What the hell was that?
I have been trying to process my feelings about tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, which feels like it was written by three different writers who not only didn’t read each other’s scripts but also hated each other. So in terms of feelings about it, the best I can come up with is “perplexed.”
“The New Deal” is another confusing mess like last week’s part-three premiere, but it’s also more boring — almost impressively so, given there are only six episodes left in the series. Most of it exists to say “capitalism is evil,” which I am absolutely here for, but is such a strange choice for this goofy show about the zombie apocalypse and the people who live in it to suddenly make. Especially since the dimwits living in the Commonwealth absolutely cannot be trusted to govern themselves.
But first things first. Last week’s episode ended with Daryl’s knife at Hornsby’s throat and Commontroopers levelling their guns. Out of nowhere, Mercer and Governor Pam walk into the sewer — yes, remember, that’s where they staged their ambush — and tell everyone to stand down. Daryl really, really wants to kill Hornsby, despite the fact he would absolutely be shot for it, but contents himself with stabbing Hornsby through the hand.
Daryl, Maggie, Carol, et al. make a deal with Pam; they give her Hornsby to be the scapegoat for Sebastian’s crimes, and Pam lets them leave the Commonwealth with tons of supplies for Alexandria and Hilltop. Also, anyone who wants to stay at the Commonwealth can stay at the Commonwealth. It’s a great deal that Negan and Annie are not sure they want to take, given that its soldiers killed a lot of people at their Riverbend community. The fact that this was done under Hornsby’s orders, a man who has now been jailed for his crimes and the crimes of others, does not seem to matter. But Negan also wants to stay in the Commonwealth so the pregnant Annie can have access to its OB/GYN services, which Annie refuses… as she’s receiving services at the OB/GYN. Whose doctor tells Annie her amniotic fluid was building up, which would have been quite dangerous if it had not been caught by the Commonwealth OB/GYN services. Which Annie doesn’t want to use. But used. And clearly needs.
I mean, what are we supposed to do with that? It’s a microcosm of the fever dream that is the Commonwealth storyline. Many people are glad to see Hornsby pay for his crimes and get back home. Some people, like Judith, want to stay to help the Commonwealthers in the fight against Pam and the upper crust. Eugene and Max want Pam and Sebastian overthrown so badly they try to make a deal with Hornsby himself.
I know I’m going to be repeating myself from last week, but I cannot help it because this is so damn weird. Some characters think Hornsby is the devil, and he’s killed a lot of people and put fascist flags on Alexandria and the other communities, so that’s fine. Some people want Sebastian to pay for his crimes, which he committed, so that’s also fine. But Pam, as far as the characters know, has done nothing wrong but exploit the working class, which is both legal now and in the Commonwealth. We the audience know she enacted plan “B14” which may have sent a zombie horde to the Commonwealth to justify some light martial law, even then, it’s worth remembering the Commonwealth is still, by far, the nicest, safest, and most luxurious community in the zombie apocalypse.
It’s not even close! They have OB/GYN doctors. They have professional soldiers protecting the place. They have ice cream. What’s a little light fascism compared to Negan randomly beating people to death with a barb-wired baseball bat for looking at him funny? There are murderers and cannibals and Wolves and Whisperers out there, and the Commonwealth’s problems aren’t that bad in comparison. But no, Eugene, Judith, Max, and more believe these people need socialism. Again, I love it, but following up “Woman who led a cult where they made masks out of real zombies’ faces” with “Capitalism” as the next villain is unfathomable. (It’s also worth remembering that everything in the Commonwealth seemed perfectly fine until the Alexandrians showed up.)
So Max pulls the old “secretly record an arsehole in charge saying someone shitty about the people he’s in charge of,” which Sebastian falls for in seconds. It’s breathtaking, as his utter fury at being forced by his mother to say a speech at Founder’s Day, the town celebration, to perhaps win over the townspeople who literally wanted to tear him apart a little while ago. But maybe he has a point, given that once Hornsby is fingered for everything, those same townspeople who wanted to murder Sebastian are enthusiastically applauding Milton for catching the “real” culprit.
So everyone’s thrilled at Founder’s Day, whose centrepiece event seems to be a professional tag team wrestling match. Because the Commonwealth has professional wrestling, too, and no one is more delighted by the event than rich snobs Pam and Sebastian. They laugh, they gasp, their jaws drop at what they see. It’s so, so weird. And it’s even weirder that Sebastian delivers his speech from the wrestling ring itself.
Of course, during the speech, Max and Eugene play the tape where Sebastian manages to say both “the Commonwealth is founded on a lie” and “the poor exist to serve the wealthy elite” (I’m paraphrasing because I cannot be bothered to rewatch it). The crowd instantly turns on Sebastian and Pam, which starts reasonably then escalates quickly when people start throwing bottles at them. Again, the crowd does not know Pam has done anything wrong other than committing the crime of giving birth to an enormous douchebag.
Unfortunately, it’s at this exact moment when a group of zombies appears in the middle of the square, as Hornsby had his two goons from last week murder a lot of maintenance workers a bit earlier. Chaos erupts to a truly comical degree; the square should have emptied quickly, but instead people seem to be running back and forth, which gives the zombies plenty of time to eat an absurd amount of people. Eventually, Sebastian manages to locate Max in the throng, and tosses her in the path of a zombie in revenge; the zombie is immediately pushed by Eugene back onto Sebastian, knocking him down, at which point all the Commonwealthers stop what they’re doing and silently watch Sebastian wrestle with a zombie for a shockingly long time before being eaten.
Yes, the lights will dim in Cape Cod tonight, as Kingsley St. Buffingsworth is no more. But we need to do more than mourn him, because this scene is wild. All of the people who were running for their lives stop running for their lives just to watch Sebastian get eaten alive. There was a long, long time he could have been saved before the zombie got a chunk out of him. It’s very funny, but the show clearly has no idea it’s funny. The Walking Dead wants to make it a scene where a villain gets his just deserts, but instead, all the townsfolk seem like monsters for wilfully failing to help a fellow human being from getting murdered, especially since Hornsby was being successfully blamed for all the people Sebastian got killed. It means the Commonwealthers unanimously let him die just for being an elitist arsehole. It’s hilarious.
In the end, no one’s really left the city yet, so really this episode was only about professional wrestling and the death of Kingsley St. Buffingsworth of the Cape Cod Buffingsworths that we so frequently read about on the society pages. It’s not much, and it’s a real weird way to spend the sixth-to-last episode of the series. The Walking Dead isn’t ramping up for the end, it’s idly wandering around and getting distracted by butterflies. So I repeat: What the hell was that?
- There are other scenes in this episode. They don’t matter, nothing happens in them, don’t worry about it.
- Aaron and his daughter Gracie had a tearful goodbye when he left to check on Oceanside, which doesn’t bode well for either of them.
- Hornsby takes a bite out of a candy apple in the most savage way possible, which TWD also wants to be sinister but is in fact hilariously weird.
- Why did the tape repeat there at the end? Did Max edit it so it would play at the end, or does she have a two-minute-long cassette?
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