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The Walking Dead - Family - Review

19 Nov 2022

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  The Walking Dead’s penultimate episode “Family” was written by the team of Magali Lozano, Erik Mountain, and Kevin Deiboldt and was directed by Sharat Raju. I can’t believe there is only one more episode of this series! I’ve been reviewing the show almost since the very beginning, and I remember working at a convention (Creation’s Weekend of Horror) just before its debut. Greg Nicotero was there, and I had no idea who he was! Norman Reedus (Daryl) was there with his Boondock Saints co-stars (one of the reasons I wanted to work the stage at that convention) and Reedus was asked to join The Walking Dead panel pretty much as an after thought – and the room wasn’t as full as it had been for the Boondock Saints panel! We know Daryl is going to survive and Maggie (Lauren Cohen) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), but those are the only certainties going into the final episode…

This week’s voice over from Judith (Cailey Fleming) begins with her stating that for the longest time they were just fighting to survive, trying to get back what they’ve lost as the camera pans over a box full of the iconic weapons from the show – Carol’s (Melissa McBride) knife, Rosita’s (Christian Serratos) machete (is it a re-purposed chainsaw?), Gabriel’s (Seth Gilliam) machete, Lydia’s (Cassady McClincy) staff, Magna’s (Nadia Hilker) funky ax-thing, Connie (Laruen Ridloff) and Kelly’s (Angel Theory) slingshots, Princess’ (Paola L├ízaro) machine gun, Ezekiel’s (Khary Payton) funky ax-thing, Negan’s crowbar, Aaron’s (Ross Marquand) mace attachment, Jerry’s (Cooper Andrews) sword, Eugene’s (Josh McDermitt) ice pick, Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) and Carol’s bows, and of course, Daryl’s crossbow. I loved the flashbacks and how much we associate the characters with these weapons and all they’ve been through.

The voice over continues over the montage as Judith says “this family would do anything to protect each other. And we’re fighting now for something bigger – a new beginning. But that comes with a cost.” And as Judith picks up her katana – which is SO small now that Fleming is becoming a young woman! – and Rick’s pistol – she says she never got to know her mother – Lori. Carl dreamed of a time they’d all live together in peace. Michonne tried to hang up her sword. Her Dad, Rick, was searching for mercy. And she’s a Grimes too. She also picks up Michonne’s Bill of Rights, and thinks of a secret saying she shared with her dad. It’s like a good luck charm for her and RJ too. She says that she was afraid to say it – and many things out loud. As she puts Rick’s hat on RJ (Anthony Azor), she ominously tells us that they didn’t know when they started this that this would be the day that everything changed….

Tyler (Cameron Scott Roberts) tells Gabriel that when he was a soldier kids without parents ended up at the city’s children’s home, but he doesn’t know where it is. Gabriel tells him to find out. Rosita is frantic to find Coco. It’s the morning after the group took Alexandria back and everyone is loading up to head back to the Commonwealth. 

Negan asks Maggie (Lauren Cohen) how she’s planning to take out the “bitch” – Pamela (Laila Robins). Negan and Maggie agree that no one is safe until Pamela is dead. He tells her that the two of the can get it done without the others. Maggie says that they aren’t a “we.” And clearly, this is a set up for the spin off series. But really? I mean Maggie is good, but if I was going on a two person mission, I’d chose Carol or Daryl…

Maggie has a moment with Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller), and Negan has a moment with Annie (Medina Senghore) – both of whom are staying behind in Alexandria. She tells him to be careful and come back in one piece. 

So… how did RJ and Judith end up in Alexandria? Did I miss Hershel saying they were there? Regardless, Judith insists that she’s going back to the Commonwealth with Daryl and the rest, and Daryl tells her no, he needs her there. There’s no doubting that Fleming is a young actor to watch, but I loved how present Reedus is in this scene as he listens to Judith telling him that’s crap and this isn’t the future her brother wanted or what Rick and Michonne fought for. Judith knows exactly which strings to pull! She also sees the big picture – what they’re doing could help everyone – not just their group – and she wants to be a part of it. Carol is impressed and points out that they’ve been so focused on the present, and they need someone to think about the future. Daryl relents – and he’s REALLY going to re-think that decision… He asks Nabila (Nadine Marissa) to watch RJ, promising to be back soon…

Mercer (James Michael Shaw) brings Eugene to Max (Margot Bingham) and the two embrace. Yumiko – who is waiting with Max in an abandoned apartment – smiles as she realizes that Mercer has finally defected. Eugene thanks him for joining the long line of people who have saved his ass over the years. Mercer wants them to stay put, but finally agrees to let them keep the people whipped up against Pamela while he gathers enough troops to move against her. He tells Eugene to stay out of sight.

We get another delightful exploding walker when the train hits it. Inside, the group makes plans. They know where the children’s house is, and Rosita has planned a tactical attack. Gabriel pulls back and smiles at her as he says “You know we’re going to get our daughter back.” Rosita asks him if that’s his faith talking, and he says yes, his faith in her. She tells him that she’s glad he’s there. Is anyone else weighing everything everyone says as the potential to be their downfall? For example, I’m dying for these two to really end up together – and now I’m very afraid that Gabriel is going to die…

Tyler tells Princess that it’s weird ending up in “a place like this” – ie a railcar – again, and he apologizes for what happened. But she’s too busy to focus on that now. She has him hold the antennae up through the top of the car. Connie, however, wants to reassure Tyler that he is forgiven and tells Kelly to tell him that she’s glad they found him. Magna also says she understands why he did what he did. Tyler regrets what he did. Connie reassures him that Pamela might not have heard him, but the people in the Commonwealth did.

Mercer reports to a very angry Pamela. He tells her that he has no idea who broke Eugene out, but he tells her that a lot of people weren’t happy about the verdict. He also mentions that there have been reports about people going missing in the Commonwealth for a while… Pamela is clearly pissed that Mercer is not simply falling in line like a good little soldier. I don’t think it’s ever been made explicit, but Mercer must be in charge of one group while Colonel Vickers (Monique Grant) is in charge of another – she’s not his boss. Pamela tells Vickers to keep an eye on Mercer – she IS clearly Pamela’s lapdog – and tells her to order Eugene shot on sight. Vickers asks about the crowd, and Pamela dismissively says they’ll “throw them some bones” and if that doesn’t work, there are things “in place” to deal with it.

Once Vickers leaves – so even she doesn’t know about this – Pamela makes a call – presumably to whoever is in charge of leading the herd to the Commonwealth. We join the herd as Aaron and the others are trying to get out by moving into some woods, but they are too late and get scooped back in as more walkers are brought into the herd. We get a great aerial shot of the herd, the troopers, and the Commonwealth in the distance.

Back in the train, Negan thanks Ezekiel for saving him and asks him why he did it. Ezekiel tells him a lot of reasons. Dying a martyr is too easy, living and making something out of your life is harder. Ezekiel also didn’t want to live out whatever time he had left in anger. I love the irony of him telling Negan he shouldn’t even be there – because of course, in the comics, Ezekiel is killed when the Whisperers put his head on a spike. Ezekiel tells Negan that the dead came for him, war came for him, and cancer came for him – and he smiled through all of it – or at least tried. 

Ezekiel asks why he told the Warden his own name instead of Ezekiel’s. Negan tells him to leave a better story for his wife to tell their child instead of the one Ezekiel’s been telling. That when it mattered, he did something right – and it wasn’t to get anything or save his own life. It was to save them – and he knows that they’re all better than he is. Maggie is listening as Negan says this…

Judith tells Carol and Daryl that she hasn’t heard from Michonne in a long time. Carol tries to reassure her, telling her that there could be a lot of reasons for that and that Michonne can take care of herself pretty much better than anyone else Carol has ever known (except for Carol herself!). Daryl tells her that her Dad and Mom would be proud of her. Judith asks whether Carl would be – and of course he would! She tells them that he died saving people and that she wished she’d had more time with him. She also wished that they had more time to just remember them. And this sounds a LOT like an impending death speech – but surely they learned from the blowback over Carl and Glenn’s deaths!!! Daryl promises to tell Judith all the stories he knows about all the people who loved her.

Mercer makes a show of interrogating Yumiko in front of Vickers. A trooper interrupts to tell him that “Aurora” is trying to raise him on the radio. Yumiko asks if they’re done, and he says for now before kicking Vickers out of his office too – so she’s clearly not his boss. I love that Princess picked Aurora – the name of Sleeping Beauty – as she is a sleeper agent! AND that Mercer knew immediately that it was her! 

Mercer tells her to switch to a different channel – her old apartment number. He asks if she’s safe and where is she. She tells him on a train heading back to the Commonwealth with the people who were disappeared. He asks what she’s planning to do, and she tells him change things – and asks if he’s ok with that. Once again, Shaw delivers just one word – perfectly! – Yeah. Mercer tells her that if she can get the people back, he’ll have witnesses and legal grounds to remove Pamela. I love that he really wants to maintain law and order. As they’re talking an alarm starts going off. Princess asks if he can get them in as the train will stop outside the walls – obviously, because no one knew about it. He tells her about an old access tunnel that comes up in Union Station. He tells her the entrance is guarded but he can meet her there. And then he takes a moment to tell her that it’s good to hear her voice. And then he has to go as Vickers comes in to say the herd is approaching from the east.

The herd is now moving past an abandoned trailer, and the group tries to get in. Aaron and Jerry clear the walkers inside, but Jules (Alex Sgambati) is swept away, and Luke (Dan Fogler) won’t leave her. Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) is holding Lydia’s hand as he is similarly swept away, but they won’t let go and Lydia is bitten! Aaron and Jerry pull her in and shut the door as walkers swarm the door. 

Max comes to Mercer as he’s arming up to take care of swarm. She tells Mercer that Pamela did it before as an excuse to lock everyone down. Max asks him if they just wait until he deals with the swarm. He tells her that his GIRLFRIEND is coming back with her friends. He tells her that he was supposed to meet them, but if he can’t, she and Yumiko have to meet them at Union Station. He makes a show of telling her she has to get off the streets – but Vickers is watching and is clearly suspicious.

Back in the trailer, Lydia is frantic to go after Elijah, but Aaron and Jerry know what they have to do – and so do we. She insists that she can’t lose him, and Aaron points out that he’s going to lose her. Jerry promises to go and find him. Aaron reassures her – he made it and he’ll get her through it. He tells her that she is “so loved” – and then Jerry takes off her left forearm after saying he’s sorry.

The others have arrived at the meeting point and troopers are patrolling. Negan points out that Mercer isn’t coming and they’re running out of time. Princess is adamant that Mercer will show up. And then just as it seems like they are about to be discovered, the troopers get a call on their radios to abandon the tunnel and head to a different position. Anybody else super pumped to see Dianne (Kerry Cahill) back? I was! The group head into the tunnel, although Daryl looks a little concerned. 

Vickers radios Pamela to tell her that Mercer just pulled troops for additional back up – but sees nothing unusual about it. Pamela tells her that she’s sure Mercer has his reasons, but it’s clear that tunnel H resonates with her…

Mercer is totally focused on defending the city. The troopers herding the swarm are completely unprepared for a walker to climb onto the back of their jeep. Mercer gets garbled reports from the field and sees the fire of a destroyed jeep. Mercer tells his troops to prepare the heavy artillery so that they can knock the swarm back before it gets to the city. 

Eugene is pacing when there’s a knock at the door. He takes the chain off, which is smart because that would alert the trooper that there was someone inside. And Eugen is suddenly and action hero! He whacks the trooper with a flashlight? Candlestick? And then body slams him to the floor and finishes him off with blows to the head!

Lydia wakes up and is frantic not to leave Elijah. She wants to go after him, but Aaron tells her that she needs a doctor first. Jerry hugs her and goes after Elijah. Aaron asks if he’s sure, and Jerry says “piece of cobbler.” He tells them that he’ll see them on the other side – WHAT???? DO NOT KILL JERRY!!!!!

The group make it into union station. Daryl immediately knows that something isn’t right. They see that the doors are chained shut on the inside. Tyler is shot as he tells them they’re almost there – and the gallery is full of soldiers – in BLACK – with machine guns. 

Meanwhile, as Mercer marshals his troops to go out and fight, Vickers arrives and arrests him for treason. Mercer tells him men to stand down. Mercer tells her to reenforce the walls and to stop the dead before it’s too late. Vickers insists that Pamela insists that the walls will hold – but Pamela doesn’t really think that or care.

We get a fantastic fire fight in Union Station. Pamela joins the soldiers and picks up a gun from one who has been shot to join in the fighting. Let’s not forget those scenes with her hunting – she can shoot. Judith is right beside Daryl, until Pamela is about to shoot Maggie, and when she runs out to push Maggie out of the way, Judith is shot. Daryl is frantic and all the shooting stops – everyone shoots and even Pamela seems horrified at what she’s done. Daryl tells Ezekiel to throw a fire extinguisher and Daryl shoots it with Rick’s revolver, creating a smokescreen so that they can escape! It’s a great, classic moment.

Yumiko and Max show up outside Union Station. Daryl runs through the smoke holding Judith – and it’s completely like Rick running through the forest with a shot Carl… Meanwhile, Eugene shows up outside and takes out the trooper guarding one of the doors. Yumiko and Magna only have a moment to exchange looks. 

Back at the east gate, a trooper is utterly freaked out by the walkers starting to climb the walls. He calls for back up, but then one climbs up and attacks him, pushing him (rather obviously) into the mechanism that opens the gate, letting the swarm inside. 

Pamela cleans the blood off her face in her office. Vickers bursts in and tells her that the dead are climbing the walls and flooding in. Vickers tells her that they can still make a stand. Pamela tells her to avert the swarm toward the lower ward and protect the Estates – her home. In other words, she’s selecting who lives and dies.

As the group tries to get to the clinic to save Judith, they are cut off again and again by troopers, but they aren’t hunting them, they are herding the swarm. They’ve been penned in with the swarm. Negan’s response to a climbing walker? “What the fuck?” Kelly almost shoots Luke and Jules as they break from the swarm. The others try to clear a path to an ally to get Daryl and Judith through. But they are the only ones to get through. Judith wakes and looks at Daryl, saying “Daddy?” And it’s heartbreaking!

So everyone is in peril as the episode ends. Who is going to kill that bitch, Pamela?!?!?! So many echoes of past storylines, especially in that opening montage. I can’t even begin to think about who we are going to lose in this last episode… What did you think of the episode? Were you shocked that Judith was shot? Were you at all surprised that Pamela only cares about saving her own skin? Let me know your thoughts on the episode and your hopes for the final episode in the comments below!