In this episode, simply entitled “Faith,” the remaining storylines are beginning to slowly come together. The sham trial of Eugene (Josh McDermitt) is underway though the outcome is clear as Pamela Milton (Laila Robins) has the Commonwealth court completely under her thumb. The tentative alliance between Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) is fraying as they struggle to find a way to escape the work camp they’re confined at. At the same time, Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carol (Melissa McBride), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Rosita (Christian Serratos), Connie (Lauren Ridloff), and Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) are trying to rescue them before one of them is killed. It makes for an episode that is one of the more eventful of late, at least in terms of plot, though is still besought by problems relating to character development and emotional investment. For all the ways the conflict is coming to a close, it really doesn’t feel like this is the final season of such a long-running show, let alone the third to last. However, if you’d made it this far through the show, you’re likely here to the end.
This does mean that a fair number of seemingly significant events happen off-screen as the show feels like it is speedrunning through key revelations so that we can keep moving forward. While not entirely a bad thing, as the show has been overburdened with far too many storylines for far too long, there is still a disappointing lack of emotional connection. Even as we have come to know some of these characters over more than a decade of television, everything that made the show so great originally is a distant memory as we continue the march to this long-overdue conclusion. Rather than being invested in the characters or their struggles, the most intriguing element of the show comes in how we see the strings being operated. We see a whole host of characters make monumental decisions at the drop of a hat and with little sense of why as it is all about driving the plot forward. While we get some brief character moments between Carol and Maggie as well as Connie and Daryl, where they open up to each other, that serve as high points for the episode, each passes all-too-quickly as we hustle into the next scene like when Eugene gives a speech that carries far less gravity. There just isn’t enough time to sit with any of its strong moments and let them sink in as there are so many narrative threads to resolve that are more tedious than thematically engaging.
This comes to a head in the climactic scene where Negan seems thrilled to sacrifice himself after cutting a deal to take the fall for leading a rebellion, though is stunned when his wife Annie (Medina Senghore) is similarly put on the firing line alongside him. To his surprise, and ours, the rest of his fellow prisoners then stand in front to protect him. It is certainly unexpected, but it is played with such poor pacing that it lacks any sort of suspense. Adding to this is that we know no one is going to actually shoot towards Negan as he has his own spin-off show to survive for. It undercuts what should be a harrowing scene as the countdown drags on for so long that we know everyone is going to be fine. When Ezekiel proclaims how they all don’t have to be broken, echoing the opening narration from Judith, that just cements how everything is going to end with the main characters unscathed.
Of course, the prevailing sentiment to this message is undercut when the man who was holding everyone captive is killed brutally by Rosita, who forces a zombie down onto his face. She does so to get information about her own daughter, but there is just a bizarre tension about who any of these people are that the show still doesn’t have a handle on. It is trying to say something as we reach the end, but it keeps undercutting itself at nearly every turn. The episode then ends on what is meant to be an exciting reveal when Eugene is saved from execution with the promise that an uprising will happen. What holds it back is that it all just feels so empty and without any prevailing emotional core. There is still a residual curiosity to how it will end and, as has been hinted at for a while, whether some familiar faces will show up in the final episode. Unfortunately, save for these small elements, there just isn’t that much driving the show at this point. Every scene feels like checking off boxes as opposed to building of tension and drama about what this will all end up amounting to. There is nothing that would be better than to be proven wrong in this assessment, but it is difficult to imagine that even an outstanding remaining two episodes would be enough to redeem the rocky road the show has been on for far too long. There just isn’t any life left in this undead show.
The Walking Dead is streaming now on AMC+.