The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 23 Ending & Finale Setup Explained


Warning: spoilers ahead for The Walking Dead season 11, episode 23.

“Family” represents one last step on The Walking Dead‘s journey before the end – this is how season 11, episode 23 sets up for the grand series finale. After more than a decade of corpse-based calamities, The Walking Dead has very nearly skewered its last zombie. Continuing its ongoing Commonwealth arc, The Walking Dead season 11 has positioned Pamela Milton as the story’s final villain, and a battle is brewing for control of her community. The Commonwealth’s Governor stands on one side and the protagonists assemble on the other, now supported by both Mercer and the prisoners rescued from Outpost 22.


A secondary threat arises in the form of new variant cohort zombies, which are becoming increasingly prominent as The Walking Dead‘s highly-anticipated series finale looms. Caught between a desperate aristocratic tyrant and the rapidly evolving undead, The Walking Dead season 11, episode 23 sets the stage for a mighty three-way showdown that not only decides the fate of the Commonwealth, but potentially the fate of all human civilization in the post-apocalyptic United States. “Family” also teases a sharp increase in notable character deaths, as the fate of one long-standing survivor hangs precariously in the balance ahead of The Walking Dead‘s very final episode.

Related: The Walking Dead Properly Names A New Variant Zombie Type

Pamela Milton Draws The Battle Lines For The Walking Dead’s Series Finale

Laila Robins as Pamela Milton in Walking Dead

Victory gradually slips out of Pamela Milton’s reach in The Walking Dead season 11, episode 23. Her labor camps are revolting, her chief security officer has sided with Alexandria, and zombies have achieved the unthinkable by breaching Commonwealth walls. Making matters worse, the guilt of accidentally shooting young Judith has taken a steep mental toll, and as Pamela’s behavior grows increasingly erratic in the face of mounting problems, her solution is to channel the invading zombie herd into the Commonwealth’s “wards.” These are areas reserved for lower-income residents, and Pamela herself opts to hide among the wealthy in the Commonwealth’s “estates.”

Not only does this tactic set up The Walking Dead‘s final battle, it also kills two birds with one stone for Pamela Milton. Earlier in season 11, episode 23, Rosita had mapped out her plan to recover Coco from the Commonwealth’s children’s home, explaining, “We won’t stand out as much in the wards.” More by happy coincidence than design, Pamela’s plot to reroute the invading zombies through poor areas points the undead directly toward her Alexandrian enemies. This is why the Commonwealth soldiers are more interested in erecting barricades than chasing down Daryl Dixon and his friends in the final moments of The Walking Dead‘s “Family.”

Aside from setting up an almighty clash between The Walking Dead‘s heroes and the marching undead, Pamela Milton’s plan also foreshadows the future of the Commonwealth. As a soldier duly points out, the Commonwealth wards house “thousands” of citizens that are now completely defenseless. By default, The Walking Dead‘s protagonists led by Carol, Negan and Maggie will become the last line of defense between the undead and the Commonwealth’s “lower” classes. Assuming the good guys win, those thousands of citizens in the wards will inevitably switch their loyalty to Alexandria.

Variant Zombies In The Commonwealth Change The Walking Dead’s Comic Ending

Variant herd in Walking Dead

The Walking Dead season 11, episode 23 promises a climax broadly similar to the original Robert Kirkman comic books. In the source material, discontent in the Commonwealth bubbles over into a battle with Pamela Milton and her loyalists on one side, and the Alexandrians joining Mercer’s anti-Milton revolutionaries on the other. Judging by the closing scene of The Walking Dead‘s “Family,” the final fight in live-action will be against the dead rather than Pamela Milton, but the presence of variant zombies represents a much biggest deviation, since these advanced denizens did not feature in Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic books in any capacity.

Related: Did The Whisperers Replace The Walking Dead’s Zombie Guts Trick?

The Walking Dead‘s heroes may know how to handle a regular herd, but as they watch the Commonwealth zombies climbing over obstacles, Negan sums up the thoughts of everyone by muttering, “What the f**k?!” The novelty of variant zombies in The Walking Dead means the main characters currently cornered in the Commonwealth wards are wholly unprepared, raising the chance of major deaths. Ominously, the variant that picked up Lydia’s dropped knife in The Walking Dead season 11, episode 22 is nowhere to be seen in episode 23, suggesting the blade plays a significant part inThe Walking Dead‘s ending. The more pressing question is which character the armed variant will stab.

Variants create an unpredictable environment for The Walking Dead‘s finale, stacking the odds firmly against the cornered protagonists. The Walking Dead season 11, episode 23 does, however, give the heroes two advantages. While the returning Luke and Jules push their way to safety, Elijah remains unaccounted for after his disappearance in “Family.” Jerry has given chase, while Aaron and Lydia are also yet to unite with their friends. These characters could prove vital in drawing zombies from the Commonwealth, or performing a pincer movement. With that said, Jerry’s speech to Aaron had an eerie air of finality, implying the happy-go-lucky axeman will die in The Walking Dead‘s series finale.

Will Judith Grimes Die In The Walking Dead’s Series Finale?!

Laila Robins as Pamela in Walking Dead

The Walking Dead‘s “Family” ends with Judith Grimes fighting for her life after taking a bullet intended for Maggie. Daryl carries her to the Commonwealth’s clinic, which Ezekiel helpfully confirms is “not far,” but reaching the facility provides no guarantee of assistance. The Commonwealth’s lockdown procedure could mean Daryl arrives to find the hospital completely devoid of doctors. Worryingly, The Walking Dead has comic book precedent for killing Judith Grimes. In Robert Kirkman’s source material, Judith dies as an infant while Rick leads the prison escape. AMC’s The Walking Dead chose to keep her around, but perhaps Judith’s demise was merely being reserved for The Walking Dead‘s finale.

One possible lifeline emerges in the shape of Tomi, Yumiko’s surgeon brother. Not only would Yumiko very probably know where Tomi could be found in a lockdown scenario, but the doctor would have no qualms treating Judith despite her status as one of the Commonwealth’s enemies. Judith’s fate, whatever that may be, will have a profound effect on The Walking Dead‘s ending. On one hand, the young character’s death could provide the wake-up call that fosters peace in the Commonwealth; on the other, Judith surviving and showing mercy to Pamela would mirror Rick’s lifeline to Negan in The Walking Dead season 8, whilst simultaneously honoring Carl’s wish for peace.

Related: Variant Zombies Have Already Made The Walking Dead More Exciting

The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 23 Sets Up Rick’s Return & The CRM

Cailey Fleming as Judith in Walking Dead

The Walking Dead season 11, episode 23 leaves the series finale with plenty to cover. The clock is ticking down on Andrew Lincoln returning as Rick Grimes, while The Walking Dead‘s season 11 CRM hints are yet to pay off. “Family” offers no further clues as to the true nature of Designation 2, nor what Lance Hornsby was referring to when he mentioned Commonwealth “alliances.” These threads must be tied off in The Walking Dead‘s series finale or else be frustratingly left for AMC’s upcoming spinoffs to tackle. Fortunately, The Walking Dead‘s penultimate episode continues to suggest resolution is coming.

As Daryl Dixon carries an ailing Judith to the Commonwealth’s clinic, she wearily mumbles, “Daddy?” The testimony of a semi-conscious youngster may not be the most reliable hint, but Judith hallucinating the return of Rick Grimes undeniably foreshadows a real reunion in The Walking Dead‘s final episode. Viewers are fully aware that Rick survived his bridge explosion, and to ignore this truth when Andrew Lincoln is already scheduled to return in a Walking Dead spinoff would risk an unsatisfying, incomplete ending to the main show.

The Walking Dead‘s second-to-last chapter also paves the way for Civic Republic involvement. As exemplified by Negan’s reaction, the evolution of the undead marks a major development for The Walking Dead‘s primary group, although none have yet found the opportunity to digest or discuss the revelation. Once the Commonwealth violence calms down, the time will come to analyze why zombies are learning new tricks, and that mission will inevitably invite attention from the CRM, whose studies into reanimation have already collided with Alexandria, unbeknownst to The Walking Dead‘s main characters.

Next: Walking Dead’s Mercer Twist Makes A Major Comic Improvement

The Walking Dead concludes Sunday on AMC.


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