After 11 seasons of triumphs & tragedies… hope & heartbreak… AMC's The Walking Dead ended its run on Sunday night with the appropriately-titled "Rest in Peace." I say it's appropriate because the title of the Greg Nicotero-directed (with a story from Angela Kang and a teleplay from Corey Reed & Jim Barnes) series-ender is a blessing that can apply in so many ways. To those we've lost along the way, both on-screen and off. To the cast and crew, who gave so much of their personal lives to bring this world to life. To the heroes who we connected with in ways we never imagined, who faced unspeakable odds to forge a better future & who deserve a moment of grace. As for the season-ender itself, "Rest in Peace" needed to clear two hurdles. First, it successfully "lands the plane" when it comes to what came before it. That doesn't mean every question needs to be answered, but there needs to be just enough "finality" to make it feel like we're coming to the end of something important. Second, there's the matter of how effectively the series finale set the stage for what's to come or at least left the door open for a possible future.
As difficult of a landing as that may be for some shows to stick (as we've seen so many times in the past), what made things more difficult for "Rest in Peace" was that it needed to wrap up a season's storyline and 11 season's worth of storylines. In addition, it needed to set some sort of tone for the three spinoffs that we already know are on the way, focusing on Daryl (Norman Reedus), Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Rick (Andrew Lincoln), and Michonne (Danai Gurira). In lesser hands, there may have been some reason for concern. But with Nicotero, Kang, Reed & Barnes at the wheel, what we're presented with is a love letter to the fans that hits every right note on both the action and emotional scales. With that in mind, we're throwing on the "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" sign and throwing down an image spoiler buffer as we do a deep dive into where this has all been leading and what it means for the future of the TWD universe.
The Walking Dead Finale: S11E24 "Rest in Peace" Thoughts/Observations
So this is the last "Previously, of 'The Walking Dead'…" we're ever going to get. Ouch. That just hit hard.
Serious props to Judith (Cailey Fleming) for showing some serious Grimes strength to shut that door, but the visual of her and Daryl on the ground is disturbing;y heartbreaking.
Holy shit! We lost Jules (Alex Sgambati), and it looks like Luke (Dan Fogler) is going to lose his leg if he survives.
Watching Luke die surrounded by his "survivor family" after the harmonica gifting, followed by a raw show of emotion, was devastating.
Daryl's transfusing Judith is everything you need to know about his commitment to her.
Princess (Paola Lázaro) & Max (Margot Bingham) rescuing Mercer (Michael James Shaw) was everything, folks!
We've got Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) & Rosita (Christian Serratos) with the big save on Coco with another reminder that we needed more "Badass Rosita" over the show's run because she's devastating.
SECOND CRY OF THE NIGHT: Judith gets upset about dying because she won't be able to see Rick, Michonne & RJ again… and then goes unconscious.
Holy shit! We have a serious variant walker problem, folks! Using rocks to break down glass? Uh-oh…
I'm about to puke watching Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Gabriel scale up that wall…
Oh… wait… never mind. And she makes the jump for the escape… holy shit!
Now it's time for Tomi (Ian Anthony Dale) to be the hero and save Judith, and that "concerned parent" look on Daryl and Carol's faces was heart-crushing. Followed by Aaron (RossMarquand) advising Lydia (Cassady McClincy) on dealing with a lost arm… wow.
THIRD CRY OF THE NIGHT: Negan's apology to Maggie, telling her he now understood what she went through and wants to kill Pamela (Laila Robins) for her so she can live. And then Maggie takes the gun back from him and leaves… but not before asking him to join her in killing Pamela.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! ROSITA!!!!! I was right the first time! Dammit! She got bit! And not in a place that can be amputated, either. And the long-needed but oh-so-late exchanges of "I love you" between the two… dammit, this is a rough episode!
Well, Daryl knows about Michonne leaving to find Rick, so we officially have that in play now…
You're goddamn right it's about the people, Ezekiel! Preach!
Between Mercer reading the truth to Pamela and Daryl calling out her shit for trying to make things like the mistakes of the past, we finally have all of the forces working together for a common cause.
Sorry, Pamela. Maggie wasn't willing to let you have the easy way out. They're going to take back the community, while Pamela can watch the community become something better from the outside, looking in. And there's something sweet about Walker Lance (Josh Hamilton) being deprived of his revenge, too.
The most important song in the TWD universe at this very minute:
Okay… I'm not saying that was the equivalent of a nuclear device or two dropping like in Fear the Walking Dead, but… damn. I mean, that was the very definition of "scorched earth," but… what the hell is left?
That was a wonderful "fuck you" from Carol to Pamela, especially the dig about the house.
In an episode filled with amazing performances, Cohan and Morgan might deserve top honors. And this scene where Maggie tells Negan why she can never forgive him, no matter how grateful she is for the things he's done to atone. But she says that he and his family have earned the right to a home, but I can't help but wonder how this will shift into their dynamic in "Dead City."
Negan's quiet nod of respect to Daryl from outside of the window before walking off might be the most appropriate Negan exit (of course, there is that spinoff on the way… and about 20 more minutes)
Let's add Serratos' name to those deserving of top honors, especially in this scene, where Gabriel learns that she's been bit without words being uttered aloud. And having Judith watch it play out only added to the sadness as Judith's "education" continues… sadly.
I'm glad to see Rosita getting the respectful goodbye she deserves, and seeing her with Carol and Maggie brings back so many memories from the previous ten seasons. But the scene of Gabriel giving last rites prayer with Coco by Rosita's side really drives home the personal sacrifices that have been made along the way.
"I wouldn't be the man I am today if I hadn't met you." – Eugene to Rosita (and we've stopped counting crying moments at this point because we lost count about a half-hour ago).
ONE YEAR LATER: Eugene and Max have a baby! Eugene has a sweet ponytail! Governor Ezekiel! Lt. Governor Mercer! Daryl is out patrolling on a regular basis and still flirts with Connie (Lauren Ridloff)! So many good things!
"You're my best friend."- Carol to Daryl before Daryl promises Judith to bring "them" home if he can or at least any word of them.
I'm so glad Carol and Daryl exchanged "I love you" before he headed off. It offers closure without closing a door.
I am all about these speeches from Rick and Michonne! "We are endless!"
We see Michonne and Rick at this moment in the timeline, both alive and keeping logs of their journey back to each other.
Michonne is charging on towards him, while Rick is about to be apprehended by a helicopter that speaks to him as if it wasn't the first time he's attempted to escape. But this time, we get a slight smile from Rick. Like, maybe this time is going to be different.