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Recap of The Walking Dead: Season 11 Episode 16: “Acts of God”

Lauren Cohan as Maggie in The Walking Dead

Lauren Cohan continues as Maggie the Walking Dead
photo: Jace Downs/AMC

Lots of things happen in Acts Of God, the very last midseason finale of the Walking Dead, which are theoretically very exciting. Commonwealth Stormtroopers attack Daryl, Gabriel and Aaron, leading to a massive shootout at an abandoned junkyard. Max steals the files implicating Pamela Milton in her government’s criminal oppression. Maggie has a tense showdown with Leah that ends in a life-or-death fight. And Lance Hornsby officially claims Hilltop, Alexandria, and Oceanside on behalf of the Commonwealth, with a cliffhanger at the end of the episode in which he presumably flips a coin to determine the fate of every resident of this last outpost.

This is intense stuff. And occasionally, it feels I like. The intimacy of Max’s heist of the paperwork from Milton’s office – and Sebastian almost caught her in the act, every look and every utterance a vague threat – is nerve-wracking material, the small nature of the exchanges helping to heighten the suspense . But too often these wannabe thrills of drama have been robbed, whether by haphazard staging or rushed development, and the episode sagged under this failure of execution. Seldom did it seem that anyone we cared about was in danger. It was a little too symbolic of how the show often plays out in these final seasons – full of sound and fury that mean (almost) nothing.

Both inside and outside the Commonwealth, all the behind-the-scenes manipulations and seething tensions eventually boiled over, so let’s address them in turn. Eventually, inside the walls, Eugene and Max pressed on their plan to steal files that could prove Governor Milton had covered for Sebastian, up to more than 200 people who have disappeared by security forces one way or another. As mentioned above, the actual sequence in which she took the files was strong, the small and personal nature of it actually worked in favor of the scene to increase the tension. Sebastian is such a little worm, but he exudes menace when he’s in a situation like this where he could potentially take someone’s life. And Max isn’t exactly a master of cool.

If only it were a little clearer what the bigger plan is, other than, “Let’s overthrow the ruling Commonwealth power structure.” Connie even says they have no evidence yet, just hints of the brutal repression indicated by the list . So what do they expect, other than Connie and Kelly being immediately thrown in jail for writing and spreading a story intended to provoke conflict? (And where’s their samizdat newspaper press, considering Connie’s boss wouldn’t let her do that at the real newspaper?) If the sisters don’t plan on hiding right away, it doesn’t feel particularly well thought out. Strategy out as they still need proof and the headline ‘Pamela Milton is lying to you’ will result in an immediate government lockdown.

Image for the article titled The Walking Dead gets awfully messy in its very latest midseason finale

photo: Jace Downs/AMC

However, the lion’s share of the plot of this episode lies elsewhere, sstarting with the big gunfight between Daryl/Gabriel/Aaron and the stormtroopers which is one of those action sets that lives or dies based on how they’re shot. Unfortunately, this one was very chaotic. Catriona McKenzie has a solid résumé as a TV director, but a large-scale kinetic sequence like this requires clear cuts to lay out the scene and define where all the characters relate to each other.

Instead I had no idea where anyone was and when the bullets started flying it just felt scattered and unfocused, a bunch of people firing in all directions and circling random vehicles. What should have been cool was incoherent and superficial; even the moments that hinted at something Even more surprising could happen (like Gabriel and Aaron both getting hit by bullets) were dead ends that were discarded even before the act break. Again: noise and fury, meaning nothing.

At least it put these three guys on the trail of Hornsby. After spending the first half of the episode building up the conflict (and delivering some cursory character slaps to indicate that Maggie has finally turned the corner on Negan), they learn that the plan is to take out everyone who opposes Hornsby, followed by Daryl, who quickly realizes Lea is on the hunt. All of this makes the show put together a Maggie Leah showdown, with Daryl finally saving the day by shooting the woman he once loved in the head.

Image for the article titled The Walking Dead gets awfully messy in its very latest midseason finale

photo: Jace Downs/AMC

That was at least somewhat unexpected. So much of how this attack on Hilltop and Maggie played out was so much painted by numbers that it was disappointing. Of course The only person who got shot was Marco, the guy we knew so little about you could barely remember his name. (Thank goodness Maggie screamed it out when Leah stuck it in the head, as if to help any viewers who were confused as to who this rando was. He might as well have been wearing a red Starfleet shirt.) Any cool moment, eh our hero setting A trap to blow up the house with the Commonwealth’s black ops fighters was immediately followed by chunky cheese like filming Leah walking in slow motion like she’s a terminator.

I appreciated the brief conversation between Maggie and Leah after the latter knocked the former out and woke her up tied to a chair in the cabin Leah had previously shared with Daryl. (Subtle location recalls are a good thing.) Leah says some nonsense about how fate seems to slowly take everyone, until Maggie corrects her: “It wasn’t fate. I killed your people because I wanted to.” She provokes the ensuing fight, which eventually allows Daryl to make his usual just-in-time parry.

But again, the symbolism of everyone we know with a big part to play just being grazed by bullets — Gabriel, Aaron, even Hornsby himself — really shows how hesitant this show is to make a bold move , even during the last mid-season finals when killing at least one big player would have made sense. The show wants to pretend to be daring without actually committing to it. It’s as if the creative team were Max, who responds to Eugene’s gushing confessions of how amazing she is: “Let’s not get carried away with this.” Please, Walking Dead: get carried away. They’ve experimented with style for the past eight episodes, but almost never with narrative, and that lack of conviction has cast a disheartening shadow on last season’s mid-act. Your show ends: let’s go out in a way that hits as unexpectedly hard as Rick Grimes shooting a small child in the first five minutes of the pilot. Deliver that, and maybe, just maybe, there’ll be a sense of deserved satisfaction when all those shambling undead are finally laid to rest.

Crazy observations

  • Daryl can always get a cool moment in the middle This by picking up the stormtrooper’s walkie-talkie he just blew his head off to reply to Hornsby, “He’s not here anymore.”
  • Too bad we didn’t have enough time with Pamela Milton to let her material end up here with Max. Talking about “if we can’t show each other emotions…” is the kind of thing that would hold promise for a series that has given these people and their relationship something over time.
  • I actually admired the way the Max-Sebastian swap held back the little jerk for being too arrogant to even engage in a real fight with her. “Caffeine: the poor man’s drug.”
  • I think that was enough preparation for the upcoming Maggie/Negan miniseries.
  • I really hope Lydia has more to do in the final arc than regularly chiming in with the exposition or pushing the plot forward. Cassady McClincy is getting wasted right now.
  • Hello everyone, this will be my finale Walking Dead Rating for the site. If you haven’t seen the news elsewhere, G/O Media is moving The AV Club to Los Angeles to be more industry-friendly publication. This means that all of the Chicago staff, including myself, have left or will be gone by the end of this month. I just want to say the best part about this beat was watching with all of you, reading your comments and seeing how this weird little community of fans add to the experience. I will miss you all; You can find me on Twitter—Feel free to say hello and if you’d like to do the secret handshake to let me know you’ve readeasy Use the phrase, “I guess Dan Fogler just wandered in The forest at the end of season 10ah.”

https://www.avclub.com/the-walking-dead-season-11-episode-16-acts-of-god-1848770232 Recap of The Walking Dead: Season 11 Episode 16: “Acts of God”

Andrew Schnitker

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