[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 12, “The Lucky Ones.”]
In this week’s The Walking Dead, we learn a little more about why Maggie (Lauren Cohan) seemed to be at odds with her old pal Daryl (Norman Reedus) and the Commonwealth in the midseason premiere’s final minutes. Whether or not she should be is perhaps another question entirely — simply put, while folks in Ohio are thriving, Maggie’s just surviving. Barely.
Commonwealth leader Pamela Milton (Laila Robins), Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton), military leader Mercer (Michael James Shaw) and Daryl, along with a group of soldiers, all head for Alexandria and its surrounding communities. It’s Lance’s aim to show Pamela what the Commonwealth would gain from officially allying with them — really, it’s a power play on his part, as it seems like he’d want to be in charge of the operation to extend the Commonwealth’s reach.
But Pamela’s not sure about extending the Commonwealth’s reach, especially since they already have hundreds of thousands to care for inside its walls. And Alexandria doesn’t exactly impress her, as Aaron (Ross Marquand) and the others scramble to make the place look like it isn’t in shambles… and then, on Pamela’s tour, a walker gets through the walls. Whoopsie! We do, however, get a nice mention of Deanna Monroe (Tovah Feldshuh) here, as Pamela recognizes Alexandria’s former leader from a photograph. (Pre-apocalypse, they ran in the same social circles, which isn’t a huge shock.)
Pamela does, however, take a shine to one of the communities: Oceanside. She takes great joy in digging her toes into the sand on the beach, and it’s clear she’d like them to join the Commonwealth. There’s just one snag. They won’t join unless Maggie does, and… well, we already know what side Maggie takes on the whole debate.
Surprisingly, that doesn’t seem to be the case for most of the episode. The Commonwealth soldiers rescue Maggie and a group of her people from a horde of walkers, and she bonds a bit with Pamela as they all go hunting together. They get back to Hilltop and find the place is a cinder, and for all the effort Maggie is putting into trying to rebuild it, it doesn’t really show. Maggie seems to know the resources and welfare the Commonwealth can offer are far more than she can provide, and while she doesn’t like it, she appears to start coming around on the offer to join…
And then she hears a fateful snippet of conversation, in which Mercer orders Daryl to join a military exercise even though he’s out of uniform. “They’re always watching,” he says, meaning Pamela and Lance. And that’s enough to close Maggie’s mind to the whole thing: She wants her community made of equals, not of rulers and underlings. She rejects the offer, but a few of her people opt to go with the Commonwealth as they head back to their land of prosperity — and before they go, Lydia (Cassady McClincy) asks Daryl how to “know when to give up on a place.” So, that’s foreboding for Hilltop.
Pamela is, of course, less than thrilled about the failure of the mission. She lashes out at Lance, (likely correctly) accusing him of staging the trip so he could take over the unification mission and grab power. This upsets Lance so badly that he goes out into the woods and takes his rage out on a few walkers, shooting each one in the head. Aaron asks him if he’s okay. Uh, Aaron? The guy clearly is not OK. Run.
Back at the Commonwealth, Eugene grapples with whether or not to try and give a relationship with Max a shot. She explains what happened; She found a radio and fixed it up, and from there, she was able to chat with Eugene until her brother Mercer (!) found out. Naturally, he wasn’t pleased and told her there’d been a communications breach, and that Hornsby was already investigating. She was heartbroken when he showed up with someone pretending to be her, but she “kept [her] head down,” not knowing what else to do. Oh, and Stephanie isn’t her real name, Max is.
Understandably, Eugene’s upset to hear all of this. But after a talk with Rosita (Christian Serratos), he decides to see Max again — and he realizes he has some stuff to apologize for, too (like not realizing, after all their conversations and everything they shared, that “Stephanie” was an impostor). For a few moments, it seems like Max might not be open to a relationship with him anymore… but then they bond over his book, and all seems well.
Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Ian Anthony Dale as Tomi – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 12 – Photo Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC
Elsewhere in the Commonwealth, Ezekiel struggles with whether or not to go through with the surgery that could save his life. At a routine treatment, he’s told he’s scheduled for the operation, which strikes him as odd. Carol (Melissa McBride) eventually comes clean and tells him that she pulled some strings to get him moved up the list. He’s angry with her, saying that there’s nothing that makes him more deserving than anyone else; Carol counters by saying the system is corrupt. Eventually, it seems Zeke takes her side since he goes to the hospital and is wheeled away for surgery.
- I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Lance Hornsby is a darn good character. It’s impossible to tell whose side he’s on, maybe because the only side he’s on is his own. Fans have compared him to Littlefinger (Aidan Gillan) on Game of Thrones, which I can see. He also got a cool musical theme this episode during his chat with Maggie.
- With Mercer helping Daryl “keep up appearances” in front of Pamela, Daryl’s overall personality, and Maggie’s refusal to join, I’m starting to wonder if the end scene of the midseason premiere wasn’t some kind of a fakeout. Mercer could definitely join the rebellion, and so could Daryl.
- It was heartwarming to get a mention of Deanna in this episode and for Daryl to acknowledge how good of a leader she was. Contrast her with Pamela, who leans on an oppressive class system to keep her people in line, and there’s really no comparison. She was a good one.
- With that said… it’s seeming more and more like Pamela isn’t a bad person, she’s just leaning on a corrupt system to keep everything in line. She hasn’t appeared to be violent or crazy (like past leaders Alpha or the Governor) — she’s just mimicking the old world because it’s what she knows. That’s a neat angle for this show to take with the character who might be its final antagonist unless that role goes to Hornsby.
- Circling back to Hornsby. I don’t want this to happen, but it’s possible that him shooting those walkers in the head is foreshadowing for a major comics moment: Dwight’s death. In the source material, Dwight speaks out openly and brazenly against the Commonwealth, which jeopardizes their alliance. Rick then puts him down by shooting him in the head. Aaron doesn’t seem against the Commonwealth at this point, so I don’t think Hornsby will be shooting him… but might Aaron wind up shooting Hornsby? Would Hornsby go on a tirade against Pamela if his position was threatened? I suppose we’ll find out.
- Rating: 4.5/5. Your mileage on this one may vary depending on whether you’re invested in Eugene’s relationship drama. But seeing how desperate things have become at Hilltop seems to promise excitement in the future, and it was interesting to see Maggie interact with Pamela. Hornsby continues to be a standout, and I can’t wait for his ultimate game to be revealed.
The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC