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Monday, October 17, 2022

“The Walking Dead” Final Season Review – “Variant” Introduces a Brand New Zombie Threat

The swan song for “The Walking Dead” continues with episode 19, properly titled “Variant.” Picking up in the aftermath of Sebastian’s accidental murder at the hands of Eugene, the Commonwealth is desperate to make an example out of him and Maxine. Meanwhile, Aaron, Lydia, Jerry, and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) explore a new territory and uncover a terrifying revelation. 

The biggest draw of this episode is the highly-anticipated re-introduction of the “Variant” walker, first seen in season 1 of the series and most recently hinted at in the after-credits scene of “The Walking Dead: World Beyond.” That’s right, this episode reveals a walker that can open doors, climb fences, and lift itself up onto ledges. Just when it seemed like walkers were the least of the survivors’ worries, this new evolution of the infected foe has re-established them as a key threat within the series.

Having Lydia be present for the next stage of the walker threat feels fitting as she was introduced alongside the first “evolution” with the Whisperers  – humans who hide beneath walker skin – in Season 10. Aaron tussles with the variant creature, assuming it has to be none other than a straggling Whisperer. He even goes so far as to rip the assailant’s skin off. In the end, Aaron doesn’t find a human face underneath, but a decaying skull instead. 

Cassady McClincy as Lydia, Ross Marquand as Aaron – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 19 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Prior to the reveal of the variant, Aaron and Lydia have a genuinely touching conversation about relationships as Lydia debates her interest in Elijah. Aaron brings up his marriage with Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson), one that was brutally cut short during a battle with the Saviors in Season 8. He cites the fact that Eric and his relationship weren’t even legally accepted before the world-ended. “Our time together, those years in Alexandria, was the happiest moments of my life.” It’s a very touching exchange between the two characters, featuring a great performance by Ross Marquand

The entire sequence introducing the new threat plays much like a classic “Night of the Living Dead” style assault in a foggy, decrepit location. The visual parallels with season 10’s episode ‘Evolution” (which introduced the Whispers) is very apparent. Bear McCreary’s score elevates the horror of the variant walker lifting itself up over a ledge, such a simple movement on the surface but terrifying in the context of the show. While the introduction of a new type of antagonist feels refreshing, it may simply be too late in the show’s run to properly emphasize the dynamic shift in the battle between the living and the dead. Many theorize that this variant introduction will serve as nothing more than to hint at what fans might expect in the upcoming Daryl, Rick & Michonne, and Maggie spin-off shows. 

Back in the walls of the Commonwealth, a more tense human-based conflict sizzles. There is an ongoing man-hunt for Eugene, who is hiding out in the church with the support of Daryl and co. Maxine has been MIA since the Spencer incident and Eugene refuses to flee the Commonwealth without his beloved. Aside from the variant walker plotline, this episode truly serves as a showcase for the strength of Eugene’s character and Josh McDermitt’s multi-season long performance as a whole. The episode’s opening montage is dedicated to Eugene’s journey, emphasizing to viewers truly how far the once untrustworthy scientist has come. 

Walking Dead Variant zombies

Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon – The Walking Dead _ Season 11, Episode 19 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC

Another great stand-out sequence in this episode occurs between Pamela and Hornsby. Hornsby is being held captive in a dark, square-cell deep in the bowels of the Commonwealth. Pamela scolds him, blaming him for the walkers that would eventually result in the death of her son. In a surprise, and wonderfully twisted, maneuver, Pamela reveals a restrained walker-fied Sebastian along with the corpse of one of Hornsby’s mercenaries. Pamela leaves Hornsby with the walker and the corpse, demanding that he feed her son. What better way to punish the man responsible for the death of your son than by making him feed his re-animated corpse? 

As Eugene grapples with his decision to escape the Commonwealth, he butts heads with Daryl who refuses to let him go looking for Maxine. Eugene comedically raises his fists in an attempt to intimidate Dixon, making for one of the episode’s most light-hearted moments. What follows is one of the most tender conversations between arguably the most thick-skinned survivor of the group and the most timid. “Do you think people are born brave? Or do they become it?” Eugene asks. “Both” Daryl simply responds. This exchange encapsulates Eugene’s entire journey throughout the show, starting as a scientist lying about his relevance all the way to a strong-willed survivor willing to risk it all for the people who mean the most to him. 

Before agreeing to turn himself over to the Commonwealth, Eugene has a parting conversation with his longtime ally Rosita. As she readies to leave the Commonwealth with the rest of the core survivors, she understands that Eugene will most likely never see outside of the walls as the legal proceedings ramp up. “I know if I leave now there won’t be any kind of life worth living,” he exclaims. Eugene is willing to risk his entire life even if it means he’ll have a sliver of a chance to be with Maxine.

“Variant” is one of the strongest installments of “The Walking Dead’s” final eight episodes, featuring rewarding character development, haunting thrills, and the next evolution of the walker threat. 

The post “The Walking Dead” Final Season Review – “Variant” Introduces a Brand New Zombie Threat appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3736694/the-walking-dead-final-season-review-variant-introduces-a-brand-new-zombie-threat/

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