Review, The Walking Dead, TV Shows

The Walking Dead Season 11 Episode 14 Review and Recap: The Rotten Core

Daryl and Sebastian

This episode was another of my favorites and a fine example of why this final season of The Walking Dead is their best in years.

Warning: This article contains major spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 14: The Rotten Core.

As the title of this episode suggests, there’s a whole lot of corruption going on inside The Commonwealth. As a general rule, whenever you see a utopian society in a post-apocalyptic show, it’s usually too good to be true, but let me count the ways in which this applies here.

 

Daryl and Rosita
This episode is broken up into two main parts, so we’ll focus on the events of Daryl and Rosita’s story first.

After a great buddy cop scene in the precinct with your typical donuts and desk banter, Daryl and Rosita are paired up to be patrol partners, but after Daryl teases Sebastian Milton about how great he is at killing rotters (spoiler alert, he’s not great), Sebastian exacts his revenge.

Rosita and DarylOutside, a couple soldiers inform Daryl and Rosita that their assignment has changed and now they’re tasked with clearing out a house with a safe full of cash. The catch, of course, is that the whole house is full of zombies. Sebastian stops by to tell them the history behind the house (it was his friend’s dad’s house and he’s a prepper) and gives them the code to get into the safe room.

Once they get there, they meet a young woman named April who’s trapped inside the room with the safe because the generator went out and the electronic door locks stopped working.

I think at first it’s normal to assume that April is some sort of trap, but it turns out that she’s more or less a plot point. She explains that she was with a larger group of 12 who was sent to get this cash, but they failed. So not only are Daryl and Rosita not the first to get this assignment, but it’s been attempted many, many times before.

Now if you go back to Episode 11 and look at the list of names given to Connie and Kelly under their door, you’ll noticed the name April Kelly written three names above Tyler Davis (the name we were focusing on at that time). So now that list makes more sense. It’s apparently all of the people sent to do this mission, but failed. The only question is, who gave Connie and Kelly that list?

The List from Episode 11

From here, things get a little out of hand with April’s rescue, but they grab the money from the safe just as Mercer and Carol roll in to save the day. Unfortunately, April’s screen time is done and she’s eaten by the undead.

When they get back outside to the rendezvous point, Mercer hands over the bag of cash to the two troopers who were with Sebastian. They take the money and tell Mercer that they “don’t take orders from him.” Mercer realizes that this corruption is just too much to bear and he shoots both troopers in their heads.

Daryl, Rosita, and Mercer then bring the money to Sebastian who seems pleased, but Mercer is pretty much turned against his boss at this point. Welcome to the good side, Mercer!

Carol confides in Lance Horsnby about this little cash heist adventure and Lance reveals that he was in on it too. Carol wisely says that it was a smart idea to keep sending people in there, but we all know that putting up that facade is her thing and she’s already planning his death.

 

Maggie, Aaron, Gabriel, and… Negan?
As we saw at the end of the last episode, Maggie’s group has infiltrated the Riverbend apartment building and is setting out to save the innocent people from Toby Carlson and his white-armored goons.

These rescue scenes are disturbing because they’re planning their stealth attack while gunshots and screams echo all around them. People are dying every few seconds and that would just make me want to run in and help as quickly as possible, which would probably end up being a disaster.

There’s a lot going on with this group so I’ll touch on the big stuff. First off, we saw Negan at the end of the last episode, but this is the first time Maggie and Aaron see him. We find out that he is already settled and happily married to a woman named Annie. You might wonder how in the heck this courtship happened so quickly, but in the timeline, around 5-6 months have passed since he left Maggie and said goodbye.

Negan and Annie

Annie tells Maggie that she’s around 12 weeks along with Negan’s baby, which seems to hit Maggie pretty hard. How dare he start a family and be happy after destroying hers?

When Negan saves Maggie’s son, Hershel, from a Commonwealth trooper, he tells Maggie over the radio that the kid is safe and sound. “If anything happens to him…” Maggie warns. But Negan finishes her sentence. “It’ll have to happen to me first.”

Here we get a great line from Lydia, whom you might remember as the daughter of the Whispers’ leader in Season 10. While the group is describing the Commonwealth and Gabriel says that “the place we’re living now is different from any place we’ve ever seen,” Lydia cuts in with, “No it isn’t… They’re like the Whisperers, they just wear different masks.”

With Maggie and Annie alone, Maggie tells Negan’s new wife that Hershel is with his daddy’s murderer, expecting to get a rise out of her for marrying and carrying this man’s child. But Annie explains that she already knew. “None of us have clean hands,” she says.

But things go a little differently when Hershel puts two and two together and realizes that Negan is actually the man who killed his father. He picks up a gun and points it at Negan in a scene that we’ve waited YEARS to see. Negan looks genuinely sorrowful and a bit scared, but he tells Hershel that if he were to fire that gun, it would alert the Commonwealth troopers and they’d storm in there and kill every one of their friends. “Maybe I deserve to die for what I did to your dad, to your family,” Negan tells him. “These people here… they don’t.”

Hershel and Negan

Hershel lowers his gun and everything’s fine for now. But Negan tells the kid that he should help his mom rebuild, then come see him when he’s grown up. They can settle the score then.

Now, I can’t help but think of the newly announced Negan and Maggie spin-off when watching these scenes. Negan actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan said last week that he was surprised that the spin-off was revealed so soon before we know the fate of Negan and/or Maggie, but I tend to think this was a calculated move by showrunner Angela Kang.

Just as we saw the reveal of Daryl in a Commonwealth armor suit telling Maggie that she had to surrender as she stood at the top of Hilltop’s wall, this reveal was also a case of giving away a bit of what’s to come to entice us into watching more closely.

We all know that Negan and Maggie survive Season 11, but now we have a million other questions. Will Hershel be with them? Will he be grown up and ready to settle that score with Negan? Will Annie or their child be with them? How much into the future will this be? See, it just gets us more excited!

And, as always, the ending of this one was spectacular. I’ve speculated that this episode would be a big one after Episode 13 was more informational and less exciting, but we sure did get a great ending on this one.

You remember that the whole reason Toby Carlson and his troops are systematically killing off this entire Riverbend group, right? He wants to get those stolen guns back for Lance. But for two episodes now, we’ve been told that this group did NOT steal the guns and they have no idea who did.

We even get the question again at the end. If they didn’t steal them, who did?

The scene changes to show the caravan two weeks earlier, completely ransacked with dead troopers laying around. One injured trooper tries to crawl away, but a pair of boots steps up, an arm lowers and slits the trooper’s throat. The camera pans up and we see Leah standing there. Friggin’ Leah.

Last time we saw her, she was escaping a gun-toting Maggie while Daryl let her go. We knew we’d see her again and here she is, causing trouble. But what does she have planned? Will she reunite with the group? Will she become Daryl’s love interest again?

According to next episode’s trailer, it looks like we’ll finally see the lead-up to that Episode 9 finale with Daryl telling Maggie to come out and talk to the Commonwealth soldiers, but things look so much different now that we know Daryl is on to the Commonwealth’s antics.

I don’t expect much more from Episode 15 than that reveal because Episode 16 will be the Part 2 finale that should really blow us away in two more weeks on AMC+. Can’t wait!

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Shawn has been infatuated with the post-apocalyptic genre since he wore out his horribly American-dubbed VHS of the original Mad Max as a child. Shawn is the former Editor-in-Chief at Joystiq's Massively.com, creator of the Aftermath post-apocalyptic immersion event, and host of the Through the Aftermath podcast for over 11 years. He currently resides on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere with his wife and four children.

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