, what with Max's reveal at the end) was definitely unexpected. The commitment to noir tropes was great and worked well. Though it did feel a little strangely removed from the classic TWD world--very few zombies, lots of fresh, clean outfits and little of the lurking mortal danger that's practically a trademark of this show. It makes sense, with how things are currently evolving, but did feel a little odd for it nonethelesss.

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The Walking Dead, Katie Hallahan