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The Walking Dead 11.14 Review – ‘The Rotten Core’

March 28, 2022 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
The Walking Dead Jeffrey Dean Morgan Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
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The Walking Dead 11.14 Review – ‘The Rotten Core’  

This week on The Walking Dead, the action picks up right back up where we left it and life gets more complicated at the Commonwealth when Daryl and Rosita are forced into a heist of sorts.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

The plot: In the apartment building from last week, Maggie, Aaron, and Elijah eventually meet up with Negan and Annie’s group. There’s some of the expected tension, but they get a plan in motion to save as many as they can in the building. Not only is Negan settled with this group, he’s downright settled down, married Annie, and she’s expecting a child. To make matters more twisted up and strange, it turns out Hershel stowed away on the truck and has been found by a trooper, but Negan quickly saves him. Hershel figures out that Negan is the man who killed his dad and pulls a gun on him. Negan talks him down so their position won’t be given away, but later on promises him that if he wants to come ‘settle up’ in a few years, he’ll let him, won’t try to stop him. Eventually, Aaron and Gabriel lure Carlson and a few troopers to the roof, where they corner him and force him off the edge, and he meets his end at the teeth of the walkers of those he pushed off earlier. The building is secure, but Aaron and Gabriel still need to go back to report to Hornsby, the group here needs some kind of new shelter, and they still don’t know who took the guns. Surprise: it’s Leah! Meanwhile, Daryl and Rosita are forced to make their way into the home of a prepper nearby to steal money from a vault for Sebastian Milton, who’s pissed his mom cut off his cash flow. They find the last survivor of another group he sent there, and with difficulty and a last minute save from Carol and Mercer, they get the money and get out–though their new friend dies. Mercer kills the troopers who were involved after they reveal that some 30 to 40 people have died trying to get this money, but tells Daryl and Rosita they need to turn over the money, because they can’t go up against Milton’s son and win. Carol also learns that Hornsby knew exactly what was going on, and plays it off as understanding his reasoning for upholding this broken system.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Much as the title of tonight’s episode implies, we have now seen the rotten core of the Commonwealth, and it is ugly. Sending in a secret execution squad under false pretenses, which were false even to some of your own people, to kill a building full of people? Sending people who are in debt and desperate because of the broken system you intentionally built to steal cash, of all things, in the middle of a death trap? Not just that, but doing it over and over again, losing enough people to make a walker herd of their own around the house? And it’s not just Sebastian, who’s been a little shit from the second he walked on screen, but Hornsby, too! Hornsby’s played his true colors closer to the chest, of course, but he’s been increasingly sketchy. I would’ve still believed it if, despite his grey morality, he was ignorant and disdainful of what Sebastian was doing and disapproved of it. But no, he doesn’t care. Hell, he’s not even as good a leader as Negan was in that regard. For his many faults and his own cruelty, Negan always knew it was the people who were most important, and who were needed, to stay in power and make a community work and last. Hornsby has no regard for people beyond what they can give to him. He’s no less selfish than Sebastian, he’s just smarter. Like he tells Carol, he has a bigger picture in mind, but that picture is still painted with him on top and pulling the strings.

The only question left is how complicit is Pamela Milton in all of this? There’s an implication that Hornsby keeps her in the dark about certain things, but just how many is unclear. Is she just a figurehead? And if so, does she know that and is she okay with it? Or is she in the know about all of this? She did cut her son off, after all, and I doubt she knew about what he was up to with this little side mission, as well as the true purpose of the mission to the apartment building. But the system that makes up the Commonwealth, she’s in charge of that. If she’s got blinders on to the realities of it, it’s because she helped put them there.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Speaking of that system, let’s talk Commonwealth. The rotten core of this is all the more striking for, frankly, how much it reflects our own reality. That’s not just an opinion, either, it’s specifically built to replicate the world before the fall. Starting with basing everyone’s social, and thus financial, status on whatever sort of job they had before, to mimicking the financial and healthcare institutions from the beforetimes as well. After watching how the societies in Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom developed over time, the way they were planned and grown with such deliberate care, and then by contrast seeing a group that actively chose money and debts and the healthcare system they have (not the level of care available, but the whole waiting list thing, medical debt, etc), has people in poverty, and so on? It’s baffling! And that’s without even getting into the racism and bigotry inherent in those existing systems, which I have neither the time nor expertise to get into. The only people who would want this are the ones on top, the Miltons and the Hornsbys of the world, and the people who are desperate for safety are the ones letting them get away with it. I get why, and if it were me, I’m not even going to try and pretend I wouldn’t necessarily take that option. But the fact that there’s a chance to rebuild better and they said, ‘meh, pass,’ is what really sticks with me.

It’s good to see that Mercer is falling more on the side of our group here, and has been kept in the dark by many of his own troopers on all of this. But in the end, right now, he’s still part of the problem as long as he clings to the excuse that “we all have our parts to play.” Evil thrives when a good person does nothing, Mercer. He’s going to have to choose eventually, and I hope he’ll side with our survivors.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

In the meantime, let’s enjoy how Hornsby has no idea how screwed he is now that Carol knows his true colors, shall we? I love it when some fool underestimates her. My kind of schadenfreude.

Over in the apartment building situation, the more we see of Carlson, the worse Hornsby and the Commonwealth continue to look. But the far more interesting things here are, of course, the evolving situation around Maggie and Negan. Her conversation with Annie is great, especially once we find out Annie isn’t just married to Negan, but pregnant with his child. Maybe about as far along as Maggie was when Negan killed the father of her child. Talk about awkward! I’m glad Annie knows all about who Negan was and what he’s done, though. I’m glad she’s the one to tell Maggie what she already knows–they’ve all done horrible things to survive. Sometimes they were handing it out, sometimes they were on the receiving end. They’ve all been through that, they’ve changed, but what matters is who they are now, that they try to be better. For all that our protagonists are generally doing the right thing, they’ve been brutal, they’ve killed a lot of people, both in the moment and with careful planning. They’ve been the victims, they’ve been the assassins in the night. They’ve disrupted other communities, and while those places were often corrupt or cruel, doing so still got other people killed indirectly as well.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

While this is happening, Negan doesn’t hesitate to save Hershel from the trooper who found him, bring him to safety, and even admits to being Glenn’s killer. Except now he’s not just the man who killed Glenn, he’s also the man who saved Hershel. He doesn’t even try to argue that he probably deserves to be killed when Hershel confronts him either, nor would he blame Hershel for doing so. He talks the boy down on account of not getting everyone else killed, too, but later on he freely offers to let Hershel kill him in another few years if that’s what he wants. I love how clearly Hershel is both his parents’ child in these scenes–we haven’t seen much of him, but he pulls that gun out in an instant, you know he knows how to fire it, but he’s smart and empathetic enough to not get everyone else killed, too. His silence when Negan makes his offer at the end, and then when Maggie asks what Negan said to him, is kind of chilling! Kudos to Kien Michael Spiller, the actor for Hershel.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Now Negan’s new group needs shelter, Aaron and Gabriel need to figure out what to tell Hornsby, someone else out there has the guns, and basically nothing is looking good for anyone opposed to the Commonwealth at this point. Though as even Lydia now agrees, Maggie’s decision to not join them is more and more justified. The question remains as to whether Hilltop can survive said decision, however. I expect that Negan and company will end up there, though, and that this might be why troopers are eventually going to show up on their doorstep leader by Daryl.

Finally, there’s the Leah of it all! She’s alive, she’s got guns and other supplies, what is she doing with them? Rebuilding the Reapers? Becoming a one woman army? And what was the original purpose of those guns and supplies, anyways?

Sound off in the comments below on your theories and what you thought of this week’s episode!

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
This episode was fantastic. This part of the season has been finding great ways to keep things fresh--the Commonwealth is a wholly new kind of enemy, a political one, a system as much as a person or group of people, but they're weaving in action set pieces, mystery and conspiracy-focused episodes, moral quandaries, keeping our survivors separate and forcing them into corners they don't want to be in. And it somehow manages to keep finding ways to keep the tension around Negan fresh as well! This episode had a little of everything wrapped up in a very well-made package.

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The Walking Dead, Katie Hallahan