Editor’s Note: This review contains major spoilers for The Walking Dead TV series and the comics.
Hold on, we’ll get started in just a sec. I’m trying to wipe all the blood off my TV set.
Okay…that escalated quickly. I think that AMC, Gimple, Kirkman, and the writers have finally figured out how to strike a balance between drama and action — something the show has had a problem with in the past. Ever since the beginning of season 5, I’ve felt like the approach to storytelling has changed. We’re learning about these characters as they’re doing things.
Examples: we learned the truth about Gabriel last week, before he jumped into his long exposition tonight, when he ran away from the zombie church lady in that cellar. In the same way, we had a moment of conflict with Michonne, as she recovered her katana during the big slaughter tonight. On the church steps, you see a relaxed Michonne examining her weapon. You sense that perhaps she’s become used to being sword-less all the time. She doesn’t have to go into this long monologue (and she doesn’t tend to, regardless) to show us all this. This is a tangent, though.
The point is that season 5 has kept us on our toes so far because we don’t know when the action is coming or the revelations will unfold. The storytelling has been incredibly efficient. And in this episode, we’re engulfed by a thick darkness that really heightens the tension.
So let’s get to the business at hand:
“You either join us or feed us.”
I’m not sure I hated Gareth until this episode, watching him beg like a coward over a victorious Rick. Although we see the Terminans (aka The Hunters) in a “sympathetic” light in the prologue and epilogue of the season 5 premiere, they’re really just garbage that the apocalypse has spat out into the world. You see finally the contrast between the Ricktatorship and the Terminans — and the threat of what Rick may become some day if pushed over the edge.
This episode is all about mercy. Gabriel begs the Lord for forgiveness, Tyreese tries to appease Sasha, the utterly defeated Gareth pleas his case, and Bob could turn at any minute. None of them show or are shown mercy. Except Bob, who seems at peace with the end. Everyone else just walks into the chaos and the episode plays out.
Gareth got what was coming to him this week, but at least he went out giving the best performance of the episode. Andrew J. West was just brilliant in the role. While the comic books portrayed the Hunters’ leader as a vicious man, West brings a lot more complexity to the character. And in that final moment on screen, although his acts were evil, we’re not sure if we should feel bad for him. Who are we to judge? He’s probably gone through as much loss and trauma as Rick has. The difference is that Gareth eats people.
Gareth’s lines about how he prefers his human meat are wonderfully delivered. He likes the extra layer of fat on women, and pretty people are especially tasty. It’s all great fun…if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m not. Ehem.
The Bob twist during “The Last Supper” is pretty much what you’d expect if you read the comics. He was a perfect replacement for Dale (who bit the bullet during this storyline in the comics), as he shouts, “Tainted meat! You ate tainted meat!” Not an incredibly vital character to the show, but with just enough to lose. I’m sad to see him go, but before he does, he delivers some very beautiful lines. Lawrence Gilliard Jr. really nails it as the optimistic dead man.
“Even in light of current events, nightmares end. They shouldn’t end who you are.”
Again, no amount of exposition is going to tell us as much about Rick as his actions in this episode. Yes, Rick is still going through some shit. That’s the point of the show. Everyone is going through some shit. It’s all about how people act out. It’s the core of the show, its philosophy even: the zombies act out because they have no other choice. The humans act out because they choose to.
You see Rick more vicious than ever — a much more subtle approach than his one-man army scene in the premiere — as he outsmarts the scheming Gareth and brings to an end the cannibal’s reign of terror. Once and for all, we know this isn’t farmer Rick anymore. It’s Sheriff Rick and he works according the law of the new world — only the strong survive.
When Gareth tries to fool Rick into leaving the church so that the Terminans can sneak in and have a late nignt snack, we see that Rick isn’t the loose cannon he appears to be. He’s very calculating in the way he manipulates Gareth. Reminds me of someone with an eye patch…
The big development in this episode, obviously, is the extermination of the Terminans. And it’s really gruesome. Rick, Sasha, Michonne, and friends stab their enemies with knives, machetes, viciously tearing away the meat. We get to see a final shot of Gareth’s disemboweled corpse. It’s very tasteful.
Rick justifies the slaughter to Sasha, who’s acted on her thirst for blood and is genuinely shaken by what she’s done, “It could’ve been us.”
If he doesn’t keep the Sheriff stuff in check, we could see Rick really cross the line by season’s end. That’s what I’m banking on, anyways. I see him stepping into that moral gray area quite nicely. A regular old Walter White.
Bob reminds Rick before he passes, in much the same way that Dale did in season 2 and Carl did last week, that he’s the man who takes people in, who helps those in need. Rick is a hero in the eyes of these people. No matter what messed up thing he does, the times have been able to distort the line between good and bad. Any man who’s willing to protect his family, no matter what the cost, is a good man.
What can we say about Gareth then? The Governor, for that matter?
“It would become all about the end, and I really like the middle.”
Later, Bob’s still dying. Sasha has her moment with him. It’s very sweet. It stinks that The Walking Dead tends to give us these little hints of relationships without really establishing them, taking time to make us care. It’s more like, “Oh, we’ll make characters fall in love, so we can kill one of them a few episodes later for an emotional kick.”
They did it with Beth and that one guy at the Prison, Tyreese and Karen (?), and now Sasha and Bob. Granted, Bob was a bit more developed as a character, but we knew him as the weak alcoholic, not the lover boy he seems to be by the end of this episode.
When Lorie died, it struck a chord — whether you were excited that the drama queen was off the show or sad Carl had to grow up without a mother — and if either Glenn or Maggie ever die, we’re all probably going to cry for weeks.
But Bob and Sasha’s “love” being cut short due to zombie bite and cannibal supper? Not really all that affecting. It’s sad in a general sense. But it’s not something I’m tortured over.
Sasha, who’s been defeated by the inevitable death of Bob and her own violent retaliation, doesn’t understand how Bob could be smiling in the end, as he slowly dies on a couch.
She asks him, “What is the good that comes out of this bad?”
Bob doesn’t answer. He’s dead.
It’s a tragic play, this little episode.
“The New World’s gonna need Rick Grimes.”
A few other things to discuss…
Tyreese takes care of Bob after he passes. More and more, Tyreese seems to be the center of goodness this season. He’s the guy whispering wisdom into everyone’s ear. He tries to tell Sasha that she shouldn’t run out of the church in search of her revenge. Tyreese argues that she should find it in her heart to forgive those who harm them. That’s what separates them from the “bad guys.” Why is there a priest this season? It seems that Tyreese is doing just fine with the faith portion of the show.
After Tyreese kills Bob, there’s a profile shot of him with a portrait of the Last Supper hanging on the wall. I wonder if that’s some hefty foreshadowing? Tyreese is probably out by season’s end. Good guys don’t live on The Walking Dead. Sooner or later, everybody dies because of their faith.
Not much else to say about Gabriel the Coward except that his line, “I always lock the doors at night,” seems to play to the strengths of this episode — the dangers that creep out of the darkness. Almost all of the episode plays out in this overwhelming darkness, barely any moonlight even.
Abraham and Rick’s subtle power struggle comes to a head when Abraham decides he needs to get Eugene out of the hot zone. Rick’s not too keen on letting someone else take the truck. And he definitely doesn’t want to leave without Daryl and Carol. The hilarious redhead and ramen curls are about to have it out with their fists, but they strike a deal and all seems well. They share a final moment of camaraderie when Abraham gives Rick a map to Washington with a little note. The new world’s gonna need Rick Grimes.
Abraham drives off with half of the cast, and the next phase of season 5 is about to begin.
My big problem with this season is the size of the main cast. Too many characters to give a shit about. Luckily, Gimple’s got a quick and logical fix for that. As we predicted, there have already been a couple of deaths this season. Not only is Bob dead and Gareth’s group exterminated, but most of the group that reunited in the beginning of the season has already dispersed again. That means characters will have room to breathe and stories will have time to develop. I’m really interested to see how the new team of Abraham, Rosita, Eugene, Tara, Glenn, and Maggie works out.
Rick and his people will continue to survive, no doubt. I’d say their part of the story before the midseason finale is almost over. Much like last season, this season seems to be playing out in parts.
Act 1 is over. As we saw at the very end of the episode, it looks like it’s Daryl and Carol’s turn to shine. Who’s made it back with him? We’ll surely find out next week.
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