The Walking Dead Episode 11 Ending Explained by Showrunner

Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday's "Rogue Element" episode of The Walking DeadWhile investigating a Commonwealth conspiracy, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) gets the scoop on Stephanie — and Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton). "Governor Milton runs the city," the dapper Deputy Governor tells helper Carol (Melissa McBride) of Pamela Milton (Laila Robins). "But I know how it runs." The duplicitous Deputy manipulated Eugene to get his group to the Commonwealth, working him to reveal intel on Alexandria and its allied communities. Hornsby even fabricated Eugene's first romantic relationship: it's revealed "Stephanie" is actually undercover agent Shira (Chelle Ramos).

Suspecting "Stephanie" was kidnapped by a rogue element within the government, Eugene's investigation into his girlfriend's disappearance does uncover a conspiracy: Eugene exposes Hornsby's cabal working from inside the Commonwealth.

"We were really leaning into the idea that this episode should feel kind of like a neo-noir, and that there's things that are hidden and that are out of sight, that it's frustrating to find the truth," showrunner Angela Kang said on The Walking Dead: Episode Insider. "The vibe of the Commonwealth is that there's the surface story, and then there's what lies beneath." 

Connie (Lauren Ridloff) investigates her own story on dishonorably discharged Trooper Tyler Davis (Cameron Roberts), missing after stoking a rebellion with a rallying cry to "resist the Commonwealth." In his Sham-Stephanie ruse, the Saul Goodman-esque Hornsby gaslights Eugene so masterfully that there's a written record of his paranoid state — handy if he needs to discredit the whistleblower. 

"His state of mind is very, very bad, because he just cannot understand what has happened. Eugene as a character is very, very logical, and I think he's had to kind of work on his emotional expression," Kang said. "But his head is spinning, and he's like, well, the only logical explanation I can possibly come up with is that there's a vast conspiracy, and he's right. That's the thing that's the nuttiest about it all, is that he's actually right. There is a conspiracy. It's just not the same conspiracy that he thought it was."  

Explaining Hornsby's Machiavellian nature in the confrontation with Eugene, Kang said, "I think what we really learn about Lance is that there is an incredible duality to this character."

"I think in some ways, both sides of him are true. I think that he believes he is doing something good. It's just that he wants to be recognized for it," Kang explained. "I think in this conversation, you're getting the true Hornsby, and I think the fact that he shrugs off Eugene's pain, for us, that's the key to understanding this character. He doesn't let it get to him, 'cause he is so certain that the path that he is on is the right path and that it's gonna work out." 

More about the scheming Hornsby's plans for the communities will be revealed in Episode 12, "The Lucky Ones," premiering March 13 on AMC. 

New episodes of The Walking Dead: The Final Season air Sundays on AMC and AMC+. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter and @NewsOfTheDead for TWD Universe coverage all season long.