This review contains spoilers for The Walking Dead season 11, episode 6, “On the Inside.”
The final season of The Walking Dead is rounding into form with its third consecutive episode that I’d rate as good or better. While my favorite Walking Dead memories usually relate to the somber character moments, this week’s episode, “On the Inside,” is memorable for its great pacing and commitment to make a true horror episode — which arrives just in time for Halloween.
The episode’s title does double duty this week. For Daryl, “On the Inside” is about being on the figurative inside among Pope’s Reapers, following orders so as not to blow his cover, even when those orders include torturing Maggie’s friend Frost, who was taken in as a prisoner with Daryl two episodes ago.
Norman Reedus does a great job of portraying Daryl’s extremely precarious situation, whereby he mustn’t blow his cover as an Alexandrian disguised as a loner. With the Reapers watching on as he interrogates Frost, he has no choice but to use the grotesque, irreparable measure of cutting off Frost’s fingers to get him to talk. When Frost finally does, you can see it on Daryl’s face how conflicted he is.
On one hand, Daryl looks good in front of his faux allies for making Frost crack. But on the other hand, Frost has truly given up the position of Maggie and the others, which means now Daryl ostensibly needs to help the Reapers hunt them down.
While that plays out, the other meaning of Walking Dead title “On the Inside” is revealed when we join Connie and Virgil — at long last — as they seek refuge in an abandoned house. Before long, it’s obvious that they’re not alone in the decrepit abode. I loved the atmosphere of the home, with its boarded windows and rundown hallways. It felt like they stumbled onto the set of Night of the Living Dead.
Rather than traditional walkers inside, the pair encounter a group of feral humans who have apparently gone so far off the deep end that they now live like predatory animals, setting traps, running on all fours, and just overall looking like something from my nightmares. These ferals were never in the comics, and some part of me scoffs at them — would anyone really be so lost in this world that they begin acting like this? But unlike the trash people of seasons 7 and 8, I’m more willing to suspend my disbelief and accept this strange group as a really fun experiment if nothing else.
The Walking Dead has long been a show about people’s loss of themselves. We’ve seen it at Terminus, where cannibalism was on the menu. We saw it after Negan Lucille’d Glenn and Abraham and Rick swore vengeance. The Whisperers were perhaps the greatest personification of that theme. Now these ferals, short-lived in the series as they no doubt are, represent another low for how far people have fallen 12 or so years after the collapse of society.
Even at its own lowest moments, The Walking Dead has been a consistently well-acted show, and “On the Inside” really highlights that. It’s great to have Lauren Ridloff back as Connie (fresh off her stint filming Marvel’s Eternals), and Kevin Carroll’s emergence as Virgil really classes up the whole joint, I must say. I really hope the character lives to see another day because Carroll brings all of his gravitas from HBO’s The Leftovers to this new, show-only character.
“On the Inside” is the sort of Walking Dead episode that really only bridges together more important plots, like reuniting Connie and Kelly and setting up Daryl’s downfall as a Reaper double agent of sorts. In that sense, it’s tough to say it’s a “classic” episode, but it does feel special in its own way. Using interesting set pieces like the feral house and the abandoned town the Reapers explore keeps things moving and keeps the show out of the nondescript woods where so much of the series has spent its time before.
Solid writing, terrific performances, and unsettling new enemies that feel pulled right out of a backwoods horror movie keep The Walking Dead well on track to close out this first leg of its final season. We’re six episodes in, and the last three have left me trusting in Angela Kang’s direction once more.