UK TV review: The Walking Dead: Season 11, Episode 23 (Family)
Neil Brazier | On 16, Nov 2022
Season 11, Part 3 will premiere with episodes arriving weekly on Mondays. Read our other Season 11 reviews here. Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Finally, and just in time, it feels as if all the pieces have come together and The Walking Dead can shuffle itself successfully into its final ever episode. That’s not to say that Family makes any more sense, but it comes so packed with emotion and tense moments that logic doesn’t necessarily need to prevail. Family is full of the undead with plenty of nods to the Grimes’ legacy, but it does fall foul in its desperate cry to raise the stakes when it doesn’t need to.
To tackle the illogical first, the Commonwealth’s angle is still perplexing. What were the purposes of the takeovers at Alexandria and Oceanside and why are some of the most sharply dressed soldiers so bad at shooting? At first, the Commonwealth community appeared as a safe haven, the rebuilding of a world that was once lost, but in reality, the walls are what Pamela Milton (Laila Robbins) has constructed to keep herself safe. By maintaining her position at the top of the class divide, she can call all the shots needed to ensure she has the best hope of survival – at the expense of anyone else. But this has just put her in the crosshairs as another big bad for our survivors to overcome; it isn’t different enough.
Despite having reclaimed Alexandria, all the kids are alive and well with the exception of Coco, which gets Rosita (Christian Serratos) riled up and ready to fight. Why just Coco? What have the Commonwealth got against the youngest child and her mother, someone they had fought besides? The likely outcome of this is nothing. The survivors rally and head back to the Commonwealth where, thanks to Mercer (Michael James Shaw), they have a plan to sneak in undetected, ready for a hostile takeover. Everything is starting to sound very Savior-like.
This season has also seen a lot more use of the “F” bomb, which has been used sparingly and placed well enough not to seem too incongruous, but the frequency of which appears to be at least once an episode. Here, it is the turn of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to use it, and for anyone who has read the comics, it is a fun nod to his foul-mouthed counterpart as it’s used to expose the smart walkers to the rest of the group. Nobody here suspects the Whisperer’s return. (Although wouldn’t that be an interesting fight?)
The survivors aren’t the only ones headed for the Commonwealth. Lydia (Cassady McClincy) and her group that are walking with the (smart) dead try to break off from the pack but find themselves unable to as another herd appears in front of them. They come across a cabin and decide to make a break for it, but the herd is too strong and some of the survivors are whisked away with them. This leads up to our biggest gripe when, fraught with emotion, Lydia does something stupid. It feels like the writers are desperate to give us some zombie bloodbaths but don’t want to kill off any main characters, so they compromise with something that will spark feelings without pushing us too far – and it all just falls a little flat. Having Lydia split from her love interest and not knowing where he ends up would have been enough to raise the stakes and keep us interested.
These herds of the undead are being led directly towards the Commonwealth by the very soldiers who are supposed to be protecting it. This seems to be Pamela’s game: a way to get the protestors – who are angry at everything that has been going on – off the streets by instigating lockdown procedures when the dead come knocking. Unfortunately, she wasn’t counting on the dead being able to climb fences, so things start to turn sour pretty quickly and as a result we are set up for the finale.
Family gives us plenty to be hopeful about, even if the survivors are now all converging back on the same place they left only a few episodes prior. It reminds us that these survivors are together thanks to one man, Rick Grimes, and reminds us that he created this family, gave the survivors a reason to live and to believe. The dramatic conclusion to an otherwise standard shoot-out set piece leads to a scene very reminiscent of the ending to the first episode of Season 2. With all these overt reminders of the man and Pamela’s talk of “Designation 2” and “Base 17”, will they have any significance to where Rick Grimes has been and where he might end up? Season finales hold a huge weight to appease everyone and not all shows of late have been successful at that. Reminding us how this all began might be the perfect conclusion to this (part) of the Walking Dead saga.