Editor’s Note: This review contains major spoilers for both The Walking Dead TV series and the comic books. Read at your own risk.
After last week’s exhilarating season 5 premiere, The Walking Dead slows things down a little and gives us an episode that really introduces what this new season is going to be all about. Robert Kirkman, who penned this one, opens the zombie gates to a larger discussion about faith and survival. These are the two themes that will juxtapose each other for much of the season, I think. How far are you willing to go to survive while still having faith that there is goodness in the world?
Rick doesn’t seem to have faith in much anymore except his family. And who can blame him? He’s lost so much in five seasons that it’s a miracle he’s not just killing everyone he crosses paths with. More than any other survivor in the group, Rick is walking that fine line between hero and villain. To Gimple’s credit, he’s introduced the Terminans (aka The Hunters — we’ll get to this in a minute) at exactly the right time. Seeing what Gareth is capable of to survive week after week shows us what Rick might turn into if pushed just a little bit farther.
You bet Rick’s going to get to the point where he’ll have to choose what kind of man he’s going to be for the rest of the show. I’d say midseason will see him faced with this decision, and the second half of season 5 will be all about dealing with his choice. This is my wager for tonight.
We’ve seen just how creepy Rick can get in the last few episodes — biting Joe’s throat out, murdering all the Terminans, etc. — but it didn’t quite click with me until he ran into someone on the road that wasn’t an immediate threat. We meet Father Gabriel for the first time in the woods outside his infamous church, and Rick comes down on him like this big antagonizing force. Rick is pointing guns, frisking the priest, giving him the 3-question test from last season, and forcing Gabriel to take him back to his supplies. Hell, if I didn’t know any better, I would immediately call Rick a bandit.
Only Rick has every right to suspect Gabriel. C’mon, a priest surviving on his own during a zombie apocalypse? I just keep thinking back to that first zombie priest in 28 Days Later. Dude had a BRICK church protecting him and he STILL got infected. Gabriel’s got this little wooden house that shouldn’t be strong enough to keep the zombies out. His survival is absolutely suspect. Rick lives in a world where only bad people can travel alone and survive.
Gabriel isn’t particularly the crux of this episode, although he is Kirkman’s way of introducing a little self-contained plot to the episode and the larger discussion on faith. As soon as we enter Gabriel’s church, we’re smacked in the face with not-so-subtle religious symbolism. There’s Galatians 6:9 framed on the wall: “Let us not become weary in doing good,A)” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-29198A”> for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Again, a Rick-centric moment even though he’s not in frame in this specific shot. But it compliments his talk with Carl extraordinarily well. “We’re strong enough that we can still help people,” Carl tells his father later in the episode. Now more than ever, ruthless Rick needs this reminder if he hopes to maintain his hope in the future.
The burning bush and years of wandering symbols are also extremely telling. A) Rick has been appointed the leader of the group, and he’s finally come to terms with it. He has no say. B) Rick will have to lead his group on a very long journey on which his faith will constantly be challenged. He’s The Walking Dead‘s version of Moses.
That’s why it’s so important when Rick agrees to help Abraham get to Washington in order to formulate Eugene’s wacko cure. Honestly, does anyone believe the dude has a cure? Every time Eugene is asked to explain what it is, he just puts a bunch of big words together, and no one else in the group knows the better. But really, that’s not discussion we need to have right now, although something tells me we’ll be shouting back and forth about this very soon.
The short of it is that it seemed like there might be a little power struggle between Rick and Abraham — if only for the few seconds when everyone was entering the church and telling Abraham that they were going to follow Rick regardless — but I’m glad this was only a little red herring. I’m not sure I want to see a power struggle evolve just when Rick is back at the helm of his Ricktatorship.
But enough about Rick — I’m glad we finally got a Rick episode that didn’t kinda suck after last season’s poor handling of the character — it’s time to talk about Carol and Tara. They’re both welcomed into the group by a benevolent Rick, who is as anxious to shake the past as they are. Carol gives Rick back the watch he gave her before banishing her from the group last season, and they come to terms with what Carol did back at the Prison. They agree to stick together, although it seems like Carol meant to make a run for it later in the episode when Daryl catches her sneaking to the car that they found on the road.
Carol’s time is almost up if you ask me, but it seems like she has this one more thing she has to do, something that keeps pulling her back towards the group. To me, she’s kind of the Simon (Lord of the Flies) of the group. Carol doesn’t seem to be walking on the same plane of existence as everyone else. What did she experience during her exile? She means to run as if her presence in the group spells doom for everyone else. Either way, she’s off with Daryl, trying to save Beth from the mysterious black car.
Tara is kind of pointless. Just one more character in a long list of main cast members that REALLY needs to get slimmed down quite a bit. Honestly, yes, I’m just kind of bloodthirsty at this point. When you have that many characters in perile, it just seems anti-climactic not to kill someone off every couple episodes. Tara has a target on her forehead. I’ll be surprised if she makes it past the midseason finale. Basically, what I’m saying is that any scene with Tara is pretty much useless. Ditto Rosita. Moving on.
DEATH OF THE WEEK
Alright, we have to get to the main event…who bit the bullet this week? Who got his/her leg chomped off? Who is now Gareth’s prisoner?
BOB. Poor Bob, who kicked his alcoholism, got himself a girlfriend, and no longer seemed useless. It’s curtains for Bob…well, no, he’s still alive, but a) he’s been bitten by a zombie (presumably) during this episode’s supply run, and b) he’s the main course in a Terminan feast. Although Bob is not TECHNICALLY dead, the dude is dead. Bob replaces Dale in the infamous comic book storyline “Fear the Hunters,” and it looks like he’ll suffer a similar fate.
It’s more than clear now that Gareth and his Terminans are the show’s version of the cannibals from the comic books known as The Hunters. It’s a good time to have a new kind of villain in the mix. We’ve had zombie hordes, a jealous bestfriend, and a ruthless dictator. It’s about time we saw survivor’s driven to the very peak of madness. Even The Governor wasn’t eating people, although I’m sure he would’ve gotten there had he been given a couple more episodes. Remember what I said about Rick making a choice about what kind of man he was willing to be to survive?
I won’t ruin future episodes for you (I’m not a monster), but I talked a whole lot about The Hunters (aka Terminans) in a season 5 preview I did a few weeks ago. If you care to know more about what might be waiting down the road this season, you can check that out.
This is another great episode that really gets things moving into season 5. The past has been shed. Time to take care of some cannibals.
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