Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 2: Strangers

After last week's explosive (literally!) premiere, we get a "breather episode" as Rick & Co. catch their breath, regroup, meet a new neighbor and try to decide whether to keep foraging in Georgia or head for DC.

This week's episode was written by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, who steers it most definitely back into comic book territory. The end of this episode recreated one of the comic book's more infamous moments almost word for word.

I'm of two minds about this. One the one hand, it's cool to see the comic book come to life. On the other hand, there were no surprises since, as a longtime reader, I knew exactly what was going to happen to poor Bob there at the end. Hopefully the show won't follow the comic too closely so there'll still be room for a few surprises.

BIG SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot:
Rick and the other fourteen characters that are on the show now search for food and shelter after escaping Terminus. Everyone seems very intent on telling everyone else exactly how they're feeling. They meet a twitchy clergyman who's not the least bit suspicious and absolutely isn't hiding anything, thank you very much. Although they don't (and shouldn't) trust him, they take refuge in his oddly unscathed church. 

After a supply run, the group parties down on sacramental wine, which kind of seems like asking for trouble. They decide to go to Washington D.C., so alleged "genius" Eugene can whip up a cure for the zombie plague. Carol tries to sneak off, but Daryl catches her and asks, "What the hell?" Before she can answer, the car that abducted Beth (well, the car itself didn't abduct her, but you know what I mean) roars by, and the two take off in hot pursuit.

Bob Stookey takes a stroll outside and is captured by Gareth and the remnants of the Termites, who tell him they're having him for dinner, if you know what I mean.

Thoughts:
• Last week I said I was surprised that after spending half a season setting up the Terminus storyline, the writers resolved in just one episode.

I see where they're going now. The Terminus story's not over after all. It's now Round 2.

• When the prison was destroyed in the middle of last season, many of the characters still had unresolved conflicts when they were scattered to the four winds. Things like Rick banishing Carol, Daryl finding out about it, Tara being part of the group that killed Maggie's father, and so on.

Now that everyone's reunited again, I was expecting all these issues to come to finally come to a head and then... poof! Suddenly everyone kisses and makes up, and there's no more hard feelings between anyone. An odd way to go, but I suppose the writers know what they're doing.

• I was very surprised when no major characters were killed last week during the Terminus kerfuffle. By my count there are now fifteen characters in Rick's group. 15! There's no way in hell all fifteen of them are still going to be alive by the end of the season. Let the character slaughter begin!

• While traveling through the forest, Rick & Co. come upon the jittery Father Gabriel being menaced by walkers.

OK, I get that Gabriel has a terrible secret, but Jesus! Everything about him is suspicious. He lives in a curiously untouched church. He says he's never left it, but has a full supply of food. He even makes ill-advised jokes about leading them into a trap. He's way too nervous and jumpy here, almost comically so. I wouldn't trust him if he said "Hello."

By the way, Gabriel was a character in the comic. From what I've seen of him so far, it looks like his big secret is the same as it was there.

• Carol looks through Father Gabriel's office and sees he's apparently passing the time by copying the complete text of the Bible into a notebook. I guess you've got to occupy yourself somehow in a world without TV, movies and the internet!

• Have you ever noticed that whenever you see a priest in a movie or TV show, nine times out of ten they're Episcopal? I think writers do that so that because they're allowed to marry. An Episcopal priest can cheat & sin along with the rest of us, without bringing down the wrath of the Catholic Church.


Case in point– during the supply run, Gabriel freaks out when he sees a horrifying walker wearing a pair of distinctive horned-rim glasses. Later we see him staring at a photo of himself and the woman, pre-walker. Obviously this woman was either his wife, or a woman from his congregation that he was dallying with. Can't have that with a Catholic priest! Well, you could, but the Pope wouldn't like it.

• Carol and Daryl go scavenging and find an abandoned car near the church. The car's battery is dead, but Carol finds a portable charger in the trunk. Well, that was certainly convenient! How many people do you think drive around with those heavy-ass chargers rattling around in their trunk? 

And this is some hardcore nitpicking, but what the heck. Most people don't realize those chargers need to be regularly charged themselves. I used to have one and you had to remember to charge it up every six weeks or so, or it would go dead. And if you ever did let it die, it would never hold a charge again, becoming basically a big brick. Frankly they're way more trouble than they're worth. It seems extremely unlikely that this charger would still be in working condition.

• I didn't realize Michonne lost her sword at Terminus. She claims she doesn't miss it, but I for one certainly do. It seems weird to see her without it. She needs her sword back, stat! Get on that right away, would you writers?

• Maggie, Glenn and Tara search the local gun store, which they found by consulting... the Yellow Pages! Cool! Old school tech rules!

• Father Gabriel tells Rick there's a well-stocked food bank nearby, but it's overrun by walkers. Rick takes a team, including a reluctant Gabriel, to clean it out.


When they arrive they discover a group of really disgusting walkers sloshing around in a partially flooded and exposed basement. Rick then comes up with a brilliant plan– he orders everyone to jump into the murky, fetid water and hide behind shelving units so they can then stab the walkers at close quarters. 

I'm still trying to figure out why they didn't just  pick off the walkers safe and dry from above, like any normal person would have done.

OK, I do know why they jumped into the basement– to artificially ramp up the tension and get us to worry about the characters, along with creating some cool zombie kills.

• Back at the church, everyone celebrates by wasting a lot of food that they probably ought to be rationing. They all agree to follow Eugene to D.C., where he's assures them he can cure the zombie apocalypse.

Again, I don't understand why anyone would believe this schmuck. He speaks and acts like a cross between Rain Man and Carl from Sling Blade, and we're supposed to believe he's some kind of molecular biologist? He seems like tying his shoes is an all day project. 


I don't know if it's the actor's fault or the way he's written, but TV Eugene is a big misfire in my book.

• Daryl and Carol see the car that abducted Beth, to remind the audience that she exists. Emily Kinney's name is still in the opening credits, so I have to assume she's going to show up again at some point.


LAST CHANCE TO TURN AROUND BEFORE READING MAJOR SPOILERS!

• After smooching it up with Sasha, Bob goes outside for some air and starts sobbing uncontrollably. Hmm. Now I wonder why he'd be crying? As a reader of the comic I have a pretty good idea, but I won't spoil it here.


• Bob gets hit in the head and when he wakes up, he sees Gareth's smug, leering face before him. You know, Gareth. The former leader of Terminus. The former cannibal leader of Terminus. Along with a couple of his friends. Ruh-ruh!

So it looks like we're now dovetailing into the Hunters storyline from the comic, in which a group of cannibals hunts Rick's group and picks them off one by one. This is surprising, because I figured we'd already done the whole cannibal bit last week and were done with it. I guess not.


• I'm still not buying Gareth's explanation as to why his group turned into cannibals. He says they had to do it to survive, even though they wanted to. That's not true. Rick and his group have always managed to scrounge up something without resorting to eating one another. There's an entire country full of canned goods out there. And even if they couldn't find anything, Daryl once caught and ate an owl. So there are other options.

Methinks maybe Gareth and his posse really were forced to eat human flesh once during a particularly lean time, and then decided they just liked it.
• I knew Gareth wasn't dead! Even though he was shot last week, we never saw a body, so of course that means he survived.

I guess now we know who's been making the marks on the trees. The Termites!

• One of the Termite survivors was Martin, the guy who Tyreese supposedly killed after he threatened Baby Judith. I guess Tyreese couldn't bring himself kill him after all. Big mistake!

• After the cast narrowly escaped Terminus last week, Rick wanted to go back and eliminate any stragglers so they'd never eat anyone else again. The others all voted him down, with gusto.

Well, whaddya know? Looks like Rick was right after all. If they had gone after any Termite survivors back then, poor Bob would still have a leg to stand on. Maybe next time they'll listen to Rick.


• After Bob wakes up, Gareth monologues for a while and says they're going to eat him, but it's just business. It's nothing personal. Bob then looks down and sees most of his left leg is missing.

First of all, this entire scene– from Gareth's speech to Bob seeing his ex-leg– is straight out of the comics. Although there it was Dale (remember him?) who was on the menu. Other than the personnel change, it was almost word for word the same.

Second, I'm wondering how Bob didn't notice his leg was missing until he looked down. It's unlikely that the Termites were carrying anesthetic around with them. Even if they did, I doubt they'd use it, as it would taint the taste of the meat, so to speak. I get that he was probably still groggy from being knocked in the head, but even so, I'd like to think I'd notice if my leg was missing as soon as I woke up. Maybe it was phantom pain and all that.

Again, based on the comic I have a pretty good idea what's going to happen next to Bob, but I won't spoil it just yet.

• So does Gareth know Bob? It certainly seems that way. He addresses him by name, and it seems unlikely he'd be on a first name basis with the future meals he kept in the Terminus box cars.

There's always been something a little off about Bob, and when they first found him he did say he'd been part of "several" other groups. Was he a Termite at one point, and decided he didn't like the taste of Spam? Tune in next week as Operation Character Reduction begins!

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