Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched The Walking Dead's Season 11 fall finale, so be warned!
By and large, The Walking Dead tends to save its biggest and most exciting episodes for its various finales and premieres, and one would have expected for the final season to go into its first hiatus with an epic fall finale unlike any other. Instead, the episode "For Blood" gave fans a bunch of predictable narrative beats and character moments that we've all seen before. It's not as if Season 11 has been particularly groundbreaking on the whole, but the long-running series has still found ways to maintain its intensity in the previous seven episodes. It just kind of all fizzled out time and again in Episode 1108.
It didn't exactly help that the two plotlines in focus — Daryl & The Whisperers 2.0 vs. The Reapers and The Walker Storm — were completely independent of each other, but I don't know how much it would have helped if they connected. In any case, let's run down each of the moments that made me long for more logical and less tropey episodes from the past.
Anytime Pope Believed Daryl's Bullshit
This one could feasibly account for all seven entries in this article, but we might as well throw them altogether as one big giga-groan. As good as Ritchie Coster is as Pope in a vacuum, the character's on-screen actions make it impossible to grasp how he led the The Reapers to be victorious over Maggie's group. Or anyone else, for that matter. And it largely comes down to a mistake that Walking Dead villains of all flavors are prone to making: bafflingly trusting outsider protagonists rather than members of their own group. The only way Daryl's actions could have been more suspicious is if he provided self-narration that revealed his duplicitous nature, and yet his lies were spooned up and swallowed with ease, despite multiple Reapers voicing their dismay with Pope showing Daryl with unearned trust. Clearly Pope got the fate he ordered up, but even that death felt overly hastened without anywhere else to take the leader's story.
Wells Being Sent Out To Handle That Massive Walker Herd Alone
Even though Pope was trying to one-up Leah's mourning by saying he thought of Wells like a son, what he really did was prove just how shitty of a father he was, or would have been. Upon seeing the massive herd's seemingly random movements, and upon hearing Daryl utter a rare truth in admitting he'd seen that kind of thing before, Pope made the dumb-as-fuck decision to send a single person out, on foot, to try and lead them away. Even if Maggie and Negan weren't out there as walker decoys intentionally surrounding Wells, that was a doomed task that you only to give to someone you hope will die. And if that all wasn't enough of a sign that Wells was going to get mauled, the sheer amount of bravado and confidence he exuded sealed his fate.
Gracie Almost Getting Herself Killed
With the current exceptions of Judith, R.J. and Hershel, children in The Walking Dead universe tend to be the worst. Like, the wor-r-r-r-r-rst. And even though it took a while for Annabelle Holloway's Gracie to show her true colors, they were on full display in "For Blood." Even though she didn't get gobbled up by walkers in front of a horrified Judith, Gracie did put herself directly in harm's way multiple times, endangering others. Her trip to the basement to find a weapon was maddening, if normal enough behavior for a panicked child, but it was her close call earlier in the ep that convinced me to be okay with Gracie's eventual death. You know the bit I mean, when she was standing RIGHT IN FRONT of the busted window with HER BACK TO IT, leading to a walker reaching through the wooden boards and grabbing her. I'm guessing there weren't any lit-up bullseyes for her to hide behind.
The Smoking Reaper's Death
Is it just me, or was it weird and subtly hilarious that Daryl 100% premeditated this dude's death by offering him cigarettes? Like, I get why the wall-guarding Reaper was merked so quickly, but that detail was telegraphed in such broad strokes, it's a wonder the Reaper himself didn't question how unrealistic their interactions were. And I totally thought at first that Daryl was aiming to do something to the cigarette itself, a la poison, only for him to brutally stab the dude in the neck. Part of me prefers to think the cigarette was poisoned, but Daryl was just too knife-happy to wait for it to do the trick.
The Moment Rosita Went Outside For Her Rampage
The Walking Dead recently reared its horror head proudly with Lauren Ridloff's Connie and Kevin Carroll's Virgil getting trapped in a house of horrors. In direct contrast of that standout installment was everything involving the homebound protagonists dealing with rain-soaked walkers. Despite having all the ingredients for chilling and foreboding sequences, this whole section of the fall finale was muted by the wild uneveness of the outdoor walkers as a threat. This was most concretely exemplified when Rosita was going out for her one-woman massacre. Despite two or three survivors sometimes struggling to keep the front doors closed against the crowd of walkers, Rosita easily walked outside as soon as the door was opened, and methodically took the rotting enemies out one at a time. It was a cool moment that recalled the walker-slaying marathon Rick started in Alexandria, but if the walkers outside were really that sparse, then why was everyone THAT scared?
Leah Blaming Daryl After Doing Nothing To Save "Her Family"
To say this right up top, the quiet way Leah untruthfully tattled on Daryl was hardcore, and I like the idea of her taking Pope's place as a more humanistic leader for the Reapers, especially since she'll hopefully avoid any pesky trust issues in the future. But come on, she had more than enough time after stabbing Pope to try and defuse the situation before Daryl was forced to immediately down Ancheta with sideshow-worthy knife skills. To reiterate, Leah could have easily saved this member of her "family" if she wanted, but I don't think she did want that, because he was a witness, and witnesses are messy. And I even like that as motivation, in a way, but not if she's going to continue to be all self-righteous while rubbing Daryl's face in it. I dare say she should have thanked him for backing her into a corner where she could do what she clearly already wanted to do before the opportunity came.
Absolutely Nothing From The Commonwealth
Even though The Commonwealth storyline doesn't involve the majority of the main cast, it's where many of Season 11's more interesting and unpredictable moments have occurred, even if comic book readers have a general idea of where things are heading. And while I obviously understand that time is a challenge when it comes to balancing storylines, the fall finale didn't even mention The Commonwealth, meaning fans have to wait another four months for any kind of update on what's happening with Eugene and Fake Stephanie, and their interaction with Earth's worst human, Sebastian Milton. Or what Yumiko may learn about after her brother's mysterious warnings. Or how often Princess is getting hers. Or how short-lived Ezekiel's medical uptick will probably be.
While not an awful episode in general, "For Blood" was just an odd and off-kilter choice for any kind of Walking Dead midseason closer, especially in the midst of its final season. Maybe I've just been spoiled by ten years of other premieres and finales. Whatever the case, I'll be awaiting The Walking Dead's return to AMC on Sunday, February 20, at its usual time of 9:00 p.m. ET. While waiting for more zombie action, check out...more zombie action with the upcoming premiere for Fear the Walking Dead Season 7, along with everything else yet to debut in the 2021 Fall TV season.
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.