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‘The Walking Dead’ Steps on the Gas in Its Final Midseason Premiere (RECAP)

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead, Season 11, Episode 17, “Lockdown.”]

The series pilot, “Days Gone Bye,” featured a car chase, and in a poetic bit of rhyming, “Lockdown”—The Walking Dead’s final premiere—features a car chase, too.

Whether or not the writers planned that symmetry, “Lockdown” does a fair bit of reflection on the journey so far. The episode opens with narration from Judith (Cailey Fleming) about the people they’ve become and what the world is now, set to flashbacks from earlier seasons. In the spirit of the older seasons, “Lockdown” is surprisingly gory, too—a soldier gets torn in half by walkers. Does that make sense, given how deteriorated the walkers should be? Not really, but a decade in, we’re just going with it.

Jace Downs/AMC

Team Daryl (Norman Reedus) plans to take out Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) before he can radio back to the Commonwealth. They figure Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is their best chance since the soldiers have never seen him before. After Negan sneaks out and kills a few soldiers, he steals a car, leaving a weapon and radio behind for Daryl to take with another vehicle. Daryl gets into a shootout with Hornsby and his team while Negan leads the soldiers away, then Negan leads that car full of soldiers into a position where Daryl can crash into them and wipe them out. He gets away and heads to the Commonwealth, where he tells Mercer (Michael James Shaw) about what’s been going on outside the walls. Mercer, realizing what Hornsby’s been up to, lets Negan in.

Things at the Commonwealth are…complicated. Because of Connie’s (Lauren Ridloff) article, the citizens are demanding Pamela (Laila Robins) prosecute Sebastian (Teo Rapp-Olsson) for the role he played in their loved ones’ deaths. This complicates things for Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) and Stephanie (Margot Bingham), who are both working for Pamela while attempting to bring her down. As the protests are happening, Carol (Melissa McBride) gets a visit from Hornsby’s goons. She and the kids hide, barely escaping detection—and then, once they’re safe, Jerry (Cooper Andrews) shows up with Negan.

Josh Hamilton as Lance Hornsby

Jace Downs/AMC

Much of the episode sees Carol and Negan working together to find Sebastian. The plan? Use him as leverage to bargain with Pamela for their people’s safety—they just have to locate him. Because there’s no problem Carol can’t solve, she manages to track him down. Negan impresses upon the sniveling brat that his best option is to go with them, but Sebastian, being Sebastian, just has to whine about it. As they talk, things get worse outside as a horde descends on the Commonwealth. Rosita (Christian Serratos) steps into action to go outside the walls and help, while Jerry and the kids fight to stay one step ahead of Hornsby’s people, who intend to capture the youngsters and use them to draw out Daryl and his friends.

Eventually, Negan and Carol talk Sebastian into leaving his hiding spot. They emerge onto the Commonwealth streets, where, unsurprisingly, he’s immediately recognized. (The pitfalls of being the leader’s son.) Negan stays behind to stop the angry crowd from reaching them, while Carol quickly gets Sebastian to safety. The crowd winds up getting tear-gassed by the soldiers for “breaking curfew,” so it disperses. Rosita and Mercer find themselves in a bad situation outside the walls as the horde advances unexpectedly. (As Mercer puts it, “Someone didn’t do their job.”) They escape with their lives. Barely.

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier

Jace Downs/AMC

Inside the walls, Carol delivers Sebastian to Pamela, who’s dismissive of Carol and slaps her son. It takes Carol referencing Hornsby to get Pamela to listen to her. “He’s out there hunting my friends under your flag,” she says. “I think we can help each other.” When Carol implies she has a way to implicate someone other than Sebastian for the crimes, Pamela’s all ears.

Daryl, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and the rest of the group manage to draw Hornsby into the sewers, where they face off. Guns are drawn, and everyone’s fingers are on triggers. Daryl springs up behind Hornsby and holds a knife at his throat—and in classic “truly crazy” fashion, Hornsby smiles. That’s it for the premiere.

Eleanor Matsuura as Yumiko

Jace Downs/AMC

Other Observations

  • I’m not sure what I think of the Judith narration that opens this episode. (Episode 18 starts with it as well, so it’ll likely continue through the season.) Something about it seems too “navel-gazey” to me. Everyone watching knows it’s the last season, so the flashbacks feel more like a way to relive the “glory days” than anything in service of the overall story. It’s odd.
  • I love Carol and Negan working together and wish they’d do that more often. They were fun in Season 10, and they’re fun now. Negan’s quote about Carol “pulling rabbits out of her ass,” as well as her expression after he said it, was pure gold. I also thought it was funny when he randomly dropped the news on her that he’s married and has a kid on the way. Surprise!
  • I wish TWD had shown how Negan and Annie (Medina Senghore) ended up together. For something as huge as Negan moving on from Lucille, it’s baffling that TWD kept the development of their relationship off-screen. Likely a casualty of the final season being a surprise.
  • On that subject—as a longtime TWD viewer, I’m entering this season with some nerves. My hope is that the show I’ve invested a decade in ends on a satisfying note, but with so many spinoffs in development, I’m unsure how any conclusion here can feel final. There’s always the good ol’ “everything’s fine now!” massive time-jump forward, but that might rob the spinoffs of significance. Or, equally unsatisfying, a time-jump could happen…and it could not show Daryl, Carol, Maggie, or Negan to preserve the tension for their spinoffs. Oof.
  • Rating: 4/5. Plenty happens in “Lockdown,” and both plots are compelling enough. Carol and Negan make a good duo, and Lance Hornsby and Pamela Milton are interesting villains. The action scenes are good, if not always logical (why did the plan depend on Daryl getting into a car wreck? Was everyone in the group that confident in his plot armor?!). I’m interested to see how The Walking Dead ties things up—or doesn’t—in the next seven episodes.

The Walking Dead Season 11, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC

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