Reviews | Written by Rich Cross 22/11/2022

THE WALKING DEAD, Season 11, Episode 24, REST IN PEACE

So, after eleven seasons and 176 episodes, it all comes down to this - the finale of the last ever season of The Walking Dead. In recent years, some much-loved, long-running genre shows have train-wrecked their endings, in infamous closing stories that have enraged fans, tarnished the programme’s legacy and allowed the closing credits to run with an underwhelming sense of incompleteness. Rest in Peace, the last instalment of the small screen’s biggest zombie serial to date, treads an entirely different, and more sure-footed, path towards the exit sign.

It’s an endpoint that delivers an explosive resolution of The Commonwealth storyline, is full of uplifting and heart-rending character moments, and which clears the space necessary for new chapters in the franchise to begin without feeling entangled in unfinished business. It’s not a perfect episode but, given the weight of expectation it had to carry, it’s a more than satisfying sign-off. The story’s extended run-time is put to good effect, ensuring that the intense action sequences needed to settle matters at The Commonwealth do not crowd out those equally important closing character exchanges.

Events pick up just seconds on from the worsening crises of last week’s Family. A desperate Daryl arrives at the hospital, carrying the injured Judith, to find the place emptied and abandoned. The survivors trapped in the Commonwealth’s outer ring, behind the waves of walkers sent their way by Milton, fight their way through the crowded streets towards safety - but at a terrible cost. The scattered groups attempt to reunite and rally their forces, in spite of their losses. As their defences are pressed hard, attention turns to freeing the incarcerated Mercer and rescuing the group’s youngest members. Unwilling to see The Commonwealth fall and its residents lost, Pamela’s opponents come together in an all-or-nothing bid to topple the regime and save the community.

The walker assault on the hospital complex, and the group’s flight is especially tense. So too is the attempt of Eugene, Gabriel, Rosita and baby Coco to clamber free of a walker surge - which ends with a heart-stopping event that will either have you punching the air or rolling your eyes. Either way, what happens later confirms how astute the showrunners’ judgements have been throughout this final season.

Without wanting to give any more away, the reckoning with Milton and her cronies has all the hallmarks of a classic Walking Dead showdown. It plays out well, sidesteps some of the expected beats (especially in relation to Pamela), and delivers some strong visual fireworks. As part of the build-up, Ezekiel, Daryl, Negan and Gabriel each deliver speeches which border on the melodramatic, but that’s excusable given the heightened context, and there’s no doubting the sense of closure that's delivered. Some viewers might have wanted the zombie slaying to continue to the last possible moment, but Angela Kang’s script is just as keen to make time to re-examine the lives of these battle-hardened survivors (and those who did not make it to the end), as it is to settle Commonwealth scores.

Established characters do die in Rest in Peace, and there’s one especially agonising loss that is hard to watch (in the best sense of the word). With such a large ensemble, it’s not realistic for everyone to be afforded a final reflective speech (although Kang does her best to address as many characters' fates as she can). The complex, conflicted relationship between Maggie and Negan undergoes more twists here (in scenes superbly played by Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Carol and Daryl share one of their signature understated farewells (with one important addition), and Daryl embraces his role as surrogate father to Judith as never before. Numerous other reunions, separations and farewells make this a richly textured and affecting point of departure.

A closing montage may be an obvious choice, but it's an opportunity to recall enemies vanquished and friends and allies lost over the course of more than a decade. It’s a judgement call as to whether that sequence is mawkish or magnificent, but it does allow director Greg Nicotero to restate (one last time) that this was always a show about the struggles of humans to survive an apocalypse, and not about the countless, anonymous cadavers who wanted to feast on their flesh. To wrap that retrospective around a brief glimpse of the unseen lives of two much-missed characters is an inspired decision that also allows the series’ creators to tease at intriguing future adventures.

That said, Nicotero deserves credit for ensuring that Rest in Peace does not just morph into a trailer for the show’s expanding universe. It’s a convincing, emotionally charged story that brings the series to a full-stop, without needing to declare that the wider world has reached a dead-stop.

All episodes of SEASON 11 of THE WALKING DEAD are available in the UK on DISNEY+/STAR

Read our previous reviews of THE WALKING DEAD below:

Season 11, Episode 17, LOCKDOWN

Season 11, Episode 18, A NEW DEAL

Season 11, Episode 19, VARIANT

Season 11, Episode 20, WHAT'S BEEN LOST

Season 11, Episode 21, OUTPOST 22

Season 11, Episode 22, FAITH

Season 11, Episode 23, FAMILY