That’s it, we’re in the end game of The Walking Dead now. At least that’s what we’re told once again in another opening narration by Judith (Cailey Fleming), reflecting the past and the road ahead. However, this time we actually see her instead of just hearing her. As she retrieves her parents Michonne’s respective guns (Call Gurira) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) who have all been gone from the show for even longer than her, history is practically shouting from the rooftops that they will be returning. It felt like keys were hanging in front of the audience for the final two episodes of a winding final season that otherwise struggled to find anything interesting to focus on.
In the aptly titled “Family,” a title that serves as a further clue to Michonne and Rick’s return, much of it centers around the journey to the Commonwealth. After everyone managed to get together in the last episode, the plan now is to fight against them so they can defeat Pamela (There Robins) once for all. Before they get there, they have to take a train to sneak past undetected. This creates a series of rare moments where we hear characters talking to each other in a way that seems driven by emotion and less intrigue. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) have a bonding moment after nearly dying while confined to the same labor camp, while Maggie (Lauren Cohan) listen. Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) talk with Judith about her past. There are a few other interactions, but these seem the most impactful even though it’s setting up a big final showdown in the Commonwealth.
Although they believed they had let Pamela down, the tables are turned almost immediately when the characters are ambushed after arriving. Daryl had noticed something was wrong, but it was too late to save several members of their group from being killed while the others were pinned down. The footage is rather awkwardly staged and it’s not always entirely clear where someone actually stands in relation to the other. Instead, it’s just about hearing lots of noise and explosions as they’re surrounded on all sides. There’s a moment where Pamela even picks up a gun herself and aims at Maggie. Judith, seeing what is about to happen, rushes to push her away and gets shot. It’s a painful moment that instills everything with a kind of greater emotional tension because the young child is going to need help quickly, but this scene would have a lot more weight if Judith hadn’t been so absent before. Still, it’s something to drive the rest of the episode’s latter part. After creating a distraction, a desperate Daryl then carries an injured Judith through the streets of the Commonwealth. Locked in, we see Pamela being told that the walls around them have fallen and walkers are swarming. Rather than try to protect the citizens she is meant to serve, she orders that they actually be used as human shields to save her and the rest. of the upper class of the community.
It is then that Daryl and all the others still alive find themselves caught in the middle of a horde of zombies that the soldiers of the Commonwealth redirect towards them on Pamela’s orders. Negan quickly notices a lone walker who has successfully scaled a barrier, which they don’t usually do and which is part of the show introducing a last minute evolution of what they are capable of. The group doesn’t have time to make sense of it because they’re just trying to get by with their lives. Carol spots an alley they could squeeze through, but their window of opportunity quickly closes. The whole group then do what they can to fend off the horde so Daryl can get through while carrying the injured Judith. He does, but no one else can accompany him. Judith, delirious and only semi-conscious, utters the “daddy” line which is meant to be a sad moment but also feels unintentionally humorous with the overly sentimental music that swells as she does. As she then watches the zombies invading everyone they left behind, it feels like the next episode could have some important character deaths, even if there are some who are immune as they have to survive. for their spin-off series. It’s not a terrible ending for the episode because, aside from an odd proclamation, it feels like at least one dominant threat will carry through to the series finale.
The fact that the mission to take down Pamela fell apart so quickly reaffirmed the fear that Judith had expressed earlier and made it clear that the continued use of violence to survive is almost certain to continue to end in a life of death. blood. Even though the show has been more than willing to revel in that violence in the past, to the point that it feels a bit stuffy trying to think about it now so close to the end, there was something a bit more efficient for how many sequences played in this episode. Of course, many of the same issues remain as there is still a greater lack of emotional investment and slowness in storytelling. There are plenty of other moving parts that seem pretty busy, including the discovery of betrayal in the Commonwealth and an unexpected amputation, which just don’t have the same impact. When the show is able to strip all of that away to focus on the core group of characters and how that story has shaped them, it will occasionally stumble upon something potentially intriguing. If this will actually come together in the finale and bring back some familiar faces in a way that feels fitting, that’s what this show’s entire legacy now rests on.