Heading into AMC's The Walking Dead Season 11 Episode 21 "Outpost 22" (directed by Tawnia McKiernan and written by Jim Barnes), things are looking pretty rough for our heroes. One of those "darkest before the (hopefully) dawn" time periods. Outside of the Commonwealth, Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) have taken care of everyone's Lance (Josh Hamilton) problem permanently, and now they're making their way to track down Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), and the others. What's complicating their mission is that Pamela (Laila Robins) had everyone "disappear" to what are basically labor camps. With only three episodes left after this week, "Outpost 22" was a much-needed set-up episode that started offering a clearer picture of the long-running series' endgame. So with that in mind, we're throwing on the "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" sign and throwing down an image spoiler warning as I do a real-time deep dive into the first of the long-running series' final four episodes.
The Walking Dead S11E21 "Outpost 22" Thoughts & Observations
Damn, these flashback openers are killer on the feels… and is it just me, or does it have a rather big focus on Maggie & Rick (Andrew Lincoln)? Symbolism? Foreshadowing? Hmmm…
Right off the bat? A sleeping Commonwealth soldier doesn't do much to prove Maggie wrong when she mentioned how the Commonwealth was too soft and didn't "appreciate" what the world was like outside its walls. And Maggie having flashbacks to when Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller) was taken from her isn't going to go too far when it comes to Maggie showing mercy.
And Maggie has Gabriel and Rosita (Christian Serratos) with her now, too? Oh, this is getting good…
Almost forgot how good of a team Gabriel and Rosita make when it comes to walker-killing.
On another bus, we have Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Kelly (Angel Theory), Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and Annie (Medina Senghore).
Yup, hating The Warden within 30 seconds, but Negan's gotta be having major "deja vu" when it comes to his rules about no one being individuals (with no names) and pledging themselves to a larger cause.
Maggie not crushing in the head of the kid-walker was understandable and a bit of a heart-crusher.
Yup, Rosita is badass. Did she need the dislocated shoulder scene to prove that? Nope, but it was a painful reminder just in case anyone out there forgot.
Even though she's captured, Connie (Lauren Ridloff) is also looking pretty badass, and we're all about the way Daryl's demeanor changed when he saw that they had Connie. "Donnie," anyone?
That scene between Daryl and Carol when she's able to reason with him about how charging forward without a real plan to save Connie can doom everyone is everything you need to know about the depth of their bond.
Yeah, that scene of Maggie internally struggling before putting down the kid-walker was one that needs to be rewatched to truly be appreciated. Cohan delivers big time in that scene, while the looks on Daryl and Carol's faces as they pull onto the scene demonstrate how much Reedus & McBride know their characters and their deep connections to Maggie. And then we get this scene from Cohan & McBride… wow!
Yeah, I'm getting the Rick Grimes visuals from earlier because this episode has a ton of moments where our family is done taking shit from the Commonwealth.
Another stellar turn from Gilliam's Gabriel, using faith as the best "torture device" to get as much intel out of the dying Commonwealth soldier as possible. I can legit say that I was crying during the final prayer scene, and the way Gabriel quietly walked away from the scene with a knife in hand was all we needed to know about how things ended. Bonus points for the scene where Reedus looks Gabriel up and down when he joins the group again, knowing just from the knife in Gabriel's hand what went down.
Meanwhile, Ezekiel's trying to keep the peace and stop Kelly from running, as Negan learns the hard way that all of them only get to stop working when it's time to sleep and to eat. And when three "exiles" attempt to flee, Kelly learns firsthand how Ezekiel saved her life.
I will never get tired of watching OG team members like Daryl, Maggie, Connie, Gabriel & Rosita prove to yet another big bad how they're fucking with the wrong people. And as for that Commonwealth dude who slapped Connie? Ohhhhhhhhhhh… you know Daryl's out for some blood over that.
Do we have Norman Reedus in a motorcycle race against the d-bag Commonwealth dude??? Sweet!
Holy crap! Did Daryl just "Tokyo Drift" his motorcycle under a tree to take out the Commonwealth d-bag??? Double sweet!
So it looks like someone won't be putting their hands on Connie again… ouch.
Okay, even though it wasn't as long as we wanted it to be? Daryl and Connie get serious points for the flirting, with bonus points for how Ridloff had us easily believing Connie when she signed, "I'm not going anywhere" (with a nice flirt-laugh in response by Daryl).
The train conductor killing himself in front of them was a brutally sobering reminder of just how powerful the Commonwealth truly is and that no matter how "soft" in experience they might be, they more than make up for in resources. McBride brilliantly sold Carol's separation to change the course of events you could tell she knew she didn't have much chance of changing. But it's Carol, so she has to try.
And now we're adding Payton's name to this episode's honor roll, barely containing his disgust, and he explains to Negan why he's avoided him for years. And yet, this is Ezekiel. That means as much as he'll never forget Negan's past, he's more than wise enough to know that that won't help anyone's future. Wow, was not expecting the emotional punch that came when Negan "reminded" Ezekiel that when it comes to inspiring hope, no one's better than "The King."
Yeah, I'm with Ezekiel. What "spark" are you looking to start, Negan? And why aren't you coming back? Uh-oh…
MAGGIE GETS A "RICK" MOMENT! Pamela made Alexandria into the Outpost 22 processing center, and that's where she's having them sent?!?! Now that's some serious disrespect. Yeah, I'm with Maggie. Pamela's been taking them for granted for way too long. It's time for our hero to take their home back… and that begins next week with S11E22 "Faith" (directed by Rose Troche and written by Nicole Mirante-Matthews & Magali Lozano).