‘The Walking Dead’: Negan Makes Friends, Daryl Makes Enemies (RECAP)

the walking dead, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan
Spoiler Alert
Jace Downs/AMC

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 14 “The Rotten Core.”]

A lot of things happen in “The Rotten Core.” More corruption at the heart of the Commonwealth is revealed, unsurprisingly related to Sebastian (Teo Rapp-Olson). A group consisting of Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Aaron (Ross Marquand), Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and others work to free the Riverbend folks from Carlson (Jason Butler Harner). But perhaps the biggest shock of all has nothing to do with inter-community politics or missing guns or money.

Negan. Is. Married!?

Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is not only wedded, but he’s expecting a child with Annie (Medina Senghore). This is… surprising, to say the least. Anyway, here’s how it all happens.

the walking dead, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon

Jace Downs/AMC

At the Commonwealth, Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) are informed by a couple of soldiers that they’re reassigned to a new mission outside the walls after their regular morning briefing. Seem weird? It is. Turns out, that mission is for Sebastian — he needs them to go into a walker-infested house, break into a safe and take the money there. All so Pamela’s son can “maintain his lifestyle.” Ugh.

Initially, they refuse, but when Sebastian brings their kids into it, they’re forced to go along with his plan. They get into the house by covering themselves in walker guts — nice, that someone remembers this trick — and when they get to the safe, they make a shocking discovery. There’s a woman inside who says she was part of a group of 12 people who were sent to recover the money and told that if they succeeded, they could have a cut of it. She was trapped there, and she’s the sole survivor.

Daryl gets the house’s generator on so they can enter the code to unlock the room, but when they get inside, an alarm starts blaring and the walkers inside pour into the house. Thankfully, a mysterious savior barges in to save them. It’s Mercer (Michael James Shaw) and Carol (Melissa McBride)! She went to get Mercer when Daryl didn’t show up to lunch. Thank you, Carol.

But Carol can’t fix everything, and their escape from the house goes sideways. The woman who was stuck in the safe room winds up getting killed by the walkers. The rest of the group gets out safely, and when Mercer sees the two officers who reassigned Rosita and Daryl, he shoots them on the spot. Then they all head back to the precinct, where they reluctantly give Sebastian his money.

the walking dead, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Medina Senghore as Annie

Josh Stringer/AMC

Out beyond the walls, the conflict with Carlson and the Commonwealth takes a personal turn. First, everybody reunites, including Negan and Lydia (Cassady McClincy), yay! — but Annie’s people are still being killed over weapons they don’t have. Annie says she and Maggie will sweep the floors to get the rest of her people, and then they can all leave together. Oh, and during this scene, it’s revealed that Negan and Annie are married… and during a later scene where Annie and Maggie have a heart-to-heart about whether or not Negan has changed, it’s revealed that Annie is “12 weeks, give or take” pregnant with his child. How did this happen? Where are we in the show’s timeline at this point? It’s all kind of murky.

Back with the rest of the group, Negan has a very tense conversation, at gunpoint, with Maggie’s son. Hershel stowed away on a truck when his mom went to help, and while Negan has sworn to protect him, Hershel’s realized the identity of the “bad man” his mom spoke about. He holds a gun on Negan, who readily admits that what he did was awful and that he might deserve to die for it. But if Hershel pulls the trigger now, he says, the bad people outside will hear and they will kill everyone who’s hiding with them. That gets Hershel to lower the weapon, and Lydia takes it away.

Maggie eventually comes up with a plan. She gets Aaron and Gabriel to lure Carlson to the roof of the building, where a concealed Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) kills the soldiers with him. Carlson laughs, saying it’s all about “the wisdom to know the difference,” but Maggie comes up the stairs and shoots him, sending him plummeting to the ground where the reanimated walkers of the Riverbend people he killed feast on him.

the walking dead, Jason Butler Harner as Carlson

Josh Stringer/AMC

At the Commonwealth, Hornsby’s (Josh Hamilton) not having a good time either. Carol walks into his office and asks about the missions to recover the money: When Hornsby hears Daryl’s group succeeded, he’s jubilant. Carol asks about the other teams he sent in, to which he replies that those people weren’t pulling their weight and that everyone has to contribute for the system to work. He asks Carol if she understands. “Sure,” she says, “you’re either part of the problem, or you’re part of the solution.” From the look on her face as she leaves, she’s decided Hornsby’s part of the problem and she just might be the solution. Carol vs. Hornsby sounds like a good story to me.

The question remains — if Riverbend didn’t have the guns, who did? The answer: Leah (Lynn Collins). In a flashback to two weeks earlier (holy moly, the timeframe on this season is confusing), we see her kill the last of the Commonwealth soldiers accompanying the weapons and stare into the distance menacingly. What’s she planning? Hard to say, but we doubt it’s anything good.

the walking dead, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan

Jace Downs/AMC

Other Observations

  • I’m not against Negan having a love interest. What I am against is the show giving us this story with little explanation. I’d feel differently about Negan and Annie if we’d seen their relationship develop, but as it is, they feel like Gabriel and Rosita — which is to say, it happened over a time jump and completely confused everyone.
  • With that said, if there’s a flashback episode for Negan at some point that shows how he came to be with Riverbend, then maybe the Annie story will work. TWD built a compelling relationship for him in one episode with Lucille (Morgan’s real-life wife, Hilarie Burton-Morgan). It might do it again. But do we have time to spend on Negan flashbacks at this point?
  • I have a nasty feeling Annie’s not going to survive, which would then give Negan a taste of what Maggie went through with Glenn (Steven Yeun) and give them some “common ground” for their upcoming spinoff. Except it’s not at all the same — Maggie had to endure someone gleefully murdering her husband and making fun of the carnage (all while she was suffering pregnancy complications and seriously ill).
  • More Carol and Hornsby scenes, please. McBride and Hamilton are so awesome together.

The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC