As I had expected, Pope was not long for The Walking Dead world, but has a new challenger arrived? Much of the season 11 mid-season (third of a season?) finale, “For Blood,” not only foreshadows an end to Pope’s reign as one of the chosen but defines Leah’s beliefs more clearly. That’s going to lead to a tricky understanding of allegiances in the episodes to come, but this week has plenty of action on its mind. With the Commonwealth taking a back seat, for now, this episode focuses on the attempts by Maggie and Negan to drive a herd into the Reaper’s nest. At the same time, Alexandria deals with harsh weather that happens to be knocking down their walls again. A lot of stress for those involved, but it delivers.
Last week ended with the big CG herd making their way, and they arrived at Meridian with a lot to prove, or so they thought. Watching this episode sway the balance back and forth was quite exciting. At first, it seemed as though Maggie and her crew had the upper hand, as the whole plan was working as it needed to. It was enough to get Maggie and Gabriel inside the compound to cause further havoc.
However, Pope had a few tricks up his sleeve, as the area leading up to the base was loaded with landmines, which created quite the predicament for some of the other mask-wearing crew. There was also the looming threat of the hwacha (basically a rocket launcher for arrows) that is bound to make short work of most of the walkers in no time. Having it eventually get ignited and serve as a cliffhanger ending for this portion of the season was a nice touch as well, because who wouldn’t want to see that thing in action?
Of course, we also want to see our heroes succeed, and there were a few balls being juggled to mess with our emotions on that front. The key to all of this is Daryl, who Pope seemed to honestly believe was on his side. Yes, he was suspicious, but that went for everyone, especially as he began to more casually let members of his “family” get into harm’s way. To counter Pope’s efforts, Daryl snuck around the base, killed a sentry, bashed open the lock for the food supply, and gave Maggie and Gabriel some tips on where to go.
Having Leah kill Pope seemed inevitable by the time it happened. Still, it’s a credit to Norman Reedus and Lynn Collins that they make their now strained relationship pack some emotion. As mentioned before, their initial episode in last season’s bonus set of shows wasn’t the strongest, but it served its purpose to make their interactions here seem more authentic. It helps that Daryl has found someone very relatable, making whatever lies ahead for them more intriguing than simply having another big bad guy waiting to be taken down.
The others have less to do in this portion of the story. Maggie gets in a number of devastating blows by taking out the gate to the complex and fighting with some Reapers. Gabriel locates a sniper rifle and takes some good shots at the right time. Meanwhile, Negan may as well be Han Solo in Return of the Jedi, as here’s there, he’s helping, but he’s not ultimately adding much.
People who are helping this week: I’m actually surprised to say it’s Rosita. After weeks of giving monologues without actually doing much to lend a real hand, she comes in and slaughters a bunch of walkers to help keep Judith and the others safe. Good for her. Just a shame she couldn’t also keep an eye on all of the kids. Yes, with the storm making things about as difficult as possible, everyone is trying to band together and take shelter from all outside forces of nature. This includes walkers really set on getting into that specific house.
I’m not going to question how drowned out the sound must have been in general to make it odd that these walkers were hellbent on going after this house. However, it made for a nice bit of tension every time the episode decided to switch over to this storyline. Seeing a hand burst through a window (and get cut off), among other ways to convey the threat, was as effective as it needed to be. Plus, it made me feel bad about all the effort that had gone into restoring the town.
There was even time for good character work. Virgil and Judith had the chance to have a heart-to-heart, which was important, given how Michonne serves as a common link between the two. In fact, Judith did a lot right this week as far as behaving like a real character. Having promised to keep an eye on Gracie for Aaron, her concern for her friend was established and also the recipe for a possible doom. With both little girls trapped in a flooding basement, The Walking Dead really did go far enough to create compelling reasons to see how things get resolved.
For the initial third of this final season, while I could have done with less redundant bickering between Maggie and Negan, I am pleased by where we are left with these story arcs. Yes, there’s still a lot of room left for whatever happens next, but there was a strong enough pace to this portion of the season, with many exciting questions left on the table. Granted, the cliffhangers mean waiting a while for solutions that can’t be too epic, as those will only be the middle episodes of the season, but I’m still ready for more.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Walkers were getting blasted left and right this week, but I’ll give it to Rosita for her efforts in taking out a group of them.
- Daryl makes it clear: smoking kills.
- Lots of fun shots of the mines blowing up walkers. I’m all for that.
- “Family.” “Ain’t nothing more important.” – RIP Pope, you would have been better off in the Fast & Furious series.
- Don’t tell people the lord speaks through you. That’s a recipe for disaster.
- So, when we get back to the show, do Negan, Maggie, and co. just duck out of the way of the arrows?
- That’s going to do it for now. I’ll be watching World Beyond, hoping this final season is better than the last. Meanwhile, Fear the Walking Dead is starting from a wild high point, so I’m very curious where it goes next.
- 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.