UK TV review: The Walking Dead: Season 11, Episode 24 (Finale)
Neil Brazier | On 23, Nov 2022
Season 11, Part 3 will premiere with episodes arriving weekly on Mondays. Read our other Season 11 reviews here. Warning: Spoilers ahead.
How do you end a series like The Walking Dead? With larger-than-ever herds of walkers and spectacular set pieces, of course! And while Rest in Peace has those in droves, the final ever episode doesn’t do the series the justice it deserves. Instead there is a feeling that it could have been, should have been, something more poignant.
The episode highlights everything The Walking Dead excels at, is full of nods to the comics (and other zombie movies) and parts lifted right from it, and is even a satisfying conclusion to the Commonwealth storyline. But, as we say our final goodbye to those who survived, the series ending is bittersweet as some characters – and us as viewers – deserved better.
Ever since Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) exited the series (sort of) back in Season 9, The Walking Dead was never going to be able to fulfill the ending that the comic books created. There were other decisions too that impacted this (*cough* Carl *cough*) but no one could give a rousing speech like Rick Grimes could and the Commonwealth would have benefited from that. Rick’s comic book speech contains the iconic line “we are not the walking dead”, which is given here to Daryl (Norman Reedus) but it lacks the gravitas and significance it deserves.
The episode is chockablock. With so many characters to give an ending to, it zips by at such a pace that events happen with little explanation, and we have to just accept it. For example, Daryl and the other survivors are trapped in the hospital with, seemingly, no escape, until they are next seen in a safe house. After a truly traumatic event, in the following daylight everyone is treating themselves to a lovely dinner, with everything forgotten.
When the need comes to slow things down, one bitten survivor prolongs their goodbye ending until it overstays its welcome. This death feels unnecessary considering that earlier they were part of one of the best scenes in the episode, even coming out on top – but this tragedy was reportedly at the actor’s request to add value to the episode. This could have come in other ways and there are other characters whose deaths would have been more emotional and shocking.
What The Walking Dead has brought us over the past 11 seasons is plenty of blood, horror and gore and the finale is drenched with it. From blood-soaked bodies to incineration, the special effects team still do not falter. The danger here feels elevated thanks to the smart walkers, who for all their hype are rather underused, and a smashed glass scene at the hospital is a call back to Season 1 and the department store. The sheer number of zombies – real actors and not just CGI – adds to the threat and claustrophobic vibes as the dead swarm the screen.
Despite it feeling like we have had this conversation several times before, not just content with packing in the action, Rest In Peace also gives us some drama, as Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) apologies to Maggie (Lauren Cohan) once again. Despite its repetition, the two actors are incredible in the scene. Gold stars must also go to Eugene (Josh McDermitt) who has been on form for a long time now. He too gets a tearful scene that enforces the fact that this series wasn’t just about the dead, it was about the cast’s performances too.
Once the dust has settled, the communities restored, the harvest plentiful, the dead kept at bay, Maggie wants to talk about the future and so the game continues to move its players into place ready for their next adventures. Daryl has an emotional goodbye with Carol (Melissa McBride) and says to her what we all wanted to: “I wish you were coming with me.” The pair have been a constant joy to watch, working so well with each other that their parting feels like a travesty.
For those not moving on, they get what Judith (Cailey Fleming) describes as “a happy ending”, and it is, but seasons have ended like this before. Instead of something finite it is more open-ended, which may be part of the larger plan for some of the addendum series to revisit these communities again. There was an opportunity to really seal off the series by giving us a true happy ending, one for Judith where she could be reunited with her parents. Instead, we are teased in what causes ambivalence insofar as The Walking Dead universe has an exciting future but leaves a scar in the gaping hole of what might have been an epic conclusion to the series that started it all.
Maybe it is just burned into our psychology that every October we get more Walking Dead so we expect this to be the end of a chapter – and it is a fitting one – but this is the end of the book and the writers fail to deliver that. With the universe expanding, the finale is hampered and its denouement becomes more of a teaser trailer for what is to come when it should have been a deserved celebration of what has come before.
The series exits with a montage of memories from over the years, which, while more befitting a DVD extra, gives those of us who have shuffled alongside this series for its entirety a tearful trip down memory lane. It reminds us of all the great characters and storylines that we have journeyed with, and many of the original cast returned to record Rick’s infamous line “we’re the ones who live”. And thanks to the unprecedented popularity that a zombie show brought to the world; the dead will keep on living.