An all-action penultimate episode raises the dramatic stakes for the final episode in a pretty major way.
This recap of The Walking Dead season 11, episode 23, “Family”, contains spoilers.
Remember when The Walking Dead aged Judith Grimes up by several years, reintroduced her as an ass-kicking blend of Rick and Michonne, and then just didn’t bother to do anything cool with her since then? Yeah, me too. “Family”, the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead’s eleventh season, doesn’t buck that trend, but it does wheel Judith out for some easy drama to raise the stakes of next week’s finale – which will, lest we all forget, be the last episode of The Walking Dead ever, at least if you don’t count the multiple confirmed spin-off projects on the near horizon.
The Walking Dead season 11, episode 23 recap
So, I’m not a fan of Judith, obviously, or at least not a fan of how she has been utilized, but I do like the idea that she’s kind of a vessel for the ideology of both of her parents, and her justification for being imperiled here is at least a well-meaning one.
I was most interested to check back in with Mercer, who at the end of The Walking Dead season 11, episode 22 declared it was time to “f*ck sh*t up”, but he didn’t get much to do either. He does manage to get Eugene to (relative) safety, but he spends the rest of “Family” trying to carry on as normal without Pamela and his subordinate, Vickers, realizing what he’s up to. The “twist” of the episode, if you want to call it that, is that they’d figured him out anyway.
But Pamela’s focus on Mercer makes the Commonwealth vulnerable to another problem. That horde we’ve been tracking for a few episodes now, the one containing multiple variants who can climb and pick things up, finally reaches the walls in this episode, and since everyone has been pulled away to deal with Mercer, there aren’t enough soldiers to stem the tide. There are a couple of cool moments in which the new spritely zombies manage to sneak up behind guards and hop fences. I actually think this is a nice way to spice up a very played-out concept, but it has been introduced far too late to do much with it. We’ll see what the finale holds in that regard.
Speaking of which, I’m 99.9% confident that Negan is going to die in the finale, since all this talk about redemption, about how everyone is better than he is, and how eager he is to be a husband and father just never bodes well in this universe. I know, I know, this doesn’t exactly tee up that spin-off, The Walking Dead: Dead City, which is supposed to star Maggie and Negan both, but I’ve got a feeling there might be some shenanigans afoot.
One of the biggest developments of the episode is Lydia getting bitten. This occurs when the group tries to take shelter in a nearby trailer and Lydia tries to save Jules, Luke, and Elijah – the latter especially – from being swept off in the crush. We’ve dealt with bites in appendages before, so we know the correct course of action – cut off the offending limb ASAP and hope the infection doesn’t spread. But I thought Cassady McClincy was pretty great here, so it’s worth mentioning.
The biggest development of the episode, though, is Judith getting shot. As mentioned earlier, Pamela had already figured out that Mercer was working against her, so by the time the usual gang arrive back at the Commonwealth, an ambush is already waiting for them. Pamela even picks up a gun herself and begins firing down from the balcony like Tony Montana, but in doing so she shoots Judith. Pamela is visibly shaken by this, but it’s probably not going to give her a crisis of conscience at this late stage. It’s do or die for her, and indeed for Judith at this point, who is subsequently carried through the streets by Daryl as Pamela orders the herd to be filtered into the lower wards where all the regular folks live so that the estates – Pamela herself, really – can be protected.
At one point, Judith looks up and Daryl and whispers, “Daddy?” Close enough, I guess.