The Walking Dead: “Family” Is a Shot to the Heart

The penultimate episode of The Walking Dead, “Family,” has just aired. I’ll say this: it’s not what I expected, but I say this in the best possible way. The series gave us a shot to the heart by bringing things back to the core. The Grimes family is in a Carl callback that longtime fans will appreciate. There’s a lot to get into here so if you haven’t seen The Walking Dead “Family” yet, we’re about to enter major spoiler territory here. You’ve been warned.


For weeks now, the show has been telling us that the final episodes would be family-focused, with the debate being whether the family would reunite and return to Alexandria or rise up and take over the Commonwealth together. The Walking Dead “Family” didn’t exactly answer that question but it did give us a giant crisis to solve in the series finale next week.

The episode opened with a narration from Judith as they all have in the third part of the final season. When Judith said that today would be the day that changed everything, we all knew we were in for something big. I don’t know if any of us had Judith being shot on our bingo card though.

Pamela Milton in The Walking Dead: “Family”

The setup was simple: Pamela Milton finally put two and two together. She figured out that Mercer had turned on her. She as a result flipped out herself. She had a herd of zombies pushed toward the Commonwealth that was supposed to provide a distraction so that the protestors outside of her office would have to disperse. She simply wanted the people off her back but took such a great risk to save her own neck, that she put everyone’s lives in danger.

The herd broke free and broke into the Commonwealth. Security’s guard was down because Milton was so focused on revenge that she again risked the safety of her people. Once the herd breached the walls, Milton’s reaction was to have the herd take out the poor community and have security guard the rich, doubling down on the narrative of class warfare that has been told all throughout the final season.

Mercer in The Walking Dead: “Family”

Our heroes, who were reentering the Commonwealth after fighting outside the walls for the last few episodes, were trapped by Milton’s soldiers in an attempt to take them all out. This is when we saw Milton herself completely losing her cool and firing at our heroes, which is when she shot young Judith.

The End is Here

The Walking Dead “Family” ended with Daryl running with Judith in his arms and soldiers putting up barricades to contain where the zombies had access to inside the walls of the Commonwealth. It did feel like Rome was burning and our characters were trapped in the flames. Daryl running with Judith brought up feelings of Rick running with Carl in Season 2 after he had been shot. To have a member of the Grimes family involved in the tragedy of the final chapter felt right.

Will the series kill off Judith? My gut says no. The future needs the Grimes family. Although the symbolism of Judith giving RJ her father and brother’s hat was strong, perhaps implying that RJ will be the one to carry on the family name and spirit.

With Daryl desperate to find help for Judith and the Commonwealth overrun with zombies, I do think The Walking Dead “Family” tipped its hand that our family will find their happily ever after outside of these utopian walls and most likely back home in Alexandria, which would be a poetic and lovely ending.

What Does The End Look Like?

If our characters have one more big battle on their hands in the series finale with Judith’s life hanging in the balance, how much time will there be to set up the future? All season long, I’ve speculated and questioned if the series would give Daryl, Negan, and Maggie reasons to head off on their spin-off adventures. Because it should. But will there be time?

Negan talking to Ezekiel in The Walking Dead: “Faith”
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, Khary Payton as Ezekiel – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 22 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

I think it would be a huge narrative mistake to end the series with the impression that our characters are staying together, possibly even happy, only to have these new shows debut less than one year later and Daryl, Negan, and Maggie have each left their children and friends to go fight new battles that weren’t established in the flagship series. We need to see here the show that additional chapters with select characters are needed. We need to know what happily ever after is totally happening, just yet. And most importantly, we need to know why these people are leaving their kids again, after a season of wrestling with the complicated feelings that being a parent in the zombie apocalypse bring up. Don’t invalidate the work down here with the spin-offs. Tell us why Daryl is going to Paris of all places. Tell us why Maggie and Negan, the worst of enemies, are going just the two of them, to New York City. Make it make sense, here.

The Walking Dead “Family” was an action-packed and emotional penultimate episode that really checked every possible box. The table has been set for a major finale. Can The Walking Dead stick the landing? We’ll find out next Sunday, my friends.

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Written by Andrew Grevas

25YL Media Founder

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