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The Walking Dead 11.18 Review – ‘A New Deal’

October 9, 2022 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
The Walking Dead 11-18 Aaron Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
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The Walking Dead 11.18 Review – ‘A New Deal’  

Welcome back to The Walking Dead! This week the Commonwealth celebrates Founder’s Day, but the danger is of course not over yet and despite being in jail, Hornsby is very much still a threat. Let’s get into it!

The plot: Hornsby’s life is saved just in time by Mercer and Milton, though Daryl stabs his hand in rage for what the man’s done, and the deal is struck to set up Hornsby to take the fall for everything Sebastian was accused of and more. Milton then carries on trying to mold her shitty son into the man she wants him to be, but he’s as petulant and idiotic as ever, and this time Max catches him on tape with it. While some of our survivors head off to check on Oceanside, the others start to decide if they want to stay in the Commonwealth or go back to Alexandria, which is now promised full rebuilding and restocking in exchange for Hornsby. Some are eager to get back and put this place in the rearview, but others feel they should stay and try to make things better at the Commonwealth, most notably Judith and Ezekiel, and Negan is having some second thoughts about ditching the medical care. They all stay for the Founder’s Day festival, though, which features a highly entertaining WWE-style wrestling match, and a speech from Sebastian to try and recover his reputation. The moment is ruined when Sebastian’s whining about the bullshit system at the Commonwealth is played for all to hear, and then walkers set up by Hornsby’s people attack the gathering. In the chaos, Sebastian is killed by a walker, which in turn is shot dead by a heartbroken Judith who’s reluctantly taken up her father’s gun once more.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Before getting to the episode itself, let’s talk about the updates to the credits. The changes for these last 8 episodes are small but I really enjoy them. The addition of images of the Commonwealth are worthy additions that create the right atmosphere–the Commonwealth banners on the walls of Hilltop and the final image of the walkers/viewer faced with Mercer and the Commonwealth troopers in particular. The added guitar riff in the latter half of the song works well to crank the tension up, too. I’m a fan!

A follow-up to last week when I wasn’t bothered by what looked like some timeline chicanery: the appearance of Mercer and Milton at the top of this episode did bother me and was sloppy. It’s not impossible for that to happen at just the right moment, but it is pushing it, especially without seeing when they left, how they got there in time, and most importantly, how the hell did they get into that underground camp in the tunnels? TWD, c’mon, show your work.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Onto the episode itself, the introductory narration and visuals key us up to recall the long journey that Daryl specifically has been on, how he’s changed, who he’s lost, the family he’s gained, while Judith talks about how the people who have died or gone aren’t lost, they’re still with us. And while Daryl himself has some reflecting to do on that this week, he’s more of an example, almost an archetype, of the changes that all our survivors have gone through and that this week they’re all reflecting on that, and on what part of the journey they’re at now. Is it time to keep fighting, like they’ve done for so long? Or is it time to hang up their hats and guns and call it good enough, finally get some rest?

Daryl’s journey in this episode on that question is inextricably tied to Judith. He hates the politics of playing with people’s lives that has taken over their experience of the Commonwealth, and much as he also hates the outcome, he wants to be done with it more than anything else and back to the place he actually considers to be home. But Judith, young and idealistic, is exactly who her parents and many parent-figures raised her to be: someone who believes in a better world, in a place where people are equal and a family, who believes in fighting for people and that people are worth fighting for. She even specifically calls out that staying to fix things is what he, Rick, and Michonne did in Alexandria, but now he just doesn’t want to stay and fight anymore. Daryl’s not wrong in that having been a different situation, but she’s not wrong in that it isn’t at the same time. She turns down her dad’s gun because she doesn’t want the world, her world, to be a place where they aren’t safe, where that gun is the only solution. Why won’t he fight for that too?

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Daryl shuts this line of inquiry down because he has no good answer, let’s be honest. Judith is asking all the right questions, and he has no better reply than ‘you’re right, I don’t want to’, and he knows that isn’t good enough. At the very least, he knows that it’s an answer that will disappoint her. As his conversation about parenting with Carol highlights, he’s still learning these parenting ropes, and while his instincts are pretty good overall, it’s still hard. Because while the first priority is keeping her and RJ safe, ‘safe’ isn’t so simple. There are many kinds of safe, and this is getting to what Judith’s opening narration last week was about: people survived, and thrived, because they looked out for one another and they came family. Daryl’s moment with Lydia underscores this as well–they don’t have to ask or say thanks for saving one another, it’s just what they do. That family turned into a community over time, and that’s another kind of safe, and that community-level is what Judith has grown up in and heard stories about. Why can’t they do the same for the Commonwealth? To her, it only makes sense, it’s what her people do, isn’t it?

Besides, let’s be honest, do any of us really think the Commonwealth would leave Alexandria alone forever? Whether it’s in one year or ten, there would be a future conflict, especially if this place were to stay in the control of the Miltons as they are right now. Deep down, Daryl knows that. Like he tells Judith, he wishes the way she wanted things were reality, it should be, but first he needs her to be safe. So while her idealism doesn’t change his mind, it is in his heart, and at least she knows that now. As well as knowing that Daryl is going to be there for her and with her no matter what. Which, thank god, cause this girl has lost enough parental figures as it is already!

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

It does make her taking up Rick’s gun later so heartbreaking though. The look on her face at the end of the episode is just so, so sad. Props once again to Cailey Fleming, she is an amazing young actress. Judith is learning more and more that ‘safe’ is a fluid notion, that even wanting to put down the gun doesn’t mean you can. It’s a lesson even her father had to go through, wanting to believe Alexandria meant a fresh start, meant safety, but being forced to take up arms again because it wasn’t. Biology be damned, this is Rick Grimes’s daughter through and through.

In other corners, there are both similar and different motivators to people’s choices to stay or go. Rosita and Gabriel are on the same page, and it’s nice to see Gabriel has felt a return to his faith. Though I do feel we didn’t see as much evidence of this as I would’ve liked, since we saw so much of him losing his faith, but it’s the final 8 episodes, there’s a lot to get done, so I don’t begrudge them skipping ahead on one or two arcs a little bit. Ezekiel is staying and this makes perfect sense, but I love him talking it out with Carol–how he was given another chance and he’s determined to do some good with it, to save another kingdom before it’s too far gone and lost like his was. Classic Ezekiel, really! Noble til the end. Which, I hope that end isn’t soon, but it just might be.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

On a less altruistic but just as on brand note, there’s Negan. I loved how many layers there are to this scene with Annie for him. One, and this is more for us viewers than for the character, I could not help but remember that the last time we saw a couple getting an ultrasound on this show it was Glenn and Maggie, not long before Glenn’s death. On top of that, while Annie’s making valid points about not wanting to stay and being unable to overall trust this place, once Negan hears that there’s a potential complication with her amniotic fluids being high, his unease with leaving this kind of medical care behind is clear. After all, his first wife died because they didn’t have access to medical care, he obviously doesn’t want Annie or their child to be in danger for the same reason, especially when they have the option right here in front of them. He doesn’t disrespect her wishes, which continues to prove his growth, but I don’t think this conversation is over. Of note, some googling shows that high amniotic fluid is more likely to cause health issues for her than for the baby directly, for anyone who might be curious.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Finally, there’s the Miltons-Hornsby Feud of it all. Like they say on the ‘Am I the Asshole’ subreddit, everyone sucks here! Hornsby is a diabolical, self-serving snake only interested in his own power and ego. Pamela is a two-faced slimy politician obsessed with image and family legacy and how using everyone around her can support those two things. And Sebastian is a spoiled manchild who refuses to accept responsibility or give one shit about anyone around him! Three brands of evil for the price of one! Ugh. They’re well-written, well-acted and believable assholes, though, I have to give them that, and they make the story compelling now that our survivors are caught up in the middle of their machinations. One of those details that’s different between this and when their group turned things around in Alexandria, though, is that these leaders all suck and have no true, genuine interest in helping the people of the Commonwealth out of the goodness of their hearts. Deanna Monroe of Alexandria genuinely cared about her town and her people and wanted to do right by them, but she was naive and terrified of facing the truth about what that would take in the long run. When the error of her ways was apparent, she handed over leadership to Rick and Maggie, let people who could handle it better do exactly that. Pamela, Hornsby and Sebastian would all not only never do that, they’d never recognize that anyone was better equipped to handle something than they are in the first place.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Hornsby’s such an asshole, he sets walkers on a civilian population on purpose! Pamela is so obsessed, she can’t and won’t see that Sebastian will never be a leader and it’s pretty much her own fault for constantly letting him escape consequences. And Sebastian, well, he is who he was raised to be, a child of privilege in the worst possible ways. It’s not shocking no one will help him when he’s attacked by that walker–and granted, for people unused to fighting, I don’t blame a single one of them for not wanting to get close enough to get bitten themselves. But that’s exactly it, isn’t it? If he’d been a good man, someone worthy of the people’s respect and love, someone they believed it, then he probably would’ve been helped. Someone would have at least tried. But he didn’t, he wasn’t, he never would be. Even had he survived this attack, nothing would’ve changed. Still, it is an especially grisly end and I do not see Pamela having a change of tune as a result, either. If anything, I’m sure she’ll be on the warpath more than ever, and that deal our survivors struck is no doubt already going to be in question.

Image Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

All this has me wondering, who could the Commonwealth rally behind? Who is a leader worth following? Among our survivors there are candidates, I’d say Ezekiel chief among them as he’s already been making strides in the Commonwealth, but a stronger candidate is Mercer. If and only if, of course, he chooses to take that up that role. We know he’s popular, he’s a man of honor, he’s finally seeing the ugly truth of the leaders he’s served, and he proved in this episode that his allegiance is to the Commonwealth and its citizens first. (Also, Pamela trying to insist he protect her and no one else, when she was already guarded by several troopers? Despicable.) Will he be comfortable in going full-on revolutionary like his sister, however, is another question.

What did you think of the episode? Should Daryl have been open to doing more for the Commonwealth from the get-go? Should Negan push harder to keep Annie near medical care? Would Sebastian’s life being saved have made any change in him? And what will Pamela and Hornsby’s next moves be now? Sound off in the comments below and see you next week!

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Some big questions are being poised to our survivors about what safety really means, if it's okay to leave a place when you know it's broken, and when will they finally be able to rest their hats and their guns and stop fighting to survive all the time. They're answering those in different ways, but when push comes to shove, they're going to do what they do best. Some really solid acting in this one, from Judith's precocious but not annoying wisdom beyond her years, to the Miltons and Hornsby being perfectly despicable, to Negan's conflicted feelings on not staying where there's advanced medical care despite the lingering trust issues with the providers of it. And bonus points for that fun as hell wrestling match on top of a fitting end for Sebastian Milton!

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The Walking Dead, Katie Hallahan