UK TV review: The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 19 (Variant)
Feed Me Lance8
Neil Brazier | On 19, Oct 2022
Season 11, Part 3 will premiere with episodes arriving weekly on Mondays. Read our other Season 11 reviews here.
In our last review we discussed how The Walking Dead had changed the landscape forever – well, move over last review, because it’s time for another world-shifting development in Variant. While it is our opinion that this change of regime might not have a huge impact on how the rest of this season plays out, it is clear that The Walking Dead’s universe as a whole is about to change.
Bleakness thrives at the Commonwealth. Pamela Milton (Laila Robbins) – having just lost her son, Sebastian (Teo Rapp-Olsson) at the Founder’s Day riots – is out for revenge and has put out an alert to bring Eugene (Josh McDermitt) in for “questioning”. Translated: Pamela wants an eye for an eye. While she waits, she pays a visit to Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) and the pair’s strange relationship is explored further. There is a creepy seduction to their encounter that is confusing as they otherwise share an abhorrence for one another. This palpable chemistry fills the room, as they use it to feed off one other in their morbid mind-games. And,” as one of the most intense scenes of the episode ends, there might be another who’s hungry to be fed too.
In the hunt for Eugene, our survivors are brought in for questioning by Mercer (Michael James Shaw), who, despite his constant stoic expression, appears to be cracking. People he trusts are telling him that the Commonwealth is wrong, that they must fight to be better and not settle for what they are because it’s safe. While his expression doesn’t change, the pain in his eyes gives him away. He agrees with them and this might be the final shift that he needs to stand up for the Commonwealth and not those who run it. Princess (Paola Lázaro) proves how grossly underused she has been as she explains why she won’t settle for anything less than the best in a conversation that shows that, despite her issues, she has not only an honest head but she is pure of heart.
Eugene has been known in the past to be somewhat of a coward. He is brilliantly clever and will do what he needs to do for himself to survive, but he has never been one for heroic turns of bravery. Daryl (Norman Reedus) knows this and there is a fun scene between the pair when Eugene wants to fight so he can search for a missing Max (Margot Bingham). Comparing him with Mercer, one cowardly, one heroic, it is Eugene who makes the ultimate sacrifice in an act of true bravery when, after some soul searching, he realises he is nothing without Max – an honest character development that, if Pamela gets her way, might be his last.
The world-shaking element of the episode comes as Aaron (Ross Marquand) and his team encounter a herd of walkers. They take refuse in a nearby camp, which is very medieval, dubbed Kingdom 2.0, and everything seems secure, until night falls and a noise is heard. From out of nowhere they are surrounded by walkers but, despite retreating to supposed safety inside the building, the dead won’t let a door stop them in their pursuit of fresh brains.
“When did the dead use doorknobs?” Jerry (Cooper Andrews) cries and the survivors’ instant thought is the herd is being led by Whisperers. They retreat further, to the building’s roof, but even high ground is no longer safe from the dead. The whole act is atmospheric and tense with shades of the cemetery scene in Season 9’s midseason finale. Just like that moment, when we first saw a Whisperer dodge a blade, so again we are overcome with a very real sense of terror and the final reveal is a beautifully grotesque way to cap it off.
The zombie evolution doesn’t feel like it will have a huge impact on this series; there is so much else going on that a final zombie horde attack doesn’t really make sense outside of using them as distractions as per the Founder’s Day riots – unless one of the groups is able to weaponise this new development. This will provide something fresh and a new depth for the upcoming spin-offs and, as we saw in the post-credits scene in the World Beyond, the evolution doesn’t seem to stop at brains. In this series, we’ve seen smart zombies before, but that was way back in Season 1 when they used a rock to smash in a door and chased Rick up a fire escape. We’ve not seen anything like it since, and so – while it does seem a little late in the day to be doing this – it feels like the right step for the franchise, and it makes for some thrilling viewing.