This review contains spoilers for The Walking Dead season 11, episode 7, “Promises Broken.”
The Walking Dead hasn’t sweated the smaller details of its world since arguably the early Darabont episodes, and that’s too bad, because that signature sloppiness once again rears its head in “Promises Broken,” an otherwise fun penultimate episode for this first eight-episode block of the final season.
With so many moving parts and the sudden threat of a series finale inching closer, the writers on The Walking Dead have recently revealed a strong ability to mix several plots in an episode. “Promises Broken” splits time between the woods, where Maggie’s small group has just evaded the Reapers from last week, and Eugene’s group still feeling out the Commonwealth. However, right away, the execution is sloppy.
Last we saw, the Reapers were not far behind Maggie’s group and have always been portrayed as expert hunters and killers, so how is it that the good guys were able to lose their tail in an open wooded area like they find themselves in? It happens again later too, when Negan is teaching Maggie how to be a Whisperer so they can herd walkers and head toward Meridian to launch an attack on the Reapers. It’s a scene that is compelling and well-written in all ways but one: Why is it that the zombies they’ve corralled in the background don’t care at all about the heroes’ chatter?
Alpha, Beta, and the Whisperers never spoke so openly near the undead — hence their name — so why do the walkers not seem bothered by all the warm flesh hanging out nearby? Again, these small refusals of The Walking Dead to abide by its own lore rules sting, especially in season 11, but if you’re able to look past them, “Promises Broken” has solid elements that set up a potentially great third-of-season finale.
Maggie’s massive herd is the cliffhanger anyone could see coming when we first saw her put on her walker mask, but the stuff at the Commonwealth once again makes for the best bits. Eugene’s awkward and slightly violent brush with the spoiled son of the Commonwealth’s yet-to-be-seen leader lands him in hot water, but if you’re following the story closely, you may believe that some parts of his trouble were part of an elaborate setup to get him to reveal Alexandria’s location, which he will no doubt do now.
Fans have good reason to believe that all is not as it seems with Stephanie, but I won’t say more here for fear of spoilers. Elsewhere in the Commonwealth, I loved Yumiko’s scenes because they gave us more insights into just how sophisticated and back-to-normal their society is. Yumi was dressed like a real lawyer; she sat in rooms furnished like the world outside had never even heard of a flesheater. The juxtaposition when moving between those scenes and Daryl’s gritty, dangerous trek with Leah is clearly done on purpose, and I think the show is right to lean into that stuff.
We still don’t know whether the Commonwealth can be trusted as allies or not, and I don’t think we’ll find out before 2022. The writers have done well to walk that tightrope, to the point where I, as a comic reader, still can’t tell how much the show writers intend to remix things. I think it’s highly likely that the final scene we get of the next episode is of the Commonwealth rolling up on the good guys’ homefront. That cliffhanger just feels right heading into the new year.
“Promises Broken,” despite being sloppy with the Walking Dead lore bible, does at least get us on track for that exciting scene. As much as the minor details get overlooked in the show, I do still find myself totally engrossed in this world for its final few episodes because I love these characters and I’m dying to see where they end up.