TV Review: The Walking Dead, 11×23, “Family”

TV Review: The Walking Dead, 11x23, “Family”

I’ve been trying to be as fair as possible with these final episodes of The Walking Dead, as I know there’s a goal line in place. With that said, I can’t help but feel like “Family” feels like the final part of a block of episodes about setting certain events in motion. That’s fine for ways to shift around the season midway through and all, but next week is the series finale of The Walking Dead. I know certain things will happen over an extended period of time, but this setup for that finale had me a bit annoyed to feel like a part of a swarm that only just got to the excitement this far down the road.

The plotting is very straightforward. Most of our heroes are on a mission to get back inside the Commonwealth and confront Pamela. The fact that Mercer still believes he needs legal grounds as the way to accomplish her takedown is a bit hilarious, but whatever. An elaborate tracking shot sets up our characters as some load up the train and others gather the means to fight back against the upper-class Commonwealthers. During this time, we get a few significant exchanges – the most important being between Negan and Maggie, with minor hints at the future series they’ll have together.

Once everyone gets moving, we’re largely following the main cast, who have assembled into their biggest unit in some time. Rosita and Gabriel are off on the train to find their kid, which is fine, I suppose. I’m hoping there’s some major reveal we’ll get out of this, as it feels like a lot of work to be setting up various offsite locations this late in the game. Regardless, they’re competent people, good warriors, and two people who care about each other. It’s not exactly the love story for the ages, not even the best romance on this show (if you’d call it that), but I still want to root for them.

TV Review: The Walking Dead, 11x23, “Family”

Meanwhile, the swarm we saw last week has only expanded, and Aaron, Jerry, Lydia, Elijah, Luke, and his girlfriend are walking among them. It takes some doing, but they finally find a chance to escape into a nearby camper. Only, oh no! Lydia takes a bite to the arm while trying to keep Elijah with them. That’s bad. Fortunately, Aaron and Jerry take action quick and cut off her arm. That’s good! Sadly, Lydia is very worried about Elijah and still wants to get back out there to help him. That’s… well, it’s fine but unrealistic, and listen, Elijah was introduced as a double blade-wielding masked killer. I think he’ll be okay.

Last week, the episode ended with Mercer declaring that it was time to “fuck shit up.” It doesn’t seem like a lot of that happened by his hand. The only real development was Pamela putting things together quickly enough to have her best security officer arrested for treason and lay a trap for our heroes. Mercer, being the great guy he is, still wanted his men to do what was possible to maintain walker duty to secure the Commonwealth. It’s just a shame the amazing guards at the work camp site were not the ones here, as the incompetency led to a major error, but I’ll get back to that.

A lot of this episode had Daryl, Carol, and lots of our heroes sneaking into Commonwealth, having brief chats, and getting into some action. Key to all of this is Judith, who has narrated the opening of every episode in this final stretch. This week, she’s in on the action, putting herself on the frontlines with Daryl. Was that always going to be a bad idea? Well, The Walking Dead has tried to go out of its way to tell audiences kids are not immune to danger pretty frequently. The only thing making this more wild was seeing Pamela Milton take up arms in an ambush on our heroes, and her first shot immediately puts down Judith (but she’s not out). It’s a pretty crazy and over-the-top moment, setting up clearer stakes for the finale.

TV Review: The Walking Dead, 11x23, “Family”

Sadly, we now have to couple this shooting with Milton’s next actions involving what to do with a swarm invading the city. I have to say, I’m not sure this show has been consistent with Milton’s character. I get that she’s trafficked in some shady actions to keep things stable, but when push came to shove, I’m not sure if her immediate actions during a zombie invasion would be to only protect the upper-class people. That’s not really the show I’ve been watching, even if the action is done to make a point. Sure, this portion of the season has had some surprising amount of social commentary, and Milton is still grieving a loss, but it’s pretty extreme and, methinks, rushed as the latest way to develop a big bad to deal with.

Of course, what really matters now is Daryl getting Judith out of danger and into the hands of someone who can help (where’s Yumiko’s bro, Tomi!?). With the series closing up shop, I have to wonder if we’re really going to end with the future being shot down or if this nihilistic series really wants to leave us on a hopeful note. It’s been a long journey, and certainly, not all of these characters will make it, but how far does The Walking Dead want to go?

TV Review: The Walking Dead, 11x23, “Family”

Dead Bits:

  • Zombie Kill of the Week: A train smashed into a walker, which is always fun to see.
  • With Judith not being my favorite character (she’s grown on me over time), I guess the fact that I care about her surviving all of this says something.
  • Hopefully, Mercer and Princess will be able to work things out.
  • I didn’t know I needed a subplot involving Ezekiel and Negan hashing things out, but I really like how their scenes have been written over the past few weeks.
  • Our heroes can barely hit anyone, but Ezekiel tosses a fire extinguisher, and suddenly Daryl is a crack shot again…
  • The variants are back! They climbed a tower and bit a guy’s face off!
  • Oh, Eugene was around this week. He beat up a guard and joined our heroes eventually.
  • 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 airs on AMC and is streaming on AMC+.

TV Review: The Walking Dead, 11x23, “Family”

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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