WARNING: This article contains spoilers from previous episodes of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Proceed at your own risk.
– LIKE NERD PRESS ON FACEBOOK –
First and foremost, let me say that I’m going to review this a little differently. I don’t really like the 10/10 scale I’ve been using to rate film and TV, because I feel like it nit-picks a little too much. Instead, from here on out, I’m going to use a 5/5 scale. This way it is a little closer a “five star” system that most use to rate TV and film, and it gives me the opportunity to be a bit more objective.
Now that all that is out of the way, I can say that I really enjoyed this episode. I love slow character building, because it usually means a big payoff. It also allows me the change to pick the brains of some of my favorite characters. I understand that a lot of people did not like this episode though. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t perfect, but I definitely enjoyed it more than the past few. A lot happened, though it seemed that none of it was particularly significant yet, and we got to see every character in the group. There was also a lot of subtle storytelling and symbolism in this episode too, so of course I loved that. Let’s get into it, shall we?
The episode opens with the group at the church boarding up all the windows and locking everything down. It appears that after their run-in with the Hunters, they’re no longer taking any chances inside the church. Sasha hacks away vigorously at a pew, presumably to create more boards for the windows while Daryl and Tyreese exchange some dialogue regarding what happened with Bob. Daryl then heads outside to plant the pipes from the church organ into the ground to create what I assume is a warning system for walkers.
We also get a look at Father Gabriel who is none too happy that the group has begun to dismantle his church in favor of safety. He asks Daryl “Are you going to take the cross too?” To which Daryl responds “If we need it.” Rick and Michonne then share some dialogue about going to Atlanta, and how Rick feels he has to go because he owes Carol the most, though Michonne states that everyone in the group owes Carol.
A team of Sasha, Rick, Tyreese, Daryl, and Noah set off for Atlanta, as Carl holds down the fort with Michonne while keeping an eye on Judith and Gabriel. As the group leaves, Gabirel looks on in horror at the remains of his church, taking particular interest in the blood stain on the floor from the altercation with the Hunters. He scratches at the stain with his finger nails (cringe), and when that doesn’t work he attempts to scrub it with his sleeve.
After a commercial break, we see Sasha and Tyreese in the back of the moving truck Daryl and Noah arrived at the church in. Tyreese attempts to comfort Sasha, but she resits. We then jump to Beth at the hospital, who stops by the unconscious Carol’s room as Dr. Edwards makes his rounds. From there we go to Glenn as he looks over the massive hoard of walkers his group faces. The shot pans upward to focus on his face, and his the background we see a sign that reads “Buckle Up – It’s the Law” with an illustration of the state of Georgia wearing a seat belt. This image stuck out to me, because Glenn is dressed incredibly similar to the image on the sign. This probably doesn’t mean much of anything, I just thought it was kind of funny.
Glenn’s group is taking care of the still unconscious Eugene, as the walkers off in the distance have yet to take notice to them. Tara has rationed water for everyone, labeling each bottle with each of their initials, creating the group moniker of “GREATM.” This is some pretty typical Tara dialogue, but it stuck out to me because in that anagram, Maggie’s initial is the one that is out of place. I wouldn’t have given this much thought, but in the way the bottles are arranged, Maggie’s is off-set from the rest of the group. Similarly, Glenn and Rosita’s appear to be paired together which I’ll touch on in a bit. Once again, this probably means nothing, and I’m probably fishing for meaning, but it’s still pretty strange.
The group discusses Eugene’s condition, and tries to figure out what their next move is. Water is low, they’re hungry, and they’re not sure if Eugene is even okay. Abraham, still slumped in the road on his knees, lashes out at Rosita when she confronts him for slapping a bottle of water out of her hands. This scene was pretty unsettling. I saw a lot of fans theorizing that Abraham’s wife and kids may have been afraid of him in his flashbacks from “Self Help” because of a history of abuse, and I didn’t buy into that at the time. However, after seeing this scene, they might be onto something. Maggie quickly draws on Abraham, telling him that he needs to sit down or she’ll put him down. Abraham begrudgingly returns to his almost zen-like kneeling position.
Next we jump to Rick’s strike team, who have already arrived in Atlanta and made base in an abandoned building. Rick devises a stealthy plan that requires the group to move quickly, quietly, and lethally. Tyreese, in typical Tyreese fashion, objects to this plan. Instead he proposes that they take a non-lethal approach by capturing two of Dawn’s officers and offering an even trade. Rick disagrees, but gives in to the plan after Daryl sides with Tyreese. It’s easy to miss in this scene, but Rick appears to be taken aback by Daryl not aligning with him. Once again, a subtle thing that may cause waves later on in the season.
After another break, we’re back at the church as Gabriel tries his damnedest to get that stain off the floor. Next to him, Carl lays out a series of weaponry and tells Gabriel to pick one. Carl intends to teach Gabriel how to defend himself, but of course Gabriel is uninterested. He turns the conversation on it’s head, by bringing up the Hunters, and how they promised to flee, implying that Rick’s group are the dangerous ones.
Carl gives Gabriel his speech from the promo for this episode about how no one is safe anymore, and that you can no longer stay in one place. It appears that these words strike a chord with Michonne, as she appears to be concerned. I feel as if this is because Rick and, through extension, Carl are in the same place she was when she was forced to rely on the prison group due to her circumstances.
Gabriel ends up selecting the machete, and retires to his office after apparently being sickened by Carl’s explanation about how not every walker’s skull is as soft so you have to drive the machete downward. Michonne seems suspicious though, as she watches Gabriel take the machete with him into his office.
Jump cut to Beth mopping floors back at Grady Memorial, as she overhears a conversation between Dawn and one of her officers. The officer urges Dawn to pull the plug on Carol, because they’re wasting resources. This leads to Beth lashing out against the officer, demanding they keep her alive. She tells the officer he wastes resources daily by charging his DVD player. Of course Dawn being Dawn tells the officer to tell Edwards to take Carol off his rounds, and that she only lives if she pulls through on her own. After the officer leaves, Dawn tells Beth that she essentially gave Carol a death sentence by doing that, and explains how delicate the balance is at the hospital and blah, blah, blah. Anyone else getting tired of this song and dance?
Dawn, apparently having a sudden change of heart, gives Beth the key to the drug locker as Officer Shepherd alerts Dawn on the radio that they heard gunshots in the distance. Dawn orders her to investigate with Officer Lamson (SHEPHERD and LAM(B)son, eh?). Dawn then explains to Beth that she is trusting her because she realizes that Beth is not weak like most think, and is actually quite strong. Yawn. Sorry, this plot line has just worn really thin to me. Either something amazing has to happen, or it just needs to end in the mid-season finale. I’m praying we don’t end up with a disjointed cliff-hanger like we did with the Governor in the Season 3 Finale.
Jumping back to Glenn’s group, they devise a plan to fetch more water from a stream down the road. Glenn goes ahead with Tara and Rosita, as Maggie volunteers to stay behind with Eugene and Abraham. When Maggie tells Glenn she’ll stay, he seems hesitant. He gives her this weird, contemplative look as he turns it over in his head. As he leaves, they do this really weird hand/forearm grab instead of kissing goodbye or something along those lines. Ever since the two reunited after the prison, their relationship has been a lot less hot and heavy, and a lot more… I guess the word would be complacent? I’m no relationship expert, but something is off between these two.
On their way to the water, Glenn, Tara, and Rosita encounter a downed telephone pole with a few walkers pinned under it. They walk by the walkers as if they’re nothing, Tara even making a joke about not getting up. There certainly isn’t a whole lot of mind being paid to walkers anymore is there? I think this might be setting something up. The producers always seem to mention in interviews that they still want the walkers to perceived as a threat, and they always seem to pull the rug out from under us at some point. This, paired with some spoilery details about upcoming events in the season, including the mid-season finale and beyond, make me think that we’ll be seeing the walkers play a more prevalent role after all the bad guys are dealt with.
The three in the group bicker a bit after Tara’s joke, and it quickly becomes apparent that the loss of hope in D.C. has taken a toll on Glenn. Conversely, it has also taken toll on Maggie, who we see tell Abraham that he isn’t the only one who lost something with D.C. “It’s never going to get any better than this.” She states as she cares for Eugene. Could this be what’s causing the rift between Maggie and Glenn that I’m picking up on?
In the next scene, we’re back with Beth who is paying a surprise visit to Dr. Edwards in his office. Beth asks him what medicine he’d give Carol, and he quickly picks up on the fact that Beth has the key to the medicine locker. Edwards is quick to urge Beth that if Dawn is the one who gave her the key, she didn’t do it “out of the kindness of her heart.” Beth silences him, and demands to know what kind of medicine she needs. Edwards apologizes to Beth for making her kill the other doctor as occurred in “Slabtown,” and states that he was only trying to save his life. He follows that up by stating “I’m still wondering if I did.”
I think Dawn’s plan here may be to get her officers to turn on Edwards by framing him for the medicine that will be missing. She may also be tying Beth into that lie as well. It seems that Dr. Edwards smells something funny in the situation, and by his words and actions, it appears he’s worried that he will be dragged into whatever it is. He caves though, and tells Beth to give Carol five milligrams of epinephrine. He then wished Beth good luck as she exits the office.
Back at the stream with Glenn and his mini-group, they aren’t having much luck. The water is incredibly murky and undrinkable. Rosita reveals a trick to filter water that Eugene taught her in our first official “Hey, maybe Eugene IS useful!” moment. Rosita also reveals some information about how she and Abraham met in Dallas, stating that he was the only person who asked for her help since the turn. She follows that up with “Maybe he was lying too.” In that same moment, the group notices ripples from fish in the stream, and Glenn apparently has a plan to catch them.
We cut back to Atlanta (man there is A LOT going on in this episode), as Dawn’s officers are following the sound off gunshots through the streets. They pull into an alley as Noah hobbles through it. They cut Noah off, and begin to apprehend him when they notice that there aren’t any walkers around for him to be shooting at. Rick’s group comes out of hiding with guns drawn, and orders the officers to drop their weapons and kneel on the ground. After a few seconds of deliberation, Lamson agrees. He and Shepherd kneel, as the group binds them.
As the group begins to move the officers indoors, Lamson stalls for a moment and has some dialogue with Rick that was a little cringe-worthy. He observes that Rick was once a cop from the way he talks and carries himself. I can see how one might deduce that, as those in law enforcement do tend to facilitate themselves in a certain fashion, but I’ve been confused for a police officer before… and I’m definitely not one. The line just seemed kind of cliche to me. Anyway, Rick smirks at him a bit, as Noah explains that Lamson is “one of the good ones” to Rick.
As soon as Noah finishes his sentence, a car marked with a cross comes flying down they alley toward the group. Daryl and Rick open fire on the car as Shepherd and Lamson hop in the back of it. The car takes off, but doesn’t get very far as Sasha snipes one of the tires. The group rounds the corner, and finds the car empty and abandoned. Around the car is a horrifying site, as torches bodies lay all over the soot-covered ground. The building and vehicles in the immediate area are all torches as well. Some of the bodies are walkers, gruesomely melted to the pavement. Above the scene there is a sign scrawled across a water tower that reads “EVAC HERE.”
The group quickly spots Lamson and Shepherd fleeing the scene, and take after them. Daryl lingers behind the rest of the group, surveying the area after hearing a noise coming from the car. Initially he doesn’t find anything, but is tackled just as he lets his guard down. His attacker is the officer who was driving the car, later revealed to be officer Licari, and he quickly gets the upper hand on Daryl. Licari begins to choke Daryl while holding his head against the pavement with two walkers just inches away. Daryl fumbles his hand around one of the walkers’ faces, nearly getting his fingers bit. Daryl fins the eyes of the walker, and sinks his fingers into the socket, and pulling the skull off of the charred remains of the body. He bashes Licari in the head with the walker skull, and Licari loses his grip on Daryl just as Rick arrives, putting down the remaining walker and drawing on Licari. The officer surrenders, but Rick keeps his weapon drawn and stares down the officer as he rises to his feet. Daryl calls off Rick yet again, and insists that “three is better than two.” Rick begrudgingly abides as he glares at Daryl for a few moments.
A quick aside — I know a lot of people thought this zombie kill was awesome, but to me, it was a little too “B-Movie.” I felt the same way about the firetruck walkers in “Self Help.” I wish the producers would worry less about the zombie kill of the week, and more about a coherent, tight story. End Rant.
After a commercial break, we reconvene with the Atlanta group as Shepherd attempts to reason with them. She explains to the group that her and the other officers are essentially useless as far as negotiating for Beth and Carol go, as they have been planning to overthrow Dawn. She explains that Dawn also may know that they plan to put Lamson in charge once they take care of her, but Licari insists she does not. Lamson silences Shepherd though, agreeing to go through with the group’s plan. He tells everyone that he just wants a peaceful resolution, and that he’s known Dawn the longest so he can be of help.
I don’t know that I believe this though, simply based on their names. Licari doesn’t have much significant meaning as far as the story goes, but Lam(b)son and Shepherd stick out. I got the vibe that Lamson is posing as the leader, but Shepherd may be calling the shots. I also don’t know that I believe that these particular officers want to overthrown Dawn either. From the little bit we’ve seen of life at the hospital, Dawn has ordered Shepherd to do quite a bit. She’s seen watching Beth at one point, she’s ordered to investigate the gunshots, and I believe she’s been seen reporting to Dawn a few other times as well.
Also — sidebar, has anyone else noticed that the hospital group may be a tiny tribute to George A. Romero’s work? The group dynamic is very similar to the one seen in the group in Romero’s Day of the Dead, where a female leader struggles to maintain order among a militant group hiding from the undead with a doctor/scientist. Also, Dawn = Dawn of the Dead. Just thought those were kind of funny coincidences, especially since the Walking Dead has referenced other works in the genre, especially Romero pieces, quite a bit in the past. Multiple references were made, especially regarding Day of the Dead, last season as well. Not to mention the fact that Day of the Dead was one of the first films executive producer Greg Nicotero ever worked on.
Back to the episode, we jump back to Glenn and co. revisiting the walkers trapped under the telephone pole. This time they exterminate them, and loot their bodies for useful items. They use the netting of their jackets to make nets to fish with, and Tara finds a backpack with a few useful items, including a yo-yo.
As Tara sorts through the bag, Glenn and Rosita catch fish together, and exchange some dialogue that I felt was a bit flirty. Glenn also lets Rosita know that the group needs her skills, similar to how Abraham approached her when they met, and Glenn asks is Rosita is “in” with the group, wherever they wind up.
This scene may not seem entirely significant, but there is a lot of symbolism. First a foremost, fish are a symbol that often signify transformation, good luck, and fertility. This could signify that the group dynamic is changing. If it means what I think it might, it shows that not only is the group about to take off in a new direction (probably Virginia with Noah), but Glenn himself is changing and becoming more of a leader. Thats something I think is fairly obvious to viewers once they really take a look at it. Another interesting note about fish, is that it’s earliest biblical reference is by Clement of Alexandria. Not going to spoil anything, but that may stick out to comic fans.
In addition to fish, water — also a big staple with this specific group in the episode — can signify life, fertility, and transformation, not unlike the symbolism of fish. The final item, the yo-yo Tara finds, can symbolize emotional ups and downs, and in dreams it often means you’re doing something you never though you’d do again… like flirting with someone new after you’ve been married in a zombie apocalypse? Again, maybe I’m digging too far into this one, but things seem different between Maggie and Glenn. It also appears that Glenn is finding his own as a leader. This is something I wished the show would do for quite some time now.
–COMIC SPOILERS– In the comics, Maggie becomes more of a leader, and after the sudden death of Glenn, she takes charge of her own community that works alongside Rick’s. I’ve been hoping for awhile that the show would flip the roles, with Glenn surviving, as I believe that Glenn is the stronger character and Stephen Yeun is the better actor. I’d also love to heard Glenn spout off the iconic “I BELIEVE IN RICK GRIMES!” line. –END COMIC SPOILERS–
At this point, the episode jumps back to the church, where Michonne addresses Gabriel. Michonne explains to Gabriel that she doesn’t want anything from him, that she just wants to help, and that the things that they do are worth it. Gabriel quickly dismisses Michonne, and it is revealed that he has been using the Machete to pull up the floor boards in his office. This guy, I tell ya…
The next scene features Beth using strawberries to buy off an older ward of the hospital. Once she hands over the strawberries, the man bursts into what is one of the least convincing coughing fits I’ve ever seen. This distracts the officers long enough for Beth to retrieve the medication she needs for Carol from the medicine locker. As soon as Beth passes the coughing man and the officers on her way to Carol’s room, he’s suddenly perfectly fine, and no one is the wiser. Uh, okay then.
Beth enters Carol’s room, and sets up an IV drip with medicine. There is a touching moment as Beth grabs Carol’s hand and tells her that it’s Beth, and that she just wanted Carol to know that she was there.
When we get back to Rick’s Atlanta group, we get to see a frustrated Sasha get a stern talking to from Tyreese, who tells her that she needs to move on and hold onto what she felt for Bob, not the anger. This will come into play a little bit later, but not now as we jump back to Gabriel who has now cleared enough floorboards to slip through the bottom of the church to the outside. Gabriel crawls out right under the “You’ll burn for this” carving, and immediately steps on a nail. After pulling out the nail, Gabriel limps his way into the woods, through the graveyard.
Back again to Rick’s group, Rick is speaking with Officer Lamson who is giving Rick information about Dawn. When Rick calls him Sargent Lamson, he tells Rick that his name is Bob. This catches the attention of Sasha. Rick refuses to call him Bob, and tells him he’s still a cop. Lamson replies “No. The real ones are all gone.” Rick pauses for a moment, then walks away.
Gabriel has now made his way deep into the woods, and pauses in fear when he hears a noise from around. He looks for a few moments with no avail when suddenly a walker jumps out at him. Gabriel wrestles with the walker, eventually picking it up and slamming it on the ground, which impales it on what looked like a sharp rock or stick. Just as Grabriel is about to finish the walker, holding a large rock over its head, he freezes because he sees a crucifix around it’s neck . Gabriel drops the rock, and tearfully trudges deeper into the forest.
In Atlanta, Officer Lamson gets Sasha’s attention with a story about how he saw a walker outside he knew before. The walker was a man named Tyler who Dawn sent to escort survivors out to the evacuation zone in Lamson’s place. Lamson explains that initially he was jealous, but sees that he could have been a walker had they not switched. Lamson convinces Sasha to consider exterminating the walker.
Back at the fire truck, Maggie confronts Abraham and asks if he wanted her to shoot him when she pulled her gun on him for threatening Rosita. Abraham admits that he did, but seems to have changed his mind. The two hear a gasping noise, and Maggie runs to the head of the bus to take of the now waking, possibly walker (?) Eugene. As this happens, a close up shot shows Abraham’s bloodied hand reaching for the water bottle Maggie offered him, showing that he has transformed and that life goes on.
As this happens, Glenn, Tara, and Rosita walk back to camp and Glenn admits to Tara that the joke she made to the walkers under the telephone pole was a little bit funny. At this point, everyone seems upbeat, and has moved on from having their hopes for D.C. dashed. Glenn smiles and tells Tara not to even look at the massive hoard over the hill.
Back in Atlanta, Lamson shows the walker to Sasha, and appears emotional as she lines up her shot. Lamson turns a moment of trust into a moment of weakness, as he charges Sasha, bashing her head into the window and knocking her out cold. It also seems that the rest of the group may have left already, as Lamson books it out of the building, leaving Sasha lying on the floor behind him. It also appears that Sasha may now have a gash above her head, similar to Beth, similar to Andrea from the comics. This would add to the similarities between Andrea and Sasha, including her age, her attitude, losing her lover to the Hunters, and being the best shot in the group.
– Big set up for the mid-season finale.
– Dawn is up to something.
– There is a rift growing between Glenn and Maggie.
– It’s good to see Rick again.
– It’s even better to seen the entire group again.
– Lamson is a phony and Shepherd may be more than she’s letting on to be.
– Gabriel… ugh.
– Hospital… ugh.
4 out of 5 Zombie Heads
The pace of this episode was so fast that I never got a second to really question anything. I never once had a moment to stop and think “this is a show.” That’s a good thing. This episode was more of an experience than an installment.
A lot of build up this week. Next week should be crazy.
+ Cool action.
+ Symbolism like crazy.
+ Lots of build-up.
+ Leader Glenn is the best Glenn.
+ Ricktator Rick is the best Rick.
– Why is everyone questioning Rick? People just tried to eat you like yesterday.
– Dialogue wasn’t the best this episode, especially the “Were you a cop?” segment.
– Questionable decision making for Sasha.