Just Listen – Review of “The Walking Dead” 511

Warning, precious. There’s episode spoilers in that dank, dark cave.

Over the course of five seasons, we’ve learned one terrible truth—you can’t trust the living. Most of the most dangerous encounters were with the living. Every time Rick took a chance and gave someone the benefit of the doubt, it backfired. Even his best friend turned feral once the walkers rose. Everyone wants to take care of numero uno. Rick and the others strive to take care of mankind. It’s a tall order and one doomed to fail. In the process of trying to save everyone, Rick has stuck his nose in some dangerous bear caves. Is it any wonder a man like Philip reacted as he did to Rick’s my-way-or-highway attitude? Aaron isn’t the Governor, thankfully. If he were, the second Rick greeted him with drawn weapons and a punch to the face, he would’ve ordered them all gunned down. Which is what Rick expects. His paranoia has saved them so far, but what if it costs them a chance to live normally again?

That’s exactly what Michonne wants to prevent. She’s said numerous times, they need to find a place to settle down. Her revenge plot is played out now that Philip is dead. The only people left to save are the ones she watches shambling down the road, praying the next turn will bring a town with enough food to make it one more day. Michonne doesn’t display her emotions often, but over and over in this episode she snaps at Rick to make him see reason. The least they can do is check out the community. Maggie agrees. They’re the only ones asking, “What if….” What if Aaron tells the truth? What if their days on the road are finally over? What if they pass up this opportunity and find desolation between the barn they’re camped in and Washington?

Aaron has most of the answers. Rick never really listens to what he says. There’s no cup and ball game going on as far as I can tell. Aaron was up front about the “audition” process to become a member of their community—a practice Rick employed during their time at the prison. Yes, he dodged answering where the community is located. Would you tell armed, desperate strangers where your family lived? Yeah, no. But his hesitation sends Rick into a tailspin. Even when Aaron offers Judith food from his pack, Rick second-guesses his motivation. That alone spoke volumes. Aaron saw Rick in a different light, likely wondering what these people have been through to even contemplate someone killing a baby. He knows they aren’t bad people. “Just because we’re good people, doesn’t mean we won’t kill you,” Rick told him.

In the end, reason wins out. The group piles into the vehicles Aaron and his partner left nearby. Rick, in his paranoid insanity, decides to take an alternate path—nearly losing more than half the group, including his children, on the walker-choked highway. At one point, there was so much blood on the windshield, Glenn couldn’t see to drive. Even with a possible home in sight, Rick almost lost the opportunity for his crew by pushing Aaron to reveal the location. Once again, Glenn was forced to push his own concerns aside to talk Rick off the crazy ledge. It didn’t stop Rick from stashing a gun in the forest outside Alexandria—guess everyone needs a security blanket.

We heard signs of life behind the walls of the community. Is this the good sign Rick waited for? Can the intrepid survivors stop looking over their shoulders for a while? Hopefully this isn’t another Woodbury.

Good News – “The Walking Dead” Episode 510 – “Them”

Warning, there’s a horde of episode spoilers below.

None of the crew will make it out of Georgia if they don’t find supplies. There’s been a drought over summer. None of the creeks they’d used to find water before exist now. Digging would only provide enough water for maybe two people—using more energy than they can spare. They have no food. There’s no handy side-of-the-road towns to pick over for green beans and fruit cocktail. Even when they hit a spot in the road filled with cars, there’s not much left that’d keep them walking toward their goal. Abraham’s big find was a bottle of booze, which he intends to drink despite dehydration. This last stint of life on the road has kicked the crew in the shins every chance it gets. When a pack of wild dogs attacks, it’s the first time we’ve seen a live domestic animal since the pigs at the prison. It’s also when we find out just how determined these people are to survive. A dinner of dog meat isn’t something many can stomach, but they had to or admit they’d given up the fight to live. There’s a couple characters who look like they’ve already thrown in the towel on that fight.

Over the three weeks since Atlanta—where they said their final goodbye to Beth—Maggie has done her best to hang in there. But long days in the heat without water and food paired with the trauma of her loss have taken their toll. Carl manages to lift her spirits a little, handing her a pretty jewelry box. In stark contrast, Gabriel attempts something similar and is shut down. To Maggie he’s a coward who hid when the people counting on his help came for aid. That cowardice goes against everything her father taught her and what she tried to instill in her sister before her murder. It also tempts her. Seeing the weakness in Gabriel makes Maggie disgusted at herself. She’s not sure she can go on without seeing her sister every day. They’d been so close to finding each other—Maggie missed her by minutes. How can she go on when her family’s journey has ended? Glenn tells her, “Keep fighting.”

Fighting is what Sasha does best. It’s what Tyreese did best, as well. This family trait of extreme violence to cope with strong emotions is a handicap the group cannot afford at the moment. They’re exhausted, in no condition to walk the remaining sixty miles to Washington, let alone take on a herd of walkers who’ve been harmlessly stalking them for miles. It doesn’t stop Sasha from messing up a non-violent plan to get the walkers out of the way—pushing them down an embankment near a bridge—and attacking. Michonne has to shove Sasha onto the ground to make her stop fighting. While yes, Sasha’s bloodlust and drive to fight the world did net the crew a canine dinner that night, it will also cost them later down the road if she can’t learn how to channel her feelings into something more productive—like finding food they can carry that won’t bleed over the last of the bullets. Sasha likewise isn’t sure is she can go on without her family.

Daryl stands as proof that one can go on after losing their entire family. He made it through Merle’s disappearance, reappearance, turn as a kinda-don’t-hate-him guy, and his death…s. Coping with that loss wasn’t a solo endeavor. He had his chosen family and they needed him to keep them safe. Beth needed him. Judith needed him. And he failed one of them. Just like he failed his brother. Just like his family failed him. Daryl is caught in a cycle of disappointment and loss—one that stretches years before the walkers came and shook things up. He’s hit a breaking point. Not even ever-vigilant Carol can derail the trauma train hijacking Daryl’s brain. He’s resorted to sneaking off and burning himself in order to feel anything past the numbness. Carol gave him permission to feel his losses. It wasn’t enough. He didn’t feel safe expressing his emotions with witnesses. Not until he gives just a peek to Maggie because he understands the pain in her chest and the sleepless nights. He’s already wondered, “How can I keep going?” In the end, Beth—the seemingly weakest of them all—inspires two people who’ve never floundered this much in their sense of self before. She saves them, as hokey as that sounds.

Rick did the thing. He said the show’s name in dialog. It was a moving speech. It might even keep the troops going. But what’ll keep them going even better is something they’ve been denied for too long—hope. A helpful stranger says he has good news, but how many times must they be burned by the same promise before they learn their lesson? Or is Aaron telling the truth?

Turn It Off – Review of The Walking Dead Episode 509

By the end of episode 508, things didn’t look good for Rick and company. They’d finally joined their forces together again—even though that meant the mission to D.C. was a bust—and tragedy strikes. The next episode picks up some time after they’ve moved on from Atlanta once again. Seems like the big city is nothing but bad luck for the gang. Can they break the downward cycle and regroup or will their losses continue to build?

Warning: Episode spoilers lurk below calm waters.

This was by far the best episode the show has released since the main group left the prison. It was also one of the most unique in the way it was written and edited. The opening should’ve gone straight to that first, unexplained shot of the shovel, though. Fans know what happened, the catch-up killed what could’ve been a great opening—even if viewers didn’t understand what they were seeing until everything was explained at the end of the episode. Unfortunately, while the episode itself was well written and acted, the main plot point—finding yet another safe haven—has become woefully predictable. I knew what was on the other side of the wall at Noah’s community long before they jumped over. Just had to listen for the flies. They’re never a good sign on this show. How many times can the crew get knocked down before they develop serious mental issues from trying to cope with more than any person should.

We didn’t see much from Maggie, but Glenn’s struggle to keep going was all too clear. He’s unusually quiet and withdrawn. His sister-in-law is dead. So is his father-in-law. Hell, he and Maggie have no one left breathing to call family outside the survivor group. Over and over, Glenn and Rick touched on their reactions when Dawn and Beth were killed. They wanted her dead. It didn’t matter who ended up with the blood on their hands. There’s only so much a man can take. Glenn may be at his breaking point. But then who will hold Maggie together?

This episode was all about Tyreese. We learned about a childhood spent inundated with the horrors of the world—very Clockwork Orange—with his father the one pushing young Ty to face it like a man. This tidbit of information shaped everything that happened after the twin walker took a chunk out of his arm. The hallucinations ranged from auditory—the radio playing news stories based on what he’s seen since the undead rose—to visual, bringing in the dead who’ve shaped the man. Slightly terrifying to think Philip (The Governor) and Martin (from TERMINUS) had anything to do with how brave Tyreese was at the end. Even more terrifying was when Lizzie and Mika first popped up before the opening credits. If we’d known then what the random visuals meant, I don’t think many viewers would’ve kept watching. It was worth the watch to see Bob again, to hear his advice one last time. Interesting that in his final moments, Tyreese would seek out Bob, who was so unlike himself and how he planned to handle his death. Ty wanted to go out swinging. Bob embraced the transition with no regrets. But Tyreese had been taught his entire life to never turn away, never give up. As his condition deteriorated, the hallucinations from those he’d cared for—Lizzie, Mika, Bob, and Beth—told him it was okay to not be a part of the world as it’s become. The others—Phillip and Martin—mock him for his subconscious desire to get it over with already. “You have to pay the bill,” Phillip told him. Ty’s final line was, “Turn it off.” Was he talking about the pain, the horrific world around them? Could be both. His final moments were some of the roughest to sit through, a testament to Chad Coleman’s incredible performance.

In the wake of yet another loss, it’s become all too clear that what they’re doing isn’t working. Rick agrees with Michonne’s insistence that they take a page from Eugene’s playbook and take up the quest to Washington D.C. again. They need a home. Rick needs somewhere safe to raise his kids. They don’t have the supplies necessary to fortify their own safe haven. It’s one-hundred miles to Washington, will all of them make it?