– Episode 5 (of 24), ‘Out of the Ashes’
– Written by LaToya Morgan
– Directed by Greg Nicotero
Spoilers for The Walking Dead season 11 episode 5 follow.
Aaron, tormented by nightmares of losing his daughter, awakens to find walkers are breaching Alexandria through a collapsed wall. Scrambling together, the townsfolk grab weapons and tools to make immediate repairs while they’re under attack. It’s always good to see there’s a real community among the minor characters in The Walking Dead, rather than just the main cast.
In order to make proper repairs, Aaron, Carol and a few others go to the ruins of Hilltop in hopes of finding working tools. When the group arrives, not much is left from the Whisperer siege, except for the faces of old friends, now turned into walkers. After begrudgingly putting them down, they discover a Whisperer among them.
Aaron, now in a dark place of pain and trauma, begins torturing the Whisperer for information, tying him up and provoking him with the threat of a walker. After the walker bites the captive, Aaron says he can save him from being turned by slicing off his hand – but only if the Whisperer confesses to knowing the whereabouts of more of his group.
Carol, having already committed regrettable actions which led to the death of her friends and son, puts down the walker and tells Aaron to stop, knowing it will only get worse. He releases the Whisperer and helps cut off the guy’s hand. Before leaving, the Whisperer is given food and tries to do some good by telling the group he saw Connie survive a walker horde nearby. Having previously thought her dead, they immediately head back to Alexandria and prepare to search for her.
At the same time, Judith begins teaching the other kids to fight, but is interrupted by some teens aggravating walkers at the breach. She tells them to stop, but is pushed to the ground and subjected to insults about her mother leaving her – Judith responds by brandishing a knife.
Later, Judith finds mementos of her brother Carl shattered, and is left crying on her porch about everyone leaving. Rosita gives Judith a heart-to-heart about loss and remembering those they left behind. As much as Judith has killed walkers and even people during the events of the show, this is still a child surviving in a tough world without parents, and the community’s family spirit shines through in Rosita.
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What are Maggie and Negan up to?
Maggie and Negan pop up for a bit, getting to the hidden stash of food. Negan is ready to bring the pitiful amount back to Alexandria, but Maggie fights him about it, metaphorically and physically. For a moment, Maggie is coming around to his perspective, but is snapped out of it when Gabriel and Elijah turn up and reaffirm they wait for the others.
Meanwhile, the idyllic Commonwealth is opened to us through an in-universe infomercial, as Eugene, Yumiko, Princess and Ezekiel are being orientated. The majesty of clean, safe streets, where happy-go-lucky children collect ice cream unfolds. The town (city?) looks like a Hollywood set, but that’s on purpose. The whole place is awash with 1950s-style American propaganda, and shown to be a fantasy utopia. It’s unnerving seeing military personnel in every shot, watching the people there all the time.
The group goes their separate ways trying to petition help for Alexandria. Yumiko meets her brother who’s working at a bakery, while Eugene strolls with Stephanie, ice creams in hand.
It all breaks down when the Commonwealth’s dense bureaucracy means they’d have to wait weeks just to even ask for help. Stephanie encourages them to keep trying, leading them to break into the comms center to radio back home, where Judith and Rosita respond before the signal dies. Mercer storms in, arrests them all and readies them to be sent for trial for breaching Commonwealth laws. The infomercial presenter, Hornby, suddenly arrives and wants to help them during their upcoming trial.
There are the beginnings of exciting plot threads here, which is enough to keep the episode engaging at times, but splitting the focus of the story four ways means each one feels a little undercooked. A whole episode was dedicated to Daryl last week, so this one is very busy by comparison.
There are highlights, though: Cailey Fleming plays Judith with such presence and discipline that she really brings her character to life, while seeing the level-headed Aaron turn nasty to then be pulled back by Carol marked a great moment in the show. Overall, though, this episode just leaves us wanting more from The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead airs on AMC in the US, and is streaming on Disney Plus in the UK.
- Aaron’s nightmare include past villains from the series, specifically the Saviors, the Wolves and the Whisperers groups, as well as the Walkers.
- In the ‘Episode Insider’, showrunner Angela Kang hints that Princess and Mercer are developing a relationship of sorts, as the two have frequently interacted together since meeting. Princess believes that her confiscated $2 bill was given back despite the Commonwealth’s crackdown on currency because she believes he made sure it would.
- Maggie and Negan are introduced taking down Walkers, the last of which they both stab through the head at the same time. The synchronistic action gets across the idea that they aren’t necessarily at odds and can work together. When we see Maggie stare at Negan about leaving for Alexandria with their few supplies, the implication is her ‘warming’ to Negan despite her overt resistance to date.
- As Eugene and Stephanie are getting ice cream, they see another woman collecting ice cream for Ms. Milton, the Commonwealth’s leader, and he takes note of the Rocky Road ice cream. This is likely a setup for further interactions with the Miltons and to show their higher status within the settlement, where people work for them.
- After handing Eugene ice cream, Stephanie notes that it’s ‘not Black Raspberry’. The first conversation between Eugene and Stephanie on the radio in Season 10’s ‘Bonds’, he mentioned a vivid memory of eating that flavor when in Stephanie’s hometown.
- Though the Commonwealth is an ‘idealized America’, some of their technology is still rudimentary, considering the world ‘fell’ in 2010. They use CRT TVs, VHS video cassette players and the ice cream truck is pulled by a horse.
- Several of the propaganda posters and banners are directly inspired by real American propaganda, with one replicating the famous Uncle Sam military recruitment poster, with Mercer standing in for Uncle Sam.
- Much of the music that plays during scenes in the Commonwealth is 1950s rock and roll, such as the song played when Yumiko enters the bakery, ‘Three Speed Girl’, performed by Royal Notes.
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