‘The Walking Dead’ Heads Back to the Commonwealth for One Last Walker Battle (RECAP)

Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee in The Walking Dead
Spoiler Alert
Jace Downs/AMC

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 23, “Family.”]

“Family” really has it out for the youngsters in the Walking Dead group, huh?

Not one, but two major characters suffer life-threatening injuries in the episode, and both scenes just might bring a tear to your eye. Aside from that, the whole group heads back to the Commonwealth to confront its corrupt leader — but they’re unaware that as they return, a massive horde of walkers (some of them smart walkers) is also heading for the community. Yikes! Here’s how it happens.

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Anthony Azor as RJ

Jace Downs/AMC

As the episode opens, the adults track down the rest of the kids (save for baby Coco, who is still at the Commonwealth). Judith (Cailey Fleming) maintains that she’d like to go with everyone else to build hope for the future, while RJ (Antony Azor), Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller), and Annie (Medina Senghore) stay behind to potentially set up some spinoffs.

On the train, we’re treated to some nice character moments between exes Rosita (Christan Serratos) and Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), as well as between Daryl, Carol (Melissa McBride) and Judith, and, perhaps most of all, between Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Ezekiel asks Negan why he sacrificed himself back in Alexandria, and Negan tells him that he wants to be remembered for doing something right in the end. “You all are better than me,” he says, “and if you think I don’t know that, then you haven’t been paying attention.” On the other side of the wall, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) eavesdrops. Perhaps this has softened her heart toward him, to the point where she’s willing to trek across the country with Negan to New York City?

Michael James Shaw as Mercer

Jace Downs/AMC

The initial plan was for the group to head into one of the train stations when they got back to the Commonwealth, and then Mercer (Michael James Shaw) would let them in. Pretty much immediately, that plan goes sideways. When the group actually arrives at the station, they’re pinned down — Governor Pamela Milton (Laila Robins) was expecting them! The groups trade gunfire back and forth for a bit, neither side gaining an edge, and then Pamela picks up a weapon and pulls the trigger… and hits Judith.

“No!” Daryl bellows, darting out to pick up the still alive, but unconscious Lil’ Asskicker. Pamela and the rest of her force leave to deal with the other threat: a “swarm” of oncoming walkers that Pamela was guiding toward the Commonwealth to use as an excuse to initiate a lockdown and quell the protests in the streets. Since her initial order, the swarm’s grown out of control. In her office, one of the soldiers asks Pamela how they should handle the problem. She insists that the walkers be driven into the “lower wards,” in order to protect the wealthier “estates,” even though that’ll cause thousands of casualties. Lovely, Pamela.

Cassady McClincy as Lydia

Jace Downs/AMC

Elsewhere, Lydia (Cassady McClincy), like poor Judith, is having a very bad day. Team Aaron (Ross Marquand) didn’t all make it into the dilapidated RV to escape the Commonwealth walker horde; Luke (Dan Fogler), Jules (Alex Sgambati) and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) got pushed along before they could reach safety. In trying to save her boyfriend, Lydia gets bitten on the arm. Oh, no! Aaron consoles her before he and Jerry (Cooper Andrews) chop off the infected limb. “You are so loved, Lydia,” he says, teary-eyed. Awww. Once Lydia awakens after the procedure, Jerry goes back out in the horde to find Elijah and the others. “Piece of cobbler,” he tells his friends, making light of the horrific danger before he steps outside. Why do I feel like the finale might not be kind to Jerry?

Eugene (Josh McDermitt) has had a difficult episode, too, although not “limbs-being-chopped-off” difficult. Mercer (Michael James Shaw) hid him in an empty apartment and told him not to leave, but when the apartments are randomly searched, he’s forced to incapacitate a Commonwealth officer and flee. This, fortunately, leads him straight to the rest of the group as they’re breaking free from the train station.

The unified Team Family desperately searches for a way to get Judith to a doctor, but every route they take is in the process of being blocked off by soldiers. At first, they think they’re being boxed in — then, they realize the soldiers are trying to keep something out. The horde descends on them, and only Daryl manages to slip to safety with Judith in his arms. As he runs, she wakes up. “Daddy?” she mumbles weakly. If that’s not a hint at a Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) appearance in the series finale, I don’t know what is.

The Walking Dead, Series Finale, Sunday, November 20, 9/8c, AMC