The Walking Dead season 11, episode 17 review: 'Same old, same old for our survivors'

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon and Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel in The Walking Dead season 11, episode 17
(Image: © AMC)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

The Walking Dead season 11, episode 17 delivers on gore, action, and the promise that everything's on the verge of kicking off – but as we approach the show's conclusion, higher stakes and more emotion is sorely needed

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The end of The Walking Dead may be near, but a new war has only just begun for our survivors. It’s a shame then that, instead of something fresh, thrilling, and exciting ushering us into the show’s final chapter, the first episode in season 11's Part 3 is all gunfire, gore, and bubbling tension, which all seems a little old hat now.

'Lockdown' opens with a montage of the show's earlier moments – Rick Grimes waking up from his coma, glimpses of Shane and Alpha – as a voiceover notes how past some survivors gave "into the darkness" of the apocalypse. We then pick up where we left off, sort of (we're still yet to find out what became of the Oceansiders after that bleak cliffhanger). Following Lance Hornsby's attack on Alexandria, Hilltop, and Oceanside, Maggie, Daryl, Gabriel, Aaron, and Negan are on the run from the power-hungry baddie and his troopers, desperate to get back to the community before Lance sends his rogues after their loved ones.

Some fun stuff ensues: Negan pretends to be a walker, Whisperer-style, and there's a bit of a car chase (!). And yet, considering three out of these five leads have spin-offs in the pipeline, the hunt doesn't have any real stakes. The Walking Dead never used to be afraid of snuffing out major players when you were least expecting it, which gave the series an edge-of-your-seat quality, but its world has felt too safe for a while now.

The action does look predictably cool, at least. The entire episode is ambitiously cinematic, the show continuing to push digital camera techniques. In the past, it was captured on 16mm film, giving it its old grainy effect, but the pandemic led to the producers switching to safer methods. The lighting's better than ever, there's a great sweeping aerial shot in one of the later scenes, and with FX wizard Greg Nicotero at the helm, the icky, bloody bits are suitably icky and bloody. But visual flair can't make up for a snoozy overarching storyline.

Eleanor Matsuura as Yumiko Okumura in The Walking Dead season 11, episode 17

(Image credit: Jace Downs/AMC)

For now, the most intriguing subplot centers on Yumiko, who's putting her pre-apocalypse experience as a criminal defense lawyer to good use by digging up dirt on Commonwealth governor Pamela Milton and exposing the community's injustices alongside Pamela's assistant, Max. Thanks to Connie's article that linked Sebastian, Pamela's spoiled brat of a son, to several missing Commonwealthers and at least one death, angry protestors have taken to the once peaceful streets – imagery that seems poignantly current. The sudden unrest threatens to topple the Miltons' control, or worse, cause the Commonwealth's infrastructure to collapse altogether, so our heroes have already started planning their respective escapes for when things go sideways. 

That underlying sense of unease harks back to Rick and the gang's rocky beginnings at Alexandria, and is much more interesting to watch play out than yet another combat sequence. In the comics, Sebastian kills Rick, but with Rick gone and Lance in full nefarious mode, the Miltons aren't likely to have as much impact on the story, disappointingly. 

We've seen antagonists who exert their authority through chaos and violence before, but what about those whose crimes are more insidious? Those who don't want to create a new world order, but to restore the old one and establish themselves as the ruling class once again? For a long time, the apocalypse acted as an equalizer, but who are you when your sole purpose isn't to just survive? What is your worth? These are fascinating themes, and hopefully The Walking Dead explores them more boldly in its remaining seven episodes – though a surprise, secret alliance towards the end of 'Lockdown' suggests it may not.

Lauren Ridloff as Connie and Angel Theory as Kelly in The Walking Dead season 11, episode 17

(Image credit: Jace Downs/AMC)

One way in which the series could create the space to do so is by cutting the clunky moments that seem shoehorned in purely to convince us that former big bad Negan is a Nice Guy now. Almost every episode this season has included at least one and, frustratingly, episode 17 doesn't buck the trend. Having teamed up with Carol to find Sebastian, Negan – all puppy dog eyes and feel-sorry-for-me voice – reveals he has a wife, and that they're expecting their first child together. "Why are you telling me this now?" she replies cynically. We know why, and it's more for our benefit than Carol's. At this point, the show needs to just commit to Negan being a fully fledged part of the team, whether we agree or not, and quit wasting precious screen time.

Fast-moving zombies are soon to be introduced to the main series, having already been established in The Walking Dead: World Beyond and teased for Daryl's solo spin-off. Considering the upcoming 19th episode is titled 'Variant', a word used in the World Beyond's post-credits scene, we can almost guarantee it. If anything, though, The Walking Dead needs to slow down. Since its pilot, the series' strengths have always been its performances and the relationships between characters. There are so many now, though, and there's so much going on, we don’t get to see much of that anymore. 

It's unsurprising, then, that this episode's highlights include the quieter, dialogue-heavy scenes between Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) and Magna (Nadia Hilker), and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Daryl (Norman Reedus); each duo bringing some much-needed emotion to the proceedings. "Glenn would've wanted me to protect you," Daryl says after Maggie thanks him for putting his own feelings aside and defending her against his former lover Leah in the previous episode. It still stings to hear Glenn's name but that heartache is so essential to what The Walking Dead is all about. As the conclusion to this saga approaches, it's so important to not just see our survivors fighting, but to remember who and what they're fighting for.

Make sure you never miss an episode with our The Walking Dead season 11 release schedule, and check out our how to watch The Walking Dead guide if you're wanting to watch/rewatch the main series and its spin-offs. 

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I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.