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The Walking Dead 11.16 Review – ‘Acts of God’

April 10, 2022 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
The Walking Dead 11-16 Seth Gilliam Norman Reedus Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
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The Walking Dead 11.16 Review – ‘Acts of God’  

Welcome to the finale of Part 2 of Season 11 of The Walking Dead! This intense episode doesn’t waste time pitting Hornsby and Leah against the Alexandrians and Hilltoppers in bloody and explosive combat, while in the Commonwealth the battleground is the field of public opinion and the weapons of choice is the truth.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

The plot: In the Commonwealth, Max follows through on stealing a file from Pamela Milton’s office to give to the Alexandrian crew, though she’s seen by Sebastian with a file in hand after her boss has left. Though not able to confirm what the list of names is and what’s happened to everyone on it, they have enough info to run a story on Sebastian’s ‘heist’ and a headline declaring that Milton is lying on the front page. Back at Hilltop and the surrounding area, Maggie brings Hershel to stay in hiding with Negan and Annie’s people, and in the process admits that she’s starting to trust Negan, certainly enough to leave her son with him. As the sky grows thick with the buzzing and bodies of cicadas, bringing a biblical air to the events, Hornsby tries to have Daryl, Gabriel, and Aaron killed, but that plan fails. His troopers sent to take out the Hilltop are likewise blown up by a trap left by Maggie and friends, but Leah is on the warpath yet. In the forest, she manages to get the best of Maggie, but drags her back to the cabin and ties her up. Leah’s furious with how Maggie killed her people, her family, and wants her to live long enough to suffer the same loss. She and Maggie get into a brutal fight, but just as Leah has Maggie pinned, Daryl takes her out. He and Maggie flee the troopers and Hornsby–who gains a nice nasty bullet graze on the cheek courtesy of Daryl–and rejoin the others. At the close of the episode, the Commonwealth banner is rolled out over the walls of Alexandria and Hilltop while the people of Oceanside are bound and gathered, with Hornsby seemingly leaving their fate to the flip of a coin, though we don’t see the end result.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

I didn’t see Hornsby becoming TWD’s very own Two-Face as a result, but looking back on the performance now, Josh Hamilton absolutely has had some Aaron Eckhart-as-Harvey Dent energy going for him this whole time! Not an exact match, Hamilton as Hornsby is doing excellent work in his own right. And Hornsby has never quite had the sincerity, nor the popularity with the people, that the character of Dent commanded in the time we’ve seen him, and that’s clearly intentional. But the scar, the coin flip schtick, and the arc that this magnanimous man of the people has taken as he’s fallen before our eyes, it’s impossible to not note the similarities. And coin flip or no, I do not feel good about the fate of the people of Oceanside. We heard Hornsby’s directives earlier–‘clear the field’ and ‘take them all’–yet the fact he doesn’t have Oceanside killed outright is notable. What else is he going to do with them? Does it have to do with the ‘other thing’ the stolen weapons were originally intended for? I guess we’ll find out in August! I am very excited to see what he’s up to next and where his plans will go from here. Hornsby’s clever and adaptable, but wow did this whole situation not go at all the way he planned.

Speaking of Oceanside, I can’t help but feel bad for them. They just want to hang out and fish, you know? They’re not causing trouble! Plus literally no one swung by to warn them at all, really? I know time and people were short here, but come on, Maggie, those people stuck by you and now they may be about to pay a very dear price for that!

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Maggie had some very heavy conversations today. First, let’s talk Negan, because she just admitted that she is starting to trust him! This is huge. It’s not forgiveness, it’s not forgetting what he did, but it’s still huge. It’s been a long time coming, and it had to be–there was no quick and easy way to get Maggie to this place. But what those two went through in the first half of the season, culminating in him saving her son’s life recently, is not nothing. Negan knows this, too, but he’s playing his reaction down and not being a smart-ass about it. Good call on his part, but the subtle facial reactions from Jeffrey Dean Morgan in that moment are great. He hears it, it affects him, and he’s not about to question any of it. The follow-up classic Negan-style comment of “You’ve got big balls, Maggie Rhee” itself reflects the immediate effect of her saying this to him, though. Negan rarely if ever joked so casually around her. His jokes were either intended to get under her skin or not meant for her at all, but here, it’s an instant shifting of the ground between them, becoming more even, more comfortable. Again, these two can only ever be so close, but this shift allows for both them and us to let go of the constant on edge concern that one may kill the other at literally any moment. This is another dynamic I’m eager to see more of in the future. (But no, it should never, ever progress into anything romantic or sexual, ew, gross, no.)

While I’m praising actors, I have to include Lauren Cohan as Maggie. Generally more understated than many other characters, she has been solidly portraying Maggie for years now, and since her return last season, I think she’s been putting in some of her best work yet. Maggie has walked a complicated path in that time, and Cohan has made every step of her journey compelling, genuine and nuanced. She’s truly talented.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

I think that the shift with her relationship to Negan also is what allows Maggie to deal with Leah like she does. With this admission, she’s finally let go of the burden of hate that she’s carried for years, the rage that was in her at every moment, no matter how far she got from Negan either in miles or in years. She had it as recently as when she dealt with the Reapers, which lead to the current situation, but when Maggie talks to Leah while she’s in that chair, when she tells her that she knows why Leah didn’t kill her yet, that she thinks making Maggie feel her pain will erase her own but it won’t? That’s the truth, every word of it. Maggie was Leah, she’s Leah’s Negan, and she not only knows that rage, she knows how useless it ultimately is. Unlike Maggie, however, Leah didn’t distance herself from either that feeling or the person responsible for it so that she wouldn’t act upon it. True, Leah was recruited by Hornsby to this task, but given how close she already was to Hilltop, I don’t doubt that Leah planned to kill Maggie and all of her people anyways. This was just some handy unexpected back-up–or, as it turned out, a free meat shield. Either way, Leah sought this out in a way Maggie never did with Negan, and that’s why it ended the way it did for Leah. After that knockdown, drag out fight (I forgot about the upcoming spin-off with Maggie for a second and thought she might actually die here, it was that good), she’s shot dead by the man she once loved, or almost loved. We know Daryl didn’t want it to end like this with her, but there’s no question in it for him at this point. There never was. There are reasons he and Leah only worked as a couple when isolated from everyone else they knew. Narratively-speaking, I am glad that the end of her story involved both him and Maggie, though, I was wondering how they’d bring both stories with her to a satisfying close at once, and they nailed it.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Finally, in the Commonwealth, the tension is very different. While the kind of bloody battles and shoot-outs happening in Alexandria are part of this show’s bread and butter, TWD has always stood out for ultimately being about the bigger, more philosophical questions about community, leadership, and survival. Is it acceptable to allow some to flounder, to suffer, to even build a system that actively oppresses them when you have the chance to do otherwise? Just because most people are doing well, or because you as an individual are among those doing well, does that justify not helping those who aren’t? Let’s not forget that Max tried one last time to give Pamela an easy option for a way to give back with the surplus money from the Founder’s Day celebration, but Pamela turned it down without any hesitation, even if she did it in an amicable way.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

The Commonwealth is, ultimately, the same as Omelas, but this isn’t just about walking away from the misery of another or the injustice done to them. Our heroes have never been okay with leaving well enough alone, after all. It’s about making things right and changing the system, revealing the truth to everyone and hoping that will be enough. Max is right, of course, to worry that exposing the truth may mean the system pushes back even harder on them; something so established, something that’s done well by so many won’t go down without a fight. At the end of the day, our budding revolutionaries have to hope that the rest of the people of the Commonwealth will agree with them about what’s wrong and right here, what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Because they cannot change things on their own, and they cannot change things with a bloody battle. That’s just trading one ruler for another. Systemic change doesn’t come from a single person, but must come from the community, or at least a majority of it.

We’re leaving everyone in some messy places! There’s no safe harbor now for our heroes who aren’t inside the Commonwealth’s walls, and the ones who are inside are putting themselves in danger with what they’re doing as well. What impact will the newspaper article have? Where will Maggie, Daryl, Negan, and the rest all go from here? Will their actions also endanger their friends on the inside? Will anyone at Oceanside be left alive? What’s Hornsby’s plans, and what are Pamela’s?

And finally, I’m sure I’m not the only one wondering if somehow we’ll get to see Rick Grimes again before this series wraps up in August, right?!

Sound off in the comments, stay safe out there, and I’ll see you back here in August!

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
This was an excellent episode, packed with tension both physical and political, tight battles, a creepy cicada soundtrack to give it that biblical flair. Alexandria and Hilltop are lost, but Hornsby has unquestionably shown his true colors, Leah meets her end after a terrifying night of stalking her prey, Maggie admits to trusting Negan (well, starting to, at least), and the group inside the Commonwealth take definitive action to reveal Milton's true colors and the corruption in the system. The music, the fights, the writing, the acting, it was all on point tonight, and seeing the Commonwealth banners at Alexandria and Hilltop really drove home that 'victory at a cost' feeling at the end. This arc has reached a conclusion, but the fight is far from over.

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The Walking Dead, Katie Hallahan