Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 9: What Happened And What's Going On

Welp, The Walking Dead's back after it's two month (give or take a day) winter hiatus. It's an old refrain by now, but I am still not a fan of these self-imposed split seasons. It's tough to build story momentum when you go off the air for months at a time. Nowhere is that more evident than in this episode.

MASSIVE SPOILER AHEAD, CONCERNING THE DEATH OF A MAIN CHARACTER! DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU'VE NOT SEEN THE EPISODE!

The Plot:
The episode picks up a couple of weeks after the death of Beth Green. Rick learns that Beth had been trying to help Noah escape the Grady Bunch and get back to his home in Richmond, Virginia. The group decides to fulfill her wish and take Noah home.

When they arrive at Noah's gated community, they discover it's been overrun and everyone inside is dead. This news causes Noah to break down in the middle of the street. Tyreese stays with him while Rick, Glenn and Michonne search the surrounding homes for supplies.

Noah suddenly takes off running toward his former house, with Tyreese close behind. Tyreese tells him to wait outside until he's sure the house is clear. While staring at family photos on the wall, Tyreese is bitten on the left arm by one of Noah's younger twin brothers, who's been reanimated as a walker. Noah stabs his brother in the brain with a model airplane (!) and runs to get help.

Losing blood fast, Tyreese begins hallucinating, seeing visions of Beth, Bob Stookey, Lizzie and Mika, Martin (the Termite he refused to kill) and even the Governor. The Governor and Martin mock him for not being strong enough to do what he needed to do to survive in this world, while the girls urge him to give in, saying it's better to be dead.

Meanwhile Michonne tells Rick she's tired of constantly being on the run, and wants to fortify the community and stay there. Rick argues that it's surrounded by trees and impossible to protect. Just then they find a hole in the wall around the community, and a pile of dismembered walker torsos and limbs beyond. Creepy!

They hear Noah calling for help and run back to his house, where they find Tyreese near death. Michonne amputates his bitten arm with her katana, and they carry him back to their car, barely avoiding a herd of walkers. As Rick tries to escape, he rams a truck filled with limbless walkers, each with a "W" carved into their heads. Creepy again!

As they drive back to their camp, Tyreese sees Beth, Bob, Lizzie and Mika riding in the car with him. He quietly dies and Michonne "kills" him so he doesn't reanimate.

Thoughts:
• The episode begins with a series of seemingly disconnected scenes, including some that we assume are of Beth's funeral. At the end we find out these images were actually flash forwards, and we were watching Tyreese's burial. A cool little trick by the producers.

• I generally don't get to watch the show until the day after it airs, so I spend all day Monday tiptoeing around the internet trying to avoid spoilers in headlines. Thanks a lot, Yahoo!

• I hate to see Tyreese go, but one thing I will not miss— his endless speechifying. That really took off this season, as virtually every time he'd appear onscreen he'd go off on some long-winded rant that sounded like it meant something, but ultimately went nowhere.

I think I liked the idea of Tyreese being on the show more than the character himself. In the comic he was a much different person, being Rick's right-hand man, adviser and lieutenant. Unfortunately for him that position is already taken by Daryl on the TV series. As a result the writers never really seemed to know what to do with TV Tyreese. They tried to give him this "Too Good A Man For This World" story arc, but it wasn't handled very well and never gelled for me.

• As the group is driving to Virginia, Tyreese starts backstorying to Noah. Ruh-roh! By now we all know what happens to characters who start talking about their pasts, don't we, kids? And guess what, it did!

• As Rick and the others are exploring the community, Glenn picks up a baseball bat and gives it a long, hard look. I can't help but think that was a bit of foreshadowing to Negan, a villain from the comic who was actually worse than the Governor. The fact that Glenn picked up the bat is significant as well, especially for readers of the comic.

Fans have been anxiously awaiting Negan's appearance on the series, but the producers have said he won't show up until at least Season 6, maybe even 7.

• Michonne walks past a wall with "Wolves Not Far" painted on it. I'm betting this was more foreshadowing, and not just some random graffiti. So who are the Wolves? Another sadistic human gang like the Claimers or the Termites?

• What was with all the dismembered walker bodies everywhere? Did Noah's neighborhood never figure out that headshots kill zombies? Or were the Wolves responsible for them?

And what about the limbless walkers with the "Ws" carved into their foreheads? Does the "W" stand for Wolves? Why are they chopping up zombies and branding them?

If the Wolves were responsible for all this, it looks like Rick & Co. are about to encounter yet another threat worse than zombies.

Zombie Kill Of The Week: After Tyreese is bitten, Noah runs in and stabs his undead little brother in the head with a model airplane! I have to say I've never seen that one before! 


Runner Up: When they're trying to get Tyreese back to the car, Michonne hacks at a walker with her sword, only to have it deflected with a metallic clang. She then sees it's got a piece of rebar sticking out of it's shoulder, and Rick saves her just in time.

• Normally I'm not a fan of the "Dying Person Hallucinates Fallen Comrades" trope, but it worked pretty well here.

• As Tyreese begins hallucinating, he "hears" a British voice on the radio, reading a news report about cannibals hacking people apart all up and down the East coast.

That voice was non other than Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes himself), using his real English accent.

• I was impressed that they got so many former actors to come back to film Tyreese's hallucinations.

Some fans are wondering why he didn't see his former girlfriend Karen. I'm honestly not sure I'd even recognize her. For all the importance that Tyreese placed on her, she was never on the show much, appearing in just four episodes.

• Rick, Noah, Glenn and Michonne carry the severely injured Tyreese several miles back to their car. When they get there, Rick calls Carol on his two way radio and tells her to be ready to cauterize Tyreese's arm when they get back to camp.

Jesus! They didn't at least try to do that back in Noah's house? Did they not even make a tourniquet out of a belt or something? They really dragged a man with a severed limb two miles? No wonder he didn't survive!

• Cue the "They're Killing Off All The Black People On The Show!" posts in 3, 2, 1...

• I'm betting the producers thought that after Beth's death, the audience would relax a bit and think all the characters were safe for a little while, which would make Tyreese's death doubly shocking.

Unfortunately the mid season break lessened the impact of his death somewhat. Instead of it two back to back major death episodes, we got one death, then we had Xmas and New Year's, and then two months later we got another death.

This one-two punch will probably be much more effective for people binge-watching the season in the future.

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