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The Walking Dead - Acts of God - Review

  The Walking Dead came to the end of Part 2 of the 3 Part final season with “Acts of God” written by Nicole Mirante-Matthews and directed by Catriona McKenzie, whose other credits include Supernatural, Shining Vale, and The Republic of Sarah. This was a pretty good cliffhanger with Hornsby seemingly winning by taking over all the communities for the Commonwealth but facing an uprising brewing at home in the Commonwealth. While the cat’s away, the mouse will gnaw at the infrastructure! The only true “act of God” in the episode would appear to be a swarm of locusts – but their importance isn’t ever really made clear. Symbolically, the can be seen as the Commonwealth that simply gobbles up everything in its path.

The episode opens  at night outside the closed gates of Hilltop with a crowd of walkers and moves in to an unknown corpse and Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) stepping in its brains. There’s something happening in the house, but no one else is visible. Hornsby looks very unhappy.

The episode once again does a time jump to 19 hours – and one act of God – earlier, starting outside the open gate of Hilltop with no walkers visible. Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller) and Maggie (Lauren Cohen) come out with her asking him if he has everything, and him telling her that he’s not a baby anymore. He doesn’t want to go and wants to help, but she tells him its only temporary. They’re joined by Marco (Gustavo Gomez) and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari).

We get a slow motion close up of Hornsby tossing a coin to decide which group of troopers is going where. I loved this image of how tied to money Hornsby is and how careless of those under him. It’s no wonder he kept telling Daryl (Norman Reedus) to put his helmet back on. He never thinks of them as people, let alone individuals. They are disposable and replaceable tools. A trooper asks about the assignments, and Hornsby will only say the trooper will know soon enough…

Eugene (Josh McDermitt) wakes up to find Max (Margo Bingham) reading. She’s clearly spent the night and it’s confirmed when Eugene says he thought they had a lovely night. YEAH!!!! Really loving these two together. He asks what she’s reading and she tells him stuff on physics – which makes his little nerd-heart (and ours!!!) glow. Eugene tells her that she’s the most remarkable human he’s ever met. He brushes her hair back from her face as she denies it and then says thank you, looking up at him shyly. She kisses him, and then tells him she has to get ready for work. Eugene asks if she’s having second thoughts about what he asked her to do – and assures her that it’s ok. Max is worried about what will happen after. She’s worried that upsetting the careful status quo will break everything. 

From there, we get Daryl literally breaking down a door as he, Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) help the troopers clear a house – still looking for the guns. Aaron wants to break off, but Gabriel wants to just get through it and get back home. Aaron tells him that there is no getting through it, they’re in it until they find a way out or fight their way out. Daryl agrees, saying they keep heading north until they can break away. They’re interrupted by a trooper wanting to know what they’re talking about. Daryl tells him that they need a break. 

Daryl tries to distract the guy by asking if they’ve checked Charleston yet. There was a rumor about weapons on a roof there. They’re attacked by walkers coming out of the wall, and Romano (Matt Bushell) ends up in trouble when his arm goes right through one. He is a little freaked out and smashes its head to bits. He gets a check in from Hornsby who tells them to move to the next location. As they move off, Gabriel tells Aaron and Daryl they need to watch their backs and Daryl agrees. 

As Maggie, Elijah, Marco, and Hershel walk through the woods, the sound of the locusts increases. Hershel is worried about Maggie, and she tells him she’s fine, but we all know she’s not. Cohen is excellent in this scene. And I kind of love how TWD finds good child actors and introduces them to filming by having them largely be silent and/or background in scenes before gradually introducing them to heavier scene work like this. Spiller is clearly benefiting from this approach. Maggie IS clearly troubled, and tells Hershel that everything she does and has done is so that they have choices. She clearly doesn’t want him to judge her harshly for the things that she has done. And she knows Hershel isn’t going to like where they are going, but tells him that it is the right choice…. For now. Hershel smiles at her as acknowledgment that he understands. They are met by Lydia (Cassady McClincy) who leads them to an old Whisperers hideout.

Hornsby is with Leah (Lynn Collins). He is yammering, and she’s clearly barely listening. We get a close up of her eyes – and Collins does a great job of dead, shark eyes. She has a single purpose: revenge. Hornsby is looking forward to doing his job without interference – and she gets the scalp of the woman she hates – everyone wins! Well, not everyone… we finally get to see Hornsby without the fake smile. Hornsby looks concerned about the locusts, but Leah laughs. Are the locusts a symbol of God? Those who are concerned are concerned about the morality of what they are doing? Hornsby hands Leah a small camera (?) and insists that he has to see when Maggie is dead. Leah is happy to oblige.

The hiding place is a hole in the ground. Lydia tries to open the “roof,” but it’s stuck. I loved that once again Marco pushes Elijah to go help her. At the bottom of the opening, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Annie (Medina Senghore) look up. Negan says ‘hi, kid’ to Hershel – who is not impressed. 

Maggie fills Negan and Annie in on what’s happening. Annie asks if Maggie’s sure Hornsby is coming. She tells them his army was 5 miles from her gates and asks Negan for his thoughts. Negan tells her that he has no problem looking after Hershel, but he’s not risking his pregnant wife to save some shithole that isn’t worth saving. Annie tells him don’t – meaning don’t be cruel, but Maggie agrees. Hilltop might not be worth saving, but the people are. Maggie tells him that the thing she started with Hornsby isn’t going to end until she ends it. Negan says he thinks she’s capable, but that Hornsby is determined to get her, so he’s coming with her. Maggie says no; she wants them to stay with Hershel and the others to keep them safe until it’s over. 

Negan points out that Maggie doesn’t trust him – as she’s asking Annie to protect the others. Maggie says she’s starting to trust Negan!!!! And here we see them laying the groundwork for the new series… As so many predicted, Maggie tells Negan she’ll never forget that he saved Hershel at Riverbend – saving the son helps to make up for Glenn. Negan tells her, “You have big balls, Maggie Rhee. I’ve got you, and I’ve got the boy.” Negan, Annie, and Maggie look up at the locusts, and Negan says “If that isn’t a sign from the Man upstairs.” 

Hornsby checks in with Romano, who tells him they are just finishing the second location. He tells them to finish and come back. Daryl says fine – and takes the lead with Gabriel and Aaron. They head into a junk yard or old parking lot full of vehicles. Daryl, Aaron, and Gabriel are in the center with the troopers on the outside. It’s Daryl who takes the first shot, but it’s pretty clear it’s an ambush. It seems that Gabriel and Aaron are both winged. This is a terrific action sequence! I loved Gabriel sneaking up on a trooper and taking him down by stabbing him in the leg. He then gets the guy’s gun. Naturally, the noise has attracted walkers. 

Romano is badly injured and is crawling to get away. Daryl finds him and rolls him over, asking where Hornsby is. Walkers are coming – and Romano is freaking out. I loved how this dovetailed with the short scene in the house where we first see his fear of being eaten, bitten, or turning. Daryl saw it too and gives him a choice – a quick bullet to the brain or eaten and turned. Romano gives up Hornsby, saying he’s about 10 miles out because he wanted to “clear the field” first. That is make sure that Hilltop isn’t getting help from anyone else. Gabriel points out that Hornsby wants only allies. Hornsby checks in, and Daryl tells him that Romano isn’t there anymore. Hornsby is not happy…

It’s absolutely jarring to go from shots of bloody Romano being eaten in the destruction of that graveyard to the pristine, clean interior of Pamela’s (Laila Robins) office. She’s working on a speech, and Max is chewing her nails in nervousness of what she needs to do. Pamela’s speech is about the history of the Commonwealth, describing how they survived while outside the apocalypse was happening – it’s something else for Max to worry about. If they destroy the Commonwealth, what happens to their physical safety?

Pamela notices Max isn’t herself and seems genuinely concerned. Max assures her she’s fine. She understands the strain of always presenting a strong front, and if they can’t show it to each other, who can they show it to? Max again says she’s fine – and as Pamela returns to her office, Max brings up the surplus from Founder’s Day - $50,000! Pamela is pleased. Max suggests using the money to start a scholarship fund for the less fortunate families – she’s even put together a proposal. Pamela tells her that she loves her “out of the box thinking” – BUT, any money has to go back into the event. Max gets rid of her by reminding her of a 5 o’clock dinner she has. Max tells her that she’ll be leaving soon too.

There’s a brief shot of things heating up at Hilltop with Maggie, Elijah, and Lydia preparing for battle. It’s a nice way to underscore that what Max is doing is also to bring down the Commonwealth – or at least blow up the corruption.

Max may have put her coat on to leave, but she’s at Pamela’s filing cabinet removing the documents Eugene asked for when Sebastian (Teo Rapp-Olsson) barges in – clearly drunk. He wants to talk to his mother and wants to know if she’s angry with him because she keeps dodging him. Max tells him that she’s at a work dinner, but she can get word to her. Sebastian isn’t impressed. Max tells him she’s just on her way home, and he switches to rambling about how she’s always working, and noticing the file under her arm, he remarks she even takes it home with her. Max drops the file and Sebastian offers to help. They both stoop to pick it up and she gets it, saying she’s always clumsy after too many afternoon coffees. Sebastian goes quiet and looks serious before saying “poor man’s drug.” Max is terrified, and then he explains caffeine before leaving.

At Hilltop, troopers (all in black) move through the shell of the house. There’s a light in the main room, but when they open the door, it’s been rigged to blow. The plan is to recover their weapons and follow their trail back to the camp and end it. Of course, the real problem is that the Commonwealth has more troopers… but we’ll ignore that for now… Marco and the others stand up – and Leah shoots him in the back of the head. I really, really hate that the show has these loyal actors who get a line once in a blue moon. We get to know just enough about them to want to know more. Just as they start to get more lines – the show kills them. Aaarrgghhh!

We get some nice crispy walkers as Hornsby arrives on the scene at Hilltop. He steps in Marco’s brains – and we’re back to the beginning scene. They’ve only lost three men. Hornsby calls Leah and wants to know what’s going on. She tells him she’s doing it her way and the troopers were just collateral damage. 

Daryl, Gabriel, and Aaron find Leah’s camp – and Daryl knows it’s her. He suggests that they split up to cover more ground.

Maggie sends Lydia and Elijah to the others, telling them she’ll lead Leah away from them. 

Back in the Commonwealth, Max has brought the file to Eugene, Connie (Lauren Ridloff), and Kelly (Angel Theory). They’ve also been joined by Magda (Nadia Hilker). Taylor Davis and the woman Rosita tried to help are on the list – and Kelly has counted over 200. Connie isn’t ready to write about it yet. She needs more proof – and they need to crack the code of the numbers associated with the names. Until they know more, she’ll write about Sebastian’s heist. Kelly points out that when people find out that Pamela’s not on their side, they’ll start to question everything about the Commonwealth. 

There’s a knock at the door and everyone panics, but Magna says it’s ok, she’s asked Ezekiel (Khary Payton) to come. He’s been trying to round up more people for the cause. He has a network of people ready to help get the word out – ready to ride at dawn. Max declares “let’s ride!”

Back in the woods, Leah and Maggie stalk each other. Maggie quietly takes out a walker. Maggie sees Leah first but misses. She manages to tag her in the leg with the second shot, but Leah gets the drop on Maggie and knocks her out.

Maggie comes to in Leah’s old cabin, tied up and sitting in a chair with Leah sitting in front of her. Leah tells her that she’s waited a long time for this. Maggie understands the desire for revenge. She tells Leah she understands what she wants. Killing her would be too easy – it’s why Maggie didn’t just kill Negan when she came back. Rick and Michonne wouldn’t let her kill him at first. Cohen is absolutely brilliant in this scene. I also loved how it was shot – going back and forth between the two women. Maggie knows that Leah wants her to suffer. Maggie tells her that it won’t take away her pain. But Leah isn’t Maggie. She tells Maggie that by the time she’s done, everyone that Maggie loves will be dead. And now it’s Maggie’s turn to be shocked – and desperate. 

Hornsby meanwhile is making his own way through the woods. 

Maggie does get it. She took Leah’s family, so she takes Maggie’s. As the locusts can be heard in the background, Leah tells Maggie that nature has a way of taking care of things. Maggie tells her that it’s not nature or fate – it’s them. She tells her that she killed her people because it was what she wanted. She tells Leah to do it – she’s been trying to keep her eyes laser-locked on her own, so that she could work her hands out of the ropes. Leah looks like she’s about to pull the trigger when Maggie gets free and slaps the gun out of her hand. The two fight. Knives are pulled and both get in a good slash. It’s a brutal terrific fight. Just as it looks like Leah is about to win and stab Maggie in the heart, Daryl shows up and shoots her in the back of the head. He was never going to choose her over Maggie.

Maggie barely has time to process it before Hornsby and the troopers are at the cabin. Daryl manages to shoot Hornsby in the face – he’s going to be wearing prosthetics for the rest of his run on the show! Hornsby finds Leah’s dead body and declares, “Now we take it all.”

Gabriel and Aaron join Daryl and a very bloody Maggie. Negan’s group get out of the hiding hole with Hershel firmly attached to Annie. Max – all in white – good guys wear white! – puts the file back. Pamela comes in with a huge pile of newspapers/flyers with the huge headline “Pamela Milton is Lying to You.” Max looks suitably shocked – which she is that Pamela seems to have scooped up all of them. If so, that scuttles their plan.

The episode ends with Commonwealth banners being unfurled at Alexandria, Hilltop – and most shockingly – Oceanside. The residents at Oceanside have all been rounded up and placed in cuffs. Hornsby tosses his coin, but the episode ends before we find out what he’s deciding. I found the Oceanside scene most shocking because of their history of having escaped Negan’s attempt to subjugate them only to fall prey to Hornsby’s. One small ray of hope here is where is Luke (Dan Fogler)? And Jules? Fogler, of course, has been off shooting Fantastic Beasts - but there's been no explanation of where he's been in the show...

I thought this was a pretty great segment finale. Great performances by Cohen and Bingham. I’m also really enjoying the villains – Collins gives a terrific final performance and Hamilton and Rapp-Olsson make me love hating them. The locusts have stopped now that the Commonwealth has seeminglys won everything. Lots of balls in the air – where are our heroes going to go? All their allies have been taken over. Are Luke and Jules leading a faction of Oceanside? Did Pamela stop the word from getting out? Can Ezekiel’s secret network stay secret AND get the word out? How in danger are Connie, Kelly, and Ezekiel? What about Rosita – she’s the whistleblower after all – or will they blame it all on Daryl, who can’t come back now? Who is going to look after Judith and RJ? How will they feel about losing yet another parent figure? I suspect that Carol will simply continue as she has been looking after them. How is Hornsby going to sell all this to Pamela? Can’t wait to see the spin he puts on it. What did you think of this part of the final season? What do you think will happen in the final part? What are you hoping for? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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