“How are Father Gabriel and Eugene still alive?”
That was my initial reaction while watching the premiere episode of the 11th and final season of The Walking Dead. You have to understand that it’s been a while since I last watched The Walking Dead. I lost interest in the show after Carl died during season 8. I could put up with the slow pace, the constant introductions of new eccentric colonies, and the occasionally overwrought dialogue but the death of Carl pretty much removed the element of hope from the show and without hope, what’s the point?
Though I wasn’t watching, I did vaguely keep up with what was happening on the show, largely through my friends on twitter. I know, for instance, that Rick Grimes is believed to be dead, even though he’s alive. I know that Michonne is alive but no longer on the show. I know that Negan is alive but basically a prisoner. I know that Maggie’s in charge and Darryl is her second-in-command. I know there’s been a time jump. And I know that season 11 is slated to be the final of the original series, which is why I decided that I might as well watch and attempt to review it.
(I say attempt because, honestly, this show has a history of capturing my acceptance with a few good episodes, just for me to subsequently lose interest once the narrative momentum stalls out about halfway through the season.)
While I knew a lot about what had happened on the show, what I did not know were that Father Gabriel and Eugene were still alive. I seriously figured that, if anyone was destined to either get eaten by walkers or beaten to death by whoever the season’s big bad was, it would be Gabriel and Eugene. And yet, Gabriel and Eugene are still alive, whereas so many other strong characters have died. In Eugene’s case, I’m going to guess that he’s a fun character to write for and Josh McDermitt’s performance in the role is so wonderfully odd that I can imagine the show’s producers and writers want to keep him around as long as possible. As for Gabriel …. well, who knows? He’s got one eye and that collar is still amazingly clean but otherwise, I’m stunned that Gabriel is still getting in the way.
As for tonight’s episode, it felt like a typical episode of The Walking Dead. (Or, at least, that’s the way it felt to me. As I said, it’s been a few years since I last regularly watched.) We had two storylines. In the first one, Negan, Darryl, Maggie, Gabriel, and a bunch of doomed, anonymous people went on a journey to a possibly abandoned military base. However, a storm forced them to take shelter in a subway tunnel. The tunnel turned out to be full of walkers and, in typical Walking Dead fashion, there were hints that the tunnel was also the home to yet another colony of weirdoes. Negan challenged Maggie’s authority but, for once, he managed to do it without launching into a ten-minute monologue. (Instead, it was just a three minute speech.) The show ended with the suggestion that Negan may have abandoned Maggie to be eaten by walkers. I have a feeling that Maggie’s going to survive and probably meet a bunch of weird people living somewhere in the tunnel.
The second storyline featured Ezekiel, Gabriel, Princess, and Yumiko being held prisoner in the Commonwealth, a community where everyone dressed like an Imperial Storm Trooper. In a nicely-edited scene, the four of them were interrogated and asked a series of questions that may have seemed meaningless but which were clearly designed to break down their defenses and brainwash them. I actually preferred the second storyline to the first, if just because of the enjoyable eccentric dialogue and the performances of McDermitt, Khary Payton, Paola Lazaro, and Eleanor Matsuura. I’m actually looking more forward to the continuation of their adventures than I am to several episodes of Darryl and Negan yelling at each other in the subway tunnel.
This episode of The Walking Dead was better than I expected. I did miss the quiet authority of Andrew Lincoln but, at the same time, the action moved a bit quicker than I remembered it moving back in season 8. As well, the subway tunnel was a wonderfully creepy location and I’m genuinely curious about what’s going on with the Common Wealth. I’m looking forward to next week’s show. It’s been a while since I watched but I’ve still got enough emotion invested in the show that I can say that I hope Maggie’s alive!
As I said above, I’m going to try to review this final season. The Walking Dead started the same year as Through The Shattered Lens, after all! Though I think everyone here at the TSL has had our frustrations with the series, it’s still definitely a part of this site’s history. I’m looking forward to seeing how (and if) the story ends.