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The Ending Of The Walking Dead Season 11 Episode 13 Explained

With two episodes left before this leg of the three-part final season of "The Walking Dead" comes to an end, the inciting incident for the feud between the Commonwealth and the Hilltop Colony has finally begun. After Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan) declines to enter an alliance with the Commonwealth in Episode 12, "The Lucky Ones," it becomes clear that saying "no" could mean more than just losing out on food and supplies.

In Episode 13, "Warlords," the Commonwealth pushes forward with a new immigration initiative to welcome struggling communities. However, there is a sinister side to this seemingly innocent undertaking. How long will it be before Hilltop and Oceanside, who declined the alliance out of respect to Maggie, become their next targets?

The episode utilizes non-chronological timelines to slowly reveal how the mission to contact a religious community known as Riverbend was intentionally doomed. In true fashion for "The Walking Dead," the episode ends with a cliffhanger just before the battle truly begins. However, lines get drawn in the sand, and it's only a matter of time until everything erupts.

Lydia confronts Maggie about rejecting the Commonwealth

Like many residents of the struggling Hilltop community, Lydia (Cassady McClincy) decides to move to the Commonwealth. Before she leaves, though, she's approached by a fatally wounded young man mumbling "liars," "devils," and "slaughtering them" as he delivers a map. Shaken by the encounter, Lydia and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) decide to follow the handwritten directions.

Maggie, who knows they don't have the resources to help anyone, begrudgingly joins them on their mission. Shortly into the trip, Lydia confronts her about turning down help from a thriving community. "What's easier isn't always better," Maggie answers, recalling a story about how developers attempted to purchase her family's farm when they fell on hard times.

"They knew we were in debt and desperate," she explains. "But they also knew the drought would end and the farm would become profitable again and all they had to do was outlast us."

Lydia and Elijah admit that they don't understand why the Greene family chose to just "get by" when help was available, but Maggie digs her heels in. Lydia, a former Whisperer, becomes emotional and says she's been "forced to get by" for her entire life. "I was told that it makes you stronger and wiser, but it doesn't. It hurts."

In the Episode Insider, showrunner Angela Kang explained that they wanted to highlight the "generational divide between how Maggie is looking at everything versus how Lydia and Elijah are looking at it."

Before this debate can continue, they run into Aaron (Ross Marquand), who comes bearing bad news.

Father Gabriel rediscovers his faith

Since his introduction in Season 5, Father Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam) has used his faith to stay grounded. However, it has also been a source of pain for the priest. Throughout his group's conflict with the spiritually-twisted Reapers, Gabriel was openly frustrated at his lack of connection to God. In "Warlords," we learn that he is preaching in the Commonwealth — and is genuinely at peace.

He delivers a powerful sermon about how those who had to live in the wasteland understand the importance of found family and protecting the living, regardless of whether or not you know them. He encourages his congregation to treat their neighbors with the same care and respect, no matter their social status in the Commonwealth.

"The way we were before the world fell cannot be the way we are moving forward," he advises.

After the service, Aaron approaches Gabriel about joining the Commonwealth's effort to connect with a religious group. They also discuss his rekindled connection to his faith, where he admits that, at first, he was "just going through the motions" and fulfilling his job duties — until he wasn't. "It was like a switch was flipped and I could hear Him again," he explains.

"Warlords" sets up another potential crisis of faith for Gabriel, as his priesthood is used as a pawn to betray the new group's trust. However, his newfound confidence and strengthened connection to his faith could prove beneficial to get them back on his side.

The 'other side' of Toby Carlson and the Commonwealth

When Toby Carlson (Jason Butler Harner) is introduced in "Warlords," he appears to be the eccentric but well-intentioned leader of the Commonwealth's immigration initiative. He works closely with Aaron to connect with outside groups to bring them in as potential citizens. However, he has a dark side.

During a flashback, it's revealed that Toby is a retired CIA agent who used to work for Deputy Governor Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) to "root out disobedient s****" within the Commonwealth. Lance requests that he resume his assassin duties to get back at Riverbend, a community that allegedly massacred a convoy of soldiers and stole their weapons. Toby pushes back because he's content with his "zen," sober lifestyle, but Lance threatens his job unless he follows through.

The two men conspire to convince Aaron, Gabriel, and trainee Jesse (Connor Hammond) that this will be a regular mission to onboard a group of survivors. He misleads them according to plan, but things go awry when they don't "fall in line" as Lance had promised.

Stunned by the violent turn of events, Aaron exclaims that they're "supposed to be helping people." Toby cooly replies that they are helping, but "this is the other side of it."

He states they are "snuffing out threats" to keep the world safe from so-called warlords.

Ironic, no?

What do we know about Riverbend?

Whether or not the members of Riverbend murdered soldiers and stole from the Commonwealth is still up in the air. Lance and Toby claim this was the case, while their leader, Ian (Michael Biehn), said they found the weapons but only after someone else had killed the soldiers. The Commonwealth's politics are notoriously shady, but how much do we actually know about this new group?

According to Toby, roughly 40 survivors are living in this rundown but tightly secured apartment complex. They attend religious services twice weekly and have rudimentary supplies. Lance believes their leader is a warlord. At least, that is the narrative he crafted.

When Aaron speaks with Ian, he seems like a leader simply looking out for his people. Ian is rightfully suspicious of being burned by wolves in sheep's clothing and has a shelf filled with the skulls of those who wronged Riverbend to prove it. This alleged warlord is caught off guard when Toby launches his brutal attack, suggesting that Lance's claims were mere fear-mongering.

Little is known about the residents beyond their apocalyptic chic aesthetic of layered muted clothing and statement jewelry. They appear to be your average survivors, and everyone insists that they didn't do anything wrong — even when Toby begins his reign of terror on the rooftop.

Here's Negan (again)

After walking away in Episode 9, "No Other Way," Negan Smith (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) joined the Riverbend community. In the Episode Insider, Angela Kang explained that the former Savior is seeking a fresh start.

"I don't know how much he has completely changed but I think that the journey that Negan is on is trying to figure out who he wants to be going forward and I think he understands and has not forgotten the fact that he has done some things that have really hurt people," she said.

She adds that Negan is a "social creature," and it's unlikely that he could survive this world alone. However, he's unable to escape his sadistic past and must confront those parts of himself as he witnesses Toby and the Commonwealth attacking his new home.

Curiously, Negan chooses to warn Maggie that Aaron and Gabriel are in danger via a fleeing Jesse rather than staying out of the escalating situation. Then, he goes out of his way to protect Gabriel and brings him to hide with the rest of his people.

Maggie, who arrives at Riverbend with Aaron, Lydia, and Elijah, isn't aware of Negan's involvement. It's unlikely that the two will ever be close allies, but this gesture could be setting up their dynamic in the upcoming spin-off, "Isle of the Dead."

New episodes of "The Walking Dead" air on AMC on Sundays at 9/8c, and AMC+ users have early access to episodes every week.