The final season of The Walking Dead has returned with a bang, quite literally, as our survivors flee for safety from an explosive that Leah (Lynn Collins) ignited in the 11A finale. In classic Walking Dead style, the 11B premiere delivers lots of shocks and twists. It’s undoubtedly one of the best episodes of the final season so far!
“No Other Way” continues directly from the end of “For Blood.” Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari), and Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) all face off against the Reapers. They need to reclaim their supplies for a demolished, malnourished Alexandria, but they also need to survive against those fierce warriors. Is it too much to ask for both? Meanwhile, back in Alexandria, the storm continues to wreck havoc. Walkers are flooding in, and Judith and Gracie are trapped in a basement.
Here’s your SPOILER warning!
The Reaper War
In the 11A finale, Leah killed Pope before taking charge of the Reapers herself. She offers Daryl one chance to escape, but also lights up the hwacha — a sort of multi-rocket launcher — to kill our fleeing survivors, even if it means her own people getting caught in the crossfire. Of course, no one in our group is actually killed by this stunt. It does, however, temporarily scatter them.
After the hwacha goes off, Maggie, Negan, and an injured Elijah take refuge inside Meridian. It’s fun to see Maggie and Negan regretfully have to work together to fight a common enemy. There’s clearly still hatred between them, and it doesn’t help that they disagree on pretty much everything. While Maggie wants to reclaim Meridian and take supplies back to Alexandria, Negan believes their best option is to escape while they can.
My favorite line of the season so far comes when they all face off against Carver, a super-skilled Reaper. Carver easily takes down Negan, Maggie and Elijah; even Daryl gets it handed to him when he joins the fight. Then Negan arrives out of nowhere and knocks him out will a bell, prompting the hilarious line: “Well, ding, ding!”
With Carver knocked out, Daryl convinces Maggie to use him as leverage so they can escape Meridian with their lives. Maggie obliges, and the group agrees to meet the Reapers so they can come to some sort of diplomatic agreement. As always, it’s never that simple. Leah is against the idea of letting them walk away. She has a plan of her own: she’s depending on Jenson, her sniper on the roof, to take them all out. But unbeknown to everyone, Gabriel has already killed Jenson and taken control of his weapon.
With our group back in control of the stand-off, Leah ends up pleading for her life. She promises to walk away from Meridian with her family. Maggie appears to accept her offer, as do Daryl and Elijah, albeit tentatively. Interestingly, Maggie even asks Negan for his opinion on the matter. Perhaps she’s now accepting him as part of the family? It seems a bit odd for her to ask his input.
After the group collectively decides to let the Reapers escape with their lives, Maggie quickly goes against everyone’s wishes and kills them all, except for Leah, who instead gets shot in the shoulder. Daryl is furious with Maggie’s red mist. Of course, we’ve seen this kind of brutality from Maggie before, such as when she hung Gregory. After losing so much, perhaps she’s gotten to the point where she cannot trust anyone.
This whole war against the Reapers raises some interesting questions. Leah wasn’t killed, so she could show up later on in the season. What will her relationship be like with Daryl should she return? I like how both groups tread a very thin line when it comes to morality. Leah and Maggie want the same thing: to protect their families. In fact, the word “family” is used several times by both Leah and Daryl throughout the episode. It’s a nice recurring theme, especially since Leah was initially a love interest for Daryl.
There are two huge takeaways from the aftermath of the battle. Firstly, following the war, Maggie travels on her own back to the church where Alden (Callan McAuliffe) was previously left to recover after getting injured. But when she returns, he’s already dead and has turned into a walker. It’s pretty heartbreaking to watch. Maggie has tried so hard to protect her family, and yet she keeps losing people she deeply cares for.
Soon after she’s buried Alden, Negan approaches her while she’s grieving over his grave. He berates her for killing the Reapers after promising to let them leave unharmed. For a brief moment, it seems like blood might spill. They both grip their weapons. However, Negan ultimately decides to walk away. He considers himself a free man now. His exit here echoes his final moments in the comics, where he walks away from Maggie alone.
Back in Alexandria
The second part of this episode takes place back to Alexandria, where our group is still in disarray from the storm. The walls have mostly fallen and walkers are rushing into the the community. It’s pretty bleak.
We focus on Judith and Gracie, who find themselves trapped in a flooding basement with walkers pouring in. The highlight is the underwater walkers; yet another creative way to make us terrified of the undead. Things really heat up when Aaron (Ross Marquand) jumps into the basement to save the girls; it’s impossible not to love seeing him smash walker’s skulls with his metal arm. But with that being said, I feel like this story didn’t offer much in terms of character development. It literally is just Aaron on a one-man mission to save the girls.
Once the storm abates, nothing has changed besides Alexandria being demolished. Nobody dies. The entire thing is a major inconvenience. But all is not lost, since Maggie’s group soon returns with all the goods necessary to feed the people.
A little later, Eugene and a bunch of Commonwealth soldiers roll up at the gates as the eccentric recruiter Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) rolls out invitations for them to join the Commonwealth. And that’s where the episode ends…but for a game-changing final scene.
Six months later…
Just when we think it’s all over, we cut to a super-ominous scene set “six months later.” We see Daryl — clad in Commonwealth gear — lead an army to Hilltop, where Maggie stands against him. From the looks of it, the two are about to go to battle. Clearly, the introduction of the Commonwealth drives a huge wedge between our survivors. I expect this scene to be a huge talking point within the fandom.
“No Other Way” delivers on everything you would expect from a midseason opener. It’s action-packed, but it does feel predictable at times. There were no real shocks; this season especially, it feels like some of our characters are clad in plot armor. The group at Meridian managed to escape with their supplies while the survivors in Alexandria were able to ride out the storm. The biggest surprise comes right at the very end when Daryl confronts Maggie.
Overall, this was a very entertaining episode in an entertaining final season. Now it’s time to ask the question: Who will come out on top between Maggie and Daryl? I suspect it’ll be a while before we learn the outcome.