TV Review: The Walking Dead, 11×10, “New Haunts”

Compared to the action-heavy focus of last week’s mid-season premiere, “New Haunts” is a lot more business as usual in the world of The Walking Dead. Granted, yes, the characters are now exploring a new world – the Commonwealth, but to find the real drama, twists, and turns, we need an episode to reestablish the status quo. Fortunately, there’s some good character material going on here, with enough teases of things to come as far as where everyone stands in a city that clearly has more going on than meets the eye.

Much of this episode focuses on everyone’s job in this society. Picking up a few weeks following Lance’s arrival in Alexandria, it’s a useful time jump to get us ahead of all the bureaucracy that was no doubt needed to have many of our heroes situated in town. The results are fun, given how out of their element some characters seem, while others feel right at home.

Ezekiel and Jerry are fun-loving petting zoo operators. Great! Connie has come back to her days as a journalist. Interesting! Princess runs a shop that sells goods and records. Cool! Carol’s cookies have returned. I don’t know if that’s a job, but yay! And then there’s Daryl and Rosita auditioning to be on Mercer’s strike team.

As the most walker-action-focused portion of the episode (save for Carol trying to secure a bribe), this goes about how I expected it to, which is fine. Partnered up with different people, the two’s work through a zombie-filled obstacle course allows Rosita to show she’s a team player while Daryl plays up his loner angle. Given how we already know he’ll become a commando, there’s not much to gain from seeing him have to work to showing Mercer he has what it takes.

It does give us another scene with Commonwealth’s most irritating resident, Sebastian, son of Pamela Milton. Whether or not this show has any plan to flesh out the privileged jerk, it’s doing all it can to show us that everyone hates this kid and that he’s pretty much useless in a fight. He’d surely win the smirking contest though.

On the more comfortable side, Carol’s care for her former beau, Ezekiel, led her to do some snooping. Ultimately learning that his cancer will likely get the better of him if he doesn’t have surgery soon, she chooses to help in a few ways. One involves bribing Lance with some nice wine. The other is cozying up to Ezekiel to help him feel more at peace. As I’m happy to not see Carol deal with the doom and gloom of it all, having her more focused on the people she’s closest to is a relief (she’s even back to good terms with Daryl).

The big event for all was the masquerade ball, which allowed us to learn more about Pamela Milton (Laila Robins), who made her debut this week. From what we can tell, she was already someone of note before the world fell and has used her skills to serve as a guiding voice for the community. She’s also much better at masking whatever darkness lurks beneath the Commonwealth than Lance.

Interestingly, “New Haunts” is already digging into the themes regarding the “haves” and the “have nots.” Classism is an obvious but necessary subject to tackle in a place like Commonwealth. Having an incident concerning a man (Tyler, who we first met in “Splinter”) causing a commotion due to what he’s lost and how he’s been treated in a supposed great society is correct as far as firing up some of these characters.

When told there are thousands of others like Tyler, Pamela questions whether or not that’s true. While Lance may be assuring her that’s not the case, even before Rosita finds an apartment full of rebellious imagery, we know not everyone is happy with this place.

Of course, there are perks to acting properly in the Commonwealth. Daryl and Judith are shacked up in a lousy apartment at the beginning of the episode. By the end, after 33 more days have passed, Daryl is on Mercer’s security force and has been transferred over to a nicer place. He even gifts Judith a record player, so they can enjoy Motorhead albums together. Not bad.

With more to come that explores all that’s going on in the Commonwealth, it will be neat to see what’s going on with the rest of the characters. Maggie is notably not here, which makes sense. She’s a farmer’s daughter, not a big city girl. That said, Eugene likely has things he needs to get cleared up, let alone Yumiko, who must be pretty busy as a lawyer. What kinds of conflicts will arise at this point? We will see.

Dead Bits:

  • Zombie Kill of the Week: Rosita broke the leg of a zombie, pulled that leg off of it, and then stabbed the zombie in the face with its own leg. That’s the work of a pro.
  • So Tomi is back to being a doctor now? I guess we missed this development (or am I forgetting something?). Yumiko must have got to him.
  • Jerry’s a tiger. Jerry is always the best.
  • Ezekiel brings up his beloved pet tiger, Sheeva. Those were the days.
  • Sebastian really is the worst. His efforts to test out each weapon of his choosing – hilariously awful.
  • On the other hand, Mercer rules. Even the city knows it, as they great him and most certainly not Lance at the red carpet for the ball.
  • Who also knows Mercer rules? Princess, who has gone into full flirtatious mode and even gets to join him for the party.
  • Can we see Connie’s articles?
  • Magna is not down with the rich acting so rich.
  • Nice use of the haunted house, but man that feels like a touchy subject, let alone a weird choice for a kid’s attraction.
  • Thanks for reading, and feel free to hear what me and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.

The Walking Dead is now streaming on AMC. New episodes premiere one week early on AMC+.

 

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the African American Film Critics Association, the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at Variety, We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Firstshowing.net, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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