THE WALKING DEAD Recap: “What Happened and What’s Going On”

     February 8, 2015

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When last we left AMC’s The Walking Dead, some people died, some people cried, and the rest carried on with their lives. One big step in being able to do that includes the (apparent) burial of Beth Greene, and the grieving that goes along with it.  Accompanying the preacher’s words at her (Editor’s note: presumed) funeral are snapshots of the team’s escape from Slabtown, and of glimpses at Noah’s former life. He lets Rick know that he and Beth planned to head to Richmond, Virginia. Rick thinks that sounds like a swell idea, and so does the rest of the gang.

An interesting choice of camera work and effects to open up the mid-season finale, showing a series of picturesque settings and comforting locales that transition from the pre-Walker world to the current hellscape, an aesthetic that quickly goes from bucolic to bloody. We soon learn that these shots aren’t reliving the past, but rather foretelling the future. Like I said, an interesting storytelling choice.

Rick & Co. are out on the road in a new convoy, all paired up in new and interesting ways, like Tyreese and Noah. Tyreese is reminiscing about his dad’s instruction to him and Sasha about being good people in a bad world, and “paying the high cost of living” by paying attention to the horrible events happening halfway around the world or right next door. Rick and Michonne are with them, and Rick wants to stop short of their destination and approach on foot.

the-walking-dead-image-season-5-episode-9-andrew-lincolnThe group parks their new vehicle among a wreck of broken-down cars, disguising it; a Walker is trapped in one of the cars. They approach the fortification of Shirewilt, but apart from some roadkill and a busted grandfather clock in the road (time’s up?), no lookouts or snipers appear to be waiting for them. Glenn climbs the secure gate to get a look inside the place, and he doesn’t have the most positive reaction. The place is not only deserted, it’s littered with dead bodies (some walking, some not) and many of the houses are burned out. A bit of graffiti reads, “Wolves Not Far.” Noah, having lost his former home, now joins up with Rick’s crew in earnest, after having himself a good old-fashioned mental breakdown. The hardened warriors take down the few Walkers without much effort before sweeping the neighborhood for supplies; Tyreese stays with Noah.

Rick confesses to Glenn that he recognized that Dawn didn’t intend to kill Beth, but that Rick wanted to kill her anyway. He says this journey had nothing to do with Beth’s death, but rather the fact that her last wish was to get Noah home; this little side trip was Rick’s way of honoring Beth. Glenn’s also in the mood to confess his previous sins, those he committed when he was away from the rest of the group. Michonne provides the voice of reason, saying they’ve been out in the wild too long and need to stop.

the-walking-dead-season-5-chad-l-colemanTyreese has a similar confession of grief, telling Noah about the time he nearly committed suicide by Walker, but managed to survive long enough to save Baby Judith. He convinces Noah that this isn’t an end, just an unhappy occurrence in a harsh new world. The young man seems to understand, but soon takes off running for his old home again. Tyreese catches up with him in time to be the first one to explore Noah’s old house. A gruesome sight awaits him: a woman’s body lies rotting in the living room with her head caved in; Noah covers her up. While Noah says goodbye, Tyreese finds more horror waiting in the house: he discover’s Noah’s twin brother just as Noah’s brother discovers him, and takes a big old bite out of his arm. Noah puts the Walker down for good, but it might be too late for Tyreese.

Tyreese hallucinates the dead almost-baby-killer Martin while he’s bleeding out on the floor. Martin – previously beaten by Tyreese and stabbed to death by Sasha – appears to know way too much about the situation, but in case you were doubting Tyreese’s visions, Dead Bob shows up to counteract the other man’s logic. In a surprise cameo, The Governor shows up to remind Tyreese of his assertion that he’d do whatever he had to do to earn his keep. Tyreese sees the two dead girls, Mika and Lizzie, telling him it’s better now, just as The Governor morphs into another attacking Walker with a shredded face who’s a hair’s breadth away from killing the big man. Tyreese uses his already wounded and bitten arm as a shield, getting a second bite, but buying himself enough time to clobber the Walker. The dead creature’s blood pools on the pretty farmhouse painting from earlier in the episode.

the-walking-dead-image-season-5-episode-9-danai-guriraMeanwhile, Michonne is trying to convince Rick that this place is an ideal setup for a bit of a rest. He’s concerned that the woods grow right up to the walls, giving their enemies plenty of cover and no sightline for the defenders at all. Michonne wants to cut down the trees to clear the perimeter and build up the wall, but when she goes to investigate the border, they find scores of bodies cut in half and scattered along the ground. Glenn’s answer to this chaos is imply that, “It doesn’t matter” whether Rick killed Dawn or not. For pretty much any decision they make, at the end of the day, “it doesn’t matter.” Michonne holds onto the slim hope that, despite Eugene’s lies, Washington D.C. is still a place worth trying for. Rick agrees and they plan to head there next.

Being attacked by Walkers, Noah’s screams attract not only more of the beasts but Rick and Co. as well. They spring into action, but Michonne gets a rare moment of failure with her katana when she comes up against a Walker whose neck is shielded by a piece of rebar sticking out of its torso. (Brilliant plot point, that.) They still manage to dispatch the Walkers, and soon run off to Tyreese’s aid. But is he still able to be saved? Is he still even human?

For those of you hoping that Beth would never again sing on The Walking Dead, I’m sorry to say that she makes an undead cameo in Tyreese’s fever dream as he’s on his way out. She tells him it’s okay too, and the girls agree, along with Bob. They’re giving him the okay to give up and go out. (This might be the show’s most existential episode to date.) The Governor is chiding him again and Tyreese is practically hiding under the table like a child. They watch him struggling to keep it together, and he calls The Governor out as a dead man haunting him. He wills himself to continue on instead of turning away from people he can help. He fights, but his vision keeps going out; The Governor shoves him back against the wall, telling him he has to pay the bill. He sees the girls pulling on his bloody hand … which is actually Rick pulling it taut so that Michonne can make a clean cut!

the-walking-dead-crossed-chad-colemanTurns out that the montage of scenes from the episode’s opening was actually from this same episode’s close as Rick & Co. attempt to escape the gated neighborhood with a mortally wounded Tyreese. There’s an excellent slow-motion sequence which shows Walker kills in an all-new light: super-slow and brutal baseball bat smashes, precise katana slashes, and explosive gunshots. All the while, Tyreese flashes back through his memories, both the violent and the comforting. The team drags him back through the underbrush and barbed wire, trying to keep him clear from the Walkers and at the same time keeping him conscious and stemming the loss of blood.

Rick radios back to warn Carol that they need to prepare to cauterize Tyreese’s wound, and to get her to get the kids away so they don’t have to see it. Of course, their truck spins out in the mud, and Rick crashes into a vehicle full of still-animated Walker torsos, complete with biting jaws and headbutting heads (with what appear to be Ws carved into their foreheads. Curious.). They eventually get clear, but Tyreese continues to hallucinate, seeing his dead friends in the car with him instead of the live ones. A radio broadcast about a band of roving, murderous bandits plays on a loop.

We see the truck stop far too soon … They drag Tyreese’s body out to the road; Michonne unsheaths her sword. We cut back to the burial sequence from earlier in the episode and learn that it was, in fact, Tyreese’s funeral. Sasha throws dirt on her brother’s body and drops the shovel, obviousy in shock. Rick finishes the job, as he always does.

the-walking-dead-season-5-episode-9-clipFrom beginning to end, this episode toyed with viewer’s emotions, from the presumed funeral for Beth Greene, to the emotional breakdown of Noah upon seeing the burned-out shell of his hometown, to the dead-eyed reactions of Rick & Co. upon seeing scores of Walkers cut in half and scattered about, to the final moments where it looked like Tyreese was going to make it, only to have him fade away at the very end. It’s the character focused episodes like these that make The Walking Dead not just the most popular show on TV, but one of the best. I’m just sad to see Chad L. Coleman gone so soon, with only a few real moments on the show – like the ones in tonight’s episode – to show off his talent. Here’s hoping we see him again soon!

Rating: ★★★★ Very good — Damn fine television

(An explanation of our ratings system follows here.)

Miscellanea:

Who breaks CDs in half in the post-apocalypse?? It’s not like they’re making them anymore.

‘Wolves Not Far’

Michonne: “Don’t you want one more day with a chance?”

Beth: “Struggling man, no time to lose.”

Tyreese: “I know what happened, and what’s going on.”

Tyreese: “It’s not over.”

… It’s over.

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