All good things must come to an end, and that includes The Walking Dead’s recent streak of fun episodes, it seems. The show closed out its second batch of episodes with a finale that was full of sound and fury, signifying… well, very little.
“Acts of God” is by no means a horrendous episode of TWD, but it takes the various storylines the show has been threading through the last couple of months and then gently sets them down instead of satisfyingly tying them off. The episode starts strong, with a caption reading “19 HOURS AND ONE ACT OF GOD AGO” just before Hornsby, at Hilltop along with his Commontrooper soldiers, steps in a puddle of blood and brains and then looks up at a sky full of locusts. God (making His second guest appearance on the show) unleashing a Biblical plague is a hell of a way to kick off a mid-season finale, or so it would seem.
Knowing Hornsby’s forces are on the way, Maggie, Ezekiel, and a kid who I’ll name Redd W. Shurt leave Hilltop to drop Maggie’s son Hershel off with Negan, Annie, and the other Riverbenders, who have been hiding in an old (and extremely large) ex-Whisperer bunker. Hornsby sends Daryl, Gabriel, and Aaron out with some Commontroopers who are clearly supposed to kill them later, but the trio manages to kill them all with only Aaron sustaining a wound. The night falls, Maggie leaves a tripwire in the Hilltop mansion to kill some ‘troopers, Leah shoots Mr. Shurt more or less between the eyes, and then things get kind of confusing.
Maggie, Leah, Daryl, Aaron, Gabriel, and Hornsby and his soldiers spend the bulk of the rest of the episode wandering around a dark forest, making it very difficult to get any kind of sense of where the characters are in relation to each other. This may be to add suspense to the proceedings, especially Maggie and Leah’s hunt for each other, but mostly the scenes make everyone look lost as opposed to tense, especially since only three characters manage to meet each other.
The first two are Maggie and Leah, naturally, who have a brief fight in the woods before Maggie is knocked out. When she awakes, Leah has her (poorly) tied to a chair, in a cabin, where she makes the traditional “I’m gonna kill everyone you love and then kill you” threat/speech. Maggie, luckily but uninterestingly, manages to free herself from the ropes ostensibly tied by a former black-ops mercenary, and the two fight. To be fair, it’s a great, ugly battle between the two women, and they beat the holy hell out of each other until the third character stops by, Daryl, who shoots Leah just before she was about to kill Maggie. If Daryl has any kind of an emotional reaction to murdering the woman he once loved, he has it off-screen. Hornsby and his troops almost find them at the cabin, but Daryl and Maggie escape through a back window, avoiding a potentially interesting conflict that the show is saving for the last third of the series. Then Hornsby’s Commontroopers take over Hilltop, Alexandria, and Oceanside, unfurling their not-un-Fascist banners over the walls. The end.
You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned the locusts again, and that’s because they don’t figure into the story at all other. They’re buzzing around for a while, and people occasionally look up at the swarms in the sky in apprehension, but they don’t do anything or affect anyone. You can barely call it an act of God, unless that act is God briefly popping by to remind people that while He created the zombie apocalypse, He can bring more misery down on people at any time.
Even the action inside the Commonwealth is weirdly neutered. Max manages to steal a file titled “Resettlements” from Pamela’s office, but when she, Eugene, Connie, Kelly, Magna, and Ezekiel check it out, all it says is that 200 Commonwealthers have been “resettled.” Although the number of missing people has increased, the gang still has no idea where they’ve been taken because the file is in code. The only thing of consequence that happens is that Connie decides to write an article about Kingsley’s heist from two episodes ago while everyone waits for more info, which Governor Pam sees and is quite vexed by. But if there’s an actual consequence to Connie’s front-page story, it’s also been saved for the final eight episodes.
So, yeah. Revolution is brewing in the Commonwealth, which we knew. Daryl and the gang are persona non grata with Hornsby, which we knew was coming. Leah died, which is technically a development, except this means she accomplished absolutely nothing after she escaped from Maggie when these spring episodes kicked off back in February. At least Hornsby has taken control of the three colonies, but this would surely feel more important if we had any idea why he wanted them other than some extremely nebulous sense of “power.”
Still, “Acts of God” wasn’t a bad episode, it was just one the show spent spinning its wheels. It’s kind of a bummer for a mid-season finale—The Walking Dead’s final mid-season finale—but it also doesn’t squander the goodwill fostered by the spate of solidly enjoyable episodes that preceded it. When the show returns this fall, one of our ragtag groups of survivors will finally go to war with the larger and better-equipped army of the Commonwealth while the other tries to destroy the oligarchy from within. Should be a good time… at least for the characters who survive.
- First: I have no idea if they’re actual locusts. I’m simply assuming that because locusts were one of the Biblical plagues and the episode is titled “Acts of God.”
- Eugene tells Max she’s the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened in his “heretofore uneventful life.” My dude, you’ve lived through a zombie apocalypse, convinced a group of people you had a cure that could save the world, and briefly betrayed all your friends and joined the Saviors. “Uneventful” is not the term I would use.
- Ooh! Nearly forgot. The Maggie-Negan drama seems like it’s finally over for good thanks to Negan rescuing her kid Hershel at Riverbend. “Whatever has happened, I will never forget that,” she says. I was genuinely moved, if only because I’m extremely happy to see the show move on.
- I have no idea what the deal is with Hornsby’s new obsession with coin flips is. It comes out of nowhere, and then ends with him basically becoming the Batman villain Two-Face after Daryl shoots him across his cheek.
- I honestly could talk about the Commonwealth’s newspaper for about 2,000 words. It’s absolutely wild. Almost the entirety of the front cover is just a headline, and that headline in “PAMELA MILTON IS LYING TO YOU” which is a tangential point at best if the story is about her son Kingsley sending people to their death to grab him some cash. (Also, did Pam even know?) What’s even weirder is that the headline is written in four wildly different fonts, a decision that would give any professional print journalist a brain aneurysm. Also, Pam throws about 50 pieces of paper on Max’s desk. Is the paper 50 pages or did Pam grab 50 copies? If it’s the former, was there not a binder clip or something on it? I know it’s the post-apocalypse but if the Commonwealth has ice cream and the ability to print a newspaper, it’s gotta have office supplies, right?
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