The Walking Dead 1103 – Hunted
Warning: This review contains spoilers!
Mayhem. That’s the word that comes to mind as the opening moments of Hunted, the third episode of The Walking Dead, Season 11 flashes across the screen. The Reapers deliver an all-out assault on Maggie’s team and the results cut deep. The death and carnage don’t last long though as the narrative quickly shifts to Alexandria where a couple of storylines are given screen time.
The reconstruction effort in Alexandria continues but there are other pressing matters. While Aaron is concerned about rebuilding the east wall, Carol is focused on finding the horses they lost in the Whisperer siege. A clash of priorities ensues with Carol brushing off her duties to pursue what she thinks is more important. Aaron doesn’t agree but he realizes that there isn’t much that he can do to stop her from going her own way.
The scene then shifts to Hunted’s other storyline. The ever present but often neglected kids of Alexandria get some of the spotlight. A friendly game of cards soon turns to chatter about their parents. Judith, RJ, Hershel and Gracie delve into how their parents’ absences affect them. Being separated from their parents is just one of the hardships the youngsters encounter. Even at their young ages they are keenly aware of the dangers their parents face and that their return home isn’t something they can take for granted. Considering the predicament Maggie and her team find themselves in the kids may be onto something.
Maggie’s team is splintered due to the Reapers’ attack. Maggie, alone and in retreat, seeks refuge in an abandoned shopping mall. It’s from this point on that Hunted earns its moniker. The Reapers have Maggie on the run but it’s not a one-way street where the art of pursuit is concerned. From the opening moments of the episode the fate of several of Maggie’s crew hung in doubt. After taking a nasty gash to the neck, Father Gabriel reverses things and tracks down an injured Reaper. Considering the injuries they both have, its anything but a high-speed chase. The irony of their encounter is that they are both religious men and it’s interesting to see how their individual circumstances have corrupted their faith.
More members of Team Maggie begin to appear including Alden, who has his hands full with a Reaper. Maggie tries to help but she’s attacked, and it begins to look like a replay of Hunted’s opening moments before Negan arrives to save the day. A gruesome kill and an explosion later, Alden’s injuries are discovered and Maggie and Negan squabble over their next move.
Carol’s horse-capades rope Rosita, Kelly, and Magna into the quest. Their attempts end in vain and as they regroup Rosita shares with Carol that she’s been dreaming about Abe. Ah, Abe. Can we take a minute to remember one of The Walking Dead’s all-time faves? Rosita ponders why Abe is on her REM mind but whatever message he’s trying to pass onto her from beyond is unclear.
Barely halfway through Hunted’s runtime the thing that stands out the most is the body count. Whether friend, foe, or horse the bodies pile up and some of the deaths come as a shock. Duncan and Agatha survive the initial Reaper assault, but their fate brings Judith and the rest of the kids’ musings during their low stakes card game to fruition. If Rosita’s dream is factored into the mix, with Abe taking a fatal bullet, then it’s easy to assume that more death is on the horizon.
Another interesting aspect of Hunted is the weight of leadership. Maggie’s turn at the top has been marked with tragedy. It doesn’t make her any different from Rick or anyone else who has taken on the mantle of leadership. Every decision, good or bad; every death of a loved one is another in a long line of knife cuts to her soul. The burden can be too much to bear, and this is echoed in Carol as well. Her single-minded quest to reclaim Alexandria’s horses has just as much to do with her trying to process her guilt over Connie as it does with reclaiming a lost resource for the community. The pain in her eyes as she tries to solve Alexandria’s food shortage is an example of the impact difficult decisions have had on her.
Hunted starts off on fire and although it loses some steam along the way it doesn’t disappoint as the screen goes dark. It touches on some difficult themes including responsibility, leadership, and retribution. The Maggie/Negan dynamic adds something that really hasn’t existed before on The Walking Dead and it’s an adversarial relationship atop the leadership structure. There have been conflicts before, most memorably Daryl and Rick’s fight during Season 8, but there was never the thought that they would ever come to a point where they’d kill one another. The same can’t be said for Maggie and Negan and their not so cold war not only adds some drama to the narrative but touches on a host of ethical questions as well.