The Walking Dead recap: First part of season 11 ends with a rain of fire and change of the guard
Pope's reign as leader of the Reapers began with fire; remember his story about how he and his soldiers emerged unburnt after an attack? It's only appropriate that his reign now ends with fire.
Pope is dead. But, like the HBO hot pope show says, there's now a new pope. Leah stabbed Pope through the throat and deemed herself leader of the Reapers. In doing so, she offered an answer to at least one quandary that's been bugging me. Whether or not it's a good answer is still... eh.
The finale to The Walking Dead's season 11, part 1 (apparently the final season is coming in parts now as opposed to the traditional midseason break) began with the Reapers spotting Maggie's walker horde outside their walls. They don't know it's Maggie's doing at first, just that the dead are walking funny in circles. Daryl offers to lead them away and Pope agrees, only he makes Paul, another Reaper, do it instead. It doesn't go well for Paul, who's stabbed by Whisperer Maggie and her group before being fed to the dead.
This doesn't sit well with Leah. She learns that Pope had suspected Maggie was out there and dispatched Paul with no backup anyway. Pope notices Leah has been much more combative with him since Daryl came along, and instead of pushing him further, she falls back in line.
One of my biggest questions was how could Leah, who exhibited so much mercy previously, align herself with a group hellbent on killing everything in its path. This moment helped put things into perspective, in that she probably was on board with Pope's mission initially, found a family in the Reapers, and fought to protect her own. But when Daryl arrived, he became the mirror she had been avoiding and was forced to recognize her part in these horrific acts.
Things get complicated for Maggie and the others when the walkers start triggering explosives around the Reapers' walls. Negan and Elijah are injured in one of the blasts but keep going while Maggie and Gabriel sneak in, thanks to Daryl, who kills a lookout and leaves the backdoor open. But Pope has a secret weapon.
He tells Leah to prepare the hwacha, a medieval Korean weapon that can fire a massive blitz of rocket-propelled arrows. Daryl ends up confessing to Leah that Maggie's group is his own people, and pleads with her to not fire this weapon. Leah feels betrayed but when Pope walks up on them after this exchange, she ultimately doesn't say anything.
Maggie, meanwhile, hijacks a car and uses it as a battering ram to force open the gate from the inside, letting all the walkers spill in and attack the Reapers. Pope commands them to turn the hwacha inside the walls, which would kill some of their own people in the process. When Leah confronts him about it — you know, maybe let's call our people back before we fire the giant hellfire weapon — he goes full narcissist and claims God is speaking through him and nobody should question him. Leah answers by plunging a knife into his throat, while Daryl flings a knife at the guy operating the hwacha.
Daryl wants Leah to come with him and be with the Alexandrians, but the Reapers are her family. She looks upon the body of the man Daryl just killed — an act he committed to save his own family — and she remembers how he lied to her. She radios to the remaining Reapers that Daryl killed Pope and lets him run off. However, now Leah is mad.
She recalls her men from the field and readies to fire the hwacha to kill everything else inside their walls. The last image we see is the first few exploding arrows flying from the weapon.
The other half of the part 1 finale deals with Alexandria, which is weathering a vicious storm. Trees are falling down, the wall is crumbling, a fire breaks out, and everyone is holed up in a house together. They decide to split into three groups to deal with all the problems. Aaron leads a group to repair the wall and keep more walkers from coming into Alexandria, Carol leads another to put out the fire, and Rosita and Virgil stay behind to protect everyone inside the house...
Where things are getting progressively worse. Walkers are trying to push their way inside. Rosita rushes out to kill as many as she can, but more are on the way. Before long, they are back bracing the door against more walkers. They all retreat upstairs except for Judith. She and Gracie have been getting along well, and she's been helping the girl control her fear during the storm. Gracie, however, is missing.
Judith finds her in the basement, which is flooding. Gracie wanted a weapon like Judith's sword to help fight, so Judith quickly breaks a broom into a sharp point and hands it to her. They run back upstairs to try to rejoin the others, but the walkers have already busted through to the main floor. The girls are forced back into the basement. They lock the door but it won't hold for very long. It's only a matter of time before they will have to fight for their lives.
The resolution to both of these cliffhangers won't come until Feb. 20 at 9 p.m. ET, which is when eight more episodes will kick off. The final season in total will run 24 episodes. So, it seems it's being packaged as three parts. Presumably, there will be another break between part 2 and part 3, but we'll know more definitively at a later time.