[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 5, “Out of the Ashes.”]
With everything that’s currently happening on The Walking Dead—and the lengthy breaks between seasons (thanks for nothing, pandemic!)—the Whisperer arc now seems like it happened decades ago. But in “Out of the Ashes,” it’s clearer than ever that Alexandria’s old foes haven’t entirely faded away.
Alexandria’s latest solution to the food problem and the fence-collapsing problem—which nearly floods the community with walkers in the opening minutes—is to head over to the destroyed Hilltop, in hopes they can find a few salvageable supplies. A team consisting of Aaron (Ross Marquand), Carol (Melissa McBride), Lydia (Cassady McClincy), and Jerry (Cooper Andrews) makes the trip and discover several of their fallen friends as walkers…and, as Lydia points out, a Whisperer still herding the dead.
This sets Aaron speeding down a vengeful, dark path. First, he interrogates the man, who swears he’s alone and that he’s not a threat to Alexandria. But he’s lying, as the group finds out: There are more former Whisperers in the cells, and they’ve even taken some of the Alexandrians’ possessions. If Aaron was upset before, now he’s truly enraged—he ties the guy up and guides a walker slowly toward him, threatening to let the creature bite him if he doesn’t give up where the rest of his people are and what they’re planning. The dude maintains everyone is in the cells and that they’re just trying to survive, but that’s not good enough for Aaron, so he lets the walker bite the Whisperer on the hand.
The intimidation continues, sickening Lydia and spurring Carol to kill the walker before Aaron can use it again. At first, Aaron is angry with her, but she makes a good point: She knows better than most how fixating on vengeance can lead to horrific consequences, and she tells Aaron, “This is a path you don’t want to go down.” And in the end, he turns around. He frees the man and (presumably, although it’s not shown) cuts off his hand so he won’t turn. It’s a good thing he did, since that Whisperer tells the group Connie (Lauren Ridloff) escaped from the cave.
At the Commonwealth, the group undergoes orientation and is assigned jobs similar to their pre-apocalypse positions. Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), however, is special; she just gets a letter inviting her to meet with Pamela Milton, the leader of the Commonwealth. First, though, she meets her brother, who has put his surgeon career in the past and is now living happily, baking cakes. He explains that the Commonwealth has grown one block at a time since the fall, and that the place, which has more than 50,000 inhabitants and comforts like ice cream trucks and shopping centers, really is as good as it seems…as long as you follow the rules.
It’s too bad, then, that one group member breaks them. Eugene gets his new love, Stephanie (Chelle Ramos)—who definitely might not be the real Stephanie—to let him into the communications center so he can reach out to Alexandria. He makes contact with Rosita (Christian Serratos), but she can’t hear much of what he’s trying to say; as if that weren’t bad enough, the whole group, minus Yumiko, ends up being caught and arrested for breaking the Commonwealth’s laws. Oh, no! Thankfully, they’re “rescued” by Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton), the community’s records keeper. He demands they be let go but warns that their actions will have consequences.
In Alexandria, Judith (Cailey Fleming) gets a heartbreaking story that reminds us how much of a bummer it would be to be the youngest Grimes. When she gets into a scuffle with some up-to-no-good teens, they taunt her by saying her mom “abandoned” her, which leaves her rattled; later, someone breaks the memorial that had her and Carl’s (Chandler Riggs) handprints. But her no good, very bad day gets a little better when Rosita stops by, and she comforts Judith by telling her the people she loves are always with her because they taught her how to be strong. (Cailey Fleming is excellent at conveying Judith’s sadness and grief in this scene—she can really act.) Together, they fix the memorial. Good as new!
Elsewhere, Maggie and Negan make it to the rendezvous point at a house where the whole group was supposed to meet. They’re the only two there. What are two enemies to do when they’re stuck in a house together on a rapidly failing mission with nothing to do? Fight, of course! Negan says he’s going to take the food in the house and go back to Alexandria, but Maggie’s convinced they’re not done; So convinced, in fact, that she hits him. She continues to lash out, and he mostly just dodges her attacks and tries to restrain her. Eventually, they end up just staring at each other—and that’s when Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) and Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) make it to the house, too, cutting the awkward tension. Now that they’re there, Maggie resolves to wait until the others get there, too. Except Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) a Reaper now, so that complicates things.
- We don’t get concrete evidence that Stephanie isn’t the real Stephanie during this episode, but I’m 99 percent sure the real Stephanie was the one getting rocky road ice cream just before Eugene went to the truck.
- I feel weird saying this, but was anyone else picking up on an awkward vibe between Maggie and Negan during that fight? (It’s not just me who noticed, either. Check out the comments on the YouTube clip of their fight.) Not that the show should or would ever go there with these two, but the scene where they were just staring at each other seemed…charged, and not necessarily just with hatred.
- I hate to say it, but Maggie’s getting on my nerves a little more with each passing episode. Before, this mission was urgent and they had to go as quickly as possible. But now they have time to wait? How long will they wait before moving on? If they’re waiting, can someone please go get Alden (Callan McAuliffe) to a safer hiding place before he ends up dead on one of those cross things?
- Rating: 4/5. Thanks to some meaningful emotional beats and genuine suspense, “Out of the Ashes” is among the season’s best installments so far. The Commonwealth continues to be the show’s most exciting current plot line, and it’ll be interesting to see how and when everyone reunites with Connie now that they know her fate.
The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC
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