The Walking Dead season 11, episode 18 review: 'Setting things up for the endgame'

Sebastian Milton and Pamela Milton in The Walking Dead season 11 episode 18
(Image: © Jace Downs/AMC)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

The Walking Dead season 11, episode 18 slows things down and lets us spend time with the characters – and is all the better for it

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

Warning! This review contains major spoilers for The Walking Dead season 11, episode 18.

"I think the most important thing is that we're together," Lauren Cohan's Maggie tells Daryl, Carol, and a few of the others early on – a line that could as easily apply to the series as the fictitious events it depicts. Following Part 3's action-packed opener, the dialogue-heavy 'A New Deal' slows things down to focus on character, and it's all the better for it, as it reunites a lot of players that haven't shared scenes in a long ol' time.

Like its predecessor, the new installment kicks off with another montage of past Walking Dead clips, which is already starting to feel like a bit of a cheap way to stir up nostalgia. Fortunately, it's brief, and who knows? The throwbacks might make more sense as the season continues. The episode itself continues on from last week's cliffhanger, with Mercer and Pamela Milton interrupting Daryl, Maggie, Aaron and Father Gabriel's stand-off with the Commonwealth troopers. Having not yet caught him up on her deal with Pamela – to hand Lance Hornsby in, so that Pamela can use him as a scapegoat for the "accusations" against her jumped-up son Sebastian – Carol urges Daryl to lower his knife from Lance’s throat. He angrily obliges, but not before stabbing Lance through the hand, dropping his blade and storming off. "Don't worry, he'll live," he growls.

"So, the slate's just wiped clean?" a skeptical Aaron asks in the next scene, as Carol replies: "Debt, deaths on both sides… We get supplies, water, weapons; Pamela provides everything we need to finish rebuilding. Free and clear." The gang voice their doubts, before ultimately agreeing to leave the Commonwealth and go back to their respective communities; Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom for the first time since the devastating Whisperer War. With six more episodes to go, though, we know things aren't going to be that easy.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon and Cailey Fleming as Judith Grimes in The Walking Dead season 11, episode 18

(Image credit: Jace Downs/AMC)

For one, we're 18 episodes into season 11, and it's still pretty unclear who the real threat to our heroes is. One scene that sees Pamela (Laila Robins, brilliant) turn up the intimidation tactics and take "delusional little boy" Lance down a peg, and another that has her berate Sebastian for not wanting to step up to the plate as governor, suggests it's her – a theory that's amplified by Bear McCreary and Sam Ewing's foreboding, synthy score whenever she's on screen. (Sebastian's shock death at the end is sure to bring out a more villainous side to her, too). Josh Hamilton is just as good as Lance, though; offering up a new kind of baddie whose quips and snide smugness so evidently stem from a former life of privilege rather than brute bravado forged in the apocalypse, like Alpha or Negan.

Either way, where last week's installment felt like filler, 'A New Deal' actually feels like the beginning of the end. As certain characters prepare to leave the Commonwealth, others – like Ezekiel – decide to stay put; each of them being carefully positioned ahead of a conclusion they're not aware is coming. Director Jeffrey F. January and writer Corey Reed smartly carve out time for those who are packing up to reflect on their situations, nurturing a sense of sentimentality and intimacy that the show has been sorely lacking of late. 

Gabriel's epiphany is a highlight, as he delivers his "last sermon" to an empty church before touchingly explaining to partner Rosita (who still has too little to do) that while he's never considered the Commonwealth home, its people led to him finding his faith again. Carol has poignant but brief chats with Ezekiel and Lydia, while Daryl grapples with his sudden parenthood and shares a heated discussion with Judith about Rick, running and responsibility. (Look out for a fun nod to Invincible, The Walking Dead author Robert Kirkman's other comic series, in Daryl's scenes with one of the show’s youngsters). 

"You were alone a lot?" Judith (Cailey Fleming) asks while quizzing Daryl on his childhood when he tells her he gets why she wants to isolate herself sometimes. "Yeah," he whispers back. It’s a quick but effective way to remind us how far Daryl has come from being the hot-headed lone wolf we met all those years ago. No one can carry this show quite like Andrew Lincoln did, but it's great seeing Norman Reedus being given the material to flex his acting muscles.

Eugene and Max in The Walking Dead season 11

(Image credit: Jace Downs/AMC)

It's frustrating to see the likes of Ross Marquand (who plays Aaron), Paola Lázaro (Princess), Lauren Ridloff (Connie), and Angel Theory (Kelly) continue to be short-changed when it comes to screen time, however. As the series finale approaches, it's expected that the characters who have been around since the beginning hog focus, but most of them are getting spin-offs beyond the last episode. The supporting characters aren't, and are just as worthy of having their stories wrapped up in a satisfying way.

As much as The Walking Dead enjoys yanking on our heartstrings, it's never without its fair share of scheming and drama – and the episode delivers on that front as well. Pamela may have thrown Lance in a jail cell, determined to see him take the fall for her family's wrongdoings, but he has his connections on the outside; Shira (AKA Fake Stephanie) and another of his lackeys still sneaking around on his behalf. 

Elsewhere, Max insists to an initially reluctant Eugene that she can't leave the Commonwealth without first exposing the Miltons – and the end of 'A New Deal' sees her put her money where her mouth is, as she sets Sebastian up during an address to the public. Instead of playing an old voice recording of his grandfather, President Milton, the founder of the Commonwealth, during Sebastian's speech, Max and Eugene deliberately bungle the presentation to blast out a secret tape the former took while talking with him earlier that day. "The reality is that the poor stay poor so that the rich can do whatever the hell we want. The game is rigged," he snarls in the audio. "They're just too stupid to see it." The Commonwealth has just been blown up – and look at that, no actual explosions were needed.

In true The Walking Dead style, the episode ends with our heroes once again in a perilous situation, as riots ensue and a horde of walkers "break into" the town. Next week's installment, titled 'Variant', looks set to introduce a new kind of zombie – fast-moving ones teased in the post-credits scene of The Walking Dead: World Beyond – as Pamela goes on the warpath. Here's hoping the show remembers that a mix of action and quieter moments is king.

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.   

More info

Amy West

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.