Directed by Sharat Raju and written by Erik Mountain, the "Part 1" finale of AMC's The Walking Dead Season 11 offered the level of season-ending cliffhanger intensity we were hoping for. We're talking about the kind that raises the bar in a righteously big way for "Part 2" (and don't get us started on the expectations weighing on the series finale). But in doing so, it also exposed a problem the series faces off the screen as the long-running series nears its end. So consider this more of a review/opinion piece hybrid while we throw on the "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" sign and throw down an image spoiler buffer before going "Jekyll & Hyde" on "For Blood."
From the review standpoint, Raju and Mountain gave me everything I needed in a season finale- even more impressive of a compliment considering this was a "third-of-a-season" finale. The list of things that left a smile on my face, finger grip marks on the arms of my chair, and an annoying impatience for the show's February 20th return is a pretty impressive one. From a visual standpoint, seeing Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and the others using the same tactics the Whisperers used against our heroes to launch an assault on Pope (Richie Coster) and the Reapers was a mix of irony and poetic justice. But then we have an "ultimate weapon" twist, and then another twist that finds Pope dead and Leah (Lynn Collins) literally holding the knife. Great news for Daryl and the gang, right? Another twist! Leah still sees the Reapers as family and now sees Daryl as a liar, so you know what that means, right? Yup, Lynn launches their "ultimate weapon" where Maggie, Negan, Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), and the others are- before cutting away. Perfect! Now that's a cliffhanger.
Meanwhile, Alexandria is finally having all of those infrastructure issues that Aaron's been bringing up over the past few weeks. Of course, let it be a major storm that pretty much exposes every weakness the community had. But what it also did was give Christian Serratos' Rosita and Cailey Fleming's Judith chances to shine. With the latter, we witnessed just how much Judith has had to grow up over the past few years, quickly becoming the voice of reason, hope, and encouragement that Rick and Michonne were whether with the adults or the fellow kids around her who already look to her for leadership. Take a minute and go back to that exchange between Judith and Virgil (Kevin Carroll) about Michonne and ask yourself who exactly is consoling who? And as for the former? Finally!!! I've been waiting for that moment when Rosita would get her "Kill Bill" moment to remind everyone just who the f**k Rosita did. And holy crap did she prove herself, even pulling off a sweet return inside the house (lighting and wind made it pop). This has been a long time coming, and we need to be given a lot more of this (please and thank you very much in advance). And how does it end? With the walkers and the storm coming at them from all directions? Again, perfect!
Well, almost perfect… and that's where I have to speak with AMC…
I haven't made any mystery of the fact that AMC needs to reconsider dropping the series finale early because of the sheer volume of spoilers that will be crashing all over social media during the week leading up to it. While I understand how important the TWDU is to AMC when it comes to selling AMC+ subscriptions, I don't think folks are taking into consideration just how many lapsed viewers will be returning just to see how the eleven seasons wrap up. And to be blunt? They're not going to be giving a f**k, a rat's ass, or a s**t about putting stuff out there to ruin the experience for the long-time faithful. I'm bringing this up again because something happened last week that further proved my point. It's the teaser for "Part 2" that was released by AMC that essentially spoiled tonight's episode in some ways for AMC viewers and spoiled some of the cliffhangers for both AMC and AMC+ viewers (which you can check out above). Now don't get me wrong. I know that there were some things we knew weren't going to happen (like Daryl dying). But still, why ruin the journey for those along for the ride? It wasn't necessary when there were other ways to announce the series' return. It's beginning to feel like there's more of a concern for "the sell" on AMC's part right now and less concern for "the story." I'm hoping I'm wrong and I'd rather have this conversation now than heading into "Part 3" next year. But with the masterful work being done by Angela Kang and her team this season, it would be a crime to see that ruined by a short-term benefit that could turn into a long-term detriment.
Oh, and about that theory we promised you last week? Here it is: the Daryl/Carol spinoff is a cover. Daryl will be killed in the finale, taking Rick's role from the comics. That's the reason we've had those scenes with Daryl looking at the subway tunnel artwork. It's driving home the idea in him just how important forming a working society is and doing what it takes to make it work. But instead of our heroes taking out their own brand of justice on Daryl's killer, Judith hands the person over to the Commonwealth as a sign of trust in making the community better. Interesting, right? Make sure to tell me how great I am or how off the mark I am in the comments below, and we'll see you next week with our first review/opinion of Fear the Walking Dead Season 7 as well as the next episode of the final season of The Walking Dead: World Beyond.