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  • Writer's pictureKane Vallance

Review: The Walking Dead - The Final Season

With Alexandria's food supply dwindling, Maggie leads a desperate team to try and scavenge the supplies they need. Elsewhere, Eugene, Ezekiel, Yumiko and Princess are interrogated by auditors of the Commonwealth, a civilised community of thousands of people hoping to rebuild what came before.

Norman Reedus, Lauren Cohan, Melissa McBride, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Josh McDermitt, and Josh Hamilton.

The final season of The Walking Dead was always going to be one that could divide fans: with a dip in quality over the years that had turned many viewers off, and a multitude of spin offs announced for a majority of the protagonists, expectations were both sky high and incredibly low. I wasn’t sure where I stood with that myself—while I did love Season 9, I just couldn’t love 6-8 and 10. The show’s writing dipped substantially, with some of the worst pacing I’ve ever seen in a TV show, and stories that simply didn’t garner progressively increased episode counts. Even the show’s typical 16 episodes became tiresome in the middle of its run, which meant as excited as I was to dive in to the grand finale of the main series, I was concerned that a behemoth 24 episodes would sour what should be an intense and emotional conclusion to what was once TV’s most popular programme.

So, how did it turn out?

Good. But only good. My biggest concerns with the season were the ones that unfortunately ended up coming true, but not necessarily in a way I expected. The big issue here is the length: 24 episodes was indeed a bit too long, and could easily be trimmed down to 20, more than likely even less. The first third of the season was the weakest, with Daryl off on some uninteresting (and very soon irrelevant) adventure with The Reapers, all of whom I’ve already forgotten outside of Pope—a story arc that could’ve easily been 4 episodes itself, and that’s still including the other plot lines at play.

Once we move to the second third, it does improve greatly, as it moves a tighter focus on to The Commonwealth in a way that is heavily reminiscent of the Season 5 days, when the show peaked. It has a couple of slower episodes there, but very few scenes genuinely feel like they’re filler. Which is the biggest problem with Season 11C, the third block of episodes released for this final season. As much as I love the season and its third act, per se, there’s way too much filler in the episodes leading up to the finale. Yes, those episodes are solid, or even genuinely really good, but they rarely have much happening outside of the last ten minutes each time around—a trend that soon gets very tiring.

That makes it all the more annoying when certain elements feel rushed in the finale, because why have a 24 episode season and not utilise it as well as you should be doing? They’re not flaws that ruin the season, but they undoubtedly detract from what could—and should—have been a much tighter, more intense farewell.

Yet with all that said, I loved Season 11. There are other issues outside of the pacing, especially in the finale, like editing and some of the shot selection and framing, but after spending so long with these characters, the writing for them makes up for so much of the flaws at play. It’s jam packed of well-handled emotional moments, an array of fantastic performances, one of the series’ best villains, and satisfying character conclusions mixed with effective set up that all make for an interesting and thematic final season that is only elevated by Bear McCreary giving it his all musically.

Exploring the corruption and insincerity of the American government was a great route to go story wise for our characters, and with a villain like Lance for most of the season—played to utter perfection by Josh Hamilton—they really get under your skin and have you cheering once they get what they deserve. Pamela isn’t quite as good, especially because of quickly she’s resolved in the finale, but she was a solid co-villain herself, also played incredibly well, as the entire cast is. The themes are certainly very heavy and in your face, yet the execution somehow still proves to be an effective one that really helps with the immersion of the final product as a whole.

The action was great, and the show looks just as good, maybe better than it ever has. Some of the framing is a little off sometimes, and occasionally angles are used that shouldn’t be, but as a whole it looks fantastic and it’s just great to finally see that from such a big show as this one. For the first time since Season 5 and some of Season 9, even a lot of the slower moments actually feel earned and in place, despite sometimes dragging some episodes to too much of a halt. Many scenes with Negan and Maggie come to mind, particularly the ones in 11C, and the ones with Hershel. By the time the season wrapped up, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t teary eyed.

There are so many characters developed well throughout not just this season, but the series as a whole, and to see them done so much justice in the big conclusion simply made me happy. I was overjoyed to finally hear Carol and Daryl share certain things with each other, or to see Judith don her father’s revolver as her own. Character deaths feel emotional, but the positive endings do just the same, and strike a great tonal balance that never gives you a sense of whiplash.

If I were to rate this on average, it’d probably only pass as a 7, because of so many filler episodes and unwarranted slower moments that plagued some of the last few years of this show, but I am beyond happy to say that it’s resounding effect inclines me to rate it higher. I can’t wait to see where this universe is going, and I’m surprised I’m saying that.

The Walking Dead Season 11 is held back by its length and pacing, but is largely saved by satisfying wrap ups, character arcs, and a fantastic pairing of themes and villains that keep the stakes both real and high.

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