TV Review: The Walking Dead, 11×18, “A New Deal”

Aaron Neuwirth reviews The Walking Dead season 11, episode 18, "A New Deal," in which the Commonwealth attempts to make a deal that will satisfy all.

To provide a bit of a window into how I watch The Walking Dead, it generally comes down to me and a notepad. I used to watch each episode twice, but time and responsibilities have made that largely impossible. With that in mind, even while taking notes, it doesn’t stop me from acting like I’m in a movie theater with an excitable crowd. I often yell back at the TV because Walking Dead characters tend to make questionable choices. “A New Deal” was one of those episodes where I was very animated while watching, and that’s a very good thing, as this was an opportunity to deliver some game-changing moments, and we certainly got some.

Following another flashback narrated by Judith (and Daryl-focused, in imagery), we pick up where the cliffhanger from last week left us. There’s a standoff in the world’s biggest sewer tunnel, and Daryl has Hornsby by the throat with a knife. Putting aside convenient timing, Pamela Milton, Mercer and Carol arrive and have everyone lower their weapons. A deal will be made that will put all the blame on Hornsby. It takes some prodding to get Daryl to drop his knife, but he eventually does, only to then stab Hornsby in the hand (“Don’t worry, he’ll live”).

We should always rely on Daryl to keep his head in the right place. Testing the authority is something he’s willing to do, and he ultimately does care about his people. With that said, this episode begs to ask how far Daryl is willing to go to help do the right thing. That’s his arc this week, as he and Judith find themselves at odds with what makes more sense – securing the people he knows or helping people in general, given the state of decay the Commonwealth is in the early stages of.

Before Rick left the series, he and Daryl were brothers. Daryl was a bit gruff (and arguably saner), but Rick was all about the greater good – sometimes to his detriment. That varied, as the Ricktatorship would often not extend a warm hand to outsiders, but the man still wanted to believe in this idea that the world could turn for the better if everyone was willing to try. Daryl is more hardened and pragmatic. However, having little precocious (yet now better written) Judith around is like having a reminder of what Rick stood for. When they both take up arms by the end of this episode to help the Commonwealth, I can only wonder what it means for the next steps as far as he’s concerned for the future (not counting the upcoming Daryl Dixon spin-off series that’s set in Europe).

Looking back at the deal reached regarding Milton, Hornsby, and everyone else, it’s all about covering for Sebastian’s vile deeds. This means the folks from Alexandria/Hilltop/etc. can have a clean slate. They can leave the Commonwealth (or stay), and all the supplies will be given to help them last and repair their sites. It’s a good deal with seemingly no strings beyond whatever NDA equivalent applies for Milton. Rightfully – Carol and everyone else pretty much accepts it. Why shouldn’t they? It’s been trouble for most of them since arriving, and they can much better manage being back in their own home than dealing with an entire city and its corrupt government.

However, some still see the use of the Commonwealth for obvious reasons. It is thriving the best it can and is free of Walker-related danger, mostly (more on that later). Ezekiel has literally been given a second chance at life and even gets to manage a petting zoo. Negan and Annie aren’t about to stay, but given how this place can help with the pregnancy, they have a worthwhile discussion. Ezekiel and Rosita share their own thoughts. And once again, Judith sees a need to help the people here.

On the other side of things, some believe the Miltons need to be taken down. We don’t check in with Connie and Kelly this week (although having their perspective on Hornsby taking the fall would have been welcome), but we do get plenty involving Eugene and Max. Going by “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic, Eugene has a meet-up with an imprisoned Hornsby to get an idea of what could be done to challenge those who sit highest on the throne. It leads to a brilliant move by Max to record Sebastian being his awful self and saying how he really feels about the Commonwealth and its people.

Hornsby is no sitting duck, either. He still has his people committing awful deeds, which includes murdering an entire cleaning crew. We’ll get back to that later, but what I thought would serve as an illogical frame-up turned into something much greater. With that in mind, I do wonder what kind of 5th-dimensional chess Hornsby is playing at, given his position. No one likes him already, and now he has even more stacked against him. Will a couple loyal henchmen be enough to give him more chances at a power swipe?

All of this leads to Founder’s Day, some sort of Commonwealth holiday to celebrate how they’re a great community. To do that means staging a wrestling match and following it up with a speech from the leader and her son. That’s one way to get people amped up, I suppose. However, things get wild at this moment, as even after Sebastian does the cliché thing where a guy has a prepared speech but then throws it away to deliver something “from the heart,” Eugene and Max go through with the plane to play his candid recording, and it works like a charm.

For all the crap I give to this show when it comes to easily escapable situations that trained soldiers still get caught up in any way, I do love a good scene of chaos. Those murdered cleaning crew workers emerge just as riots start breaking out against Sebastian, creating pandemonium on the streets. Daryl, Judith, and Mercer are doing what they can to stop the actual threats, while Pam is stunned at the crowd turning on her. Meanwhile, Sebastian is now chasing Max in the streets, leading to a series of moments where I yelled.

Ol’ Seb finally catches Max, berates her, and shoves her into a walker. Eugene comes in for the save, pushing the walker off Max and onto Sebastian. Then the show takes a good long time for this next bit of business to pay off. People are standing in the streets watching Sebastian as he helplessly tries to fight off the walker. Eugene and Max turn the other way and leave. And so it goes… Sebastian gets bit in the neck and bleeds out in the streets, with no one trying to stop it. All of these actions will have repercussions, and I think we’re done seeing the nice side of Pamela Milton.

With a cast of nearly two dozen important players to keep track of, I appreciated how “A New Deal” did the work to balance it out as best it could. Many plotlines were kept in check, and the characters we know did nothing to act out of the ordinary. Even while being so plot-focused, the personal stakes were clear throughout, and it all built to a pretty wild finale set piece for the episode. If we wanted to see how this Commonwealth plotline could pay off, we’re in the throws of it now.

Dead Bits:

  • Zombie Kill of the Week: Mercer had several choice kills, but I’ll give it to Judith for blasting a giant hole in the head of the walker that took a bite out of Sebastian.
  • Josh Hamilton has been delivering weekly for me, and I really love all the details that went into him using one hand to open up the candied apple Eugene gifted to him.
  • “It’s still broken here.” – Given how much I haven’t cared for Judith’s words of wisdom in the past, I can concede that she’s been given much better material this season.
  • Carol and Ezekiel feel like such a well-realized couple that it genuinely does feel sad that they may not end up together.
  • RJ is reading an Invincible comic – Nice.
  • Sebastian really is the worst. This week does so much to show how terrible he is, even after he’s been taken off the hook for doing horrible things. Good riddance to this guy.
  • I’m curious to know more about the wrestling scene in the Commonwealth. Are there favorites? Do they all have elaborate backstories?
  • Everyone is standing around, watching Sebastian die – ice cold!
  • 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 airing on AMC and 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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