The Walking Dead Episode 505 “Self Help” Recap

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WARNING: Spoilers for previous episodes of AMC’s The Walking Dead to follow. Any spoilers for the comic book counterpart will be marked with spoiler tags.

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This episode was another interesting one. I felt that maybe the showrunners should have swapped the placement of this episode and last week’s episode, “Slabtown,” to keep momentum moving in the right direction. I get that they probably want to let the mystery of how Carol ended up in the hospital with Beth linger a bit, but it was kind of jarring to establish all that, then go away from it with Abraham’s group. I felt as if this episode would have fit better coming off of episode 503, “Four Walls and a Roof,” being that Rick’s core group was referenced quite a bit. Either way, I’m fine with the disjointed, Tarantino-esque timeline as long as it pays off come the mid-season finale.

Summary:

This episode began with Abraham’s group traveling in the church bus. This is the first time we ever really get the concrete implication that Abraham and Rosita are an item, and from the glares he’s giving, Eugene doesn’t appreciate that. After some dialogue about personal grooming, especially between Abraham and Rosita (gag), Tara compares Eugene’s mullet to the hair of Samson, giving us yet another biblical reference this season.

From there, Glenn and Maggie question Eugene about his cure, visibly frustrating him, and Abraham takes notice to what appears to be a growing number of walkers alongside the road. Out of nowhere, the church bus lets out a large boom and Abraham loses control, striking a truck on the side on the rode and flipping the bus.

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The show calls for a bit of suspension of disbelief here, and despite the fact that the bus flips and no one appears to wearing a seat belt, everyone on board is fine outside of a few cuts and dings. The group quickly and systematically dispatches a moderately large group of walkers who had surrounded the bus, as Eugene, after receiving a knife and a pep talk from Tara, watches with a look on his face somewhere between astonishment and horror. We also get to see Eugene make his very first zombie kill (or more of an “assist” as they referred to it on Talking Dead), and bask in it a bit as he spits on the walker corpse before moving on with the group.

The rest of the episode carries on in a very disjointed fashion similar to what we saw in “Slabtown” last week. While Abraham’s group secures an old library and stops to lick their wounds for the night, we’re shown intermittent flashbacks to Abraham before his mission with Eugene started. While these flashbacks may have seemed vague to those unfamiliar with the comics, they illustrated the story of how Abraham lost his family in the early stages of the turn. Abraham’s wife fled in the night with their daughter and son after seeing Abraham brutally kill three neighbors they had been holed up with inside an abandoned grocery store, because they had beaten and raped his wife and possibly his daughter.

In the present we get to see a painfully awkward scene as Eugene is caught watching Abraham and Rosita get intimate from the self-help section. Eugene is caught not only by them, but by Tara as well. Bumbling as usual, Eugene explains to Tara that he does it because he feels it’s a victim-less crime that makes him feel less alone. Then, presumably feeling guilty, he spills to Tara that the bus crashed because of him. Eugene tells her he had put crushed glass into the fuel line of the bus back at the church. He explains that he did so to slow the group because if things don’t work out in D.C., he fears the group will no longer help him survive. Tara is obviously taken aback, but agrees to keep his secret, assuring him that the group would keep him around even if he wasn’t of particular use. The two share a fist bump, Tara sneaks a peek as well, and their semi-awkward friendship continues to bloom.

The blossoming friendship between Tara and Eugene is nice to see, as both are sort of the outcasts of the group. Tara didn’t really join the group by choice, and feels like she’s the odd one out because she was with the Governor before, and Eugene is little more than a mission for Abraham. With both characters being a little off-beat or quirky and sharing similar feelings of guilt, it isn’t hard to see why they’d bond.

The next day the group finds a firetruck that starts but stalls after only a few feet. Unfortunately for them, that few feet is just enough to let a pack of walkers out from behind the door the truck was blocking. With the group quickly becoming out numbered, the quick-thinking Eugene hops up top and uses the water cannon  to tear apart the walkers and wash them away.

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The whole concept of hosing the walkers down and their skin peeling back because of the pressure wasn’t too hard to buy into, and it did look cool, but sometimes I wish the show would focus less on “What cool way can we kill a zombie in this episode?” and more on the flow of the story.

We get a brief comedic moment as Abraham sees a warning written about the walkers as he climbs atop the fire truck to clear the intake in hopes it will help get it started again. After returning from a commercial break, it appears that they have gotten the truck started up again, but haven’t gotten very far. Eugene is seated on the back of the bus reading, and Abraham frantically tries to fix the truck. Glenn notices a terrible stench when the wind blows, and the group walks to the crest of the hill to see that there is a massive herd, possibly in the thousands, dwelling just ahead, covering the road and any other potential paths.

The sight of the herd sends the group into debate, as everyone except Abraham believes that plowing through would be suicide. This leads to Abraham flying off the handle, and trying to drag Eugene back to the truck to keep moving as he physically fights off the others. After Rosita takes a spill and tensions reach their peak, Eugene cracks and begins screaming that he isn’t really a scientist. This obviously stuns the group, and Eugene comes clean.

Eugene reveals to everyone that he isn’t a scientist, and has lied to everyone in hopes that they would protect him and get him to Washington, where he believes he has the best chance of survival. Abraham, visibly crushed by this news, goes after Eugene, beating him senseless. Eugene falls to the ground face-first and it is unclear if he is okay or not as the group attempts to revive him. Abraham wanders down the road a bit, drops to his knees, and begins to weep as the camera focuses on the wound on his hand he has repeatedly ripped open throughout the episode, symbolism for old wounds reopening.

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Before the episode comes to a close we get a final flashback of Abraham finding the walker-eaten remains of his family on the side of the road. Abraham rips off his dog tags and puts the barrel of his gun in his mouth. As he’s about to end his life, Abraham hears someone calling for help. The person is Eugene, fleeing three walkers. Abraham stands up and easily dispatches the walkers. Eugene tries to speak with Abraham afterward, but Abraham will not listen. At that point, Eugene quickly assesses the situation and tells Abraham he is on a very important mission, which finally gets Abraham’s attention as the scene fades to black.

Take-Aways:

-All in all, this was one of those necessary exposition episodes not like last week’s. We learn a lot about Abraham’s past, though not all of it.

-We also learn Rosita and Abraham are indeed an item, and most importantly that Eugene is a fraud.

-There was a great deal of symbolism in this episode just like there has been in every episode this season. The references ranged from the biblical tale of Samson to H.G. Wells’ “The Shape of Things to Come,” the book Eugene was reading when the firetruck was stopped.

-The episode also used Abraham’s wound on his hand to illustrate both the physical and emotional re-opening of wounds.

-This show likes to illustrate characters who are struggling with emotional baggage through hand and arm injuries (Rick, Tyreese, Abraham), characters who have transformed with the use of gunshot injuries (Rick, Carl, Bob), and characters who are enlightened in the face of death with use of leg injuries (Herschel, Bob, and Ana — the girl Rick and Carol found last season — to a lesser extent).

-The symbolism, per usual, was a little on the nose, but that seems to come with the Walking Dead’s bold nature with these sorts of things at this point.

-The action sequences (the bus flipping and the fire truck walkers) seemed a bit far-fetched, but this is a show about zombies, so we can’t really complain.

-The developing friendship between Tara and Eugene feels authentic and has the potential to really take these characters to the next level.

-Rosita got more than one or two lines. Yay!

-She also seems to be really into Abraham, so much so that she is willing to flip-flop on what she really believes in for him.

-But not so much that she won’t stand up to him if he gets out of line.

-Eugene likes to watch. Ew.

-Glenn can still be funny.

-Maggie probably won’t mention Beth until they see each other again (if they even do). I’ve accepted this, and I wish other fans would too. It’s not totally surprising she went after Glenn first when they all got separated. Glenn completes her, they’re soul mates, and even with Beth around it feels like they only have each other. She also knows Beth is alive at the very least. The chances of you finding someone you’ve lost in this world are really slim. I think Maggie accepts that. (I just wish the writers would and we’d stop seeing these grand separations and reunions).

-The flashbacks were great, but the hazy filter that was laid over that footage was really distracting.

-Really great acting from Michael Cudlitz (Abraham) and Josh McDermitt (Eugene) in this episode. I hope this sort of character evolution allows us to step away from the cartoonish caricatures their characters have been thus far.

-A lot of fans seemed to felt it was too soon to reveal Eugene as a fraud (some didn’t even want that at all, though it seemed inevitable with the comic history), but I felt it was right. It’s been nearly two half-seasons since these characters were introduced. Stringing the audience along any longer might have rubbed people the wrong way.

-I wish Rick were here. Andrew Lincoln just brings a dynamic I want to see in almost every situation on this show, and I feel like Rick’s take on Eugene’s reveal would have been great.

— And finally —

-I think Rick is the only one who can bring Abraham back from the edge right now. Abraham is clearly a broken man, and Rick has been there before. He failed to help Tyreese when he lost Karen, so Rick may even see this as an opportunity to redeem himself as a leader and friend.

Timeline Issues:

This appears to take place in the two days after Abraham’s group left Rick, and most likely overlaps in part with next week’s episode “Consumed,” and the following episode “Crossed.”

Overview:

8 out of 10 = Good. 

Not the strongest episode in the series, or even this season, but we got some big time revelations and back story on characters who are quickly becoming fan favorites. From here on out we’ll hopefully get to peel back the layers on Abraham and Eugene, and see less cartoonish representations of who they are.

Positives/Negatives:

+ Great acting from Cudlitz and McDermitt
+ Glenn and Maggie got to be the Glenn and Maggie we know and love. Part comic relief, part soldier.
+ Developing friendship between Tara and Eugene.
+ Meaningful flash backs
+ Big revelations

– I still want to see more character development from Rosita
– Some stunts and action felt contrived
– Library scenes lulled the action and weighed down the middle portion of the episode
-Eugene watching is weird
– The hazy filter laid over the flashbacks was distracting and unnecessary

I know I promised that my predictions for episode 506 “Consumed” would be posted today as well, but I’m running short on time. I will absolutely make sure they’re posted tomorrow morning come hell or high water.

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