Warning: spoilers ahead for The Walking Dead season 11, episode 23.
As the final episode draws closer, The Walking Dead begins looking toward the future by teasing all three confirmed spinoffs in its penultimate chapter. The main purpose of The Walking Dead season 11, episode 23 is setting the Commonwealth stage for one final showdown, but “Family” also serves the secondary purpose of foreshadowing AMC’s planned spinoffs. Although The Walking Dead season 11 marks the end of the main series, Norman Reedus’ Daryl Dixon will head to France for a side-project. Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira reprise their roles as Rick Grimes and Michonne Hawthorne, respectively, while Negan and Maggie star together in The Walking Dead: Dead City.
The Walking Dead must first, however, bridge the gap between its present and future, addressing why these spinoffs are happening at all. With international travel somewhat impeded by the collapse of civilization, Daryl journeying to France is no simple thing. Likewise, audiences will inevitably ponder whether Negan and Maggie would really leave their loved ones behind for a quest to New York. On the topic of leaving children, The Walking Dead must tackle Rick and Michonne electing to be absent parents by turning their story back toward Judith and RJ. The Walking Dead season 11’s “Family” does not solve these dilemmas, but does begin greasing the wheels for spinoff action.
The Walking Dead’s Penultimate Episode Teases Negan & Maggie’s Partnership
Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan provides one of the most fascinating moments from The Walking Dead season 11, episode 23, and his words are especially meaningful for the franchise’s future. As the Alexandrians and rebels prepare a raid on Pamela Milton’s villainous Commonwealth community, a shifty Negan slinks around the back of a bus for a one-on-one consultation with Lauren Cohan’s Maggie. Questioning the need for a full-on invasion, Negan suggests, “Together, you and I, we get this done. We don’t need the others.” Negan evidently sees himself and Maggie as a formidable tandem – a surgical strike duo who can quietly achieve the same result as a small army.
Negan’s plea to Maggie in “Family” may explain how their partnership The Walking Dead: Dead City comes about. Maybe the mission in New York City requires a surgical strike, and the Maggie-Negan partnership is deemed perfect for the job. Regardless, The Walking Dead season 11 throws an obstacle in the spinoff’s path, as Maggie replies, “We’re not a ‘we’” to Negan’s offer. Something significant must happen between the present and The Walking Dead: Dead City for Maggie to change her mind, whether that be some huge future event or a lengthy time skip.
Indeed, Maggie’s stance may have shifted already due to the events depicted in The Walking Dead season 11, episode 23. After turning down Negan’s suggestion to go “Batman & Robin” on Pamela Milton and leave their friends at home, young Judith Grimes gets shot protecting Maggie. Though Maggie is spared being riddled by bullets, she finds herself riddled with guilt. Judith’s injury, and the manner in which it occurred, could convince Maggie to accept Negan’s proposal ready for The Walking Dead: Dead City.
The Walking Dead Season 11 Teases Rick & Michonne’s Future
The Walking Dead season 11, episode 23’s opening sequence relies on not-so-subtle symbolism to tease Rick and Michonne’s upcoming spinoff. As Alexandria’s big box o’ weapons is emptied ready for the Commonwealth invasion, the two pieces left in the bottom are Rick’s gun and Judith’s miniature katana, which represents the full-sized sword wielded by Michonne. The image is designed to represent the two halves of Judith Grimes, but Rick Grimes and Michonne’s weapons being the last two in the box also serves as a visual reminder that these characters remain unaccounted for. The gun and sword side-by-side also teases the love story Rick and Michonne’s Walking Dead spinoff will tell.
Mercifully, The Walking Dead‘s penultimate episode doesn’t rely on metaphor alone to set up Rick and Michonne’s forthcoming spinoff. During the tense train journey between Alexandria and the Commonwealth, a concerned Judith Grimes mentions how her mother has been radio-silent for some time. Michonne may have simply drifted outside of broadcast range, but The Walking Dead would likely not mention this detail at all if the explanation were so mundane. The overriding implication is that something has happened to Michonne, preventing her from making contact with Judith, and all will be revealed in AMC’s The Walking Dead spinoffs.
Judith’s admission may serve a practical purpose also. Despite leaving The Walking Dead just as the Whisperers were becoming a major problem, one would hope that hearing about the tyrannical Commonwealth would bring Michonne back to her children. Not being able to make radio contact effectively gifts Danai Gurira’s character an excuse to remain AWOL while her friends and family are fighting the biggest battle of their lives so far. In turn, remaining ignorant to the Commonwealth’s villainy allows Michonne to stay in the wilderness ahead of her The Walking Dead spinoff with Rick.
Does The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 23 Set Up Daryl Dixon?
Whereas the foreshadowing for The Walking Dead: Dead City and Rick & Michonne’s spinoff is relatively clear-cut, “Family” is more abstract in setting up Daryl Dixon. If anything, the episode only serves to highlight how integral Daryl is among his people, and how suddenly absconding to France would be incredibly out of character. Having said that, The Walking Dead season 11, episode 23 does offer two potential preludes to how Daryl’s new adventure might happen, and both come in the episode’s dying moments as Judith Grimes fights for her life.
During the whirlwind of Judith getting shot, a herd attacking the Commonwealth, and variants climbing up anything they can dig their rotting fingers into, Daryl and Judith are separated from The Walking Dead‘s main group. While Norman Reedus’ heroic protagonist seeks medical assistance for his ailing surrogate daughter, the others remain isolated amidst a herd of rapidly-evolving undead. Though perhaps unlikely, it is possible that Daryl will now remain apart from his allies until The Walking Dead concludes. Maybe he gets captured and taken away on a helicopter against his will, or perhaps he offers himself as a prisoner in exchange for a doctor saving Judith’s life.
Another possibility is that Judith dies in The Walking Dead‘s series finale, and the resulting grief sends Daryl as far away from Alexandria as humanly possible. As proven when Rick Grimes vanished during The Walking Dead season 9, Daryl responds to grief by reverting to a lone wolf. Given how hard he took Rick’s “death,” losing Judith would surely have an even more profound impact. Daryl made the call to bring Judith for the Commonwealth attack, and her death would weigh upon him enormously after Rick and Michonne entrusted their daughter under his care. Visiting France in his The Walking Dead spinoff may be Daryl’s attempt to flee those demons.
Next: Why We’re Worried About The Walking Dead’s Series Finale
The Walking Dead concludes Sunday on AMC.