UK TV review: The Walking Dead: Season 11, Episode 13 (Warlords)
Wolves dressed as sheep8
On the shelf next to Billy7
Neil Brazier | On 22, Mar 2022
Read our other Season 11 reviews here.
Finally, The Walking Dead feels like The Walking Dead again. Warlords contains evil groups doing horrible things and our survivors lives being put at risk. The relative safety of the Commonwealth is in question and depending on how the events play out (this appears to be a two-part episode), everything they have spent so long to build could be destroyed. The stakes are high and the action tense – all with barely a zombie in sight.
Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) are asked to lead a missionary visit to a mysterious new community named Riverbend, with an offer of friendship and food supplies. As soon as they arrive, Aaron and Gabe smell something foul and decide that this isn’t going to be as easy or as safe as they were told – and these two know what they’re talking about. But the Commonwealth’s lead on this mission, Carlson (Jason Butler Harner) – a duplicitous former CIA agent and Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) confidante – makes sure they know they’ve got no choice in the matter.
At first, it seems as if Riverbend is going to be a dangerous antagonist. While they certainly could be, there is another, closer enemy who is revealed in brutal fashion. The final interrogation scenes are viciously executed in a way that evokes some serious old-school Negan vibes. The series has been full of miscreants, yet Warlords feels like it raises the stakes and it puts our survivors in a new kind of danger they haven’t really encountered before.
The mission to Riverbend is orchestrated by Lance, who wants to keep Governor Pamela Milton (Laila Robins) out of the picture. His desire to do things his own way come with a confusing motive. He already holds a position of power within the Commonwealth, but he craves more, enough to be able to create a new world. We have seen Pamela Milton talk down to him and dismiss him, which must keep him frustrated, but even if he did seize control, what would he do with it? What further joy will he gain? A bigger house? Warlords shows that, whatever his vision of a new world is, it probably isn’t one that our heroes want to be a part of.
The meeting between the two sides escalates and Riverbends leader Ian (Michael Biehn), who comes across like a mini version of the Reapers preaching Pope, doesn’t help matters when he shows off his wall of skulls, but Aaron is excellent at defusing the situation. Aaron has had an increased leadership role of late and Ross Marquand is certainly shining in taking on the new challenges and the perfect good cop in this episode. Despite us having no prior attachment to him, Carlson is instantly watchable and, as the negotiations get more heated, he only gets better, peeling off layer after layer like an ogre’s favourite onion.
Warlords introduces us to a new enemy and one that may have major ramifications for our survivors going forward. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) tells Lydia (Cassady McClincy) that sometimes the easiest thing, such as joining the Commonwealth, isn’t always the best thing – and she may be right. The 50,000 people at the Commonwealth are sure to harbour one or two bad apples, but distinguishing the wolves from the sheep is getting much more difficult and Warlords blurs the lines brilliantly with unexpected twists and some surprisingly familiar faces.
The episode is told through some interwoven narrative from multiple perspectives, which adds interest and builds tension throughout. While not exactly a cliffhanger, the episode leaves us desperate for more to find out just how the survivors are going to get themselves out of this situation. Warlords is a fine example of the show doing what it does best, and it feels great to have it back.