What makes The Walking Dead’s live-action Commonwealth so much worse than its counterpart from Robert Kirkman’s comics? Just as the Commonwealth marked one final stop for Rick Grimes’ original comic book adventures, The Walking Dead season 11 brings AMC’s main show to a close after 12 years onscreen. Both final arcs begin in near-identical fashion, with Eugene setting off in search of love, but discovering a whole new community more advanced and populated than anything his group have previously seen. In both instances, the Commonwealth proves too good to be true, but this is where AMC’s TV series begins to deviate wildly.
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The comic Commonwealth was never truly villainous. Pamela Milton is a corrupt leader who created a society of inequality and nepotism, depicting real-world politics with unerring accuracy. Pam needed to go, no question there, but compared to the Governor, Negan or the Whisperers, her Commonwealth was more morally gray than outright sinister. That’s not what we’re seeing in The Walking Dead season 11, however. The live-action Commonwealth is a true source of evil, much more comparable to past antagonist groups.
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As the Alexandrian immigrants begin counting their Commonwealth red flags, how much has the TV narrative added to create this darker vision of Pamela Milton’s community?
The Commonwealth Secretly Destroys Other Communities
Surely the worst crime committed by The Walking Dead’s Commonwealth comes during season 11’s “Warlords.” Wrongly suspecting a small, 40-person community has stolen a Commonwealth gun shipment, Lance Hornsby secretly orders Toby Carlson and a squadron of soldiers to take them down. With Lance’s backing, Carlson brutally slaughters the entire community (or tries to, at least), shooting residents indiscriminately and pushing citizens from the roof as a method of questioning. By using their size and power to dominate smaller settlements with violence, the Commonwealth becomes no different than Negan’s Saviors, and the incident is made even worse knowing the residents of Riverbend apartment complex really didn’t steal those guns.
Will Lance care he was wrong? Probably not. The Walking Dead also implies Riverbend isn’t an isolated incident, as Carlson initially responds to Lance’s order with, “It’s just some warlord. Snuff them out.” The comic books’ Commonwealth never sunk quite this low, and while you wouldn’t put destroying a community accused of thieving Commonwealth property beyond Pamela Milton, nothing on this scale transpired within The Walking Dead’s pages.
Lance Hornsby Is Assimilating Alexandria In The Walking Dead Season 11
Beyond just Riverbend, Lance Hornsby is a completely different character in The Walking Dead season 11. Comic-Lance was a smarmy, unlikable politician, but served little purpose beyond assisting Pamela Milton, and certainly wasn’t the villainous power player we’re seeing on TV. Portrayed by Josh Hamilton, Lance possesses an agenda all of his own. Although the mystery hanging over his endgame hasn’t yet lifted (is he CRM, planning to dethrone Pamela…?) we know Lance harbors dark intentions for Alexandria, Hilltop and Oceanside. By offering to help with its rebuild, Lance has effectively positioned himself as overlord of Alexandria, while Maggie’s refusal to sign an agreement puts Hilltop top of his list of communities to topple. With each passing episode, The Walking Dead proves Alexandria signed a deal with the devil.
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Again, things weren’t so bad in The Walking Dead’s comic arc. Although Pamela Milton visited Alexandria and its allies, and an agreement was struck between parties, hardly any protagonists actually moved to the Commonwealth full-time. Nor did Lance stand any hope of challenging Rick Grimes’ authority, meaning Alexandria remained completely independent of Commonwealth influence.
Sebastian Milton Sends Citizens To Their Deaths
Whichever incarnation of Sebastian Milton you pick, Pamela’s son is an especially nasty piece of work. For the most part, Teo Rapp-Olsson’s TV version echoes his comic counterpart by acting like a big-shot, reveling in his special status, and exuding all the likability of a disemboweled zombie corpse. The Walking Dead season 11’s “The Rotten Core” takes live-action Sebastian to a whole new level, revealing he secretly forces Commonwealth citizens to risk their lives for his monetary gain. Preying on those with a weakness he can exploit (or simply threatening their children), Sebastian promises a reward for anyone who enters a zombie-infested village and brings back the hidden cash inside.
As The Walking Dead comic readers will be all too aware, Sebastian isn’t averse to murdering folk – indirectly or otherwise. And while his actions in “The Rotten Core” align pretty closely with the character created by Robert Kirkman, comic-Sebastian never actually made Commonwealth citizens give their lives for his bank balance, making his TV persona even more wretched.
The List Of Names (& Covering It Up)
Both comic and TV Commonwealths have a problem with economic disparity. When Tyler Davis attempts pointing this out, however, he’s arrested, charged… and then suddenly disappears from his hospital bed. Even Mercer has no idea where the ex-soldier vanished to, but a mysterious list of names is slid under Connie’s door shortly after. Though The Walking Dead season 11 hasn’t yet explained this register’s meaning, Tyler’s inclusion suggests it’s a document of Commonwealth citizens who went missing under mysterious circumstances. Is Pamela and/or Lance secretly killing or exiling anyone who questions their regime? Again, that’s territory the comic books never ventured toward (even if Pamela secretly would’ve liked to).
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Even worse, the Commonwealth is making a concerted effort to cover up these questionable vanishings. Lauren Ridloff’s Connie provides a journalistic edge to The Walking Dead season 11, and she’s desperate to dig into Tyler Davis’ story. Alas, her editor is adamant only Commonwealth-approved stories should be printed, adding a seasoning of propaganda to Pamela’s dystopian soup. In the comics, Pamela played a shrewd PR game (accompanying Mercer to help “defend” her Commonwealth from undead, for instance), but never on the systematic scale we’re seeing on TV.
The Commonwealth Lied To Eugene About Stephanie
When the Comic-wealth discovered Eugene and Stephanie’s secret radio rendezvous, they weren’t best pleased with the security breach, and Stephanie wasn’t permitted to meet her long-distance boyfriend until after he passed an extensive clearing process. The Walking Dead season 11’s Commonwealth not only prevents Eugene seeing Stephanie, it creates a fake Stephanie to spy on the newcomers and elicit as much information as possible about Alexandria. Keeping lovers apart is one thing, fabricating a romance is quite another. Ste-phony stays in a fully-fledged boyfriend-girlfriend relationship with Eugene for several months, and only breaks things off once the L-bomb is dropped. This leads directly into…
On Her Hornsby’s Secret Service
As mentioned above, the comic books’ Lance Hornsby was a glorified punching bag for Pamela Milton – annoying, but hardly someone worth keeping tabs on. The Walking Dead season 11’s “Rogue Element” reveals how Josh Hamilton’s Lance commands a clandestine secret service operating within the Commonwealth’s walls. These are trained agents posing as plumbers, radio technicians, etc, but are actually working towards a secret purpose Lance is yet to reveal. Whether or not Pamela knows about Lance’s club remains unclear, but that doesn’t change how much darker The Walking Dead’s Commonwealth arc becomes with the addition of a noir-ish Gestapo operating in the shadows.
The Commonwealth’s Initial Clearing Process Is Brutal
When Eugene’s group first encountered the Commonwealth in The Walking Dead’s comic arc, they received a distinctly unfriendly introduction. Following a tense (but relatively painless) interview, the group was transported to the Commonwealth with no further fuss. Josh McDermitt’s Eugene isn’t quite so lucky…
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The live-action Commonwealth’s harsh introduction is only the tip of an uncomfortable iceberg, as Eugene’s group find themselves imprisoned and separated into train cars. The subsequent interrogation scenes are far more brutal than Lance Hornsby’s interviews were in the comics, and the Alexandrians are all but stripped of their humanity. Eugene and his pals are then transferred to a holding facility, where families have spent months in cages waiting for a spot to open at the Commonwealth. The scenes are so unsettling, The Walking Dead’s protagonists hatch a plan to get as far away from the Commonwealth as possible, and were it not for Yumiko recognizing Tomi, that’s exactly what would’ve happened. The Walking Dead’s zombie apocalypse has repeatedly proven you can never be too careful about letting strangers into an established community, but the degrading treatment seen in seasons 10 and 11 provided an early indication of how much darker the TV show’s Commonwealth would be.
Pamela Milton Could Be Useful (But Chooses Not To Be)
The Walking Dead season 11’s “The Lucky Ones” reveals a key difference between the comic book and TV iterations of Pamela Milton. During a hunt with Rick Grimes, comic-Pamela shot a zombie for sport. She hit it meekly in the shoulder, received a round of congratulation from her sycophants, then walked away confident in the knowledge Mercer would handle the rest. The scene not only demonstrated Pamela creating the pretense of a hands-on leader, but proved her utter uselessness in the wild. When Laila Robins’ Pamela takes Maggie hunting, however, she delivers a classy zombie headshot with supreme skill, possessing evident skill as a hunter. Somehow, Pamela Milton’s potential as a useful pair of hands in battle makes her refusal to get involved worse than being as hapless as her comic character. It’s not that Pamela can’t help, she chooses not to.
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Craig first began contributing to Screen Rant in 2016, several years after graduating college, and has been ranting ever since, mostly to himself in a darkened room. Having previously written for various sports and music outlets, Craig’s interest soon turned to TV and film, where a steady upbringing of science fiction and comic books finally came into its own.
Craig has previously been published on sites such as Den of Geek, and after many coffee-drenched hours hunched over a laptop, part-time evening work eventually turned into a full-time career covering everything from the zombie apocalypse to the Starship Enterprise via the TARDIS.
Since joining the Screen Rant fold, Craig has been involved in breaking news stories and mildly controversial ranking lists, but now works predominantly as a features writer.
Jim Carrey is Craig’s top acting pick and favorite topics include superheroes, anime and the unrecognized genius of the High School Musical trilogy.
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