Have you ever ridden on one of those roller coasters that has a few decoy drops? You know the kind…you’re chugging along, gradually building speed, you move up an incline, suddenly there is a quick drop that causes your adrenaline to kick into gear. But wait, that wasn’t much of a drop. We’re still just rolling along when, Oh look! Another incline up ahead. And…repeat. Before you know it, though, the incline gets longer and longer. You’re slowly rising high above the theme park about to engage on one of the fastest, most nerve-wracking plummets ever. And then, before you can inhale for a second scream, the ride comes to an end. That’s the way this season of The Walking Dead has been for me. That big, crazy drop is coming, but when it does, the season will end. In the meantime, I watch each episode alternating between anticipation of the thrill and merely being along for the ride. With only 5 episodes remaining this season, I do believe it’s time we begin the steep incline for the biggest drop. That being said, let’s jump right in and discuss last night’s episode.
For a more complete (and Spoiler filled) recap of the episode, click here.
All caught up? Let’s do this.
I’m pressed for time today, so rather than go through the episode play by play, I’m just going to get right to the opinionated drivel that you have come to expect from me. This episode brought back a good dose of emotions like sadness and fear that I haven’t felt in some time. Unfortunately, those scenes were interspersed with the scenes involving Glenn and Abraham. Rick, Michonne, and Carl had my attention from minute one. More than once, I found myself wide-eyed in total anticipation of what was going to happen next. I watched, completely emotionally committed to their scenes, even though I’d already known (in great detail) what was going to happen days before. Their scenes were, as always, beautifully acted.
The scenes with Glenn, Tara, and Abraham’s army of misfits, however, felt disjointed. We know that Abraham is a good guy. We know, just by looking at him, that Eugene is not. Tara, surprisingly, is turning into a character of substance. While Rosita, on the other hand, serves no purpose. Ugh. I have so many mixed feelings about this episode.
What started out as friendly banter over breakfast, quickly sank into sadness and mourning for Carl and Michonne. With Rick agreeing to stay behind and rest, Carl and Michonne set off to scavenge the neighborhood for food and supplies. Along the way, Michonne does whatever she can to try and cheer Carl’s mood, including going to town on a can of Cheese Whiz. #crazycheese for those who live-tweeted during the show. Carl was hesitant to let his guard down, probably feeling as though Michonne couldn’t possibly understand where he was coming from. Boy, was he wrong. Sweeping room by room, one question at a time, Michonne told Carl about her 3-year-old son and the fact that she lost him after the apocalypse began. Suddenly, Carl realized he is not alone in suffering such personal loss. Here is this strong woman whom he admires, bravely getting by, one day at a time. If she can do it, so can he, right? It makes me wonder, though, how much emotional baggage will accompany the return of Judith for all parties.
Meanwhile, Tara wrote down turn-by-turn directions on a 3-hour journey by truck with Abraham & Co., while an unconscious Glenn regained his strength. When Glenn came to he realized that they had overshot the area surrounding the bus, the only possible place in his mind where Maggie could be. Naturally he was a tad upset. Tara told him that the people at the bus site “were all dead” but she never mentioned how they had died–on the bus, by human means, by walkers, as walkers, etc. Nonetheless, Glenn decided he must walk 3-hours back the way they came to look for Maggie. Now, I’m a hopeless romantic, but come on. At least let Abraham get you to another suitable vehicle and drive your flu-ridden ass back towards the prison. Walking? Really? I feel for Glenn, but I’m glad Abraham put a beating on him after Glenn sucker-punched him. Tara and Rosita just yelled and acted like girls as the two men tussled. Eugene, however, kept his distance. The great “scientist” or whatever nonsense they consider him, just stood awkwardly by the truck. This dude is shifty as all hell.
Rick, meanwhile, is trapped in the worst game of Hide & Seek I have seen in years. Not even cat and mouse status. He heard the footsteps coming up the stairs, after being awakened by the noise of voices down stairs, and with little options chose to hide under the master bed. At the last moment, he reached back out and grabbed his water bottle in an attempt to remove any evidence that someone ‘new’ may have been in the house. Clearly, these marauders as they’re being referred to, aren’t at all bright. They enter a random home seeking rest and perhaps supplies. There are at least 4 of them that we see in the episode. And not a single one of them thinks to sweep the house before settling in for a nap? Come on! How do people like that survive? They were, as noted by many on Twitter, a pack of wild dogs in human form. Rick watches the scene unfold from beneath the bed, as one marauder uses a choke hold on another marauder in a fight over who gets the big bed. Remind anyone of that scene from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King? “That’s MY shiny shirt!”
Michonne discovers a series of children’s rooms, all connected and leading into an overly pink room. Upon entering, she discovers the bodies of children of various ages, laid out peacefully on the two beds. Across the room, we see their mother, dead in a rocking chair having blown her own brains out. It is unclear how she did it, and honestly it matters not. But this mother saw no other way to protect her family than to put them out of their impending misery. In an act of complete hopelessness and desperation, a mother made the ultimate apocalyptic sacrifice. This scene, Michonne’s reaction (knowing the similar revelation about her own son in episode 9), and the way Michonne tries to spare Carl from seeing the massacre, simply tore my heart out. So well written and executed. No pun intended.
Back on the highway, Abraham and Glenn are at odds, the girls watch helplessly, and Eugene? Well, he fails to let any of them know that walkers have emerged from the neighboring corn field until it is too late. He tried to handle the situation on his own, clearly possessing no knowledge of how to use a gun, even after all of this time in the ZA. By the time the rest of the gang joins the walker slaughter, Eugene has successfully wasted a ton of ammunition and sliced up the fuel tank on their truck like Swiss cheese. If Abraham were going to punch anybody, it should have been then and it should have been Eugene. But he didn’t. The incident was brushed off in a calm manner. Part of me respects that Abraham is a military man who is filling his life with a mission–if you have something to do, something to focus on, your reality cannot catch up to you. Abraham will protect Eugene at all costs because he truly believes that hope grows where Eugene goes. Too bad old Abraham can’t see the forest for the trees. His needs are blinding him to what’s really going on around him. For a man who likes to give orders, he has no control over his situation at all.
This scene, along with the claustrophobic scenes of Rick hiding in the house, brought my biggest scares for the evening. Corn fields have not been my friend since I was a young child and my mom let me watch Children of the Corn. Nope. I want nothing to do with them. They scare me so much, in fact, that the novel I have been working on for about 2 years now, opens with a scene in which the undead emerge from a field. When I saw that visual on my television screen I had two reactions: 1) Crap, someone beat me to it; and 2) Crap, that is terrifying to watch happen! But, once the scene was over, where I was expecting more walkers to appear (given all of the noise of the gun fire that went on for many minutes), I was left to once again watch Glenn and Abraham bicker about whether or not it was worth it to go look for Maggie. Up, down, up down…roller coaster tease.
One of my favorite moments of the episode came courtesy of Rick. When he was hiding under the bed watching the marauder being choked out, something changed in Rick. His expression went to one of fear, to one of intrigue. Go back and watch his eyes. Watch as Rick watches the life leaving the eyes of the man before him. He is no longer horrified. He is no longer worried the man will rat him out. He doesn’t close his eyes in disgust. Rick’s expression bears interest. I swear, he watches that man lose consciousness in the same manner by which the Governor would watch the behavior of a walker. Utter fascination and control. Speaking of the Governor, that moment I mentioned occurred in the bathroom. Rick fights with one of the marauders, who for some reason was sitting in the bathroom, not doing anything. They fight. Rick wins. But before Rick flees out the window to go warn Michonne and Carl away from the house, Rick makes one very conscious move: He opens the bathroom door. Now, Officer Friendly has already come a long way from “We don’t kill the living” in season 1 to “Shit happens” in season 3. But leaving someone to intentionally turn? Remember Merle? How about Milton? That is such a Governor move! “You kill or you die. Or you die and you kill.” I LOVE IT. He left them a time bomb, a human grenade set to go off with easy access through the open door to the rest of the house. This was such a tactical move, so deviant. But it was a move that Rick from just a season ago, wouldn’t have had the heart to do. His transformation during the apocalypse is just incredible to watch because Andrew Lincoln’s acting is so understated.
Here is a link to a blog that I enjoyed reading about the theme of this episode, which was titled “Claimed”. The author explains eloquently the various “claims” made throughout episode 11. It’s worth a read if you have a few minutes.
I’m curious to see if the marauders were just a one-off or not. Given that the one on the porch, seated just above where Rick is hiding out, was played by the fantastic Jeff Kober. IMDb even lists his character with a name, “Harley”. Did they go through the trouble of casting a well-known character actor and naming him just to have him eat some canned fruit and be torn apart by a walker in the house? Or will we see a surviving marauder or two emerge from the house and eventually catch up with Rick, Michonne, and Carl? We’ll have to wait and see.
After watching the previews, I have a feeling that next week’s episode is going to give me agida. Until then….