Reviews | Written by Rich Cross 04/10/2022

THE WALKING DEAD, Season 11, Episode 17, LOCKDOWN

The ties of family and the bonds of loyalty loom large in the first episode of the final run of the concluding series of The Walking Dead. The show returns for its closing batch of seven episodes in a story that’s full of incidents, action set-pieces, and character beats. Lockdown is a complex tale that divides its attention between multiple life-and-death situations, all of which make clear just how fractured the dividing lines separating hero from villain have become.

When it was first fully revealed back in New Haunts, The Commonwealth appeared to be a stable and successful enclave, in which grateful citizens surrendered democratic rights to the regime in return for a measure of security and prosperity. But now the sickening, venal behaviour of leader Pamela Milton’s wastrel son Sebastian have been brought into the light, the community is in uproar. Protests are challenging the weakened Milton, so much so that she engineers a lockdown to silence the opposition. A wounded dictatorship is a dangerous thing, and what makes the struggle to bring the Miltons to account more difficult is that hundreds of residents rely on the existence of The Commonwealth to survive. Maggie and her compatriots cannot simply tear the whole thing down.

Determined to wipe out the threat posed by Daryl, Maggie and their allies, Lance Hornsby has fully abandoned his previous persona (as a loyal lieutenant to Pamela). Now operating as a ruthless enforcer, he’s deploying the settlement’s military resources to hunt them down. His efforts provide many of Lockdown’s punchy action sequences as Maggie's group tries to avoid being overwhelmed by Commonwealth patrols; trigger a diversionary car chase, and head back into the underground to set up a trap - a gambit that ends in a suitably high-stakes cliffhanger. There’s also plenty of up-close walker slaying, both of the one-on-one variety and in the battle to hold back a swarm of the undead.

Director Greg Nicotero can be relied upon to execute impressive combat sequences, but there’s also much to recommend in Lockdown’s quieter character moments. Carol gets to show more of her maternal side, as she keeps the Hilltop children safe from Milton’s attempts to seize valuable young hostages. The sense of mutual respect between Mercer and Rosita is further strengthened, as he acknowledges for the first time that survival might come down to secret evacuation, and she makes clear where her loyalties begin and end. Negan’s redemption continues apace as he volunteers to become an undercover emissary, short-circuiting the entry requirements to bring word from Daryl and Maggie to The Commonwealth’s dissidents.

Amidst the encroaching chaos, Julia Ruchman’s script succeeds in giving a sense of how daunting the task facing the remnants of Rick Grimes’ group now is. They have to survive in the open as an unaided guerilla force, encourage the overthrow of The Commonwealth’s corrupt government without destroying it as a sanctuary, and at the same time ensure that Hilltop and other communities are not wiped out by a vengeful Hornsby. There is a sense of looming tragedy, as the series starts to move players into position for The Walking Dead’s last, decisive showdown. At this point, it’s hard to think that all of the survivors who deserve to live will make it to the end.

New episodes of THE WALKING DEAD - SEASON 11 premiere Mondays in the UK on DISNEY+/STAR