This Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
With the prison community broken up, all the survivors are exposed to a new sense of isolation as they find themselves away from the trappings of civilization in the latest episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead. They are now grouped up in little pockets that rely on each other for every basic human need, not the least of which is companionship to combat the horrors of isolation. These horrors are introduced in this week’s opening as viewers witness Bob before he was accepted into the warm bosom of the prison. In a flashback, he wanders, like a zombie, alone with only a bottle of cough medicine for company. He is barely human until he meets Glenn and Daryl for the first time. The opening montage of Bob surviving alone drives home the sense of isolation one would feel wandering isolated in the world of The Walking Dead, which explains why he was so eager to latch on to Glenn and Daryl. The opening also drives home how isolation could make an individual lose their sense of self and become something akin to a walker.
The episode proper begins with zombies coming out of a dream-like fog as Maggie, Bob, and Sasha circle up to combat the dead. This is in stark contrast to Bob in the opening who had no one to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with. After some good juicy zombie kills, the crew tries to decide whether to hunker down or continue looking for Glenn. Of course, Maggie wants to continue, Bob wants to help her, and Sasha, who does not have her constant Tyreese, is beginning to lose hope.
Speaking of pairings, Daryl is training Beth how to hunt, track, and shoot a bow. Hopefully she is sober by now after her introduction to barley and hops last week. Beth spies a zombie and is eager to make her first kill, but she steps on an animal trap. Not exactly Aragorn, our dear Beth. Going to seek first aid for Beth’s boo-boo, Daryl and his gal pal stumble over a graveyard and a funeral home. In a very sweet moment, the duo symbolically place flowers on a grave marked “Beloved Father.” Hershel is ever present in his daughters, kind of like the Uncle Ben of the narrative, as his constant faith and strength provide inspiration to his children. This moment shows that Beth has reached the final stage of grief, “acceptance,” and is ready to move on with Daryl at her side.
Daryl and Beth enter the church and find one of the coolest and most atmospheric set pieces the show has featured in a long time, a funeral home with former walkers laid out respectfully with pancake corpse make-up hiding what they have become. This setting has some fascinating potential as whoever did this to the walkers would make for an interesting character addition…or a pretty damn sick one.
Meanwhile, Sasha is consumed with doubts as she does not believe Glenn is alive or the prospects of salvation in the mysterious town of Terminus. Without Tyreese, she doesn’t have her rock. Sasha has outer strength as displayed by her Walker killing prowess, but she has nothing that fuels her journey. Unlike Sasha, Maggie has her intensity of purpose and sets out for Glenn on her own. Her faith in Glenn matches her father’s faith in God. Maggie is on a hero’s journey determined to find the only thing that gives her meaning, Glenn.
Back at the church, viewers are treated to the wonderfully strange visual of Daryl lying in a coffin listening to Beth play the piano. There are reminders of death in even the most peaceful moments. Daryl and Beth are experiencing a sort of domestic tranquility in a funeral home stocked with PB&J and pig’s feet. Even a cute little dog shows up to potentially complete the Rockwellian scene.
This can’t end well.
Daryl finds a moment’s respite in the church, but when he thinks he hears the mutt return and goes to let the pooch in, yeah you guessed it, zombies pour through the welcoming door. This leads to an awesome action sequence with Daryl using corpses on embalming tables to shield himself from the Walkers while stabbing them with scalpels and scissors. Once again, the show avoids the same old zombie scene by finding new visual wrinkles to engage the loyal (and bloodthirsty) fan.
During the scrum, Beth escapes and Daryl witness a car speeding away. Was Beth abandoning him, or more likely, did the church’s owner return? While Daryl is looking for Beth, he collapses, the only time he is shown as tired and not the angelic Walker killing machine fans have grown to love. Daryl drops his bow, like Arthur dropping Excalibur, and lies down on a crossroads, symbolic of his desire for human connection and his survival instinct. He is suddenly surrounded by a group straight out of a Sons of Anarchy casting call. Daryl has found a new human connection, but he lost the girl he swore to protect, replaced by a seemingly dangerous group that the old Daryl would have run with.
As for Maggie, she walks like a woman with purpose, alone but contrasting Bob from the opening. Ever hopeful, she leaves Glenn a message to meet her at Terminus written in zombie blood. Girl, find yourself a pen. Meanwhile, Bob and Sasha are at the opposite ends of an existential crisis as they search for Maggie. Bob is a pretty deep and hopeful guy (provided he stays away from the hooch). He spent his time isolated and alone and is enjoying finding meaning in the company of others, which makes him a pretty loyal ally. Bob and Sasha could potentially find love, and even share a kiss, but Bob abandons the potential connection to follow a path of duty. Sasha is now in the same place Bob was in the opening. Ironically, it is Sasha who finds Maggie lying outside and must save her from a horde of Walkers. Bob’s character arc is powerfully realized, as he goes from someone with nothing, feeling hopelessness because he is alone to a man who is okay to wander alone because he has a mission and a duty to his friends.
The show ends with Bob wandering unaccompanied again, but this time, he is shielded by his faith in his friends. He is rewarded by Maggie and Sasha rejoining him as they head towards Terminus. It is a sweet and uplifting ending as this episode’s main purpose was to make viewers care deeply for Bob and Sasha.
Zombie kill of the week: Maggie’s No Parking rampage. Who knew a road sign could be a perfect undead killing implement?