It’s always fun when our favorite zombie apocalypse survivors encounter an entirely new group in The Walking Dead. In this week’s episode, Maggie and the folks at Hilltop are visited by a stranger who leads them to a community called Riverbend. But are they friend or foe?
This article contains major spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 13: Warlords.
This episode jumps around quite a bit, so make sure you’re paying attention. It starts out from the Hilltop crew’s point of view as a stranger rides up to the gate on horseback. The man is badly injured from a gunshot wound, and Lydia is able to get a few words out of him before he passes. He talks about the devils and the liars, and tells her that she has to go save the others.
So, of course, Lydia and Elijah set off to find out how they can help and Maggie reluctantly joins. Lydia and Maggie have a conversation in the truck on the way there, revealing more of Maggie’s hesitancy to get help from The Commonwealth. “What’s easier isn’t always better,” she advises.
The truck comes upon a few Commonwealth soldiers who turned into walkers, so Maggie and her group stop the truck to investigate. Aaron comes running down the road to meet up with Maggie’s group.
At this point we flash back a week earlier. Gabriel is happily giving a sermon in a church after saying that he can finally hear God again. Aaron asks Gabriel to come along as he checks out a “religious group” in an apartment complex near the border of Virginia. This is the same group (Riverbend) that contacted Hilltop for help at the episode’s start.
Aaron and Gabe are accompanied by a random dude (he’d be wearing a red shirt if this was Star Trek) and a man named Toby Carlson, who at this point we only know as pushy and annoying. But he brings a small army of Commonwealth soldiers as back-up, so we know he has some power. The four men are able to go inside the apartment building for a meeting with Riverbend’s leader, Ian, who goes a little overboard with his welcome.
Ian acts very much like Pope did earlier in Season 11: like a power-hungry warlord. He turned Carlson into a sniveling ball of mush by pointing a gun to his head and had all four men scared for their lives.
But just as Ian is about to let the visitors go on their merry way, Carlson turns full ninja on the guy, shoots him in the arm, and takes out his henchmen. Needless to say, Aaron and Gabe are a bit freaked out by this.
Carlson then drags the man down to the common room and orders his soldiers to clear out the rest of the place. Carlson’s motives (and sudden personality change) are still confusing here, but we soon learn more in yet another flashback.
#InMemorium Hornsby wants to remake the world… But what will that world look like? And if Maggie’s right that… everything costs something… What will Hornsby’s ambition cost… the Commonwealth AND our group? #TheWalkingDead #TWD #TalkingDead
— Skippy (@theSqueakster) March 14, 2022
Now we get a look back at a conversation Carlson had with Lance Hornsby just before their trip to Riverbend. We learn that Carlson is ex-CIA and a former assassin, but he’s not really interested in that line of work anymore. Of course, slimeball Lance persuades him to go take out this Ian guy at Riverbend because they have reason to believe that he stole a shipment of guns and equipment from a Commonwealth caravan.
So that explains why/how Carlson went Jason Bourne on Ian and it explains what he’s looking for. We also see that the man on horseback at the beginning was the same man who went with Aaron, Gabe, and Carlson. He was able to escape, although he was shot by a Commonwealth soldier on his way out.
Now we get to my favorite flashback of all. We see another view of the horseback man making his escape, but he runs into a familiar face just before getting shot: Negan. Yes, Negan has joined up with Riverbend since the time he left a few episodes back. This guy, I swear.
So despite telling Maggie that he was going out on his own, here he is with another group. And they seem to really trust him already.
So now we have Negan and the others at Riverbend trapped in the apartment complex while Carlson and the Commonwealth soldiers are rounding people up to kill off one by one. He takes a small group up to the top of the building to push off as he demands that he gets the shipment of guns back. The problem is, no one knows anything about these guns. Ian didn’t know (he swears that the caravan was already ransacked when he and his people got there), none of the others seem to know. So where are those guns and who really took them? Do we believe these new folks?
— The Walking Dead World (@TWalkingDWorld) March 14, 2022
Here are my biggest take-aways from this episode: Aaron and Gabriel are quickly becoming two of my favorite characters. I didn’t even like Aaron when he first showed up because he seemed like another throw-away character (I didn’t read the comics yet), but he’s a genuine badass. Also, Carlson is a psychopath who is solidifying the fact that the Commonwealth is full of psychopaths. I think it’s safe to say that Aaron and Gabriel are no longer welcome at The Commonwealth, but their families are still there. How will that play out?
We’re only three episodes away from the big Season 11 Part 2 finale (at episode 16) so this episode was a big one. Remember, we still have to tie together the events at the end of episode 9 that showed Stormtrooper Daryl telling Maggie that she has to open up the Hilltop gate. And now that we’re seeing the cracks showing in The Commonwealth’s wholesome image, I’m excited to see that whole place crash and burn. Hopefully Mercer switches over to the good guys sometime before that, though.