Review of Episode 401
From the edge of RC Murphy’s chair
It has been far, far too long since we’ve had the opportunity to sit and catch up with our favorite band of zombie apocalypse survivors. “The Walking Dead” returned to AMC this week with a whopping 16.1 billion ravenous viewers, crushing every other show airing Sunday night with their ratings. While we at the ZSC know we love this show, it is staggering to see how many others are out there watching, and screaming at the TV, alongside us. So, what have Rick, Daryl, Carol, Glenn, Hershel, Maggie, and all the others been up to in the time they’ve been absent from our televisions?
Caution: There may be spoilers below.
Apparently Rick fancies himself a gardener nowadays. As Hershel said, all he needs is a pair of overalls and a piece of wheat to chew on. Rick spent the weeks since bringing in the survivors from Woodbury transforming the yard in the prison into a small farm, complete with vegetable garden and livestock—although the pig, Violet, keeled over for unknown reasons. From what we were able to glean from Hershel’s talk with Rick, the former sheriff’s deputy has taken the passive road since the Woodbury showdown with the still-missing Governor. Rick was resistant to orders to take his iconic Python pistol with him when he goes outside the fortified fences of the prison. All of the violence, and his tango with insanity, turned Rick into a new man. He hesitates to draw his gun. He’s isolated himself from the community for the most part. It seems he’s content to be the absent caretaker for all of these people—the true number of which we’re not sure. Rick’s new take on life is tested when he finds a lone, starving woman in the woods while checking the snare traps they use to gather rabbits for food. It’s hard to say if he passed or failed the test. A lot of the ugliness inside his head was reflected in this woman’s circumstances, giving viewers an all too clear look at how bad he could have gotten after Lori’s death.
An unlikely savior, Daryl has stepped into the savior role Rick abandoned. He’s still rough around the edges, keeping everyone at arm’s length. However, there’s a gleam in Daryl’s eyes when he’s thanked for finding someone and bringing them into the safety of their prison community. His relationship with Carol is unclear. They seem to have found a comfortable rhythm with each other—which is adorable to watch. This will be the season when we see what truly keeps Daryl going. He’s lost Merle for good. There’s no longer the off chance that he’ll be reunited with the only remaining survivor in his family. Perhaps that lack of blood family has Daryl reaching out for connections with others. Even the most solitary person needs a touchstone to remind themselves they’re human, that they matter in the grand scheme of things. It is far too easy to drown in the miserable existence in the show’s world without human interaction.
That interaction is what keeps Michonne around. She seems to spend most of her time outside the prison, with her gorgeous horse, searching for traces of the Governor and other things that’ll keep the few people she considers family happy. Michonne is far from soft and cuddly, but it spoke volumes when she brought back a stack of comic books for Carl and a beard trimmer for Rick. She’ll never find the closeness she had before with Andrea. That line of trust has been severely damaged. But she won’t leave these people who fought by her side, took her in when she surely would have died on her own. Michonne’s code of honor is warped, yet functional.
Glenn and Maggie are still the strongest pair from the original group of survivors—though plenty of others have found love in the weeks since season three ended. Unfortunately for Maggie, Glenn’s need to protect her lingers at the edge of their relationship. Maggie was the one to step up and become the protector, the backbone, for her family after the disease took the majority of them. Hershel did what he could, but he lived with the belief that there was a cure, something Maggie dismissed long before her father. She has to be an active part of the community in order to feel like everything is okay. She’ll never, ever sit back and be the little lady. However, she knows when to pick her battles. Stepping back from going outside the gates protected Glenn from worry. They feed on each other’s emotions. If he were upset, she would be too. They’re still finding a balance after the Governor threw them for a loop. Maybe they’ll even find a way to settle down. Once Glenn feels it is safe enough to start a family. Judging by what he said toward the end of the show, it is a ways off.
“How can you say that after today, after Lori?”
Maggie responded with, “Because I don’t want to be afraid of being alive.”
And that is the theme for these two, staring Death straight in the eyes and refusing to step back because they have each other and a small, strange family of people they’ve chosen and trust.
The season premiere tackled the psychological issues hitting the survivors. There’s plenty of walker action, no doubt, but it wasn’t anything on par with the mess inside everyone’s heads. Tyrese grows increasingly uncomfortable with killing walkers. Some of the new folks want to help, but may find themselves in Tyrese’s shoes, or dealing with deeper, darker secrets. Poor Beth is so accustomed with death, she can’t cry when they add another death to the growing tally. And Carol worries so much about the children they’ve brought in, she’s been secretly teaching them how to fight walkers.
We weren’t left without a mystery to solve at the end of the episode. What do you think happened to Patrick? Could it be connected to the pig’s sudden, unexplained death?