Last week Operation Bitemark mostly struck out. George and Doc failed to save Dante from vigilantes. The others were more successful, but their efforts are little more than a stopgap measure. With the boom in Talker population, the half dozen boxes of bizkits won’t be enough. If the bakery is to get back in business, the team has to figure out what happened to the flour from Heartland.
Preferably before the undead citizens of the colonies get hungrier.
Heartland seems to be composed of almost entirely Talkers. They’re starving, lurking in the streets to beg any passersby for brains to eat. While they’re not aggressive yet, they’re on the edge. A little push and they’re gonners. There’s no way these poor people can bring in the harvest in this condition. But they’re also beyond listening to a group of strangers.
Luckily Doc and George roll into town around the time when it’s obvious the field workers can’t understand that the group is there to help. The car won’t be enough to keep hungry Talkers away for long, so Addy suggests they head to a farmhouse on the edge of town. It just so happens to be the farm where the flour is processed and stored. The same one the hungry workers should be running instead of starving to death. But just because most of the workforce is gone, doesn’t mean the farmhouse is abandoned. A brave soul named Charlie still mans the fort. Someone else lurks in the home, eventually flushed out by a determined Addy. Determined to check on her boyfriend, that is. Finn and Addy have been working together in their Talker Underground operation. The details of said operation get a tad confused as the story unfolds and sounds more and more like Addy knows everything the others are just now struggling to discover. Why not take them straight to the flour source? I’m not sure if that’s weird writing showing its hand or ham-fisted intrigue to give Addy’s time away more mystery.
While they get settled in the farmhouse, and learn about Charlie’s sacrifice, there’s mischief afoot outside. Pandora rears her masked head once again to cause trouble for George and her plans for a future. With her trusted helper, Pandora riles up the Talkers, sending them toward the farm with promises of nourishment. Which is convenient because the gang needs to round them up anyway so Charlie can give each just enough of his brain to keep from turning feral. Side note: Charlie’s special effects are not that great later in the episode, but the detailed early shots paired with the mere idea of what he’s doing is enough to make the ick factor high for squeamish viewers.
During the roundup, Pandora and her goon are pinned in with the other Talkers. They use the position to their advantage later when everyone thinks the coast is clear. Finn is injured again in the last attack, this time mortally. Addy opts to stay behind to help him adapt, and to help the farm recover.
In the rush to check on Finn, the group separates, leaving Doc to get injured, and 10k is too ill from his infected wound to make it on his own long or save Doc. Here’s hoping the others catch up in time. They’re probably going to need all hands on deck in order to talk to the indigenous group who control the water, therefore controlling if/when the mill at the farm will run again. This really is the longest side quest for a snack ever. It’d be disappointing if the rest of the season is comprised of little missions like this with the bad guys running laps around Operation Bitemark. These aren’t even good bad guys. Pandora is still the most hastily written character in the history of this show. No depth. At all. Our team deserves a better class of villain.
Doc’s Stoned History: Review for Z Nation 507 by A. Zombie
Watch your backs. There’s spoilers around the corner.
Things in Newmerica spin out of control faster than George and her new support team anticipate. In order to save the budding country, the team must split up. George hitches a ride with Doc back to Altura for Dante’s trial. Roberta leads 10k, Murphy, and Addy on a new side mission: locate the bizkit factory on the outreaches of known civilization. It all sounds simple enough, but each team hits several unexpected speed bumps in their plan, threatening to leave the remaining Talkers to suffer a slow re-death.
If everyone had a history teacher like Doc, well, more people would have at least a vague clue as to how much our founding fathers let us, and themselves, down by failing to build certain assurances into the Bill of Rights from the get-go. But they’d be totally flummoxed about the actual timeline of events in the USA’s early history. This impromptu history lesson—and a surprise visit from Skeezy and Sketchy—comes to us thanks to a minor accident with a zombie, a sprained ankle, and Doc’s preferred method of medicating. A lot of it. The man has a never-ending supply. Forget Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, we need to understand the science behind Doc’s pocket stash. For, you know, medical reasons. What? It’s not like anyone’s making pills anymore and they need something to manage pain. Interspersed around Doc’s baked ideas on the formation of the United States are a lot of deep concepts about what, exactly, makes us human and why expanding that idea now before it’s too late—like the founding fathers did—may just be the thing to keep the world from devolving in yet another civil war.
But what happens when the opposing side is still ten steps ahead of you? Sometimes good intentions and hard work aren’t enough to win a battle, or even a minor skirmish. This is one of those times. Despite doing everything the right way, down to preparing a legal battle in order to save Dante, it doesn’t stop the worst from happening. Dante isn’t getting a trial. He’s already been found guilty by the Talkers behind the mayhem. They follow through with his death sentence in a brutal way . . . by making George be the one to give him mercy. So much for doing things the legal way.
Making a bizkit run isn’t as easy as rolling into town, bartering for a couple boxes, and heading back to Limbo. That anyone is daring enough to mass produce anything in the apocalypse is a surprise, but it’s the people behind the life-saving treats who are far more unexpected. Now’s about the time one remembers that the gang is in Canada, and thankfully some of the oh-so-friendly locals are behind the bizkit enterprise. Well, they will be a lot friendlier once everyone stops shooting at each other and the Talker members of the family get a little snack. I’m not sure anyone can be prepared for that twist once Mum shifts from ravenous zombie to Talker. Sure gave me whiplash.
Unfortunately, reviving Mum isn’t enough to restore the full manufacturing power of the bizkit factory. The specialty flour they switched to after brains grew scarce stopped coming in, but there’s just enough regular flour and brains lying around to whip up a batch to keep Limbo peaceful. Or at least as peaceful as any place owned and run by Murphy can be. The brain-fetching sequences might be a little too much for squeamish viewers, or mouth-watering for the undead audience. To each their own, right?
The gang has a new, new side mission. Their next stop is Heartland, where someone makes, or made, the enriched bizkit flour. They’re going far off the path to establishing Newmerica in order to provide for everyone. Hopefully people remember this when it comes time to vote again. If they can vote again.
Don’t let spoilers sneak up on you. They go for the ankles first.
George’s need to clear her friend’s name and discover who’s behind the plot to undermine democracy leads the gang down a path marked with red sigils bearing a striking resemblance to the one and only Z-whacker. Just because the trail is marked doesn’t mean it’s one hundred percent safe. When they finally find something resembling civilization, a zombie horde chases them into the nearest building. Which just happens to be a wretched hive of scum and villainy: Limbo.
All roads lead to Limbo. At least they do in fledgling Newmerica.
One of the first things everyone notices is the abundance of bizkits on the casino floor. Certain Talkers have more bizkits than they could ever possibly eat themselves, meanwhile elsewhere others are reverting to zombies because their mysterious benefactor who provided them stopped delivering. Like many things inside Limbo, what’s seen is not always the truth. Unless you’re seeing Murphy as the proprietor of said establishment, that’s totally the truth. Big Red has a new gig. Which looks a lot like an old gig he tried to run once, but on a way grander and far more successful scale. Until the gloss wears off his charade, one could totally believe he’s doing really well for himself in this seedy little haven the Blends prepared for him. Then we see the underbelly of the beast.
The Talker underground has to have more than just a trail. Quite by accident, Roberta’s found one of the safe havens on the way. Unfortunately, it’s a safe haven run by Murphy, who is all about maintaining appearances and not charity. He hasn’t fed the newly arrived refugees. They’re all traumatized, injured, and starving to the point of having virtually no personality left. Remember those truths I talked about? The truth is, all the bizkits are on the casino floor. Even the reserves. One gentleman is on a winning streak and has a mountain of nourishment in front of him. Logically the only way to handle this is for Doc to play poker to win the bizkits back, right? It doesn’t go very well. Doc loses everything except one sock. He’s bailed out by the Blends, but it’s too late. The greedy Talker across the poker table opts to eat his forfeited winnings instead of handing them over.
The aftermath is totally a nod to Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote sketch from The Meaning of Life. Gotta feel bad for the poor souls left cleaning up after that mess.
Every Underground has someone, or a few someones, looking over them. One guardian angel in particular has been rounding up Talkers they find on the road and dropping them off by the truckload outside Limbo. And it just so happens to be the same person leaving the trail markers. Who is someone the gang’s missed for a very, very long time. Addy finally makes her return! It’s not quite glorious, seeing as she spends the whole time piss drunk and denying her importance to the Talkers’ survival. She does, however, provide a little help to the living by showing George where Dante has been hiding.
Their timing is awful. If Dante stayed literally underground for a few more hours, the Alturan goon squad who pays a visit would’ve never found him. Or his wife, Marjorie, who’s starved to the point of madness and winds up yet another innocent victim of whatever shadow force is pulling the strings on this brewing civil war.
In order to save Dante from the so-called trial to take place in Altura, George will need all the help she can get. Remember that all roads lead to Limbo? Well, a little more help arrives at the end of the episode when 10k follows the Talker trail markings and reunites with Roberta and the others.
Guess it’s back to Altura to save undeadkind. And to think Operation Bitemark assumed they’d get to relax once they hit Newmerica. Ha!
Killing All the Books: Review for Z Nation 505 by A. Zombie
Warning: This review contains episode spoilers.
Explosions stalk Roberta and the gang from settlement to settlement, leaving behind countless casualties. All those new Talker mouths to feed deplete the already meager supplies. The rescue efforts morph drastically from reviving the newly dead to making hard decisions about whether or not it’s more humane to put the new Talkers down before they go rabid. George is not ready for this side of leadership and has a few full blow meltdowns. Then again, who really is ready to look the people they’ve promised to protect in the eye moments before ending their life for good? If not for Roberta’s guidance, George may have faltered too long, allowing a full-blown outbreak to happen within Pacifica’s fences.
It’s not like they’re not already dealing with a zombie horde. Like the other bombing, zombies somehow find their way through the fence after the initial explosion. Later, Doc discovers that the zombies are actually the cause of the explosions, not simply drawn through a sabotaged fence by the loud noises. The zombombs are brilliant, really. There’s no telling where the dead will wander, so it’s a recipe for maximum chaos. Unfortunately, that means when a stray zombomb wanders into the library, Doc is forced to try to disarm it somehow.
Doc has to work fast. Not everyone has been evacuated from the library just yet. While others triage wounded and dying outside, he, Citizen Z and Kaya scour the building. The young couple look for JZ and Nana—who are safely hunkered down in a closet in typical Nana style, so no worries. Doc tracks the wayward Z after getting a little information about the possible bombers from a new Talker. Everyone’s paths cross just in time for a group effort to lead the zombomb into an elevator shaft.
When everyone is safely outside, Altura finally shows up to help. But they’re only helping the humans. And they didn’t bring any bizkits for the newly turned. In order to not be in the dark about Altura’s plans anymore, Roberta sends Citizen Z, Kaya, and their family with the other humans to be her eyes on the inside. With nothing else to do, Pacifica’s remaining citizens take on the arduous task of reorganizing the murdered books.
If they’re going to stop the bombings, Roberta and George need to find Dante and get his story. With Doc by their side, they strike out into the world, once again looking for the missing Talker. Or any answers about the bombings and zombie attacks at all. They’re working with less than nothing since each time they settle into a new base of operations, it’s blown up.
Back in Altura, 10k still isn’t coping with the loss of his hand well. Shooting practice leaves him even more certain he’ll never recover his skills with a gun. The crude hook hand isn’t comfortable and is hard to operate. Instead of continuing to take his frustrations out on Red, 10k goes for a walk. During his walk he encounters Altura henchmen corralling a zombie in a warehouse filled to the rafters with the undead. And then he’s accidentally locked in a van with them. Guess that hook came in handy afterall.
Escape from Altura: Review for Z Nation 503 by A. Zombie
Before you jump into the chaos, just be aware there’s episode spoilers below.
Our harbingers of doom have done it yet again. The moment they mosey into a functioning slice of civilization, it eventually implodes around them. Yet in this case, they’re not the actual cause; they’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The bombing, the tensions in the camp, they were already in motion when Doc, 10k, and Sarge arrived. Someone else intentionally sabotaged Altura’s safety net and subsequently the vote to bring all humans, alive or undead, together as a nation again. That someone must have known true equality was coming and cut it off at the pass the hard way.
Getting to the root of who planted the bomb has to take a backseat for a while. Fallout from the bombing leaves a drastic shift in the living/dead ratio. Massive trauma compounded with awakening hungers makes the new Talkers rise ravenous. And who’s there calmly talking the freshly turned down from the ledge like a pro? George handles everyone with genuine concern in her eyes, diffusing the first of many problems to arise after the bomb with hardly a tremble in her voice. Citizen Z and the others help as much as they can given the bizkit shortage and their own superficial injuries. What else can they do? Not much, but Citizen Z does provide possible footage of the bomber . . . only it’s confiscated by Estes before they rewind to the right moment.
I’m going to tip-toe out on the ledge and guess that Estes is a Talker. All of the bombing and blaming Dante is a ploy to keep humans separate from the undead so at some point it’ll be easier to create a zombie-driven society with enslaved humans. The only reason to segregate is to eventually use ones power over the others; since humans are mortal and therefore seen as inferior by some Talkers, they embrace the idea that natural progression put them at the top of the food chain, so they should be the only leaders. It makes sense if one realizes Estes’ entourage are all undead. Yes, he does lock up Altura’s Talkers, but the everyday person in the colony is poor, a person of color, etc. Only the “useful” or rich Talkers are allowed freedom. This whole plot is white nationalism painted with zombie colors.
With Altura compromised and Dante on the run from Estes, the gang takes their leave from their new home. Again. Unfortunately, not everyone makes it out the fence before the starved Talkers turn. It was only a matter of time before our next hard goodbye, and that time has come. During the final push to make it through the damaged fence, 10k, Red, and Sarge are cornered. There’s too many for them to fight and nowhere to run. 10k is bit, but before the zombies drag him down, Red cuts off his injured hand and Sarge charges in to knock the undead back. This is not like any of her fights before. There’s no escape. Sarge goes out on her own terms, though, using a grenade to clear the horde so the others can survive.
On the road to the most likely refuge for Dante, Roberta and the others find evidence of a larger plot in the form of tortured, burned Talkers bound and left for dead. Also on the road is a lone Murphy, who ran when lockdown was called. I shouldn’t say alone, he has a follower. A helpful follower, at that. The blend army still lives! In a much, much smaller form. But they seem to be well organized and overjoyed to have their leader back. At least someone’s day wasn’t completely awful from dawn to dusk. Maybe they can even help the gang with their newfound Estes problem.
Careful. There’s spoilers in the following review.
Happiness is fleeting in the apocalypse. That’s the message written all over this episode. Oh, everything starts out puppies and kittens, but by the time the credits roll, everyone’s newfound happiness has been shattered one way or another. Maybe you should go re-watch episode 501 to balance things out a little.
As always, Roberta is the first to face heartbreak in what should have been the perfect place for her to settle. At least until her mind finally catches up with all the miles her body has traveled in the name of saving humanity, that is. The decision is more or less made for her by Cooper, unfortunately. His loneliness is a weakness neither of them can overcome. So when Murphy’s impeccable tracking skills lead him straight to the farm, that very same fear of isolation puts Murphy in danger. If there’s one thing you don’t do when faced with the exhausted leader of a survivor group, it’s break their trust. Warren’s loyalty will always fall with those who fought by her side, no matter how perfect a lover may be. For probably not the last time, Roberta saves a bound/gagged Murphy and off they go to reunite Operation Bitemark in the northern communities.
With the Newmerica vote hanging in the air, Doc, 10k, and Sarge are shuffled into what seems to be the most populated and organized settlement, Altura, so they can partake in the actual rebirth of democracy. It’s not as simple as “Pass Go, Collect $200.” In order to make sure every citizen receives the aid and support they need, everyone must go through a health screening to determine who’s alive and who’s a Talker. 10k’s unique state of being is nearly discovered, but the examiner finds a pulse after some intensive searching. The others in the party who died before arriving aren’t handling the process as well. On top of the struggle to fit in, there’s also whispers that the bizkits are running low. Is this paradise too good to be true already?
The team might want to give them another chance to come through on all these grandiose promises. Turns out George was one of the first people Warren saved when the apocalypse kicked off, and George is using the strength she saw in her savior to fashion a safe haven for everyone. Normally we’re not treated to flashbacks on this show, and honestly they tend to detract from the plot, but this particular flashback speaks volumes about Warren’s power to lead before she ever dreamed of leading her own group. Not to mention it gives us a source for the phrase, “Puppiez and kittenz,” which has become a mantra for Roberta when they’re in need of bravery. Beyond the Easter eggs hidden in George’s history, the easy friendship between Warren and the would-be world leader reminds us that Warren hasn’t had a real one-on-one conversation with another woman in quite some time. Their conversations are some of the better parts of the episode.
Not everyone thinks George is a brilliant leader. The dissidents range from angry, lonely humans who lash out from fear, to the Talkers who embrace the idea that their undead condition somehow makes them better. Of the latter, Pandora seems to be the head of the snake. Unfortunately, the character herself is a two-dimensional sexpot who causes mischief. I can toss out a handful of rice and hit an identical character from literally every TV show currently airing. It’s somewhat annoying to watch the show make great strides to represent women better, only to then lean back on a character prototype that really needs to find its way to the trash heap of history. We get it. Pandora is a bad guy. Now can you write her like an actual person instead of walking sexual organs?
This is an episode of reunions. Remember Red? Red vanished mysteriously quite some time ago, leaving 10k distraught and self-destructive. Her reintroduction is a study in how men muck up their own lives by failing to confront their emotions. 10k spends the entire episode driving himself up a wall because he’s too afraid to show how much he misses Red after hearing rumors she may be involved with someone else. A former traveling companion who wasn’t quite as missed, at least not by Murphy, is Dr. Sun Mei. Just like Red, Sun vanished without a trace way back when they originally planned to venture to Newmerica. She’s used her time away from the group well, becoming a scientist for Altura and running a whole new study on the Talkers. In a stunning turn, Citizen Z shows up shooting live footage of the upcoming vote for his viewers. The gang are all present and accounted for at last, with one notable exception. In a lesser way, we’re also reintroduced to Zona via Roman Estes, the CEO of Altura, who says he left Zona after disagreeing with their plans, a.k.a. the whole Black Rainbow business.
Estes’ new haven may not run as smooth as he hopes. At the episode’s end when George is set to read the results of the long-awaited vote for a new constitution, the podium blows up. Lt. Dante acts like Pandora is to blame, slinking off to check on the woman’s activities after she leaves the meeting hall just before George’s speech. We have no clue who all survives the blast, but I’ll be quite vexed if we’re forced to say goodbye to George already. The death rate on this show should teach me to never pick a favorite character from the newbies, but here I am, already hoping my new favorite isn’t a notch on Z Nation‘s executioner’s ax.
Welcome to the Newpocalypse: Review for Z Nation 501 by A. Zombie
Don’t rush ahead without looking for spoilers, first. They’re sneaky like that.
Z NATION — “Welcome to the Newpocalypse” Episode 501 — Pictured: Keith Allen as Murphy — (Photo by: Oliver Irwin/The Global Asylum/SYFY)
What’s probably the most noticeable thing about season five thus far is how drastically different the tone is right out the gate. They haven’t taken us all the way back to a season one vibe, that just wouldn’t work with a scattered, three-part story. However, going into this season it feels more . . . natural. Perhaps once they dropped the technology-driven story line, it allowed the plot to follow where the characters want to go on when acting on their own accord. And for quite some time the group had a few solid goals: reach Newmerica, and to run away somewhere less complicated. Operation Bitemark didn’t reach both goals as a unit, but everyone goes where they need/want to and it does wonders at making our old friends more recognizable. The entire Murphy and Bob walk at the end is peak Murphy. He’s never been so at ease with himself. We need more of this.
Doc leads the Newmerica-bound group with his heart, not so much his head. Which is how the show managed to make me crack part of my jaw off . . . then the scene plays out and Doc’s ruse is revealed. Round of applause to you guys for giving a dead person a heart attack. His makeup choices aside, Doc is doing an admirable job of getting not only his people to the new promised land, but also anyone they stumble across along the way. The ragtag group is mostly composed of folks who suffer side effects from the black rain. Yes, yet again our heroes are the source of some horrific ailment unleashed upon the dwindling human population. And as usual, there’s a twist. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Have you ever purchased an item online thinking it was assembled, only to receive an itty bitty box for what’s supposed to be a six-foot bookcase? That’s pretty much what Newmerica turns out to be. All that radio chatter made it sound like there is an actual established civilization up north, one just shy of building its first fast food place, at that. Someone up there must have worked in advertising before the Z hit the fan because they really sold the place well. What’s really waiting way up north for the gang? A dozen or so settlements caught in a political battle over a constitution in order to properly call the territory Newmerica. Guess it’s better than finding out Skeezy and Sketchy are running a new con. But can these people help when they can’t even agree on basic laws of the land yet?
If one overlooks the obvious appeal of the Z biscuits George hands out, this would-be leader still has the charisma it takes to unite people in a common cause. She’s empathetic. Calm. Approaches every scenario with a level head, even though the other party involved probably just wants to eat her brain. And unlike other leader-types the team has encountered, George freely offers information, aid, and shelter to all. Even the still-talking dead in the group.
Remember those side-effects? A major one is the fact that once the afflicted perish, they don’t stop doing what they were doing in the first place; they just continue existing, but with a craving for brains. Much like Murphy, actually. Where they differ is the black rain victims will turn full Z if their hunger is not addressed. Someone out there has the time and created possibly brain-laced crackers for this new variety of undead, Talkers. It’d be grand if the group found the Z wizard and made friends. You know, so they’ll never be without food for their dead pals. Nothing ruins a friendship faster than being snapped at.
But what about Warren and that huge cliffhanger from season four? Like a cat, Warren lives to fight another day, despite this being her closest call yet. Well . . . if we overlook the nuclear incident. And the gut shot. Okay, the apocalypse hasn’t been kind to Roberta. Things are looking up for her during this episode, though. After miraculously walking away from the crash with major, but not fatal wounds, Warren finds a farm with a lone occupant, Cooper. Wouldn’t you know it? This is the exact kind of place she looked for during those moments when the mission became too much for her. It’s quiet. There’s work to be done, and it rarely involves dealing with the dead. To cap it off, Cooper turns out to be a balm for the holes in her heart. A happy, smiling Roberta is someone we haven’t seen in years. Even if she’s only happy for this one moment, I’m glad the show let her just live for an episode. Even heroes need a day off.
Her time away from the group dwindles, though she doesn’t know it. There’s a hard decision coming for Roberta. Can she step away from the promise of a future in this new land with the people she’s come to love as family at her side? George won over the others in a couple minutes, maybe her magic will coax Roberta to the north, as well. Whichever way Warren goes, I think the main goal will be to finally settle and build a place to call home.
Season Five News from Z Nation at SDCC by R.C. Murphy
With all the chaos they left us with after the season four finale, it’s a good thing Z Nation survived the Syfy off-season guillotine in order to wrap up the extreme intrigue planted in last season’s disjointed romp through Warren’s mental snap and the Black Rainbow mission. Not many specific questions regarding the finale were answered during the discussion segment of the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con panel, but that’s standard operating procedure for almost every show which isn’t screening an episode or premiere during the massive convention. Sometimes a few secrets leads to greater fun down the road.
There was, however, a five minute trailer to whet everyone’s appetite for the upcoming season. Or should I say wet, according to some initial reactions to the gory footage? The trailer is not currently available online, but keep an eye on Z Nation‘s social media pages for the online premiere sometime soon.
This year’s panel was attended by D.J. Qualls, Kellita Smith, Keith Allan, Anastasia Baranova, Russell Hodgkinson, showrunner Karl Schaefer, executive producer David Michael Latt, and series newcomer Lydia Hearst.
Panelists discussed where some of the outlying characters would be in the upcoming season, physically and emotionally. Qualls says Citizen Z will stay way up north with his crew. Baranova revealed a little of what long-lost Addy will be up to now that her world’s been upended even more, though she doesn’t know it yet. Addy’s comeback story line promises to take us deep into the world of a new zombie breed—deemed Talkers by the production team. These Talkers are coherent, intelligent undead, and they’re out to get our heroes. On the flip side, Addy feels a kinship with these evolved zombies, and that’s bound to cause ample problems for everyone down the road.
The producers wrapped the panel by showing the trailer for The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time, since it’s the same production team and all. No, this does not mean there will be anymore crossover between the franchises than what’s already happened. Probably. Maybe?
Unfortunately, there’s no announcement about the Z Nation season five premiere date. Syfy has only confirmed that it will air sometime later in 2018. It’ll probably be late September or early October, but assume nothing until Syfy makes an official announcement in the upcoming months. To keep your memory fresh, all current seasons of the show are streaming on various platforms now.
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?
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?