The Walking Dead season 5 episode 9 review: What Happened And What’s Going On

The Walking Dead season 5 returns with more heartbreaking surprises in store. Here's our review...

This review contains spoilers.

5.9 What Happened And What’s Going On

What happened? What’s going on? Perfectly valid questions, particularly in the wake of this week’s episode of The Walking Dead. After a two-month hiatus, everyone’s favorite gut-munching zombie show is back, shambling relentlessly onward like a herd of special effects on the hoof. It seems the only constant with this show is change (awesome special effects is a very close second), and the demise of Beth Greene doesn’t give the survivors any room to breathe, nor does it provide a reprieve from the omnipresent threat of death.

The course is set for another road trip for the survivors, another trip to a potential haven from the undead threat all around them. This time, they’re taking Noah home to a gated community outside Richmond, Virginia, where his family, friends, and neighbours have closed themselves off from the world and, thus far, kept the hordes at bay. Zombie hordes, anyway; as the walk through the suburban splendour reveals hacked up bodies and burned-out buildings, it doesn’t look like their walls and wire were much defense against their fellow survivors.

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As landscapes go, it’s a really fun one for director Greg Nicotero to indulge in. It’s pretty standard McMansion territory, but with the addition of some burned corpses, it’s pretty easy to turn suburbia into a hellscape. From the very opening, a mysterious montage of images that serve as reminders of the past four and a half seasons and portents of what’s to come, The Walking Dead is going artsy. But not too artsy, since one of the more fun visuals is that of what I assume is Noah’s dead mother turned into a beef jerky zombie. There are some beautiful shots, particularly at the end when the investigating survivors have to deal with their departed comrade. It’s staggering, because from 100 feet away, you can tell that the injured Tyreese has passed on without anyone saying a word. That’s coupled with a great expression from Chad Coleman, at peace with his destiny. He lived in a world not of his making, but he died on his own terms without compromising who he was.

Structurally, the episode is cleverly constructed. Given the refresher concerning the fate of Beth and the events at Grady Memorial hospital, I was taken completely aback by the reveal at the end of the episode as to just what actually happened and who was being buried. One great thing you can say about The Walking Dead is you’re never sure when someone’s going to die, or just how it’s going to happen. Well, you can be reasonably sure walkers will be involved, but other than that, it’s a crap shoot.

I wasn’t as keen on the B plot, where Rick and Michonne and Glenn argue about whether or not to stay in Richmond or move north to Washington DC, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it makes. They’ve been on the road for a long time at this point, and they’re probably tired and desperate for a place to rest for awhile. Especially Michonne, who didn’t really get much of a break from the running and killing since she spent all those months on the road with Andrea. Rick, ever the tactician, says that they need lines of sight, because the prison didn’t have them either. Nice to see that Rick is learning.

The execution of Tyreese’s finale is phenomenal. Occasionally through its run, The Walking Dead has played at unreliable narrators; remember Daryl hallucinating brother Merle once upon a time after a near-death incident, or Rick’s visitation with ghost Lori and telephone Shane? However, rarely is the conceit handled as well as it is here by Scott M. Gimple (tonight’s credited writer) and Chad Coleman. A whole rogues’ gallery of departed characters—including some very surprising returns—show up to escort Tyreese into the great beyond after a run-in with a zombie. However, before it’s time for the beanie to be retired, he has to square off with some notable figures from his past, as well as the show’s most shocking deaths from this current season.

It’s an interesting construction, with Martin (the hat guy with the mashed-up face that threatened Judith and got pulped for his trouble) serving as the devil and Bob serving as the angel on Tyreese’s shoulder. Of course, that only got increasingly weird as Tyreese lost more and more blood, but in a good way. I particularly liked the way that the characters were so evenly balanced; the important figures in Tyreese’s life were there, and on the whole, he did more good than bad. A nurturing soul cursed with the body of a grizzly bear and the expectation that he kill like one. He certainly had his moments, but by and large, he lacked that rage that Rick taps into as needed and that killed The Governor.

Some people are just too good for this post-walker world, and Tyreese was one of them. Unlike Carol, he couldn’t harden himself. Unlike Beth, he didn’t have the emotional ability to bounce back from trauma, despite having his eyes wide open about the world. Facing a problem and knowing how to respond to a problem are two different things, after all. It’s just a shame to see one of the show’s better actors get written off, even if it ended up being a really good send-off for an interesting character.

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Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Coda, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan wonders just how they’re going to show Washington DC if they do indeed try to go there. There’s no way the nation’s capital will stop mowing the grass for six months during filming. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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