Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday's "Faith" episode of The Walking Dead. "Time to f— sh-t up." So says General Mercer (Michael James Shaw) in a punctuation point on the antepenultimate episode of The Walking Dead, now two episodes away from ending with its November 20th series finale. "The world is dark and broken, but we're not. Not yet," narrates Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming). "We stare into the face of death every day... until, one day, that face is our own. How do you come back from that? My dad wanted mercy to prevail over wrath. If we lose that, we lose everything."
But there's no mercy for the workers on railroad duty at Alexandria, colonized by the Commonwealth and converted into Outpost 22: a labor camp where Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and other "exiles" toil away under a ruthless Warden (Michael Weaver). "I have known men like him my whole life," Negan tells his wife Annie (Medina Senghore), who is pregnant with their child. "Hell, I used to be him."
"In that case," Annie smirks, "no wonder everyone hated you."
As the Warden sniffs out a suspected rebel in his outpost, Ezekiel (Khary Payton) reminds Negan that some people still hate him. "We're not friends. 'Cause I haven't forgotten for one goddamn minute what you took from me," Ezekiel tells Negan, blaming the former Savior leader for the death of his ward Benjamin (Logan Miller). "That was my family. You apologizing doesn't change anything. Not for me. Truth is, if this works out and we get out of here, you don't deserve a brand-new life. Damn sure don't deserve to be a father."
Negan fires back: "I will be a father. So you go ahead and you live in the past. You do you, Ezekiel. I'll do me. And you know what? I'm gonna do it for my kid."
At the Commonwealth, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) stands trial for causing the Founders Day riot and the accidental death of Sebastian Milton (Teo Rapp-Olsson), the spoiled rotten son of Governor Pamela Milton (Laila Robins). Eugene's defense attorney, Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), reminds Eugene that they don't have to get through the court's "brick wall" judge — they just have to get through to the people. The same people who demanded Sebastian be brought to justice for April (Wynn Everett), one of dozens of the Commonwealth's poorer citizens sent to their deaths in Sebastian's cash heists.
Grilled about the secret recording of Sebastian that Max (Margot Bingham) and Eugene played at the Founders Day celebration, Governor Milton claims, "That wasn't my son. I know my son's voice, and that wasn't him. The tape was altered."
Yumiko refutes the governor's claims and scoffs at her accusations that Eugene doctored the tape exposing Sebastian in front of the Commonwealth. "This enemy of the state, he admitted he played the tape. He admitted he caused chaos that day, did he not?" Governor Milton says. "That was not my son."
Alexandria Outpost 22, Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Connie (Lauren Ridloff) decide to go down "shit tunnel" — the sewers — to get inside. Carol (Melissa McBride) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) will sneak back into their old homes, leaving Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) on sharpshooter duty outside the walls. Their mission: save their kids. RJ (Antony Azor) and Judith Grimes. Baby Coco. Hershel Rhee (Kien Michael Spiller).
"She turned our home into a prison after promising to give it back," Gabriel fumes.
"She never planned to give it back," says Maggie, who vowed revenge on Governor Milton.
Says Rosita: "If it's more than a night, I'm going in."
In the cafeteria, Negan and Ezekiel approach a face that Princess (Paola Lazaro) recognized: Trooper Tyler Davis (Cameron Roberts), the ex-trooper that Princess assaulted back in Season 10 episode "Splinter." After speaking out against Governor Milton and urging her citizens to "resist the Commonwealth," Tyler disappeared and was exiled to the labor camps. Ezekiel tells Tyler they know he stood up to Pamela.
"I want to live," Tyler says, head down.
"Well, this ain't living, man," Negan responds. "This is barely surviving."
If they try an uprising, Tyler warns, "We all die."
"Or we try this and we live. We only got each other, man," Ezekiel counters. "If we lose faith in that, the idea that we can change this if we want to... we're as good as dead anyway."
Negan is dragged away to another face-to-face with the Warden, who gets under the skin of Trooper 197.
"When you first came here, I thought maybe you were a leader. But now I see that you have other priorities," the Warden tells Negan. "A real leader separates. They cleave themselves off from everyone else. Because the things that real leaders do? Most people just don't have the stomach for it. But the ones that do? They're the real threats. There's a threat in my midst. And I believe it's one of your people."
Negan laughs. "My people? Look, other than my wife, all those people, they hate my guts." The Warden wants him to find and name the traitor among the workers. "Unless you'd rather not see that pregnant wife of yours."
Far from the Commonwealth, Aaron (Ross Marquand), Jerry (Cooper Andrews), Lydia (Cassady McClincy), and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) continue their trip to Oceanside when they happen upon two familiar faces: Luke (Dan Fogler) and Jules (Alex Sgambati).
They reveal that Oceanside is "gone," taken over by Lance Hornsby's (Josh Hamilton) soldiers. Oceanside leader Rachel (Avianna Mynhier) told Luke and Jules to find the others and warn them about Oceanside's fate.
"But you found us," Jerry tells the couple. "You got us now."
At the Commonwealth, Yumiko has failed to convince Max's brother, General Mercer, to speak out against Governor Milton's corruption. On the stand, Eugene makes a heartfelt plea to the court — and to Mercer .
"The way I see it, I've been living on borrowed time for well past a decade now. By all rights, someone like me should've met my maker on the very first day things started to fall apart," Eugene admits. "And the thing is, I would've, were it not for the aid of friends. Friends who have not only changed me, but changed the hearts and minds of so many others. I am beyond certain that my fate will not discourage them from keeping that going, from helping others to find the courage to do what's right."
Eugene confesses to falling in with Negan and the Saviors for a spell because he "placed value on order and safety above all other things. But I soon realized that, while I wasn't the one swinging the bat, I nevertheless had blood on my hands. I knew what was happening. My inaction made me culpable, and I hated myself for that. So I did something." He looks to Mercer. "In my own little way, I changed the world. And I learned that one person can do that. And sometimes all it takes is one person to do that."
Nonetheless, the Commonwealth finds Eugene Porter guilty of murder in the first degree, and he's sentenced to public execution within one hour.
At Outpost 22, the Warden singles out the traitor accused of spearheading a rebellion: Negan.
Like the lineup that ended with Negan's baseball bat bludgeoning the brains out of Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn (Steven Yeun), the Warden is to make an example of Negan in front of the Alexandria windmill. "It's important that you're all here to see. To remember."
Ezekiel, Princess, Magna (Nadia Hilker), Kelly (Angel Theory), and Annie watch as Negan is forced to his knees before the firing squad. Annie breaks free from the crowd, sobbing and begging to save her husband.
"There are no martyrs here," the Warden says, readying the firing squad to gun down Negan and his pregnant wife. "This wasn't our deal!" Negan screams. "Take me! Take me! JUST ME!" But the Warden, coldly, tells him: "You will feel this punishment."
Negan looks to Trooper 197. "Don't do this. Please."
"Leave her!" Negan begs. "Take me! Just take me! Please!"
Ezekiel steps out in front of the firing squad. Then Princess. Magna. Kelly. Tyler. More prisoners stand between the guards and Negan and Annie.
"I admire your bravery, prisoners," the Warden says. "Shoot them all."
Ezekiel tries to talk the soldiers down. "You don't have to do this! This world is broken, but we don't have to be." Trooper 197 drops his gun. He urges the soldiers to stand down. Suddenly, a trooper draws — and he's gunned down.
In the chaos, the Warden grabs a hostage, putting a gun to Kelly's head. He backs away, walking right into Daryl and Connie. Daryl impales the Warden, and Connie embraces her sister.
Inside Alexandria's homes, Maggie and Carol find and rescue a kidnapped Hershel. Rosita desperately asks if they found Coco, but they checked all the other houses. "I don't know where she is," says Hershel.
Rosita orders Negan not to kill the Warden, barely clinging to life after being stabbed by Daryl. "Where's my daughter?!" she growls, unleashing her fury on the Warden. "Where is she?! Where the hell is she?!"
Spitting up blood, the Warden smirks, and whispers: "You will lose everything." Rosita sics a zombified soldier on the Warden, who screams as the walker's teeth tear the flesh from his face.
At the Commonwealth, troopers escort a hooded Eugene to his death. Except this is not a walk to the gallows — it's a walk towards a new life. Stood before him is Mercer, freeing Eugene from his handcuffs. He's doing something. Sometimes it only takes one person to say: "Time to f— sh-t up."
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