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The Ending Of The Walking Dead Season 11 Episode 15 Explained

After more than a decade of chronicling the lives of various survivors throughout the zombie apocalypse, only nine episodes of "The Walking Dead" remain. Episode 15, "Truth," is the penultimate entry to Part 2 of Season 11 and sets the stage for a showdown between the survivors at Hilltop, their new allies from Riverbend, and the Commonwealth's soldiers.

"Truth" follows Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) as Deputy Governor Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) casts doubt on their attempt to save face in the aftermath of the massacre at Riverbend. An accusatory visit to Hilltop pushes Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan) to her breaking point and confirms that these communities will never be at peace.

Meanwhile, those back at the Commonwealth are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the unjust social systems they're forced to abide by. Everyone is playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse as tensions hit an all-time high. Could the truth set them free, or would it cause more trouble?

Here's where everyone stands as we head into the explosive midseason finale.

Aaron and Gabriel's flimsy attempt at a cover-up

According to Aaron and Gabriel, things spiraled out of control during their meeting with Ian (Michael Biehn), the leader of Riverbend, and a fight broke out. They barely survived the attack and radioed for help once their attackers fled the scene.

Lance incredulously notes that this community managed to defeat an entire military group — and the assassin he secretly hired — but not a middle-aged priest and a man with one arm. He shrugs it off once Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) reluctantly cosigns their blatant lie, thus beginning their game of deception.

Showrunner Angela Kang broke down the scene in the Episode Insider. She explained that everyone is lying, but instead of admitting this, they test one another to see how far they can go before the truth is unveiled. She added that Lance is "98.9% certain" that Maggie is involved with whatever happened and revels in trying to catch Aaron, Gabriel, and Daryl in a lie.

"There is dark humor that comes through in like every person in the scene knowing that every other person in the scene is playing a game," said Kang.

Lance continues to challenge them on their journey toward Hilltop, amplifying tensions as their web of lies threatens to unravel at any moment. Daryl once again finds himself caught between his former allies and his new responsibilities as a soldier. There's no going back, though — it's all downhill from here.

The cracks in General Mercer's armor

To the residents of the Commonwealth, General Michael Mercer (Michael James Shaw) is a symbol of hope and strength. Everyone idolizes him. However, as Season 11 goes on, it becomes clear that Mercer is the poster child for a cause he doesn't believe in. His younger sister, Max (Margot Bingham), confronts him after learning of his involvement in Sebastian Milton's (Teo Rapp-Olsson) heartless scheme to increase his wealth.

"I mean, what do you want to hear? This place ain't perfect? That we're lucky to have some parts of the old world, warts and all? Ain't none of this s*** new. People hurt each other, people kill each other. It happens all the time. It's part of the job," he somberly replies.

Mercer explains that he has to overlook elitists like the Miltons to protect the 50,000 other people in the Commonwealth and says he can't change anything. Max storms off and leaves him to reflect on his disingenuous celebrity status and the guilt he's feeling after killing two of his men.

Later, he apologizes to Princess (Paola Lázaro) for being distant. In addition to his anxiety about ruining their relationship, he's struggling to accept that he's good at his job but knows he's contributing to a flawed system. How can he be the face of a movement that causes so much harm? Is he actually unable to make positive changes? How long will he be able to keep up the facade?

Eugene and Rosita reroute Connie and Kelly's investigation

Like Mercer, Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos) is reeling from the deadly cash retrieval mission she and Daryl were forced to go on. She confides in Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt), and the two decide to bring in people who could publicly expose Sebastian's evil antics: Connie (Lauren Ridloff) and Kelly (Angel Theory).

Connie, a former political reporter, is frustrated by her inability to do hard journalism in the glossy Commonwealth. Kelly hesitantly helps her sister investigate the disappearance of demoted soldier Tyler Davis (Cameron Roberts) following his outburst at a holiday party hosted by Governor Pamela Milton (Laila Robins). After learning that Sebastian is taking advantage of vulnerable people, Connie and Kelly show Rosita and Eugene the list of names they anonymously received.

On the list is none other than April Kelly (Wynn Everett), the woman trapped in the walker-infested mansion that Rosita and Daryl tried and failed to rescue. However, Sebastian had only sent 12 people on these missions, and the list is significantly longer. While Connie and Kelly have a new lead to look into, Eugene tells Rosita that he can ask Max to help them get the truth out.

Max, who has the most to lose given her brother's high social ranking and her government job, isn't immediately on board. However, she later visits Eugene and admits that she can't pretend like everything is okay.

"There is no choice because there is no back to normal," she tells him. "We know what we know, and because of that, things have to change."

Ezekiel begins an underground healthcare clinic

Amidst the looming threat of war and the general shadiness of the Commonwealth, Ezekiel Sutton (Khary Payton) is running a fully functional healthcare facility disguised as a veterinary clinic. The former king has a new lease on life after his former queen, Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), manages to get him a highly-coveted surgery slot despite his low social ranking.

Now, concealed by a tarp, he runs a clinic to help people who would otherwise be left untreated because of their low social rankings. When one patient needs an appendectomy, he visits Dr. Tomi Okumura (Ian Anthony Dale) to outsource help. Tomi, who recently lost a patient, agrees to work outside the system. They get caught smuggling supplies out of the hospital, but Carol again manages to pull strings to get them off the hook.

Then, Carol and Ezekiel find themselves assisting Tomi in the graphic surgical procedure. This scene may seem out of place on "The Walking Dead," but the episode was directed by "ER" star Lily Mariye and is a fitting nod to her past role. Additionally, the selflessness of Ezekiel's clinic proves that he's willing to put his neck on the line to help people who are in the same boat he was before Carol intervened.

With so many people involved in this underground operation, it becomes easier to imagine that the alleged resistance could exist. If people are willing to break the rules in public this way, who knows what is happening behind closed doors?

Hershel's missing hat threatens the Hilltop's alibi

After Lance unsuccessfully pushes Aaron, Gabriel, and Daryl to spill their guts, he sets his sights on unnerving Maggie. She initially refuses to let the Commonwealth soldiers search Hilltop for the missing members of Riverbend, but Daryl convinces her that there's no other way. From here, Lance's game becomes even crueler. The corners of his mouth twitch as he effortlessly repairs the truck they all know was at the crime scene. To everyone's surprise, however, it doesn't start.

Instead, the smoking gun turns out to be the baseball cap Hershel Rhee (Kien Michael Spiller) accidentally left behind. Lance corners the young boy and tells him that he won't be able to protect them if anyone is lying. Then, he presents him with the hat and notes how perfectly it fits him. Before Hershel can respond, Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) realizes what's happening and shoves Lance against a wall.

This incident leads to a standoff where everyone has their weapons drawn. Both communities know it is only a matter of time before violence breaks out, though this is a false alarm. Nobody has to confirm or deny that Aaron and Gabriel lied and that Maggie's people were involved in the bloodshed at Riverbend. The hat says it all.

Before leaving Hilltop, Lance coolly tells Maggie that it's a "shame we couldn't be friends." This thinly veiled threat lingers as the troops march out, and everyone mentally scrambles to figure out their next move.

The Leah Shaw of it all

The return of Leah Shaw (Lynn Collins) could make an already dire situation worse. Her former ally, Daryl, allowed her to escape after Maggie mercilessly slaughtered the remaining Reapers. However, he might regret that decision very soon.

While setting up camp on their way back to the Commonwealth, Lance learns that his men found the woman they'd been tracking. They approach her makeshift camp, where she's already one step ahead and fires the first warning shots. Before she can do any more damage, Lance introduces himself and cheerily offers her a job.

The episode ends before revealing what this job will entail, though the preview for the midseason finale suggests that Leah has been hired to assassinate Maggie. It's also unknown whether or not Lance and his soldiers know that Leah is the one who stole their weapons and killed their people, or if that will matter at this point.

Given the upcoming Maggie and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) spin-off, it's fair to assume that Leah is on a doomed mission. However, she has nothing to lose and is presumably hellbent on revenge after what went down. Her presence could change things for Daryl, whose allegiance is already wavering. She's a total wildcard.

As Daryl warned Aaron and Gabriel: "Something's about to go down. Just keep your eyes open."

The midseason finale of "The Walking Dead" airs on AMC on Sunday at 9/8c and is currently streaming early on AMC+.