This review contains spoilers.
With so much going on in the Commonwealth right now, including Lance Hornsby at breaking point, this week’s episode went for something a little different!
Lydia is heading to the Commonwealth! After some prompting by Marco (who we haven’t seen since Season 10), Elijah asks if he can escort her to the checkpoint, with the suggestion that he has feelings for her. Hmm, interesting! Lydia only makes it a few steps out of Hilltop before a figure on horseback rides up to the gate. They have been shot and fall off the horse. Lydia rushes to help and the young man claims the “devil” is “slaughtering them all”, passing a bloody Commonwealth map to Lydia. A bandit group or is this the Commonwealth? I guess we’ll find out after the opening credits!
Maggie is not eager to assist, given the limited resources and lack of defences in Hilltop, and despite Lydia’s eagerness to leave, she first wants to help any survivors of this attack. Maggie eventually agrees to go with Lydia and Elijah, leaving Marco to sure-up the defences. Rather than horses, they are taking a truck – road trip!!
Lydia presses Maggie about why she is so reluctant to accept the help from Commonwealth and Maggie puts over some good points – easier isn’t always better! But Lydia thinks just “getting by” has no sustainable long-term viability. It’s interesting that Maggie feels attacked every time her way of doing things is questioned, and while she is a strong leader, she is losing her closest allies as it stands! The group encounters three Commonwealth Stormtroopers who have been turned, and after dispatching them, they assess that they were killed by people rather than bitten and turned. Before Maggie has enough time to investigate further, Aaron appears, running down the road towards them! Flashback to 1 week earlier…
Gabriel is giving a sermon, preaching about coming together, forgiveness, and pretty much going against Pamela Milton’s ‘return of the old ways’ ideology. If anything, in a possible uprising, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gabriel side with the worker’s revolt! We learn that Aaron is helping to improve the Commonwealth’s immigration and asylum policy, and given his previous role at Alexandria, I think this is the perfect new role for him. He will certainly have a lot more compassion and empathy! He wants Gabriel to accompany him to a small ‘religious settlement’ called Riverbend. We also meet Jesse, the man who fell off the horse and died at the beginning.
Despite the ‘friendly’ intel from Toby and the scouts, Aaron and Gabriel assess the settlement and have their doubts – and seeing the giant cross painted on the front, in what appears to be blood, I think I’d have to agree with them! Regardless, they approach the building and are met by Hart, who walks around with a mother flipping scythe! Yeah, this group is either just very theatrical or is completely nuts! They are taken to the leader Ian, hello there Michael Biehn, and his religious views are very old testament, which is backed up by the shelves full of skulls of the people he’s killed. With Toby now at gunpoint, Ian is determined to get the location of the Commonwealth and the ‘real reason’ why they are here. After Aaron and Gabriel talk Ian around, Toby drops his distressed act and kills the guards, wounding Ian in the process – just “doing his job”. Toby really is on a mission and it’s also time for another flashback… this time one hour before the previous one!
A rather miffed-looking Lance Hornsby is sitting at his desk, clearly planning his next move, which shock-horror, sees Toby called to his office. He’s lost a supply wagon to a ‘war lord’, which turns about to be Ian’s group. Toby, who turns out to be a former CIA specialist, is press-ganged back into service for a surgical strike within the compound. Toby reluctantly agrees, and Lance pushes the idea of sending Aaron and Gabriel in as part of the plan.
Back in the present, Toby interrogates Ian about the supply wagon, dead soldiers, and weapons. Gabriel is arrested for trying to impede Toby, before Toby shoots and kills Ian. I sort of see why Toby preferred the Zen life because when pushed into his former life, he becomes very unstable! Jesse manages to escape on the horse but is shot by one of the Stormtroopers. Aaron kills the trooper and is almost shot himself, by Toby, whose gun is now empty! Aaron manages to escape into the woods, likewise, Gabriel also manages to escape off camera.
Back with Aaron and Maggie, we learn that Jesse was never given the Commonwealth map. We jump back to Jesse’s escape, where Negan appears and gets an update of the situation and tell Jesse to head over to Hilltop and find Maggie. We are also introduced to Annie, played by Medina Senghore. Inside, Negan rescues Gabriel and we are now all caught up!
Back in the present, Toby is now in his Stormtrooper outfit with some hostages on the roof. He wants the weapons. And to get them, and to make his point, he knocks two hostages off the roof. In a terrifying scene, we hear the rest of the hostages fall to their deaths, while Negan and the others listen on in horror. Annie takes charge of the survivors, and we learn that Ian wasn’t Riverbend’s first leader – so with Ian out of the picture, this new group already looks much more ‘normal’. The episode ends on a cliffhanger of Maggie, Aaron, Lydia, and Elijah entering the building. So now we have the prospect of Maggie and Negan reunited once again!
I rather enjoyed this episode! I liked seeing different parts of the story from different points of view and I had no issue with time-jumping around the episode. I’m really excited that Negan is back in the mix and seemingly with a new group too! While it’s clear that this issue is more of a Lance thing than a Commonwealth thing, it will put the seeds of doubt into the likes of Aaron and just solidify Maggie’s stance further in regard to the true intentions of the Commonwealth’s leadership. It could also lead to Aaron and Gabriel being blamed for the soldiers’ deaths, which leads them to take refuge at Hilltop, which is when Darryl comes calling to arrest them in the flashforward…
Season 11 continues to deliver the goods and I cannot wait for next week’s episode!
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