Disney+ UK TV review: The Walking Dead: Season 11, Episode 2 (Acheron: Part II)
Truth / Lies8
Fire in the hole8
Neil Brazier | On 05, Sep 2021
Read on below for spoilery notes – and read our other Season 11 reviews here.
If you only learn one thing from your decade of survival in the zombie apocalypse it should be this: confirm your kill. This one piece of advice slipped by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) at the end of Acheron Part I and now he must live with the consequences of his actions. At the Commonwealth, the survivors are debating what is going to happen to them as a direct result of their attempted escape. Were they spotted? Do the guards know their uniforms went missing for a brief period? Trust is the theme of this episode: after such a long time, is there any of it left?
At the Commonwealth, the survivors get split up. Ezekiel (Khary Payton) is the first to disappear and the others wonder if he has been taken to reprocessing due to his defiance at the interrogation. Princess (Paola Lázaro) and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) quickly follow, leaving a very nervous and sweaty Eugene (Josh McDermitt). The disappearance of the others doesn’t ring any alarm bells and these scenes serve merely as an opportunity to break from the desolate and dark action that is going on in the subway tunnels. Juxtaposed, the subway is shot as a deep blue-grey, almost black and white, while the Commonwealth scenes are incredibly bright, made more so by the continual optimism of Princess, overjoyed to learn the bathrooms are complete with toilet paper. By the end of the episode, the group is reunited, learning their fate as judgement is made.
Down in the subway tunnels, Shady Grove may have been where the group boarded but they are alighting in a place far bleaker. Daryl (Norman Reedus) gets into some tight spots, creating even more claustrophobia than Episode 1 as he wriggles his way through an atmospheric narrow passageway that echoes with the groans of walkers around him. He finds what remains of those who called these tunnels home and their story is depicted on the wall in a mural that shows the dissolution of class, as the rich are fighting the same battle as the poor. This is a new concept for the series: the survivors communities have never looked at class before. Alexandria, when it was first introduced, had a council leadership, but it has very much been the case in The Walking Dead that it doesn’t matter who you were, just who you are now and how you contribute. The Commonwealth may not share that idea.
One character who has proven this statement more than once is Negan, who evolved from deadbeat gym teacher to vicious leader – and then to weak prisoner and now moral co-worker. The last part may be tinted with shades of grey as his actions abandoning Maggie (Lauren Cohan) proved. The group already have a less than joyful opinion of the man and, despite accusations against him when Maggie doesn’t arrive, they venture forward, as behind them the herd of walkers continuously presses. Eventually the truth is revealed causing a very awkward moment for Negan. But instead of lying or trying to squirm out of the situation, Negan is brutally honest with the group. Negan is able to suck all the air out of the room, leaving only toxins to fuel his relationship with the others and Maggie. If there is one thing that Negan has always kept, even in his darkest hours imprisoned, it is his lack of shame and that is commendable.
There isn’t much time to dwell on Negan’s actions as the herd is making progress through the subway car a priority. As the walkers somehow surround the survivors, decisions must be made. There are some very tough choices and, just for a moment, Negan and Maggie put aside their squabbles to survive. With a common enemy, an ever so small semblance of trust forms between them, but will it be enough to ensure their survival or start to build bridges? On their quest towards Meridian, they are going to need each other more than they care to admit.
Acheron Part II is a grand continuation of the final season, however, it does suffer from some moments of talking-too-much (or, in Daryl’s case, not at all). The Commonwealth scenes are meaningless until the last one arrives at which point trepidation levels rise. Alexandria has almost become a memory as the focus has been exclusive to those outside the walls, but the stages now appear to be set to move both groups on – if they can trust one another.
The Walking Dead: Season 1 to 11 is available on Disney+ UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.
Innards and entrails (spoilers)
At the Commonwealth, everything seems suspicious with the disappearance of Ezekiel and then the others one by one. When Eugene summons enough courage to find out how long Yumiko will be questioned for, he is told nobody being questioned. No one is in the room and Princess is no longer in the bathroom. This makes you think that something nasty may have happened to them and Eugene’s perspiration is even sweating. He is finally called in for a final, truthful confrontation with Mercer (Michael James Shaw) and although he breaks down and tells the truth about his relationship with Stephanie, he never reveals the location of his settlement, continuing the lie. Eugene’s outwardly cowardice never selling out his friends.
The group is then reunited, and they explain it has all been a misunderstanding. Ezekiel was in the medbay whilst Princess and Yumiko were taken to a new holding room. This doesn’t explain why the guards then were so negative towards Eugene other than trying to trick the viewer into thinking this group are sinister. While that may still be the case, the Commonwealth quickly shows a more positive attitude in their final scene.
Mercer reveals they have been accepted into the Commonwealth, maybe due to Yumiko’s family connection or maybe they just aced the entrance exam. They are to move on to orientation and the doors open. In walks a woman asking for Eugene and introduces herself as Stephanie. But all is not as it seems. Margot Bingham has been confirmed as the actress playing Stephanie, but the woman who enters is played by Chelle Ramos. Is this a deception by the Commonwealth to have Eugene lower his guard? When he meets her he has a huge smile and takes a big sigh or relief, but Eugene needs to compose himself and keep his guard up as something is not right here. Casual viewers may fall into the same trap and assume this woman is telling the truth and, unless there has been a last-minute casting change, there is no reason to doubt otherwise. Although neither Ramos or Bingham make the credits, Ramos is listed as “Woman 2” on IMDb, not confirming that it is Stephanie.
In the subway tunnels, Daryl tries his best to follow dog as he squeezes through a tunnel. While this is very claustrophobic and the sounds reverberating around him are scary, it seems almost impossible that he could be crawling through this tunnel and not notice a walker sneak up on him. It feels like this is just there for jump-scare’s sake when the atmosphere is frightening enough.
Daryl ends up in a tunnel that might have been the home to a group. He finds piles of money in a suitcase and scoffs at it as he sees the mural on the wall. Later, he finds a photo of a child holding a bunny, the same one that they found as they entered Shady Grove. With it is a note, written on a hundred-dollar bill. This shows how useless money has become in the apocalypse; instead of the wealthy using it to benefit them, it is now merely something to write on. This is the story the mural is telling. This should likely have an impact on the rest of the season, especially at the Commonwealth, who we have already seen have a skip full of old currency. Has the almighty dollar been replaced? And by what?
For the others in the subway, accusing Negan doesn’t take up much time as they have to run to escape the approaching herd. As they enter a new car, Alden (Callan McAuliffe) hears knocking, it is an SOS signal. He opens a hatch in the bottom of the car and Maggie is pulled through. She gives Negan a smack but there isn’t time to dwell. More knocking is heard, it is Gage (Jackson Pace), he is trapped in another car and begs to be let through. Maggie tells her people not to help, it would be a waste of effort and resources to fight off the herd behind him. Suddenly, Maggie has become Negan. The two making the same choices about human life. Maybe they’re not so different after all.
Rather than let the zombies take him, Gage decides to take his own life. None of the others seem bothered except Alden. It is a horrible choice to make, but Gage was a bully (he was one of those in the group who picked on Henry and Lydia). He also ran off with the supplies when things were getting scary in the last episode, so he only has himself to blame. As he dies, the herd behind him rip him open in yet another stunning example of the excellent gory special effects this show can pull off. That the subway car makes the scene look almost black and white probably allowed the team to pull off something even more gruesome than usual.
All the Gage debate was for nothing; while the survivors sit about and think on what they’ve done rather than try to keep moving, the zombies break through the door. It is then another excellent example of the training the survivors have endured as ranks file in to take down the undead. But it is not enough: they keep coming. The survivors finally break through into the next car, but there are more walkers coming the other way – the survivors are trapped.
It is here Maggie gives Negan a gun – she is giving him her trust. They are in a dire situation and need all the fighters they can get, even if that means handing a deadly weapon to the man who just left you to die. In the fracas that follows – in the form of super-fast cuts to accentuate the desperation and terror – there is one hero left. Hearing the commotion, Daryl appears and slices his way through the walkers at the back until he has caught up with the group. The way behind is now clear but he is going to clear the front too as he takes a grenade, releases the pin and shoves it into a walker, kicking him back into the undead with all his might. Fire in the hole! An explosive end to an intense action sequence.
Out of the subway, the survivors move on. Maggie knows of a supply outpost that her old friend Georgie set up, only to be used in the most urgent of emergencies. As they head down a road they encounter bodies strung up by their feet, lining the way right down the road as far as you can see. Negan suggests they turn around but Maggie insists they keep going when an arrow thunks into the head of Roy (C Thomas Howell), killing him. They scatter as more arrows are flung in their direction, some finding a target. Heading down the road towards the survivors comes a group of mask-wearing hoodies. These are the Reapers and they look dangerous.
The Reapers seem merciless and ruthless. Unless they recognised Maggie, they didn’t stop to think or talk to the survivors in case they might be able to help each other or share supplies. Instead, it is a flurry of arrows and a menacing march towards violence. If the Reapers are nothing more than killing machines, it would be a different enemy to that they have faced before. No chance of cooperation. No chance of understanding. Is there any chance they can survive?