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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Walking Dead 5x09: What Happened and What’s Going On


Did you know that living in the zombie apocalypse sucks? And that only the strong will survive? And those who try to be kind will always be taken advantage of and/or killed because of that kindness? Did you know that only ruthless, amoral people can survive the zombie apocalypse? Because if you didn't know these things then get ready to be educated because this episode desperately wants to teach you these lessons.

This episode, while artistically done, pretty much beat us over the head with a lesson that the entire series has already been trying to teach us. Charity, sympathy and empathy are weaknesses. Kindness is a character flaw. Morality has no place in a post-apocalyptic world.

We first start with Tyreese questioning how things went down at the hospital in the previous episode. He thinks that perhaps his peaceful plan is what got Beth killed. Of course everybody fails to mention that Rick's plan involved killing a bunch of people (who may or may not have been innocent) and that plan could've just as easily ended with Beth and/or Carol's death as well.

Noah also needed to learn lesson. That lesson was not to be optimistic...about anything. With the aid of Rick and company, Noah makes it back to his home only for it to be found desolate and overrun with zombies. The rest of the group already knew this was to be expected. All their hopes have long since shriveled up and died.

Glenn reminisced about how, while fighting Terminus, they stopped to let someone who was trapped in a train car out. The man turned out to be crazy and was killed shortly after being set free. Glenn says that today he would have left the man in the train car without a second thought. Not because the trapped man ended up to be crazy, of course, but because it was a selfless act. You can't be kind to people you don't know. They could be dangerous. Glenn realizes this now and seemingly doesn't want any part of being a good person anymore.

The only bright spot in the episode was everyone's favorite badass with a sword. Michonne seemed to recognize that everyone was turning to the dark side. Unfortunately she doesn't really rebut Glenn and Rick's assertions verbally but at least she recognizes something has to change. She convinces the group that heading towards any goal is better than wandering aimlessly. Rick agrees to go to Washington D.C. because, well, why the hell not?

That leaves us with good ole Tyreese. Tyreese can be a badass at times but is usually a cuddly teddy bear. He abhors unnecessary violence and really just wants everyone to get along. So naturally he must die. However, his big heart isn't what does him in. It's his stupidity that gets him killed. He gawked at a picture for no apparent reason except to let a zombified Noah's brother sneak up on him and bite him. I was...not impressed.

The second half of the episode deals with Tyreese's fever dream and his slow march to the great unknown. Tyreese hallucinates dead characters of the past and debates them. The villains try to convince Tyreese that it was his kind heart that got him killed. The protagonists (especially Bob) say that, in the end, things were going to happen the way they were going to happen. In other words, kindness and generosity at worst gets you killed and at best has no discernible effect on anything.

Rick and company try to save Tyreese. Tyreese tries to hold on to his life. Tyreese loses an arm. And in the end, Tyreese learns the most valuable lesson of all: Being dead is better than living in a zombie apocalypse.

Other Thoughts:
Even after the episode finished I missed the fact that the funeral at the beginning was Tyreese's. I figured it was Beth's and then when they came back they had another funeral (similar looking to Beth's) for Tyreese. My thought was they were showing how crappy their lives are now. They go somewhere, comeback and have funeral. They go somewhere else, comeback and have a funeral. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

When we saw Mika and Lizzie say "It's better now" at the beginning of the episode I thought we were headed towards a more literal reference to heaven. There's nothing wrong with characters believing in heaven, but literally showing heaven can ruin narrative urgency.

Rick's thought process on taking Noah to his home and Michonne's thought process on going to Washington D.C. are ones I can get behind. Why not do something? Even if the path leads to a dead end it still beats pondering your navel.

Originally, when Noah talked of going home, I figured it'd take the series 3 or 4 episodes for him to get there.

Michonne slicing off zombie heads at the neck always bothers me. Decapitated heads can still bite!

When Ghost Martin started telling Tyreese that letting him live caused Bob's death I was about to call BS. Luckily, Ghost Bob called BS for me.

That being said, while I fall more on Tyreese's side of pacifism, I still think it was dumb to let Martin live.

There's nothing wrong with having an episode whose main plot is a glorified dream sequence where a character is struggling with their own ideas, morals and philosophies. An episode focused on character study can be interesting. However, when that dream sequence is happening to a character we all know is moments away from death then my interest wanes. Any revelation, realization or epiphany this character may have will, in the end, be pointless.

6 comments:


  1. // The protagonists (especially Bob) say that, in the end, things were going to happen the way they were going to happen. //

    I'm not certain now whether it was Bob or Tyreese who used this refrain in the episode first. While I was watching I thought it was Tyreese, during his conversation with Noah on the road, but it might have been Bob — kind-of a moot argument 'cause (a) it's clearly a repeated theme and (2) I didn't once doubt that the show meant for Bob and the other characters Tyreese saw to be fever-dream manifestations of parts of his psyche rather than true visitations from the afterlife.

    Anyway, I found the phrase interesting in retrospect since those disjointed images at the beginning, from the dark blood dripping on the photo to the burial service, turned out to be from Tyreese's struggle in the bedroom or following. So the narrative presentation ended up echoing the perspective that this was always going to happen. That doesn't indisputably suggest that the show believes in such inalterable fate along with its obvious fatalism, as one could argue that the creative choice was either independent of the perspective or less a reinforcement than just an artsy way to have form influenced by content in the name of shaking things up like the show does from time to time in various ways.

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  2. More off the top of my head:

    This death felt so completely senseless from within the story and in terms of the chemistry or framework of the show.

    I got a kick out of Glen scaling the entrance to the gated community. He's become one of my favorite characters, and in the first half of this season I found myself recalling how when Rick initially met up with his crew, Dale et al., Lori and Shane and Carl of course, Glen was maybe the biggest cipher, nothing more than the Korean-American guy in the baseball cap who did the recon work because he was best at climbing or whatever. I'm not entirely confident that this was a nod to that, but if it was it's appreciated.

    I'm not sure either whether I should be impressed or mildly outraged that having made such incremental progress in the past the group zipped up from Georgia to Virginia between episodes, mid-season break or not.

    What I do know is that if Morgan has followed their trail all that way, then I'm hella impressed, and if he didn't, then the postscripts of him tracking them will be an insanely dumb red herring. Assuming that he didn't catch up with them during the break and isn't part of Carol's half of the group on the other end of the walkie, that is; we saw Daryl and the minister, at least, but I don't think we got a glimpse of everyone else there.

    Nicotero sure gets some cool effects in the episodes he directs. What are the odds, right?

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  3. Did you know that living in the zombie apocalypse sucks?

    I did not know that. Thank you, show, for teaching me this, because I have not seen literally any other single episode of you before.

    Look, I get that this is the show's mantra, it's bread-and-butter, and sure, maybe it is highly realistic (though I'd argue that just because something is realistic doesn't automatically make it good/the right narrative choice. Also, I'd argue it's not necessarily realistic), but man, does it get tiring.

    The fact that the Zombie Poc is tough and hard and you have to do tough and hard things to survive it as been beaten to death on this show. Then it got up because it's a zombie, and was beaten some more, and then more, and more, and now it's just a bloody pulp that they're still beating on.

    We get it. Change your tune. Find a different song. Do *something* other than wallow in misery all the damned time. It'll make the show better, I promise.

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  4. Anywho...

    It's his stupidity that gets him killed.

    Which is irritating. Because even if I don't agree with the show's "this is the worst, you'd be better off dead, morality is a weakness" mentality, it's not like way Tyreese died underscored that mentality. He died because he was being stupid and/or artsy. I definitely think that being stupid in the Zombie Poc will get you killed, but that doesn't seem to be the point the show is trying to make, so now they're now even making their own point correctly.

    Why not do something? Even if the path leads to a dead end it still beats pondering your navel.

    Exactly. It makes sense for the characters, and it helps the show do something different. I mean, fine, if Rick doesn't like this particular walled community, build a different one somewhere else. Do SOMETHING other than just hanging around, waiting to die or be forced to make moral compromises.

    Originally, when Noah talked of going home, I figured it'd take the series 3 or 4 episodes for him to get there.

    I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, I like that they didn't dick around with that, given how ultimately pointless the trip turned out to be. On the other hand, given that the show has never strayed very far outside the greater Atlanta area, it seems like maybe more of a to-do should have been made about the fact that they traveled across four states in the cold open.

    I get how they did it, and I like the idea of them traveling in two groups, with one scouting ahead (a rare case of the characters acting intelligently), but I dunno, I wanted a little something more, if not a four episode journey. Maybe a traveling montage?

    That being said, while I fall more on Tyreese's side of pacifism, I still think it was dumb to let Martin live.

    Again, there's a difference between "being moral" and "being stupid", though the show doesn't seem to get that.

    Any thoughts on the zombie torsos? Think they're a setup for another group of Bad Humans (because all humans who aren't Rick's group must be bad, of course), or just one of those random, disturbing images that imply a story without sharing it that the show does quite well?

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  5. @Blam:

    "This death felt so completely senseless from within the story and in terms of the chemistry or framework of the show."

    Of all the deaths this one seemed the most needless. On the Talking Dead the actor mentioned another project he was going to work on so maybe he needed to be written off?

    "I'm not sure either whether I should be impressed or mildly outraged that having made such incremental progress in the past the group zipped up from Georgia to Virginia between episodes, mid-season break or not."

    Considering Abraham and crew couldn't make it seemingly 20 miles towards Washington D.C. without running into trouble, one has to wonder how they made it so far without incident.

    "What I do know is that if Morgan has followed their trail all that way, then I'm hella impressed"

    Morgan picked up the note from Abraham to Rick which mentioned D.C. So Morgan wouldn't have to follow their trail for them to meet up in D.C.

    @Teebore:

    "We get it. Change your tune. Find a different song. Do *something* other than wallow in misery all the damned time. It'll make the show better, I promise."

    You wonder if it'll make for better ratings, though. But, just because you're getting good ratings now doesn't mean you can rest your laurels and recycle the same plot over and over again. People will eventually tire of it...I think.

    "Any thoughts on the zombie torsos?"

    Yeah, I think it's a gang of bad humans. Although, I'm not sure what they're exactly up to. I suppose the question is if they were zombies before getting their limbs chopped off. Whatever was responsible for it I doubt their motives were altruistic.

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  6. @Teebore: // I definitely think that being stupid in the Zombie Poc will get you killed, but that doesn't seem to be the point the show is trying to make //

    Not at all. Clearly the point is that walkers can silence their gurgling and shuffling to stealthily enter a room behind you or swarm a long bridge while you're, say, looking at photos or getting stuff out of a van.

    @Teebore: // Any thoughts on the zombie torsos? //

    My assumption was that they were, as you say, "just one of those random, disturbing images that imply a story without sharing it that the show does quite well" — doubling as the effects crew showing off — but we shall see.

    @DrBitz: // Morgan picked up the note from Abraham to Rick which mentioned D.C. So Morgan wouldn't have to follow their trail for them to meet up in D.C. //

    I had not remembered that. Okay.

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