The Walking Dead Season 11 Episode 16 Review: Acts of God
The stakes are life and death, and throughout the episode the pervasive weirdness of two apocalypses occurring simultaneously – the familiar zombies and the unfamiliar plague of grasshoppers filling the background with a cacophonous hum – adds to the feeling of unease. Catriona McKenzie’s direction relies on this nervous energy, with Aaron (Ross Marquand), Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) only able to communicate with laconic whispers and knowing looks, and their enemies doing the same. as they plan to lead the three into an expected trap. Marquand, Gilliam and Reedus do a commendable job of looking harassed and exhausted throughout their scenes together; before they even engage in gunfights, the three men look worn down simply by the plotting and counter-plotting they do alongside the hard work of clearing walkers’ homes and searching for weapons whose the three men know they are nowhere where they are looking.
The Hunt for Leah, or Leah’s Hunt for Maggie (Lauren Cohan), is no less suspenseful. It’s mostly quietly crawling through the woods, deafened by the hum of grasshoppers overhead and the moans of the dead interrupting them as the two desperately try to find and get the fall of the other. Scenes like this can be tricky because it’s easy to lose interest when it’s just one person wandering through the woods, but McKenzie, Cohan, and Collins are able to keep things going. nervous with more than a little help from Bear McCreary and Sam. Ewing’s excellent anxious score. The music does the heavy lifting to establish and maintain the mood throughout; music is one of the underrated elements The Walking Dead does well and “Acts of God” is a great example of how the soundtrack can really add to the proceedings.
Even when things aren’t immediately life or death, like in The Commonwealth as Max (Margot Bingham) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) try to piece together evidence against the Milton administration, there’s no real respite from the tension. Writer Nicole Mirante-Matthews designed this particular part of the episode as a kind of miniature Watergate, with Max sneaking records out of the office to deliver them to Kelly (Angel Theory) and Connie (Lauren Ridloff), AKA Woodward and Bernstein. They only scratch the surface of the corruption of the Commonwealth, and as the empire grows, the domestic problems of Milton and company increase.
The episode ends one of the season’s subplots quite explicitly, but the power struggle between Lance and Milton will only grow as Commonwealth flags fall from the ramparts surrounding Alexandria and Hilltop. Milton’s regime finds itself struggling under the weight of its own secrets with its best problem solver distracted by its own fiefdom. The very people who have saved Alexandria and Hilltop from certain destruction time and time again are scattered and disorganized, but determined. For every success of the Commonwealth power structure, a potential defeat is created.
Lance fights to carve out an empire using someone else’s resources. Pamela Milton is fighting to stay on top of an empire she created. The majority of people in the Commonwealth only want to preserve the status quo and their relatively comfortable way of life. No one involved in the coming battle has as much to lose as our survivors, the people of Alexandria, Hilltop, and Oceanside. Their life was difficult without the help of the Commonwealth, but it was theirs. They were their own bosses, and they succeeded or failed on their own merits and by their own intelligence; Jumping into bed with Lance was a necessary evil, but still an evil.