The Walking Dead Episode 509: “What Happened and What’s Going On” Recap

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WARNING: This article contains spoilers from this episode, as well as previous episodes of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Proceed at your own risk.

LAYING TO REST A GENTLE GIANT.


EDIT: After watching the latest episode of Talking Dead on AMC and listening to The Walker Stalker Podcast, a few other developments were brought to my attention.

1.) That indeed was Andrew Lincoln’s voice on the radio.

2.) The hallucinated characters were actually healed of all their physical wounds the last time they are seen in the truck with Tyreese.

— This episode was a surprisingly rough one. Though my predictions were mostly off, I was still prepared to see a major character death or two. Still, in typical Walking Dead fashion, I was hit a lot harder than I expected to be. —

The episode opened with a funeral which one would assume to be Beth’s, as well as a series of images and events that made little sense together at first. Off the bat, the vibe of this episode was reminiscent of some of the better episodes of Lost. A lot of shots taken in very green areas, many of the shots taken through the brush. You just have to dig that sort of cinematography.

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That aside, we see that a sect of the group has split off to scout Noah’s home. It seems that we pretty much skipped the travel from Atlanta to Virginia, which is good. The “on the road” segments of the show are enjoyable, but they tend to drag and that’s not really how you want to open what may as well be a whole new season.

–The group the episode focuses on is Rick, Glenn, Michonne, Tyreese, and Noah. Aside from “because the plot demands it,” I’m not sure why you’d bring Tyreese in this scout team, but I guess it makes sense given the fact that this sort of division makes the split group pretty even. I’ll allow it. —

The first thing that really sticks out is that Rick is communicating with the other half of the group via radio, and has left Carol in charge in his absence. This makes a lot of sense. Maggie is in a state of despair, Abraham is pretty unstable, and Daryl is much better as a number two guy. Carol just makes the most sense, and at this point it’s feasible to think she and Rick are the most capable as far as survival readiness goes.

While they’re approaching Richmond, Tyreese and Noah are bonding in the front seats. Noah tells Tyreese that the trade with the hospital group was a good idea, and it wasn’t his fault that it went bad. Tyreese seems to accept what happened, and tells Noah “It went the way it had to. The way it was always going to.” Remember that.

Ty also tells Noah about  how his father used to make he and Sasha listen to the news to keep up with the state of the world. He felt that it was their duty to and that it was “the high cost of living.” Noah tells Ty about how he lost his father in Atlanta, but he felt like their fathers would have gotten along.

While this is all happening, Glenn sits alone in the back of the truck cradling a CD in his hands. As he looks on his reflection in the bottom of the CD, he appears to become more agitated.  Glenn then snaps the CD in half as the group approaches Noah’s settlement. Remember this as well.

When the group arrives, they park near a wreck in the woods for better cover. The group notices a walker in one of the cars, but decides to leave it and head toward the community. On the road approaching the gates there is yet another clock (a long-running theme this season), and a grandfather clock at that. Tyreese pauses to for a moment to examine the clock as he passes it. The time on the clock is not distinguishable.

— I didn’t think much of this at first, but according to dream dictionaries a grandfather clock could symbolize the patriarch of a family or outdated ways of thinking. Pretty much a spot-on description of Tyreese’s personality in this world. —

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At the gates of the community is where the showrunners throw a curveball. Noah’s home is not an interpretation of the Alexandria Safe Zone like many thought, it is actually an updated take on the comic’s Wiltshire Estates. Unfortunately for Noah and the group, the community (now named Shirewilt) is completely void of any survivors. The group scales the wall, and Noah has a breakdown in the middle of the road. In a very touching moment, Tyreese comforts Noah and tells him “You’ll be with us now.” No one in the group seems to want to linger for very long, but they agree to do a quick sweep for supplies. Tyreese agrees to stay with Noah, and Rick, Glenn, and Michonne head out to scavenge.

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— One thing I noticed, and that I believe will be revisited due to the previews for next week’s episode, is the message “WOLVES NOT FAR” scrawled on the side of a wall behind Michonne. That’s probably worth taking note of. —

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While out scavenging for supplies, Michonne breaks open a framed jersey she finds, stating “It’s a clean shirt.” Similarly, Glenn breaks open a cased baseball bat which I’m sure induced many cringes for fans of the comic.

— I’m going to go ahead and say this is foreshadowing as this appears to be Glenn’s new “signature weapon” that the series likes to assign to significant characters, but I’ll touch more on that later down the road. —

The three stop to discuss how they feel about the current situation, and all three seem to be in different places. Glenn is angry, and seems to really be letting go of his former, care-free self. He tells Rick that if he had never run into them he would have never stopped, and that he would have killed Dawn whether or not it was right or wrong.

— I really like this small evolution in Glenn as his character has become a bit more stale in recent history. Not to mention the fact that though Rick is by far my favorite character (He’s yours too, don’t lie. Daryl Shmaryl.), Glenn is easily the one I identify with most and probably who I’d be most similar to if thrust into this situation. —

Rick also seems to be a bit more hardened than we’re used to seeing, though he tells Glenn and Michonne that they did this for Beth. She wanted this for Noah, for them. It just wasn’t meant to be.

— I have to commend Andrew Lincoln as well, you can really read the lack of surprise in his eyes when they find that Shirewilt has fallen. —

However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, Michonne is devastated, and wants to make it work here. She half-heartedly attempts to sell Rick on staying, but the group realizes it isn’t safe after they notice a plethora of mutilated body parts outside of the broken walls. It’s immediately clear that this wasn’t walkers. This was the doing of humans. Something this group knows all too well. Michonne seems desperate to find a new home, which may be due to her experiences being out on her own for so long before joining the group. She knows the outside world much better than anyone else in the group, and that seems to scare her.

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In this time, Noah has run off to his childhood home, sending Tyreese chasing after him. When they arrive they are, predictably, greeted with a gruesome site. A woman who is presumably Noah’s mother lies dead and decaying on the floor of their living room, with a bullet wound to her head. Noah covers here body with a blanket, and begins to try to reconcile the fact that he was too late as Tyreese wanders toward the back of the house.

Behind one door is a walker trapped inside, and behind another is a small boy, Noah’s brother, whose body was left to decompose on his bed. It isn’t immediately evident how he was killed, though it looks like it may have been done with the purpose to spare him of a worse fate. Tyreese is understandably horrified, and becomes entranced by photos of the boy, his brother, and Noah on the wall. The personalities displayed by the boys in the photos appear to be akin to the personalities of Tyreese and Sasha, which is what one would assume captivated him in that moment. EDIT: It’s also come to my attention that Tyreese may have realized in this moment that “Oh man… Noah did say they were twins…” right before the second walker popped out of the bathroom that connected the two bedrooms.

Unfortunately for Tyreese, as he stands trapped in his own mind for a moment, the walker in the adjacent room, the second twin, has freed itself. Unaware of it approaching, Tyreese is bit on the arm by the walker. Noah immediately rushed into the room and dispatches what was once his younger brother out of reflex. Though he seems horrified for a brief moment, he immediately rushed to Tyreese’s side, then takes off to flag down the others.

There are two things of note that happen during the bite scene. A: The bite looked very much like some of the bite effects in Dawn of the Dead, which is the first film special effects guru and director of this episode, Greg Nicotero, worked on. B: The camera takes a moment to pause on the radio sitting on the desk near the edge of the room. The radio also has yet another clock on it.

— The time on the clock is right around 5:06, and the second hand is resting on the 8. Originally I had thought it was set at 4:06 on my first viewing, which would have been significant because the issue of the comic Tyreese is killed in is issue 46 which is in Volume 8 of the trade paperbacks. I’d be interested to see if the time has any significance as far as the plot goes, but that may just be coincidence. For whatever it’s worth, issue 56 covers a failed suicide attempt by Maggie, and a major conflict between Rick and Abraham. It also details a significant scene with Abraham breaking down and begging Rosita to never let him kill anyone again… something the show’s version of Tyreese might have appreciated. —

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While Noah is gone and fetching help, Tyreese begins to hallucinate and see visions of people who have been killed by other humans in his time with the group. The first person he sees in Martin, who mocks Tyreese’s current situation. Martin asks Ty if he thinks Gareth would have ever gone after the group had Tyreese killed Martin when he had the chance. He also jokes about how maybe Bob and Beth wouldn’t have had to die as a result of “domino shit” had he taken care of business when he had the chance.

— I really like Martin’s character. I’m glad they brought him back for this. The Termites/Hunters are just so unsettling because they look like us, they talk like us. The Governor always reeked of villainy. We as an audience, as well as the characters on the show, bought into Terminus being a second chance. I think that’s what makes them the best antagonist group we’ve seen so far. AMC did a very good job fleshing those characters out. —

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Suddenly another voice interjects, and Bob, still legless, is sitting on the bed. He tells Martin that what he’s saying is “bullshit.” Bob looks at Tyreese and tells him, in Ty’s own words, “It went the way it had to. The way it was always going to.” This is exactly what Tyreese told Noah at the beginning of the episode. Lawrence Gilliard Jr. gave a great performance in this episode. Bob is still awesome. It’s kind of depressing we had to lose that character just as he was really coming into his own.

Suddenly the radio switches on and the voice on the other end (who sounds incredibly like Andrew Lincoln when he is not in character) begins to recount horrible events that are occurring. These broadcasts, though easily to interpret as memories or delusions about the beginning of “the turn,” detail events that have occurred with the group since Tyreese has joined them. “–Revenge attacks involving hacking innocents with machetes, and in some cases, setting them on fire,” clearly a reference to Rick slaughtering Gareth’s group and the initial escape from Terminus, as well as when Carol burnt Karen and David in season four. The one thing that seemed strange about the broadcasts is that they were being spoken in a British accent, but hey, whatever. I guess Tyreese likes BBC Radio.

The broadcasts pause for a moment as Martin reiterates his point. “Maybe the bill would have been paid.” Then we’re greeted by a vision of the Governor, bullet wound still in head, who states “The bill has to be paid. You have to earn your keep. You told me you’d do whatever you had to do to earn your keep. That’s what you said. Remember that.”

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The broadcasts come through again, only this time they’re broadcasts of the gurgling of walkers. Lizzie and Mika appear on the floor next to Tyreese. They tell him “It’s better now,” but the Governor interjects. As he approached Tyreese, he morphs into a walker and Tyreese snaps back to reality. Tyreese struggles to fend off the walker, clinging to one last chance at survival. If only they can get to him to remove the limb in time. The walker pins Tyreese against the wall, and though he fumbles for control of it, Tyreese is ultimately unable to draw his trusty hammer and it all too ominously falls to the floor. Able to escape the clutches of the walker for a brief moment, Tyreese scurries across the room before being pinned against a bookshelf. Thinking quickly, Ty uses his already bitten arm as sacrifice while he grasps a geode off of the shelf. He then uses the geode to dispatch the walker, and drops to the floor in pain as his blood symbolically drips on a framed photo of a house that looks incredibly like the house from season 4’s emotionally trying episode “The Grove,” where Lizzie and Mika were killed. Not only that, but a photo of a nice, cozy house symbolizes what Tyreese was hoping for. The blood spilling onto the photo shows that, in this world, something like that just isn’t going to happen.

On the other end of the settlement, Michonne makes her pitch for the group to head to Washington D.C. to try and find help since they are so close. Rick utters “We should go,” as walkers approach. The others take Rick’s words at face value and begin to head back in toward the community. Rick clarifies his statement, and tells them that they should go to Washington. The group hears a scream off in the distance, and take off to help. When they arrive at the source, Noah is pinned down by multiple walkers, using a piece of loose lattice as a shield. The three quickly dispatch the walkers and Noah alerts them of Tyreese’s condition. The four then head off in hopes to save Ty before it’s too late.

Back in the bedroom of Noah’s brother, the bedroom with a sign that reads “DEAD END” hanging all too fittingly on the door, the radio makes a sound as if it is tuning. Tyreese is now joined by an apparition of Beth as well. Not even death can stop Beth’s singing as her voice fills the room with the lyrics of Jimmy Cliff’s “Struggling Man.”

“Everyman has a right to live.
Love is all that we have to give.
Together we struggle by your will to survive
Then together we fight just to stay alive..

Struggling man has got to move.
Struggling man, no time to lose.
I’m a struggling man,
And I’ve got to move on.”

As Beth sings and plays, Tyreese and the viewer is haunted by the echoing cries of baby Judith while images of the prison, Woodbury, train tracks, photographs, and passing trees play like old film. When the shot cuts back to Tyreese, he has bled out considerably. “It’s okay Tyreese,” says Beth. “You got to know that now.”

“It’s okay that you didn’t want to be a part of it anymore, Ty,” says Bob.

“You don’t have to be a part of it,” reiterates Beth.

All the while Martin laughs and tells Tyreese “That’s your problem, right there.” Tyreese asks him to elaborate.

“You didn’t want to be a part of it, but being part of it is being now. That’s what it is. Open your eyes,” Martin states slyly, though Lizzie and Mika assures Tyreese that it’s okay now.

The Governor then takes hold of the conversation and mocks Tyreese for forgiving Carol for killing the woman he loved. Bob retorts that forgiveness is all their is, but the Governor roars on about how THIS is all there is as Tyreese pulls himself to his feet. As a last stand of sorts, Tyreese tells the Governor that he didn’t know who he was talking to when he told the Governor he would do whatever he had to do. “I know who I am. I know what happened and what’s going on. I know.” Tyreese states defiantly. “It’s not over. I forgave her because it’s not over.” Tyreese goes on about how he kept listening to the news so that he knew what he could do to help. It seems to dawn on Tyreese though that this is the end for him. “People like me… they can’t live,” he says, though he quickly tries to reassure himself “Ain’t nobody got to die today.”

The room dims suddenly as the Governor is backlit by a projection of the images we saw at the beginning of the episode. He pushes Tyreese to the floor as he shouts “You have to pay the bill!”

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Tyreese looks down at the photo of the grove house as Lizzie and Mika take his bloodied arm. Everything snaps back to reality now and Rick is pulling on Ty’s arm and the group is holding him still to amputate.

— There are a lot of things I loved about this scene, and a few I’d have done differently. First and foremost, whether it was through neglect or scheduling conflicts, or whatever, I though it added so much to the narrative that Tyreese didn’t get to see Karen in his hallucinations. It was, to steal a phrase from Chad L. Coleman himself, “A beautifully destructive ballad.” In addition, I thought it was great to see him going over these traumatic events as he faced the prospect of death. I also found it to be fitting that he saw all these people that reinforced his beliefs and assured him using his own words. Also did anyone else notice that the arm that got bit was right where he cut his arm in the prison escape?

What I would have done differently though, is to make his speech to the Governor occur with Rick in the room, thinking Tyreese was speaking to him. I feel as if those words could have deeply effected Rick and really pushed his character in a new direction similar to the way Morgan did in season 3 with the episode “Clear.” —

After severing the bite, the group carries Tyreese out of Shirewilt as the images from the start of the episode are intercut between shots. The group must open the gates and handle a flood of walkers before they can get to their car. Rick yells to the group “We’ve got to break the chain,” which carried a bit of symbolic meaning regarding how the group survives and goes about their life. As they carry Ty through the woods, images of Martin, the Governor, Judith, The fight between Tyreese and Rick at the prison, and Sasha stabbing Martin all play out as Beth’s singing echoes in the distance.

“It went the way it had to. The way it was always going to,” Says the hallucination of Bob as we’re briefly taken back to the room where Mika and Lizzie sit giggling and Beth sings jovially.

Rick pleads with Tyreese to hang on as they approach the car, eventually loading him in. Rick hops in the driver’s seat after radioing Carol. The tires begin to spin out, and the Truck is stuck. After a few moments, the tires catch and Rick rams the wreckage in front of them. Out of the wreckage falls numerous walkers without legs or arms. The camera pauses for a moment on one that lands on the windshield of the truck. The walker chomps fruitlessly as we’re shown either two “X’s” or a “W” carved into it’s forehead. It appears to be the case with every walker that was in the truck Rick collided with.

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— This… this is interesting. The “X’s” or “W’s” could mean anything really, but rolling with the biblical theme the show has established this season, there are two passages that describe marks such as this that stand out. The books that they come from are particularly interesting in relation to The Walking Dead.

First, Revelation 7:3 reads “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”

Ezekiel (!!!) 9:4 reads “and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”

Now, I put the exclamation marks next to Ezekiel because comic readers will be familiar with that name. Ezekiel is a man, with a Tiger (don’t ask), who runs a settlement called “The Kingdom.” The Kingdom is a strange place at the end of the world where Ezekiel reigns as king and has a bevy or knights who carry swords (which could explain the dismemberment) and make camp near Washington D.C. This makes me wonder if AMC will continue to run with the religious themes and maybe give The Kingdom and Ezekiel a religious slant? Either way, you can bet we’ll see this again.

It’s very similar to how they teased the Hunters in season 4 when Carol and Rick encountered Sam and Anna. They referred to walkers as “flesh eaters,” and when Carol and Rick found Anna, she was being eaten by walkers though her leg was cut clean off. Of course, later on in season 5, Rick would see Sam again at Terminus. Poor guy was the first to go. —

Back in the truck, Tyreese begins to hallucinate one last time as he hears reports of cannibalism over the radio. One single tear streams down his face before he whispers “Turn it off.” Suddenly, Beth is driving, Bob is in the passenger seat, and Lizzie and Mika sitting next to Tyreese. Bob turns and asks “You sure?”

In the driver’s seat Beth reassures one last time “It’s okay Tyreese. You got to know that now.”

“It isn’t just okay,” Lizzie adds with a smile while Mika chimes in “It’s better now.”

The camera pans to each of the deceased passengers in the car as they each give Tyreese a warm smile. Ty looks out the window one last time at the passing trees before the shot fades to black.

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The truck stops on the side of the road, and Rick, Michonne, Glenn, and Noah all exit. The shot is taken from afar and there is no dialogue, but as they lower Tyreese out of the car, you can tell each of them is devastated by their solemn body language. Tyreese is gone.

A sheet drops over Tyreese, now in a grave, as the survivors take turns shoveling dirt onto his lifeless body as Gabriel facilitates the funeral, the same funeral from the intro. The time comes when Daryl hands the shovel to Sasha, and the look on her face is one of absolute devastation. The scene is hard to watch as the shellshocked young woman numbly showers dirt over her big brother. Rick approaches and painfully begins to finish the burial, a callback to earlier in season three when he and Tyreese dug graves at the prison and more recently at the church where he exchanged dialogue with Tyreese while burying Bob and the Hunters.

“It killed me.” Tyreese told Rick of the journey from the prison to Terminus.

“No it didn’t.” Rick replied in a steely manner.

The episode closes on a tear-jerking image of wooden cross adorned with Tyreese’s iconic tossle cap.

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Overview:

4.5 out of 5 Tossle Caps

This episode, though fairly telegraphed in it’s own right, was a phenomenal return to The Walking Dead. Emotionally trying and faith shatteringly brutal are themes this show does best.

Positives/Negatives:

+ The foreshadowing, oh, the foreshadowing.
+ This group isn’t the only one who’s dealt with dangerous people.
+ The hallucinations were haunting.
+ Significant loss of a character that will push the story forward.
+ No more hospital/church/Atlanta.

– Some things could have been handled a little differently.
– This show is never going to be able to shake it’s reputation for killing off African-American characters at this rate.

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One thought on “The Walking Dead Episode 509: “What Happened and What’s Going On” Recap

  1. I thought that this episode had a lot of potential and there is a lot that it is quite good about it.
    I very much like the beginning of the episode (post two minute montage thing and credits) to when Ty is bit. The homestead is discussed in the first part of the season so it needs to be resolved. The whole parade of other characters just seemed gimmicky to me, quite honestly the first thing that I thought was “Really, they’re stealing ideas from “An American Werewolf in London?” The overall atmosphere was great.

    I’m thinking of taking a crack at editing this one with all the ghost people removed just to see how it watches. I started a blog about the ins and outs of doing fanedits of TWD, you may or may not be interested in it.

    http://twdrmrm.blogspot.com/

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