The Cell Review for The Walking Dead 703 by R.C. Murphy
Spoiler warning! Not that there’s much to spoil . . . .
Number one, the unavoidable Reedus nudity. I signed off on the last review with a snippy remark about Daryl being nude as a selling point for The Powers That Be at AMC. Sure enough, it took nearly ten minutes into the episode for Daryl to be sufficiently clothed. Master Dwight may have given Dobby clothes, but he’s not a free elf. Much to my chagrin. This story line has the potential to go nowhere given the lack of know-how when it comes to handling the Character Development Forgot.
To balance out the awkwardness of cramming Daryl into the Sanctuary lifestyle, they give him a woman to talk to—a misnomer, she talks, he bobs his head or gives soulful eyes. Sherry originally came onto the show with her sister and Dwight after they stole insulin for the sister. Now she’s back to make sure the show doesn’t devolve into a sausage fest during Sanctuary scenes, and to give fans a woman to ‘ship Daryl with, because that’s so necessary. It’s obvious no matter what comes out of her mouth, she has no agency to actually make it happen. Daryl doesn’t listen to her. Dwight and Negan treat her like a commodity, though the former at least has the decency to blush as his boss lays out the full transaction for their new guest. She skulks around the compound like a frightened cat, and is always hidden the minute the big guy is nearby.
The inevitable showdown between Daryl and Negan only ever had one outcome. He effed up and got Glenn killed, that guilt will keep Daryl on the side of the angels for as long as possible. And now that he has a woman to fight for, or help Dwight fight for, he’ll stubbornly remain Rick’s attack dog. Until they beat it out of him, that is. Negan’s not going to keep giving him free Alpo sandwiches, clothes, and shelter for long. Just like in The Kingdom, you reap what you sew in the Sanctuary. But you better be sewing a lot more than what the boss lets you reap. No one upstages that man except Lucille.
Dwight may be a potential ally, if Daryl could stop being an A-class jerk for half a second. His self-pity will prevent this pair-up from happening for too long, probably. Meanwhile, Dwight stews in his resentment, ripe for turning against Negan with a push in the right direction. Of course, it’d take a chess partner as skilled at manipulation as Negan to really make it work. Not sure Daryl is up for five coherent sentences in a row, let alone convincing Dwight to work from the inside out to dismantle the Saviors. Maybe that’s why Sherry was brought along as baggage. She’ll do the convincing so Daryl can brood enough for twelve TV bad-boys.
We meet more Saviors, some who’ll probably be go-to men throughout the season. Only one of the goons got a name outside the official “I am Negan” moniker—Fat Joey. Dr. Carson seems reasonable, but is completely in Negan’s sway. If the big guy crapped a rainbow, the doctor would say, “I told you so.” On the flipside of the coin, Dwight chases a doomed character, Gordon, down the road a ways. This guy is done living in Negan’s wet dream for the apocalypse. He just wants an out, any out. He’d rather take a bullet than serve Negan again. Instead of complying, Dwight’s insecurity about his place in Sanctuary push him to permanently enslave Gordon as a walker on their fence line.
Why is it the actions of a new character scream development, but a man who’s been there since episode two hasn’t grown at all? If anything, Daryl has regressed into even less of a character since they stripped away his remaining family and doused pretty much every relationship he started which delved deeper than passing acquaintance. What are they waiting for? Why hold back with this one character? Crap or get off the pot, already. They need to find a way to make him an actual part of the story, not just an object the story happens to or around. I would’ve rather we see an episode without any of Rick’s people involved to get a real taste of the Saviors. So far, everything’s been from someone else’s POV. If they want to truly shock us, let us see what it’s like when the machine runs smoothly. Negan’s efficiency is what’s truly terrifying. He gets things done. But how? All we ever see is him reprimanding one man, maybe two. Show us how he handles all his business. Intelligence can be serious nightmare fuel in the right hands.
Next week, Negan makes a house call. It’s supposedly a long episode, so anticipate me saying they added unnecessary things to make a non-event writing wise feel like a big to-do. It’s all they ever do with these extended episodes. But I’ll take it for the extra time to watch Jeffrey Dean Morgan smirk.
Yeah, the warning is right on top this week. We’ve got a lot to discuss and little time to pussyfoot around with generalizations and all that rubbish. You guys waited months for this episode. Was it worth the anger at the producers and writers who said we’d be glad for so much time to stew over who died? Do you feel cheated by the dual deaths? How about all that brain matter on the ground, was it too much? Most importantly, are any of us really feeling the emotion between Rick and Negan or will the directors continue leading it to an awkward place where it’s laughable?
I, personally, feel cheated out of the surprise. The producers showed their hands months ago when they continuously stated that the show would gradually realign with what happens in the comic books. One death talked about constantly is Negan murdering Glenn. Hell, someone just released an action figure featuring Glenn’s mangled face as it’s shown on the page—which is almost identical to what’s on screen for that heartbreaking apology to Maggie. Almost in the same breath as the realigning statements, TWD higher-ups denied that Glenn would die. Red flag. Red flags everywhere. It was raining them at SDCC 2016. Since then, I’ve spent the time away from TWD saying goodbye to my favorite character. So when Negan first hit Glenn, my reaction was a resigned sigh. Then profanity, and more sighing. The show which constantly states they want to break boundaries and do new things is still utterly predictable.
Abraham’s brutal murder wasn’t overly shocking either if one stops for even a minute to think as Negan would when sizing up his newest assets. Manipulation is his bread and butter. One look at Rick’s people and how they handled interactions with the Saviors told Negan everything he needed to know—kill Abe because he’s ride-or-die loyal, keep Daryl because he’s mentally fragile and can be manipulated just like Rick. This is easy for Negan. Twisting people’s minds to do what he wants is the sole reason he’s not rotting in a walker’s gut. So why would an astute audience willingly overlook this? Why, TWD writers, would you go for the two characters who make the most sense if your desire was to shock, surprise, and devastate? Anyone with half a brain who tunes in regularly knew we’d lose Abraham. Daryl sells too much merchandise. Rick’s demise would’ve been awesome, but ultimately disappointing because the lead-up to the murder scene was so lackluster and drawn-out. Killing a woman would’ve started a feminist war in the fanbase. Carl was a good candidate, but he’s got too much potential to carry the show forward now. Plus in Negan-sense, he’s a carrot to dangle in front of Rick to ensure good behavior. The remaining gentlemen, as much as we adore them, just wouldn’t have the same impact. I would’ve been more shocked by that scene if Negan didn’t kill anyone, but just as pissed off with the direction the show took for the season premiere.
I mean, since when is five minutes of Rick staring at a set we’ve already seen before gripping television? He’s supposed to have a breakdown during the whole axe-fetching scene. Okay, that’s believable. So why did it involve long shots of walkers shuffling through smoke cut with the footage shown at SDCC with Lucille and the main cast? The scene felt like something from an indie band’s music video—a lone, agonized man surrounded by the cheesiest surroundings ever, just to feel spooky. Then, to make the death scenes mean even less, they show clips with Rick imagining everyone else getting a kiss upside the dome from Lucille. Why? We already know what he’s thinking. A good actor can do that, and Andrew Lincoln is no slouch when it comes to his face betraying every thought in Rick’s head.
They wanted to come into the Negan Era with a loud noise. In order to make noise, the plot’s gotta move faster than a snail’s pace. Inertia. Ever hear of it? The ball doesn’t roll and keep rolling without a hell of a push. It took the show fifteen minutes to get to the murders. I almost turned it off, thinking they’d strung us along for yet another week, and I was done if that were the case. It wasn’t, but the scene is buried so far in the episode, it does no good other than to turn stomachs. The only reason the scene is hidden in the episode is because of the backlash from the season six cliffhanger. Many fans felt as I did; we’ll watch the opening scene for season seven to learn who died and move on to another, more entertaining show which actually strives to write coherently. In a direct thumb-nosing to the noise-makers speaking against the cliffhanger, they cut together the episode just to make us wait through a couple commercial breaks. How nice of them to ensure the show makes a buck from a group who’re pretty likely to throw out their TWD fan badges after learning who died. I’m not tossing my badge in the fire just yet because I have hope the Negan era will smooth out, but it’s a near thing after this episode.
The violence in the episode really struck some sour notes across the fandom. Every complaint I see is met with a laugh. Fans derided the writers when there wasn’t enough undead violence. They scream for blood anytime a character or group disrespects the main cast. Yet the bad guy, who we’ve been warned about constantly since the show began by fans of the comics, comes in and does exactly what he’s supposed to, and it’s suddenly too much for the delicate flowers planted on their couches. Take up gardening if you can’t handle fake blood on a show centered on how messed up humanity is without actual rules to govern it. Were the close-ups too much? Possibly. I’m not one to judge. Horror and gore are my jam. I only started watching TWD to see what KNB FX could do with extended time to develop creatures and death gags; they’ve yet to disappoint. I will state that wanting a show built on the premise of killing things in order to survive to shy away from gruesome murders is like expecting a unicorn to lick away your tears while curing cancer. It won’t happen.
For the most part, we already knew what’d happen plot wise: Someone dies, Rick and Negan have a long moment to deal with Rick’s stubbornness, the Alexandria crew is absorbed by the Saviors, and Maggie wants blood, but she’s in no position to even walk, let alone lead a war. Daryl as the cause of Glenn’s death was the lone surprise for me—as I stated, I saw the death coming, just not how it’d happen. We’ve waited since Merle’s death for Daryl to be relevant to the plot again and now I want him to be the next big death on the show. Why? Because Daryl knew dang well that someone else, not him, would die for that single punch. They all knew Negan’s M.O. by that point. Abe died because of Rick’s hubris, yet that wasn’t lesson enough for everyone’s apocalyptic savior? Yeah, no. I’m beyond done with their failed attempts to make Daryl into an actual character. He’s been a two-dimensional promotional tool for so long, they’ve forgotten the character has a brain.
Now that the clunky season opener is behind us, maybe the ball will roll through season seven better. But, wait, we’ve still got a whole ‘nother group to introduce over at The Kingdom. If that episode is as awkward and poorly timed as the Negan/Rick glare-downs in the RV, I don’t know how much longer they can continue to pretend they know how to produce a show, let alone write one with so much potential for real depth and ability to shine a light on the massive problems in today’s society. They keep dropping the ball. I’m tired of waiting for someone in the TWD production office to finally pick it up and run it in for a touchdown. It’s time they returned to giving fans entertainment of substance instead of shilling the Walking Dead name and filling their coffers.
Yup, you guessed it. There’s spoilers in this review. I highly suggest you watch before reading.
Last week I mistakenly labeled episode 214 as the penultimate, when this week’s episode is the one leading into the now-inflated finale. My bad. In my defense, these last few episodes blurred together with nothing truly standing out until the last fifteen seconds in this episode. That gunshot is the only reason fans are hanging in to see the finale. They don’t care about this boogeyman we’re promised. They’ve bitten the Daryl-is-in-danger bait and swallowed the hook.
How did we get to a point where the most reliable defender for Alexandria winds up with an enemy bullet in him? I don’t even know. A lot of the logic they have Daryl working on right now doesn’t fit the Daryl we’ve known since he first calmed his roll and became a team player. Yes, people regress when stressed, but for him to completely snap and spiral in this guilt loop is whoa, wait, what? He’s a better man than the one they needed in order to lure so many valued fighters into the middle of nowhere. Yet again, they’re relying on the revenge trope to undermine character growth and create bad situations. Even Rosita gets sucked into Daryl’s mindset. Not that Glenn and Michonne fare much better after leaving the two to hunt Dwight and his gang. They’re surrounded and used as, yup you guessed it, bait. Snap. Reel. Toss the catch into the ice chest. Well, not yet. We know Daryl was shot, but not the severity of the wound. I’m gonna guess it didn’t tickle, though.
So that’s four fighters out of the way. Five including Carol, who snuck out during shift changes early in the morning with a fully-loaded go bag and a coat with some interesting modifications—which I totally want should the undead hit the fan at some point. They want Carol to seem traumatized, on the brink, but she’s premeditating pretty much everything that’s happened in the hours after burying Denise. An insane person would not take the time to cook herself that much food, let alone pack enough gear for a few weeks and sew a friggen gun into her coat sleeve. It’s like they don’t know who the character is anymore. Oh, wait. I’ve said the same thing since they set her on the Morgan witch hunt. A hunt which is flipped on its ear with Morgan and Rick awkwardly buddy copping it through the countryside looking for Carol. An homage to Rick and Shane’s fight way back in season two? Possibly, but the whole mistrusting Morgan story line is so convoluted, their discussion has no impact other than, “Duh, we know that’s how Rick thinks now.” It’s not a surprise he thinks Carol’s murders at the prison were justified. He just sanctioned widespread murder to wipe out the Saviors. Nor is it a surprise Morgan feels this is a poor plan. Killing leads to killing. Morgan saved a man, who saved a woman, who saved Carl’s life. Which is the preferred outcome? This is something they’ll never agree on. Matter of fact, things between the men are downright tense after they follow the blood trail to a barn and a man just looking for a horse. Rick assumes the armored man is a Savior or fled from Hilltop and wants to shoot him—ignoring the encroaching walkers. Morgan sabotages the shot. There’s some eye daggers before they continue the hunt for Carol, any surviving Saviors, and the Horse Guy—who may or may not be a hint to another comic book tie-in. We never find out what happens after Carol leaves the road where she killed a handful of saviors.
We have seven fighters incapacitated thanks to Daryl’s revenge scheme, Morgan chasing Carol, and Maggie’s sudden complications from the kidnapping. Seven of their best fighters just happen to be out of town the episode before the Big Bad huffs, puffs, and blows their gates in. Why stack the deck against the protagonists this way? Oh, right? They have no tension left for Negan’s arrival. All they can do is make overwhelming odds for the characters and hope it’s enough to make fans ask questions on social media, driving up word of mouth advertisement and allowing them to repost the few good things fans say or ask in order to convince everyone their poor plotting for season six was worth it in the end. Going into next week, I’m convinced they’ve lost the love of story and are simply milking the cash cow until they can switch beasts and attempt to get milk from the shriveled dugs Fear the Walking Dead sported throughout its freshman season. Basically, they have no writing integrity because they got too comfortable being the best in their genre and stopped trying to do new things. Rehashing old ideas and generalized plots is nothing new or surprising. We did most of this before with The Governor. Honestly? I get more enjoyment from just about every other post-apocalyptic show than what the Walking Dead franchise has offered in three years.
Of Wolves and Men Review of “The Walking Dead” 516 – “Conquer”
Let’s get the messy part out of the way—this episode didn’t warrant an extra twenty minutes of screen time. All it did was give producers a chance to dump all the plot threads into a pool and pray it all untangles in the end. They should’ve refined the story into something a little more cohesive that fits the normal forty-two minutes per episode. Every plot element was unnecessarily drawn out. It’d be different if the time was spent on much-needed character development or laying down a solid base for next season. It wasn’t. They flung everything off the table and fans are supposed to be happy with how the story lands until October. As far as finales go, this is The Walking Dead‘s weakest. So what did happen in the finale? Let’s discuss.
You know the drill, there’s spoilers from here on out in this review.
After weeks wondering why Morgan was brought back during a couple quick scenes, we finally get an answer. Kinda. It’s entirely possible, given the state of things in Alexandria by the end of the episode, that Morgan will fill the long-empty “morality of the group” position. A role desperately needed since Hershel’s murder. We were led to believe Gabriel would fill the need, but he’s loonier than a monkey in rubber pants. Morgan isn’t a pushover. When he’s confronted by the men who’ve been mutilating the walkers around Alexandria, he attempts a passive resolution. It doesn’t work, so he thunks them over the head and locks them in the car he’d used as a hotel room the night before. Later, Morgan bails Daryl and Aaron out of a tight spot—they unwittingly walk into a trap set by the same men who attacked Morgan. These men, wolves they consider themselves, could be the big bad for next season. Honestly, they don’t feel too threatening now that Daryl, Aaron, and Morgan know where they are hiding their zombie collection. What kind of weirdo keeps a zombie collection, anyway? (Zombie bunnies don’t count, guys.)
The entire time Rick and company have been in Alexandria, it’s felt like he and Michonne are growing apart. She wanted to find home so bad and he’s fought it tooth-and-nail since meeting the townsfolk. It’s not until Rick wakes in a makeshift holding cell with Michonne watching over him that they finally understand—they want the same thing and are going about it completely different ways. She doesn’t care if he conspired with Daryl and Carol to secure emergency weapons. She’s willing to look the other way while Carol coaches Rick on how to Play The Part—tell Deanna and her followers exactly what they want to hear, just like Carol has done since they arrived. Michonne has overlooked and forgiven a lot in the name of keeping their newfound home. Being a pushover won’t work, she knows it. However, she also understands in order to get what they all want, someone and something’s got to give. Michonne is the law alongside Rick. She can’t run off like Carol, threatening to murder anyone in the way—a message Pete got loud and clear in this episode. Michonne tells Rick, “We don’t need (guns) here. I don’t need my sword. I think you can find a way—we—can find a way. And if we don’t, I’m still with you.” So even though he’s been a paranoid nutjob for weeks, one of his most capable allies is still at his side. How much is Michonne willing to overlook and forgive in her quest for normalcy, though?
Tensions are riding high between everyone, not just the town’s peacekeepers. Toward the end of the episode, there’s a huge clash between Sasha and Gabriel—the crew’s most unhinged members. Sasha spent her afternoon laying in a mass walker grave, wondering what’s wrong with her. Gabriel spent his strolling around, looking for a walker to do what he can’t—end his life. At the moment of truth, he kills the walker. It’s actually one of the best kills in an episode filled with walker deaths. But when Gabriel and his inability to commit to death and Sasha with her equally large death wish are in the same room, the claws come out. “I think I want to die,” Sasha tells Gabriel. He replies, “Why wouldn’t you want to die? You don’t deserve to be here. What you did can never be undone. The dead don’t chose, but the choices you made, how you sacrificed your own . . . .” He goes on, blaming Sasha for Bob’s death, saying Tyreese deserved his death because of what she’d done. Most of what he says is directed at himself, not her. It doesn’t stop Gabriel from attacking Sasha. In the end, Maggie pulls them apart and sits them down to pray.
Another tense duo come to blows in the midst of the big, “What do we do with Rick” problem. Nicholas lures Glenn over Alexandria’s walls and shoots him in the shoulder. The wound isn’t fatal. Throughout the middle and end of the episode, Glenn and Nicholas take turns beating the snot out of each other and the walkers drawn their way by the noise. It ends with Glenn pinning Nicholas to the ground, a gun pointed at his head. Nicholas begs, crying. Glenn visibly wants to kill him. Is psyching himself out for the kill, telling Nicholas repeatedly to shut up. He doesn’t do it. Should he have? Not in this instance. Nicholas is a coward. He made his attempt to rid himself of the one man who knows just how much of a coward he is. Now that the plan has failed, I’m sure he’ll back down. He may even become Glenn’s new sidekick.
The town meeting to discuss Rick’s attack on Pete, the gun he’d hidden, and the threats made after the fight is doomed from the get-go. Deanna’s motivations aren’t without bias. It’s obvious she wants Rick gone. He’s a thorn in her side and constantly questions how she’s run things since the settlement was created. She doesn’t even wait to see if Rick will show up to the meeting that’ll decide his fate—which he won’t, seeing as Gabriel let a zombie into Alexandria after failing to secure the gate and he’s tracking it while his crew stands up for him. All those kind words from Michonne, Carol, Maggie—and let’s not forget Abraham’s eloquent offering—they’re for naught. Once Rick walks in with a dead zombie over his shoulder, it’s pretty much sealed. Instead of rushing to save his own hide, Rick hunted a walker on his own to ensure their safety. Not even Deanna’s admission of Gabriel’s concerns, which we heard last week, matter after Rick’s little speech.
“The ones out there, they’ll hunt us. They’ll find us. They’ll try to use us. They’ll try to kill us. But we’ll kill them. We’ll survive. I’ll show you how. You know, I was thinking . . . I was thinking, how many of you do I have to kill to save your lives? But I’m not gonna do that. You’re gonna change.”
Rick’s place in Alexandria is cemented when Pete comes into the meeting fully prepared to kill Rick—with Michonne’s katana. Reg steps in the way to calm Pete and is killed instead. Without hesitation, Deanna gives Rick the order to put Pete down.
This is the chaos greeting Morgan after he reluctantly agrees to come back to Alexandria with Daryl and Aaron. How will the old friends get along after such a brutal reunion? Who knows? We’ve got quite some time to ponder how things will land in an evolving Alexandria.
Shh . . . . Was that rustle a walker or a spoiler? Tread carefully.
Death rituals in the zombie apocalypse are odd. More often than not, there’s no corpse to bury or they’ve been forced to cremate their pals because there just wasn’t time to dig a grave. Deanna and family memorialize Aiden by listening to one of his mix CDs. Music has been a vital part of this season, keeping the tone just a little off balance. Aiden’s death does the same to Deanna. She isn’t thinking as rationally as usual when it comes to confrontations and playing the intrigue games they’ve already established between the factions. Typically it’d be an ideal time to pounce, but her opponent isn’t playing with a full deck, either.
At least this means Deanna won’t have time to yell at Sasha for going Lone Ranger in the forest around Alexandria. The second Michonne discovers that Sasha is gone again, she takes off after her. Rosita tags along to be the voice of reason. “You seem screwed up that we found something,” Rosita says to Michonne while they’re on Sasha’s trail. She holds a mirror up to Michonne’s guilt about Noah’s death—if she hadn’t pushed, they wouldn’t have been there for him to die. Irrational, yes. Just like Sasha’s quest to single-handedly decimate the walker population. She’s not a human nuke, but does make an impressive dent in the walker numbers near Alexandria—with assistance when the dung hits the fan at one point. Not that Sasha wants or needs Michonne’s help, of course. She’s beyond saving.
Someone else blows off steam by taking out a few walkers. Carl follows Enid out into the woods on one of her numerous outings to simple run free, away from the nightmares. She’s got a few tricks up her sleeve to deal with walkers—including using a kitchen timer to draw them away. At one point they end up cornered by a horde and hide inside a dead tree. Enid tells Carl, “It’s their world. We’re just living in it.” Which them? The walkers who outnumber the living? The adults making all the wrong decisions, costing the children their homes and loved ones repeatedly?
Things in Doc’s house aren’t getting any better. Carol is fed up. She wants to see an end to it and prods Rick toward making a decision. She’s been digging into the problem. Discovered that Jessie tells Sam to lock himself in his closet during Pete’s outbursts, and once Sam came out of the closet to find her unconscious, bleeding on the floor. Rick decides to try negotiating before following Carol’s suggestion to kill Pete. Rick’s idea of good negotiating techniques may need some work. Like, say, not cornering your opponent in a graveyard. Deanna has all the right answers to Rick’s suggestion—separate them—but she’s thrown for a loop at the suggestion that they kill Pete if he doesn’t comply. The answers aren’t enough. Rick pokes at the hornet’s nest, goes to Jessie and tries to make her see that she can’t fix what’s wrong with Pete.
“You’re only going to make things worse.”
“If things get worse, it means he’s killed you and I’m not going to let that happen.”
Why is Rick fixated on solving Jessie’s problems? Is this an attempt to save one woman, therefore saving the countless others he’s failed since waking in the hospital so, so many moons ago? Certainly it can’t be love. How wrong it is that we question his motives so much simply because he wants to do the right thing. But he’s going about it all wrong. His motives may not be transparent, but the window Rick and Pete break through during their fight is crystal clear—and shattered like Rick’s hope for a future in the walls of Alexandria.
Grab your Kleenex and let’s go. Just watch out for the spoilers below.
Let’s get the worst part out of the way. The supply run had potential at first. For once, Aiden didn’t have his head wedged so firmly he couldn’t hear Glenn’s advice. They followed procedure. Well, except Eugene who just didn’t want to be there. Cowards don’t do brave things and helping find replacement parts for the power grid borders too close to heroism for his taste. But the coward wasn’t the problem. Once inside, things start to unravel. Nicholas and Aiden lose their calm once the walkers close in on their location. That’s the only way to explain how Aiden failed to see the grenade pinned to the chest of an armored walker before he took another shot. Unbelievably, that’s still not the worst thing to happen on this run. After both Nicholas and a dying Aiden admit they were the reason four of their previous supply runners’ deaths, everyone jumps from frying pan into the fire. Eugene single-handedly carries Tara through the walkers to the van outside. Nicholas runs the wrong way—ending up cornered in the building’s lobby which they knew was overrun. Glenn and Noah try to save him and each other, but Nicholas’ panic eats his last two brain cells.
Noah’s death is by far one of the hardest to sit through. Steven Yeun’s performance during the scene breaks my heart. It says so much about Glenn and his morals—he let go of Noah, the least he can do is be there for him until he’s gone.
There’s an unspoken code amongst native Alexandrians when it comes to walker interactions. From the examples given during the supply run and at the construction site with Abraham, it’s safe to assume the code is, “Every man for himself.” Abraham is the only man to step up and save Francine after walkers invade their trip to grab supplies for the wall expansion. Slowly some of the others turn back to help, but it takes a while and they’re still not totally convinced they did the right thing providing backup for Abraham. Tobin, their overseer, knows they reacted wrong. He almost got one of his crewmembers killed. After he returns to camp—leaving the others behind—Tobin resigns from his position and tells Deanna to give it to Abraham. Is it wise to put yet another “outsider” in charge? Maggie convinces Deanna that it certainly won’t be the end of the world, plus her people are competent and she has faith in their ability to help Alexandria.
“They’re not good people. They’ve done things. They’ve done unspeakable things.”
Gabriel could undo all the good press Maggie has been putting forward for the group. Usually it’s Rick to put his foot in the crazy mess and drag it all over the carpet. Not this time. The guilt-crippled priest is everyone’s worst enemy. He can’t accept what he sees in himself and instead of dealing with it, finds an external source to blame. Rick, unfortunately, makes a great scape goat—possible more so after Deanna learns of her son’s death. Despite all their mistakes, do they deserve paradise? Is Alexandria the best they will find or is there a better paradise for them to take over?
The takeover may have a hiccup if Rick wants to do this thing covertly and without killing innocents. Over the course of the episode, it becomes alarmingly clear that something isn’t right in the Doc’s house. Sam spends more effort trying to stay at Carol’s house than it’d take for him to walk home. This is after she terrified him into keeping mum about the guns she stole. Even after all her effort, she’s still not the most frightening thing in the boy’s life. Once she realizes something is wrong, she sees the patterns emerge. Rick sees them too when Pete drunkenly accosts him about bringing Carl and Judith in for checkups. When Carol asks Rick to kill Pete, it’s inevitable. She’s been there, done that, and knows it’s going to take something drastic to shut down an abuser his size. Can Rick do it? Can he kill for Carol, for Jessie and her children—whom he hardly knows yet seems to care about her? What happens if Rick does kill Pete? They need a doctor more than a law man. Deanna may reconsider her stance on his place in Alexandria if he costs them the town’s doctor.
Head’s up! There’s spoilers in the rest of this review.
One of the last hold-outs to fit into life in Alexandria is Sasha. She’s not sleeping. Wakes with the sun to use someone else’s family photos for target practice. At no point does she attempt to get along with the locals—not even effervescent Olivia. How can anyone resist home-cured meats and pickles? Her erratic behavior puts everyone at risk. Deanna won’t put up with her for long. Neither will Michonne.
Sasha isn’t the last round peg refusing to fit in a square hole. Carol, Rick and Daryl are very much on the fence—do they start taking over now or wait to see what their new neighbors can really do? More importantly, how quickly can they establish their own weapons cache? Never mind what’s actually coming out of Deanna’s mouth—making Rick and Michonne the town’s law, reestablishing civilization, a future for their children. Matter of fact, Rick looks terrified at the prospect of Judith remaining in Alexandria past next week, let alone when she’s Carl’s age or an adult. He has to see the potential in her as a leader, but too long scraping by to see tomorrow makes him jumpy, unable to trust in anyone. Which leads to one of the best-acted scenes on this show this season—Carol and Sam in the armory. Melissa McBride does an amazing job showing just how good Carol is at lying to everyone around her. The two sides we see—the soccer mom and the ruthless killer—are drastically different. Carol loves kids, but in that moment she needs Sam more afraid of her than anything else in the world. It works. But is Carol’s remaining humanity really the price Rick should pay to obtain a security blanket?
“…longer they’re out there, the more they become what they really are.”
If Daryl finds out how far down the rabbit hole Carol goes to get the guns, his tune will change pretty quick. As it is, he’s slowly warming up to Aaron. Or at least I assume that’s what it means when he grunts more than five words at a person. The guys had an unfortunate bonding experience with the doomed horse, Buttons. They tried to help and in the end, that help cost Buttons his life. How many times has this happened with humans on the show? So many deaths in the name what’s supposed to be kindness. Except, kindness is as foreign as flying to Disneyworld for vacation in their reality. Losing Buttons doesn’t put a damper on the kinship of sorts brewing between Aaron and Daryl. While everyone else is dragged to the welcoming party at Deanna’s, the guys join Eric for a spaghetti dinner. Over dinner, they pop the question—will Daryl take Eric’s spot as recruiter for Alexandria. There’s a signing bonus, too. Plenty of parts to build a custom motorcycle. Something changes for Daryl during that day. He went from covert meeting in the woods to agreeing to recruit for the town. If he can be won over, who will follow next?
Last week, we caught up with the long-lost Beth. This week, we’re on the road with Abraham and the gang determined to see Eugene safely to D.C. so he can work on the virus that may very well eliminate every walker across the globe. To say their trip is a tad rocky in this episode is a gross understatement.
A part of me feels like there were some character tweaks to make this episode in particular hit a certain vibe—not a pleasant one, either. Abraham’s anger has never been hidden, but the extent of his emotional baggage hasn’t been on the screen in this way before. It’s difficult to balance what we know of the man with what we’re shown in this episode. We get glimpses of his past throughout, relating to the early days after the outbreak and his attempts to keep Ellen, his wife, and two children safe. The ease with which he kills stems not from a long military service, but from understanding that sometimes people must die. Others may judge him—his wife was so terrified she took the kids and ran to their deaths—but at least he knows he’s done his part to keep his people safe. There’s a fine line Abraham walks. More than once we saw Rosita, who’s been with him for almost the entire trip from Texas to Georgia, take a step back from his anger. She’s romantically involved with Abraham and looks to him as their leader, but at one point she has to put her foot down before Abraham marches them into a herd of walkers so thick, one can’t see the road through all the decaying flesh.
That’s after they managed to kill every vehicle they rode in for longer than a mile. What is with people after the apocalypse having horrible luck with transportation which doesn’t require manpower? Yes, Eugene sabotaged the bus, but there’s been a string of bad timing with cars running out of gas or crashing throughout the show. Remember Lori and the walker pushing his face through the safety glass? Yuck! It’s like once the dead rose, everyone forgot how to operate cars. Convenient for the writers—it keeps their locations isolated to a specific area and gives them a chance to add in more fight scenes with walkers. Awful for the characters who end up with concussions and who knows what else from all these crashes.
Tara is finding her footing within the group. Unfortunately her footing puts her in the path of Eugene’s weirdness. For most of the episode, I yelled at her to get away from him. She’s naïve and kind. Lately, Eugene has been written like a sociopath. He understands emotions, but they don’t connect with him on more than a surface level. He’s got one concern: his safety. Tara, meanwhile, wants to make sure everyone is okay and happy. That’s a tall order considering the mess they get into after the bus flips in the middle of the freeway.
Speaking of, what sort of sense does it make to walk forward into uncharted territory, given that your ride and supplies catch fire on the road, instead of backtracking to a known safe location? Fifteen miles out from the church, the glass Eugene dumped in the gas tank causes the bus to flip and the engine to catch fire. Despite losing everything except the bag of weapons, Abraham orders everyone to continue on their set path. He’s running from something, which isn’t clear until the end of the episode. What I want to know is, how the heck did they happen to find a walker-free place to sleep in by sunset given there was nothing but forest stretching down the road they traveled? The same sort of plot gap happens toward the end when we though the gang were good to go with the fire engine and suddenly they’re walking toward at least two thousand walkers. Uh, what?
I’d like to take a moment to gloat. All this time, I’ve said Eugene wasn’t what he seemed and guess who was right? Yup, this reviewer. Eugene made the best of a bad situation. He knew he couldn’t hope to make it longer than a day without clinging onto someone and convincing them to help him. He’d done the math, Washington D.C. should be the safest place within the undead-infested United States. But he was in Texas, and that’s a long way to travel alone when one cannot defend themselves. Luckily enough, he stumbled across Abraham at exactly the right moment. A minute or two later, Eugene would’ve stumbled across a woman and two children who’d been eaten by walkers, and a man beside them with the top of his head blown off. Abraham feels he owes Eugene for saving him from suicide. The need to balance the debt pushed him for so long, when Eugene finally told the truth—that he’s not a scientist capable of destroying the walkers with a virus—Abraham snapped. The last we saw of Eugene, he was T.K.O.ed with everyone hovering over him. Honestly? That’s what he gets for getting everyone’s hopes up. Numerous people died to get him to D.C. and it was all a lie.
This episode was still a tad slow, save the last few minutes when the truth hit the fan. If this trend sticks, the show may have a hard time ramping up for what is always an epic mid-season finale. For now, we play the wait-and-see game.
A little forewarning for the second episode of season five—don’t eat anything when you watch. Or rewatch. At no point in your life will it be okay to consume much beyond water while watching . . . and even that’s questionable depending on the strength of your stomach.
Spoiler Alert! The following review contains episode spoilers.
For the first time in too long—possibly since before Hershel’s murder—we witness a survivor group who are somewhat happy. It may be mostly relief. Giddiness from finding each other once again and surviving escape from Terminus with no casualties on their part. Rick smiles and takes time with his children, something he hasn’t been able to do since the prison attack. Even then, he was plagued by Lori’s ghost and could not fully bond with Judith. Everyone has banded together to take care of the baby.
Judith, along with Bob and Glenn, became the heart and soul of the group. Anyone needing a mental time-out takes a turn watching the baby. Tyreese in particular has done a lot of mental healing since his time taking care of Judith. His world simplified to one focus—protect her and provide for her, no matter what dangers lurk around the corner. Because of that focus, he’s ready to forget that Carol killed his girlfriend and move on. He can kill again, without feeling a strangling sense of moral wrongness. Bob and Glenn, in their roles as heart and conscious, focus on Rick and keeping him grounded despite his overwhelming need for revenge. Even though Rick is smiling and reunited with his family, there’s a darkness in his eyes that won’t go away. The pain he’s gone through has forever changed him. Even if Eugene’s scheme to infect the walkers with a super virus that’ll kill them off works, Rick will never be the same. He will need people like Glenn and Bob to thump him over the head and remind him he has two children relying on him to stay grounded and in control of his anger.
Unfortunately, Bob may not stick around long enough to help. We’ll get to that later.
This episode introduced Gabriel Stokes—a priest with a strange sense of humor (and awful comedic timing) and a secret which may or may not come back to bite the entire group in the backside. Gabriel doesn’t kill, not even the walkers who threaten his life. He’s been isolated in his church since the undead outbreak reached his neck of the woods. Luckily for Rick and company, the church is far enough out of the way to have little walker foot traffic. They hole up in Gabriel’s safe haven to take a breather and have a nice wind-down session reminiscent of the party down in the CDC’s basement back in season one. Let’s hope the church isn’t rigged to blow up.
The safety the church offers is an illusion. Rick, Carl, Daryl, and Michonne all sense something isn’t quite right. For days they’ve thought someone may be tracking their movements. Carl found evidence of an attempted break-in at the church, but couldn’t tell if the knife marks on the windows or the threat, You’ll burn for this, were fresh. We know that Morgan isn’t far behind the group, and he was a tad loony-pants the last time Rick saw him, but is he the threat?
Nope. It is far, far worse.
Poor Bob. He’s finally found a groove after the apocalypse—a solid relationship with Sasha, good standing within the survivor group, sobriety, a solid plan to help Abraham and Eugene reach the epidemic center in D.C., and a sense of relief so great he can’t help but weep. The latter proves his undoing. When Bob takes a time-out from the party, someone sneaks up and clubs him over the head. Next thing we know, it’s Bob-aque time. Hold the sauce. He’s still alive, but for how long? Gareth seems like a patient man, despite his disgusting diet choices. The group who survived the Terminus attack is small. How much can they consume before Rick realizes they’re a man down? Do cannibals diet? Guess we’ll find out next week. Cross your fingers and hope Bob makes it out only missing one limb.
Never Again. Never Trust. Review of The Walking Dead 501 By RC Murphy
It must be October. Everyone as far as the eye can see is trapped in Walker Fever—not to be confused with the fever the infected suffer before turning into the undead. We here at the ZSC Command Center are not immune and fell head-first into the fifth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead with snacks at our side . . . which we quickly ignored, given how bloody the first episode of the season turned out to be. With that in mind, let’s see what our favorite band of survivors are up to after being captured last season.
Spoiler Warning! Below are show spoilers. Turn back now if you haven’t watched this episode.
This episode had one flaw—the Terminus flashbacks. There were only two, at the beginning and end, but the information delivered was something clearly conveyed through dialog and set decoration in the middle of the episode. All the flashbacks provided was a little confusion as far as the timeline went. For half the episode, it appeared as though there was a time gap between when Rick and company were captured and the moment Carol and Tyreese were within hearing range of Terminus and all the gunfire. It wasn’t until Carol saw her once-friends bound and gagged that things started to make sense. Sometimes in story-telling, less is more. This was one of those cases.
Rick is still embracing the Ricktatorship, pushing everyone to arm themselves with whatever they can find in the train car. Miraculously, in the short time they were apparently imprisoned, they managed to build a good number of gnarly weapons using rusty nails, leather belts, hunks of wood, and who knows what else. All their work was for naught. Glenn, Rick, Ben, and Daryl were still taken by surprise and dragged into Terminus’ slaughterhouse. Which is the exact moment everyone set aside their popcorn and clutched the couch cushions so tight, their knuckles turned white.
Despite internet rumors, this was not the moment we said goodbye to any main cast members. Glenn is still alive and has taken on Hershel’s role, becoming Rick’s conscious when his desire for revenge threatens the entire group’s survival. It’s a position Glenn has filled before, but his youth and inexperience usually costs him solid ground to stand on in the face of Rick’s anger. This time Glenn seems better prepared to stand up for what he feels is right. He’s got far more at stake with Maggie at his side and committed to staying there no matter what. Not even his good friend will force him to risk her safety.
Carol is far, far removed from the character we met in season one. Now she can walk up and kill a walker without blinking, even while Tyreese stands behind her saying he’s not prepared to kill again. In the face of his perceived weakness and possible judgment, Carol doesn’t balk, doesn’t care. She will live, that’s that. She will make sure Tyreese and Judith live, no matter the cost to her. But she has no plans to stick with them. Being ousted from the group changed her more than the death of her husband and daughter. Solitude fits the new Carol. She’s truly free to do what she wants when she wants after years of being the steel backbone for her family. Will her resolve to remain a lone wolf stay firm after reconnecting with the rest of the group? Hard to tell, but the reunion hug she shared with Daryl was perhaps one of the happiest moments on the show in years.
This episode was all about escalation. One group wrongs another, the afflicted group seeks revenge. That’s how Terminus became a cannibal’s Fantasy Land—their once sanctuary was overrun, the women abused, countless murdered, but they took it back and became something ruthless and without morals. That’s how Carol and Rick ensured Terminus could not recover from their attack and escape. Even Tyreese did not escape without having to step up his game to not only kill walkers, but also a human who posed a serious threat to Judith. By the end of the episode, even viewers felt panicky, waiting to see how far the escalation would go. What would be the ultimate cost of this revenge pushing Rick forward? So far, no one in his group has paid. That luck can only go so far.
We were visited by a long-lost character at the end of the episode. What role do you think he’ll play in the grand scheme of things? Last time we saw this guy, he was twelve crayons short of a full set and sure to die at any time. That’s the wonderful thing about this show, the people we think will die, don’t. Those we wish would live, keel over without warning. It’s impossible to predict what’s around the corner. But that is half the fun of watching. It is also why The Walking Dead was picked up for a sixth season days before the fifth season premiere.