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The Walking Dead - New Haunts - Review

  The Walking Dead “New Haunts” was written by Magali Lozano and was directed by Jon Amiel. This is Lozano’s first writing credit though she has worked on the show since 2016, mainly as assistant to Angela Kang. The episode focuses on how the people who have come to the Commonwealth. While many of the characters have chosen the Commonwealth, a few have not. I liked how the title actually has some different meanings. ‘New haunts’ mean new places, but also references the Halloween theme and also refers to the reverberations with the past that continues to ‘haunt’ them. The episode reveals that the Commonwealth has lead feet – it is based on an elitist class system. The Commonwealth is also haunted by an underground movement. The episode is haunted by shades of the Governor storyline and the legacy of Alexandria as well.

The episode begins with Daryl (Norman Reedus) taking Judith (Cailey Fleming) and RJ (Antony Azor) through a Haunted House full of walkers – it’s a fun way to transition to this new life. While Judith does startle a bit and look somewhat afraid, Daryl has a smile and eventually calls an end to it. We also see that Jerry (Cooper Andrews) and Nabila (Nadine Marissa) have brought their entire family. I loved that they were the tiger family in honor of Shiva. 

Carol (Melissa McBride) is now working at the bakery – back to baking cookies! But she’s also keeping an eye on Ezekiel (Khary Payton) who seems to be in charge of the petting zoo – perfect! Judith makes a new friend – Mei (Chiara Misawa), who is clearly more affluent. Judith has gone from being self-assured and someone of prominence to being embarrassed about not having any money. She’s also calling herself Jude now. She accepts Mei’s gift of a Motorhead album but doesn’t tell her that she has no way to play it.

Carol checks in with Daryl. Neither of them are likely to accept anything at face value. Carol suggests the Commonwealth has been there a long time, so maybe there’s nothing that they have to do to make it work, but Daryl insists that there’s always something that you’ve got to do to make it work. And the first clue comes as they literally roll out a red carpet for Pamela Milton (Laila Robins). She’s there to give out cotton candy and award the best costume – that goes to Celeste who is dressed as Mercer – and played by Khary Payton’s daughter Maya!

We get a bit of background on Milton – Carol says she always thought she was ‘classy’ – and Daryl didn’t know anything about her. Carol admits that she used to read a lot of tabloids! Let’s not forget that she was an average housewife! They are joined by Kelly (Angel Theory) and Connie (Lauren Ridloff) who is writing for the paper (it’s not very hard-hitting) – she was a pretty famous journalist after all. In fact, she interviewed Milton before the apocalypse. Kelly reveals that Connie got Milton’s uncle kicked out of Congress! So there’s definitely something shady about that family. Carol is impressed. Daryl is adorably happy to see Connie – and Carol tells him to ask her to the dance. Daryl brushes her off and says he has to go to work.

Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) are both there and sharing parenting of Coco, but are clearly no longer together. He offers to take Coco overnight as Rosita will be tired after her late shift. She promises to pick her up before his Bible study. She and Daryl are both training to join the stormtroopers. The two are also staying in crappy housing while in basic training. Rosita mentions how weird it is to worry about money again – and that’s going to become a very important theme.

Ezekiel has lent Shiva’s collar to Ezra for his costume, and Jerry tells him he has to give it back at the end of the day. Ezra is reluctant, and Ezekiel surprises all of them by giving the collar to Ezra – under the conditions that it always makes him as happy as it made Ezekiel and that Ezra honors Shiva’s memory. It’s the first of the things Ezekiel holds precious that he gives away in the episode and is a good indication that Ezekiel knows how sick he is and that he doesn’t have much hope that he will get his surgery in time. He tells Carol that he feels fine and changes the subject to ask about Maggie and Lydia. Carol is clearly sceptical…

Carol takes matters into her own hands and sneaks into the records at the hospital to check on Ezekiel. She’s interrupted by Tomi (Ian Anthony Dale) who has clearly been pressed back into service as a surgeon. They clearly know each other and she immediately confesses that she’s there snooping for information on Ezekiel. Tomi tells her that Ezekiel’s wait for surgery is too long. He also says that Ezekiel probably doesn’t know that he won’t get the surgery before it’s too late – unless there’s some kind of miracle… and of course, Carol sets out to get him one – and she knows exactly how to play the system.

Mercer (Michael James Shaw) is in charge of training the new recruits. He’s running an exercise at the “kill house” – but killing isn’t the primary goal. The primary goal is speed (Daryl and Rosita will clearly shine here) and team work – and we know that’s going to be hard for Daryl. We first saw Rosita as part of a team and her military background is going to stand her in good stead here, but she’s come too far to just be another soldier, and she’s clearly better than the guy she gets teamed with. Daryl tries to convince Mercer to let him team up with Rosita, but that is completely not the point of the exercise. Daryl has to be able to pair up with anyone. Rosita immediately puts Green (Braian Rivera Jimenez) at ease. Daryl’s partner Jake (Michael Hanson) immediately tries to shake Daryl’s hand, and Daryl isn’t quite an asshole to him…

Naturally, it’s a contest to see who can kill the “red” walker at the back of the house and Daryl and Rosita are running against each other. Rosita and Daryl take out the first walker in both houses. They only have one weapon – a knife – per team. Both Rosita and Daryl end up taking out their walkers by hand, letting their partners keep the knife. Rosita has one of the best kills ever when she breaks a walker’s leg, rips off his shin, and stabs him with it!!! LOVED IT! Daryl and Green both go after the red walker to win the game, leaving their partner behind – Rosita was fine, but Jake ends up in trouble and Mercer has to step in and save him. Daryl is pissed and says he was right there and about to help him. Mercer praises Rosita and Green and tells Daryl to follow him.

We finally see Princess (Paola L├ízaro) when Mei buys the album for Judith. Princess is clearly enjoying working in a store again – and dressing up for Halloween. Judith is surprised and tells Mei she doesn’t have to, but Mei just says it’s a gift for a friend. Judith asks for the receipt as a reminder of a good day – but doesn’t she have the album for that?

Carol sees Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) try to drop off some wine for the gala that night only to be told by Stephanie (Margot Bingham) that it’s not good enough. Carol has found her miracle. She goes outside the walls to the Vincente Fine Wines storage cellar – kills a bunch of walkers – and returns with a crate of the good stuff! We get another great kill when she uses a corkscrew to save herself.

Daryl is carrying a bag of weapons and Rosita shows up with another to “volunteer” for the exercise. It turns out that just as Deanna Monroe (former Congresswoman) had a spoiled, idiot son, Pamela Milton has Sebastian (Teo Rapp-Olsson). It’s clearly Mercer’s least favorite assignment to “train” – or babysit – this brat, and he’s dragged Daryl along to help. There are walkers safely locked in a shipping container to be released – rather like pigeon shooting – so Sebastian can try out the new weapons. It turns out that it’s all the weapons the Alexandrians brought. Sebastian disrespects Judith’s katana – not worth his time. He hilariously almost brains himself with Daryl’s mace. He stupidly gets one of Daryl’s knives stuck in a walker’s throat and Daryl has to save him – just as his mother walks by and sees. She’s been out hunting and looks at him with disgust. He runs after her. 

Mercer tells Daryl he shouldn’t have intervened. Daryl asks if it was another team-building exercise. Mercer clearly sees the value in Daryl. He tells Daryl he knows he’s used to doing things on his own, but that’s not how it works there. Mercer tells him, “Sometimes we have to set each other up to win.” He was trying to help Daryl by having him win favor with Sebastian – and thereby Pamela. Daryl wants to know why he has to feed the little prick’s ego. Mercer tells him that the Commonwealth is as good as anywhere else he’s seen and that they can have a good life there if they can cut it. He tells Daryl that he “kinda wants to see him succeed.” 

Daryl comes home with food for dog and the kids. They seem to be living in a studio apartment that is utterly horrible – much worse than anything they’ve staying in for some time. There is blaring music and only a mattress on the floor. The windows are covered by sheets. Daryl asks about their day, and Judith tells him she made a friend and shows him the album. It’s hilarious when she asks him if he’s heard of them – Reedus has “Lemmy” tattooed on his chest for Lemmy Kilmister, lead singer and bassist of the band. Judith then asks for an allowance, and Daryl has to ask if they can discuss it after his job settles down… He’s clearly having a hard time supporting two kids with no help. Judith and RJ are quick to say that they want to stay. It’s clear that Daryl was hoping to just go back to Alexandria when it’s fixed up, but it’s also clear that he’s going to do what the kids want.

Just as Hornsby is about to give up, Carol shows up in his office with the wine. Hornsby is pleased and asks her how she knew. Carol tells him that her mother taught her to always be observant. Yeah… I don’t think that was her mother… Hornsby asks what she wants, and she tells him she has a friend who needs to be front of the line for surgery. He tells her that that’s a big ask. She flatters him with a “not for you.” He doesn’t promise anything but wants to see how the wine goes over. She assures him that it will go over well. I have to wonder where Carol’s knowledge of wine comes from – let’s remember her redneck husband for a couple of minutes… he didn’t seem like much of a ‘wine guy.’

At the party, we finally catch up with Magna (Nadia Hilker) who is a server and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) who is one of the elite guests. One of the other servers (Sharon Conley) is cutting up fruit and says her kids don’t even know what mango is. Magna says maybe they’ll have some some day, and the other server laughs. The class system is firmly in place…

Magna serves wine to Yumiko and Tomi. His hand is shaking as he downs the entire glass. Yumiko asks what’s wrong, and he tells her that this is her world – he was fine being on the outside of it. Yumiko seems to finally be seeing how much he hates that life and what it may do to him.

Daryl and Rosita are working at the doors – to keep the riff raff out – as the elite guests arrive. Sebastian stops to “fix” Daryl’s collar, and Rosita teases Daryl after Sebastian goes in that he’s given Daryl a “hate” smile. There’s a red carpet with velvet ropes as the common people ‘star gaze’ the celebrities going in. Hornsby enters and looks pleased as the clapping increases, but then looks seriously miffed as the chanting “Mercer” begins – that’s who the applause is for too. Princess is at the ropes and calls to Mercer as he’s about to go in. Who doesn’t love this match up?!?!?!

Mercer smiles as Princess calls to him. She tells him she just wanted to say hi and that he looks very handsome. He tells her that this isn’t really his ‘thing.’ She tells him it is. He tells her that he finds these events boring and asks her to join him to make it more interesting. The guy at the door (Sean McCracken) asks for her name – Mercer tells him she’s with him. The guy then tentatively says that there’s a dress code. Mercer just frowns and takes her arm. As they pass in, Daryl looks thoughtful. 

Hornsby beelines to Pamela and asks about the wine. She tells him it’s “fine.” It clearly hasn’t really made any impression on her. Stephanie pulls her away to make her speech, but as she goes, she tells Hornsby they need a meeting about Alexandria. He tells her that he has a “pitch” and she tells him that she’s sure he does – and it sounds like he isn’t very likely to get what he wants.

Connie and Kelly are waiting for Pamela and ask about the “grandeur” with which they celebrate all the holidays. Pamela says they treasure their holidays because they provide comfort and structure in uncertain times. Halloween is special because her father – who was President (!?!) – loved a good masquerade ball. And isn’t that a bit on the nose? Isn’t the Commonwealth masquerading as one when it’s really a monarchy with nobles and a Queen? Connie asks what Pamela’s father would have thought about the class divide on display at the party? Pamela smoothly says that she’s glad they are there because they celebrate everyone who contributes to the community. She then takes them and introduces them to last year’s lottery winner – apparently this is the prize for winning – attending the ball.

One of the waiters (Cameron Scott Roberts) tries to talk to Pamela, and Princess and Yumiko recognize him as the trooper whose ass Princess kicked at the train…

Pamela unveils a portrait of her father – painted by someone who was saved. She goes on to say that the Commonwealth serves and protects all it’s citizens. It’s too much for the trooper. He calls Pamela out and takes Stephanie hostage. He tells them that he would have died for the Commonwealth, and Pamela doesn’t even know his name. Pamela seems sympathetic. The trooper goes on – he made one mistake and lost everything. All she cares about are fancy parties and paintings – and he slashes the painting. Pamela tells him to put down the knife and let go of her assistant. Stephanie whispers to him that she’s like him. We know that this is the real Stephanie – is this why she contacted Eugene (Josh McDermitt)? Did she want his help? The trooper tells her that he’s sorry. He backs through a curtain and lets her go. Mercer goes to Stephanie and she says she’s ok – and Sebastian finally stands up and roars at Mercer to get him. Mercer sends the troops after him.

Daryl chases him into the Haunted House where we began the episode. Daryl finds him in a dead end. The trooper tells him that he didn’t mean for it to happen – he just wanted Pamela to hear him and understand. He threatens to cut his own throat. He tells Daryl that he got beaten up and lost his job and now has no way to help his sister and her kids. Daryl jumps on the fact that he’s got family – not many people still do – and Daryl has lost so many. Daryl tells him not to take family away from his sister. The trooper gives up. Sebastian is there and says Daryl finally did something right. Daryl wants to make sure that he can get ahead and stay for the kids – so he gives the trooper – and the win – to Sebastian. Pamela is finally impressed. 

As the trooper is taken away, he seems less beaten as he tells her there are thousands more like him and yells, ‘resist the Commonwealth, equality for all, visibility for workers.’ Connie, Kelly, and Magna watch him go, looking thoughtful. Pamela asks Hornsby if there are thousands more, and he assures her there aren’t – but he doesn’t seem very sincere. Pamela doesn’t want to see or hear it…

Outside the gala, Yumiko is giving envelopes of cash to the attendees and checking off a list. Connie and Kelly are shooed back inside. Carol meets Hornsby and asks how the wine went over. He tells her fine. She asks what’s next, and he’s glad she asked. Mercer starts an investigation and sends Rosita to ask Magna what she knows. Magna says she didn’t know him, but she does believe him. She tells Rosita the place is like a city from before. She points out that Rosita is also doing what she did before to break out of society restraints.

Ezekiel drops in to see Carol – and he’s impressed by the wine. Did she learn about it from him? Ezekiel says that the kids had a blast that day – and that he – Henry – would have loved it. Ezekiel has brought a remembrance box of Henry’s things. He tells her that he knew it was too painful before but he insists he wants her to have it now. He tells her this place could be a fresh start for her if she wants it. He’s clearly giving away his valuable possessions because he doesn’t think that he’s going to make it. She toasts to fresh starts.

We jump ahead in time and Daryl is dressed in a stormtrooper outfit. Judith has a new dress. They finally have furniture and a new, quiet apartment. He’s also bought her a record player so they can listen to Motorhead. As it plays, we see a raid happen. Rosita finds a hidden room that contains signs of a very active resistance. The Motorhead song playing is “Eat the Rich.” Rosita pretty clearly is wondering if she’s on the wrong side. 

Once again our group finds themselves in a community not of their own making that is far from the idyllic it seemed in the beginning. We all also know that Daryl and Carol are heading out on their own spin off after this season finally wraps up. Carol will leave after Ezekiel dies – and if Hornsby tries to screw with her, she’ll burn the whole place down – to be clear, I’d like nothing better than to see Carol and Ezekiel live happily ever after – but this is The Walking Dead. What will make Daryl leave Judith and RJ? The only thing that I can possibly imagine is Rick or Michonne sending for them or coming for them… Meanwhile, I can’t wait for our group to join the resistance – because you know they’re going to! What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!




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