The weight of the world.
What They Say:
Them – The group feels beaten after living life on the road, but must continue to trudge along in spit of the changes they have incurred.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Walking Dead went with what I guess was a surprise death the last time around, but as we noted with Tyreese, there wasn’t a lot left for the character overall at the moment that they could do much with. And I really felt the character was underserved in the series compared to the comic version, so it wasn’t an impactful loss for me. I felt more for the loss of Beth than I did for Tyreese, but that’s just must. With the show having thinned out the cast a bit, a regular occurrence, and now starting to figure out what it is that they want to do next, a lot of the focus is on the fact that they can be nomads for only so long. There’s a need for a sense of safety and place that they have to find in order to truly survive mentally and while it can crush them, it can also propel them to keep moving.
With the cold open here, we get a simple wariness about things as we see a walker coming up on Maggie and the overall weight of events upon her has her being pretty dead to it in a way, though she deals with it in a simple and effective way that comes from this being the reality of the day. But it makes it clear quickly just how much of a toll everything has taken as some are more devastated while others are carrying on and just existing, such as Daryl with his survival skills or Sasha just trying to figure out their path while realizing she’s come across some interesting fresh tracks – and a number of odd dead frogs along the way. The search for food and water is never easy, but water is getting to be even more of a problem for them in a way. With this group and the rest that they reconnect with having come up empty, there’s a sense made clear that there’s not a lot of time left for them overall with what they have on hand.
It’s been awhile since we’ve had this much of the cast together in one place, but it’s interesting to see them in this respect as it feels like forever since they’ve been in this kind of situation, all just walking along. With it being three weeks since the events in Atlanta, the group is definitely at one of its lowest points and is certainly struggling, though Rick is doing his best to be optimistic. The various character dynamics are definitely the draw of the show and seeing the way their states change over time is definitely appealing. While Daryl and Carol have their own kind of balance, which we see as they go off ranging, we see how Carl tries to help Maggie a bit, the Father does his best to speak to her religiously while Maggie herself is just dead inside in a lot of this and has little use for someone that’s so new to the group. As Michonne says along the way, they have nothing left. They’re running on empty and don’t even bother dealing with walkers ambling after them because they’re not a threat and they’re not able to really deal with it competently. After the cutthroat skill and precision we’ve seen before in their operations, it’s definitely a big change.
Naturally, it all has to come to a head, but without the wealth of weapons, ammoor or strength that they’ve had before, it’s good to see some mildly creative approaches to dealing with the small group of walkers that have caught up to them. Of course, the plan only goes so far as Sasha has some real anger issues after Tyreese’s death, and it’s hard to blame her for it. But it puts them all at risk which is the real problem, one that Michonne tries to get her understand in a very tired but firm as hell way. With all the weariness about them, it’s good to see that small spark of hope when after this they come across a number of cars on the side of the road that could offer some potential transportation or supplies. Of course, there’s always a surprise or two along the way, such as the woman bound and gagged in a trunk that speaks of its own story that Maggie comes across.
What little luck they do have is the arrival of some feral dogs that threaten them, which Sasha dispatches quickly, as they offer up some food. While it may not be their first choice, it’s also not exactly a choice in this situation with what they have to do to survive. The lean times have been there before, but this combined with the series of losses they’ve had in comrades, places to live and more is just weighing them down heavily. Even the FAther is reaching that point, tossing in a part of his outfit to the fire in order to keep it going so they can cook a little more of the meat. It’s pretty blunt overall with all that goes on in the first half here, but it’s done well and important to show just how much of a toll everything has taken, something that they show has been called out for before in not doing it while focusing on other aspects of the various story arcs.
While a lot of the episode focuses on the emotional aspect of things, particularly with Daryl and Maggie coping with the loss of Beth style, it takes an interesting turn at the halfway mark as they come across a number of bottles of water in the middle of the road that has a letter attached to it that says it’s from a friend. That gives the clue that it could be Morgan, but nobody trusts it and they have to obviously think of it as a trap, though Eugene is willing to further step into the trap to try it. Luckily, before things get really tense as they’re all ready to blow, a rainstorm hits. But you can see where everyone is by the rain in how they react to it, with some juts dead to it, others giddy and many just savoring the experience until they realize it’s one hell of a storm that’s on its way. While it does offer a chance to refill, there’s danger as well. Luckily, Daryl stumbled upon a barn while out dealing with his sadness and that gives them a chance to stay warm and dry for awhile.
While they ride out the storm, there’s the simple dialogue piece about what it is about the world as it stands, whether this is the reality of the world or not in its own way, and it allows Rick to have a bit of a speech in a way, one that works really well even if it awkwardly works in the title of the series, which is part of how many of the fans view the name since very early on. It’s one of those moments though that is tough to work through because everyone has a different view on how to survive, whether to survive and whether this is reality, and how those differences can bring in some definite wedges between them since calling themselves walking dead until they can wake up and live again rubs some the wrong way. With the losses, it’s certainly understandable.
All of this pushes us towards the end of the episode where you know there has to be some sense of hope added to things, though Rick’s speech is hopeful in its own way. With their plans to get to Washington DC still in mind, there’s still a despair over it all which now gets an order of magnitude worse when a group of walkers happen upon the barn and burst through to it. It’s scary and depressing as hell, but it’s also a huge rallying point for everyone to try and hold the doors against them together, something the group hasn’t been for a bit now after all that happened. Surviving it, though with the time involved being kept off screen, helps to bring them together in a new way and helps some of them to survive the larger issues plaguing them, which allows for some small but quality time between Daryl and Maggie as they’ve got some serious grief. Seeing how they survived at the end, the miracle aspect of it, definitely works well, though for some I imagine it’s just a case of too much. But I liked the idea of it all and the small renewed hope coursing through them.
With an end scene that will delight fans of the book with what it portends with a new character introduction, the show is set to start moving forward again after some very bleak episodes. The end of the first half of this season was strong for me in Atlanta with what it did, and I liked the actual character aspects of how it handled Tyreese last time around. This episode really fills a need in giving the characters time to just cope with it all where we see them walking along like the walkers in many instances, the weariness about so many of them and the need to find reasons to really move forward. There’s good character bits throughout, and I liked Rick’s speech, but the main focus is really on Maggie and Daryl overall and both of them definitely hit it right. The show does smartly give us some hope to work with, both for fans in general and for those aware of what the comics have done may mean, and the preview for the next time around looks pretty strong as well.