The Walking Dead is Failing Its Audience (And Source Material) With Its Commonwealth Arc

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The Walking Dead is ending.

It feels like we’ve been hearing that for years at this stage, but the series is going out with a 24-episode 11th season.

With three more spinoffs (The Walking Dead: Dead City, an untitled Daryl Dixon series, and an untitled Rick & Michonne series) confirmed, we’ve lost some of the most significant stakes that should be present for such a big final arc for the main series.

The Commonwealth arc in the source material was cutthroat, changing the characters’ lives forever, leaving them in a place that felt like they were all on the cusp of something different.

Unfortunately, what’s happening on-screen isn’t landing as well as it should for various reasons.

The Commonwealth is supposed to have a population of around 50,000 people, meaning that we should be able to see the scale on-screen to hit home that this is a different location from, say, Woodbury.

Despite visiting a bustling hospital, and the show’s best attempt at shots of the settlement from a distance, we still see the same sets within the community.

As a result, it doesn’t feel like the scale of a location that’s 50,000 people strong.

From a production standpoint, we should be seeing more than one or two exterior locations within this compound because it feels like a bit of an empty shell.

Either the budget has been stretched too thin due to cast salaries, or the series is phoning it in as we approach the finish line.

Another big flaw is the placement of the storylines. Some of the characters have had a lot of time on-screen, which has been great.

But when you realize that we have a handful of episodes left and only around three characters destined for spinoffs, it makes it a little bit surreal to think about how we will get a satisfying conclusion.

Another glaring issue is the Commonwealth soldiers.

We’ve been told how grueling their training is, yet the survivors constantly outwit them.

It’s hard to be invested in a story when the stakes are so few and far between. Yes, we’ve lost characters like Sebastian and Lance, but did anyone actually think they would make it out of this arc alive?

Furthermore, their deaths probably didn’t resonate with many viewers because they’re both newer cast members.

The Walking Dead Season 11 Episode 21 elected to kill off three randoms without names as a means to show how devastating things could be for our imprisoned survivors as they’re forced to work on a train line.

Once upon a time, The Walking Dead would off characters without a second thought. Granted, there has been plenty of backlash to big deaths.

So, my theory is that AMC has a big say in the show’s creative direction and doesn’t want to kill any key players off to avoid what could be perceived as bad press leading into the next phase of The Walking Dead universe.

It would be a complete and utter disservice to the fans if variant walkers were introduced, only for no one to be killed by one of them.

The Walking Dead Season 11 Episode 19 would have been a great opportunity to kill someone off because there’s no better way to scare everyone than by having a new form of zombie kill someone. That would send ripple effects throughout the narrative.

Given how plenty of characters disappear off-screen and are never seen again, the series shouldn’t be shying away from big deaths.

It was also stupid to have the Commonwealth arc heating up while the Reapers were still in play.

The Reapers could have been formidable foes, but with so much other stuff going on, they were cartoon villains that felt more reminiscent of a group from Fear the Walking Dead.

When introducing a villain group on a show like The Walking Dead, you must give them enough screen time to get invested.

The Commonwealth doesn’t seem like a big enough group of villains because of how incompetent the soldiers are.

Mercer is great, but we really should be more familiar with some of the soldiers to connect with them and understand why they blindly follow the Miltons.

The notion that Maggie, Daryl, Negan, and the others managed to outsmart them on The Walking Dead Season 11 Episode 17 is laughable.

These soldiers have been trained in wartime tactics and should have a stronger grasp on survival than our survivors because it’s their job.

There have been little hints the Commonwealth could be working with the CRM, but it’s hard to believe that after seeing how stupid most of the soldiers are.

Laila Robins has been delightful as Pamela Milton, but the trajectory of this governor’s arc hasn’t been handled very well at all.

She’s turned into a merciless leader over the course of a few episodes, something that didn’t seem possible earlier.

Maybe some story had been cut earlier in the season to bring the Reaper arc to a close, but we should have more meat in the narrative by now.

As we head into the final three episodes, the stakes are low, and the Commonwealth is incompetent, giving the sense that our survivors will prevail without much of a fight.

Hopefully, I’m wrong.

Announcing all the spinoffs in advance has choked the tension out of the narrative completely, which is a shame.

What are your thoughts on the handling of the Commonwealth arc?

Do you think the scope should have been bigger?

Hit the comments below.

Remember, you can watch The Walking Dead online right here via TV Fanatic.

Catch new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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