The Walking Dead
February 16, 2014
This is more like it, The Walking Dead! This is what I’m talking about! Stuff actually happening! People actually doing things! And there is someone out there who is actually scarier than The Governor! Well played, everybody! Well done!
We begin with PANIC! Daryl and Sister flee from the prison through the woods together, fighting their way through walkers, all the while optimistic passages from Sister’s journal burble over the scene about how they’ve found a safe place to live in the prison and how Daddy says they can raise chickens and pigs (R.I.P. NEVER FORGET) and how Sister even has her own room! Sister is still afraid to get her hopes up, but just maybe they can live there for the rest of their lives!
Irony is ironic.
That evening around a campfire, Sister insists to an unresponsive Daryl that they need to do something, go find the others — they can’t be the only survivors. Rick and Michonne and Maggie and Glenn, they might have made it out! Daryl’s a tracker, SO GET TRACKING! But Daryl is really, really tired after a long day of fighting tanks and walkers and minions and then saving Sister from forest walkers and I DUNNO, MAYBE HE JUST WANTS TO SIT DOWN FOR A MINUTE. But Sister is all bunched up and announces that if he won’t track down their friends, SHE WILL, and she stomps off into the darkness, because that’s just a good idea. With a sigh, Daryl stomps out their campfire and follows her.
The next morning, they find some bloody leaves, some tracks and a pile squished grapes, and conclude that while someone had been there recently — maybe only 4 or 5 hours ago, they left, and they left in a hurry. Sister remains hopeful that they are still alive and picks some grapes for whomever it is she insists is still out there. When Sister asks Daryl if it would kill him to have a little faith, he spits back that faith didn’t do her father any good, but immediately regrets being a big jerk and offers her his bandana to carry the grapes. And then they head back into the woods, passing a tree that the camera weirdly focuses on. Is that fungus? That must be fungus. Why should we care about fungus?
In the woods, they are attacked by another walker, but manage to dispatch him fairly easily because Daryl.
They then come upon some train tracks where they find a nest of walkers noming on some people noms. NOM NOM NOM. Daryl pops each of them in the eye with an arrow leaving the area free for Sister to investigate. She spies a boot — a small boot — and is reduced to heaving sobs.
That night, as Daryl and Sister sit around another campfire, another passage from her journal is read: “We’re not going to die. I believe now. I believe for Daddy. If this doesn’t work, I don’t know how I’ll keep going,” and all the while Sister is tearing the pages out, one by one, and tossing them into the fire. For symbolisms.
Also in the woods are New Sophias #1 & #2: sister act, Lizzie and Mica, who are busily whining and wishing Carol were there. But they aren’t alone: they’ve got Tyrese and he’s got THE BABY. Thank. Goodness. I mean we all knew they wouldn’t kill The Baby, but still! It’s The Walking Dead! They could have killed The Baby!
So the group makes their way through the woods, eventually stopping for the night. There, Tyrese is tending to the bullet wound in his arm from the prison siege, while Lizzie pets some really tame bunnies she has trapped in a log somehow and WAIT A MINUTE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT KNIFE, LIZZIE? The Baby starts crying and that’s no good as it might attract the attention of walkers and everyone starts freaking out until Lizzie interrupts whatever it is that she is doing with those bunnies to pop a bottle in The Baby’s mouth. Because Tyrese is incapable of figuring out that maybe The Baby’s hungry? Have you lost a lot of blood, Tyrese, or have you just never been around human people before? And then they hear some movement in the woods, so they decide to leave Lizzie’s sad little stash of slaughtered bunnies behind. YIKES. GUESS THOSE WEREN’T MUSHROOMS AFTER ALL.
The next morning, The Baby is fussy, AGAIN, and Tyrese manages to figure out that she needs a diaper change. While he handles that, New Sophias find some grapes which they busily shove in their faces. But when they hear something in the bushes, the moment Tyrese goes to investigate, Mica drops the grapes and stomps on them when running off in the opposite direction because PANIC! (These will be the smooshed grapes that Daryl and Beth find later, btw.) Tyrese and Lizzie leave The Baby on the ground to go chase her down. That’s no place to leave a baby! Pick up that baby! Tyrese and Lizzie manage to catch up to Mica who immediately apologizes: she got scared, she’s sorry she’s not like Lizzie. But Tyrese assures her that she did the right thing: if they hear or see a walker, they need to RUN. Stay close by, but RUN.
And that’s when they hear a woman screaming nearby, because they don’t have enough going on already. Tyrese shoves The Baby into Lizzie’s arms, hands Mica a loaded gun, places the sisters back to back and warns them that if they see a walker coming towards them, they need to RUN.
Tyrese finds the source of the screaming: a group being menaced by a pack of walkers next to the train tracks, and he joins in the fight to help them. Fighting fighting fighting.
Meanwhile, back in the woods, The Baby starts fussing again, frustrating Lizzie who places one bunny-murdering hand over The Baby’s mouth … and nose. Tightly. A little too tightly. LIZZIE! NO! And she’s so intent on “shushing” The Baby, SO TO SPEAK, that she doesn’t hear her sister panicking behind her at the sight of an approaching walker. Mica fires one shot at the doom shuffling towards her …
… which Tyrese hears from the train tracks and he grows understandably alarmed. But it’s OK, because the girls were saved from the walkers (and Lizzie) by none other than Carol!!! HOORAY! who leads them to Tyrese and the rather sad battle at the train tracks that has left everyone but Tyrese bitten and/or eaten.
However, Tyrese and Carol’s reunion is cut short by one of the dying victims who insists that they not return into the woods, but instead follow the train tracks. There is a place up the tracks where the children will be safe. Now if you’ll excuse him, he needs to die, turn into a walker and then go attack their friends, Beth and Daryl, kbye.
So the group takes the dying man’s advice, and makes their way up the tracks and Tyrese is like, “Hey, wait, I haven’t seen you at the prison lately, right?” And Carol, who we should all remember set Tyrese’s girlfriend ON FIRE before being exiled by Rick, is all, “Yeah, well, I got separated from Rick on a supply run and didn’t get back to the prison until all the crazy went down. After the attack, I followed you out into the woods, but couldn’t catch up with y’all until now. Yay! Best Friendship Pals who definitely don’t turn each other’s loved ones into human torches! That is certainly not a thing we would do to each other because that would be a terrible thing to do!” And that’s when they come to a sign posted on the tracks offering “sanctuary for all, community for all those who arrive, survive” at the Terminus. Hooray!
As for Maggie, she is stuck with Sasha and Bob, and wondering whatever happened to Glenn and the bus he and the other Team Prison drove off in. When Sasha suggests that they make camp on a riverbank, Maggie’s like, “NOPE, I’m going to go find Glenn, smell ya later.” When she stomps off, Bob picks up his things and trots after her, forcing Sasha to follow suit because Live Together, Die Alone on a Riverbank Being Eaten by a Zombie and all that.
They don’t get very far before they pass an ironic sign ironically warning drivers that hitchhikers might be escaped inmates, and find the prison bus stopped in the middle of the road. Which can’t be good. Sure enough, when Maggie goes in closer to investigate, it is, worst fears realized, filled with snarling walkers.
Maggie insists that she has to know whether Glenn is inside, and so they come up with a hare-brained scheme to release and kill the bus walkers one-by-one. This plan works for approximately two walkers before they all come spilling out of the back, because of course they all come spilling out of the back. Shoot shoot shoot, kill kill kill, and fortunately there is no sign of Glenn in the final pile of zombie.
But. There is still a bus full of body parts to examine. Maggie waves off Sasha’s help and heads inside by herself, and Sasha and Bob just let her? Which seems foolish? But I guess they are letting her go through her process or something? Anyway, Maggie finds a walker trapped at the front of the bus whose hair looks awfully familiar, and she releases him and stabs him in the face, before bursting into tears that transition into laughter. SO WAS IT GLENN OR WHAT?
The good news is that it wasn’t Glenn!
The bad news is that Glenn is back at the prison with a mess of walkers, and no idea what is happening. He wakes up in a partially blown out cell. How did he arrive there from the bus where we last saw him trembling from a fever? Don’t worry about it. The point is: he woke up in the prison, quickly assesses that things are Not Good, and goes back inside where he collects some supplies: prison guard armor, a lighter, baby food, a knife, a gun or two, a bottle of Bob’s booze, and that picture of Maggie. (Awww.) He then gears himself up and heads out into the yard LIKE A BOSS.
Fighting through the walkers, fighting through the walkers, fighting through the walkers, and that’s when Glenn realizes that he’s not alone at the prison, that there is a woman hiding behind a fence. Against his better judgment, he goes in to save her because he’s Glenn. And that’s when we learn that it’s Tara, New Mrs. Governor’s Sister. Oh, brother. Glenn is like, “ALRIGHT, LET’S GO, LADY,” but she hesitates because she was a part of the siege and now she is having a sorry. “NO TIME FOR THAT,” Glenn insists, before giving her a gun, hurling a Molotov Cocktail into a nearby car, and then making a break for it. Running through the walkers, running through the walkers, running through the walkers, and they manage to make their escape.
Sometime later, they find themselves walking past that same ironic sign on that same road that Maggie, et al, were just on … or haven’t been on yet … TIMELINE BE CRAZY. There, Tara, still in a bit of shock is explaining that her sister was in the field, and how she wasn’t supposed to be there, and New Mrs. Governor, after killing Mr. Governor, got her fool self ate. Tara then mumbles something about “him” just killing that “old man” and Glenn is like, “HOLD UP, HERSHEL? WAS THE OLD MAN’S NAME ‘HERSHEL?'” Tara confirms that it was, and explains that The Governor told them that the prison people were bad, but she now knows that wasn’t true. And she just feels terrible about the whole mess and wonders why Glenn would want her help after all that. Glenn assures her that he doesn’t want her help, he needs it. He needs to find his wife, Maggie, and her father, the old man The Governor killed, he once told Glenn that all he had to do was believe, and so that’s what they are going to do: believe. Because Maggie is Tinkerbell or something, I don’t know, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, BUT GET CLAPPING.
A bunch of walkers come stumbling out of the woods at this point, and so its back to the monster killing. Stabbing stabbing stabbing bashing heads in stabbing. And that’s when the big military vehicle pills up, irritating Tara who yells at its occupants, demanding to know if they liked the show. A burly ginger, backed up by another dude and a woman in too few clothes for an Atlanta winter hop out, and note that Tara has quite the mouth on her.
SUCH. A BETTER. EPISODE. I mean, it would have to be, wouldn’t it? If it were worse, we wouldn’t have to wait for Daryl to die to start rioting.
By splitting this episode up between our remaining survivors instead of focusing on just three — one of whom NAPPED THE ENTIRE EPISODE, let us not forget — the episode was considerably more interesting and terrifying. Add to that the relief that our favorites made it out alive (which, of course they did, they couldn’t kill someone off-camera, that would be cheating), and the reappearance of Carol, and the whole crazy “Lizzie is just as crazy as you thought she was” reveal, and this episode felt more like the mid-season premiere we actually deserved last week.
Aside from the business of picking back up the narratives of our various Team Prison members, this episode was also about hope — both how it can endure and how it can be shattered. Not to belabor what is a fairly obvious thematic point, I did just want to point out that it’s interesting that Hershel’s daughters would represent these different perspectives: Maggie, the pragmatist’s, hope is reborn from an absence of evidence, when she does not discover Glenn’s body inside the bus; but Sister, the gentler sibling, the one who remained buoyed by her unshakeable faith through so much, finally slips into despair from a preponderance of evidence that her friends have died. The irony, of course, is that the evidence is false, and her friends are perfectly safe (at least those who aren’t traveling with Lizzie are safe).
I noticed a couple of things in the episode — things that I’m not entirely sure were intentional symbols or allusions, but when has that ever stopped me before, right?
First of all, I was struck by the number of birds in this episode. In Daryl and Sister’s vignette, in particular, birds are twice shown circling the pair overhead. Additionally, in the Tyrese storyline, he hears what he worries is a walker in the bushes, but it turns out to only be a flock of birds, which startles Mica, causing her to run away.
Birds are a very primitive and ancient symbol, and as a result, they represent a number of things. Obviously, the birds shown circling over Daryl and Sister’s head are supposed to represent a threat, a reminder of the death all around them and the looming possibility of their own demise. It is easy cinematic shorthand for “You in danger, girl,” and I wouldn’t have given it much thought but for the use of birds startling Tyrese later in the episode.
Birds were considered to be a connection between the Heavens and Earth, heralds that could speak to the Gods and communicate their messages to those of us below. In fact, Vatican Hill, upon which the Vatican was built, was a location where the Ancient Romans would make prophecies based on the flights of the birds overhead. Like the dove that flies ahead of Noah’s ark looking for dry land and returns with an olive branch, birds have often served in tales as message bearers, guides. And while I know that circling buzzards aren’t really the kind of guide one wants to encounter, I wonder if the birds in the episode aren’t a symbol of hope, of progression, of Team Prison finding their way back to one another and possibly to some semblance of safety and order. (Probably not. They were probably just birds. Birds symbolizing that Daryl and Sister are IN TROUBLE, YO.)
The train tracks are the other dominant symbol in the episode — they, like the road that Maggie and Glenn both traverse — represent the journey these characters are on, their literal and spiritual paths. As long as they stay on the “straight and narrow” if you will, they will, their paths will eventually cross and they will find one another again. In contrast, are the woods, which represent the wilds of mind, the dark place where hopelessness flourishes and death reigns. It’s interesting that Tyrese, Carol and the children are instructed to stay on the path to find safety, and — at least so it appears at the moment — they are led to a promise of sanctuary. Daryl and Sister, in contrast, leave the path behind to retreat into the woods where they wallow in the darkness and their own despair.
Similarly, Maggie refuses to stay in the woods with Sasha and Bob, and leads them back to the road where she does not find Glenn — which ironically fills her with hope. It is on that same road that Glenn and Tara cross paths with the new characters — of course, whether these new characters will be helpful remains to be seen — but at least for the moment, they aren’t alone, and that in and of itself is hopeful.
The question is whether Team Prison will find the safety they are seeking in Terminus (which, FUN FACT: was the original name of Atlanta) or with these new characters. (But it’s The Walking Dead, so pardon me if I am a wee bit cynical.)
Finally, and this is maybe a little wacky, but the entire Tyrese, Carol and the kids’ journey along the tracks reminded me of The Wizard of Oz. Our heroes (such as they are) are plucked from the safety of their home, and find themselves in a strange new world, wanting nothing more than to go home. They are instructed to follow the train tracks, that if they stay on their own zombie-strewn yellow brick road, they will find a safe place, a place where their prayers will be answered. And sure enough, when they follow these instructions, they come upon Terminus, the End of the Line, Oz.
The question is, will Terminus, like Oz, deliver empty promises? Maybe Lizzie should just click her boots together three times and see if she wakes up in a non-zombie universe.
Speaking of Lizzie, what is up with that little psychopath? Now that we have confirmation that she is, in fact, “messed up” as Mica so delicately put it, the question being argued all over the Internets is with is whether or not Carol was actually responsible for Karen and David’s deaths — or if she was covering up for Lizzie. Personally, I think the most reasonable answer is that Carol was, in fact, the killer: Lizzie seems to be a blossoming psychopath, not an experienced murderer with two adult kills under her belt; additionally, for storytelling purposes, Carol makes the most sense as the killer if only so that the writers can milk the dramatic tension with Tyrese. And they are going to milk that tension; tension will be milllllllked.
The Walking Dead airs on AMC on Sundays at 8/9 p.m.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Tubular.