First and foremost, can we just go ahead and dedicate Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt to Daryl Dixon? And, perhaps Maggie and Sasha while we’re at it? The minute he took the cigarette of his mouth, the Johnny Cash cover started playing in my head.
Before we go any further, if you need to refresh your memory to all that went down on this episode, you can Click Here to read a spoiler-filled play-by-play. All caught up? Good.
It’s been exactly three weeks since Beth died. Things have gone from bad to worse to just plain desperate. After years of griping about the lack of realistic weather in Georgia it seems the television gods have answered my prayers–at least, temporarily. In fact, this episode also briefly addressed my concern about feral dogs, but more on that later. I don’t know much about the weather 60 miles outside of Washington D.C., unless we’re talking about the weather up north where I’m originally from. After years of living in the south east, I can tell you that the lack of storms always irritated me. So, to see drought conditions and what we can only assume was a small tornado, rip through Virginia was both questionable and satisfying to me.
Our group of survivors have become desperate. They are exhausted and dehydrated to say the very least. Trudging along at a walker’s pace, dissension begins to form in the ranks. Things quickly split between those who are glass-half-full and those who are glass-half-empty, with regards to positive vs. negative outlooks (because, obviously, everyone’s actual glass is empty…duh.) For the first time in a very long time, the group is faced with an absence of water and food, essential to survival and representative of their hope. Some are willing to keep walking on, believing that something better is just beyond the horizon. Others have lost so much in recent weeks that they can’t see anything at all.
Let’s start with Sasha. In a span of 3 weeks, she lost both her sweetheart, Bob, and her brother, Tyreese. She is full of bitterness and anger. She knows they need to survive, but isn’t sure what for. Abraham tries to warn her, in his own eloquent way, that she is headed down a dark path. He should know; who he became after he lost his family and who he will become after having lost his hope thanks to Eugene, is still affecting him. But, Sasha has steeled herself against any emotion. She is machine-like in her behavior. Angry, violent outbursts have become her new norm, and it is a very selfish way to grieve. As a result, she nearly stabs Michonne in the heart, and manages to nick Abraham’s arm with her blade mid-walker fight. Sasha has intentionally isolated herself from the others emotionally, and, I think if she had her way it would be a physical isolation as well.
Speaking of isolation, I want to side step here and mention Gabriel. Poor Gabriel. I really feel for this guy. He is ready to atone for his sins, and then some. He is clinging to the responsibilities of his former pre-apocalyptic life. Gabriel has a need to survive because he feels that he needs to “live with it”; ‘it’ being the guilt of letting his flock perish. He needs to live in order to quietly suffer. At the same time, part of his job is to comfort the living. Gabriel tries to reach out to Maggie, but she takes out her anger on him, shutting him down effectively. The moment Gabriel throws his collar into the fire, my heart broke. This is a man who, in spite of the mistakes he made, has devoted his entire life to his faith. He has witnessed the living do terrible things in order to live. He has encountered both the dead and the living that, prior to this mess, were believers who have been made to suffer. In a moment of weakness, of giving in, of having to eat Duke for dinner (poor housepets have little to no chance of survival without humans and I’m glad they finally addressed this), Gabriel turns his back on God. The collar was all that remained as a physical reminder of his commitment to the church. Destroying it was a sign of surrender. Gabriel forgot, however, that faith has nothing to do with what collar you wear, or what building you pray in; it’s what’s inside your heart that matters. And, when the rains came (to wash away their pain? their sins?), Gabriel stood and wept “I’m sorry, my Lord.” Had he kept his true faith, he would have remembered all those little things we hear time and again about how “God will provide…” But, everyone is allowed a moment of weakness. Everyone deserves a good pity party or healthy sob session. It’s when you pick yourself up and carry on that counts.
Which brings us to Daryl. I’ve been saying since Merle died that Daryl is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. He wasn’t given any opportunity to mourn for Merle because they rolled right into Operation Woodbury Annihilation. From there, he got busy with the new residents and their flu. When Rick told him that he banished Carol, Daryl had barely any time to react before the Governor fired a tank at the prison and everyone was scattered. For all he knew at that point, not only had he lost Carol, but now Rick and everyone else he knew. Beth offered him absolution and a glimmer of hope. And then, she was gone. Daryl felt responsible for losing her. But, before he could really wrap his head around those emotions, he had to deal with Joe and his gang, and then Terminus. When he thought that he had a chance of rescuing Beth and making things right, he lost Carol in the process. Cue the rescue mission, where Beth dies anyway. Dude can’t catch a break. He keeps losing family. And, right when they thought they found a safe haven in Noah’s old neighborhood, they lose Tyreese. Daryl is ready to crack. Sure, we watched him cry and let it out some in this episode. But, we also watched him take to hurting himself just so he could feel something again. His anger period isn’t over by a long shot, folks. Watch out.
Side note: Would you people stop whining about Carol being a “mother figure” to Daryl. Melissa is 3 years older than Norman. Three. Norman is 17 years older than Emily. When season two began, we were introduced to Beth as being a high school aged girl. A girl. You guys, it was never gonna happen. Beth and Daryl forged a beautiful friendship and were more like brother and sister. It may be the apocalypse, but Daryl isn’t out chasing jail bait. As for Carol, while I totally ship it, the two can remain platonic as far as I’m concerned. Rick may be Daryl’s “brother” but Carol is his best friend. Hands down. They are age appropriate for one another should any romance arise. But, her kissing him on the forehead wasn’t a mother/son thing. Stop being ageist towards this beautiful woman just because she has gray hair. My hair started graying by age 20. In 2006, I had my head shaved during a benefit for Cystic Fibrosis. I had long, dark brown hair (that I dyed periodically). When the buzzing was done, I looked like Anderson Cooper. I also suddenly looked 10 years older than my husband. It’s just hair. Get over it. As for the kiss…Twice, Carol has kissed Daryl on the forehead. The first time, he was laid up injured in bed. She kissed him thank you and goodnight. This time, it was meant to be a comfort. In a moment such as this, with this level of emotion, anger, pain, and grieving, the last thing that you need is someone taking advantage and trying to make out with you. It’s a fun distraction, sure, but it’s a complication. Carol counseled Daryl using his own words that he had just 3 weeks ago spoken to her in Atlanta. A gentle touch of the arm, a kiss on the forehead…those things are a comfort between friends. I’ve done it. I’ve had it done to me. Could they still hook up romantically at some point? Absolutely. So, stop trying to write it off by calling it “motherly.” Anything gentle and soothing can be deemed ‘motherly’, but when you Bethyl-shippers say it, you’re really just calling my girl ‘old’ and you can suck it.
But, I digress.
How about that Maggie, huh? This episode was a giant spotlight on Lauren Cohan. When the episode opened with the close-up on her eyes, she was unrecognizable to me. I feared that the writers were going to send her down the same suicidal path that Maggie experienced in the comics. But, those fears were eased by the end of the episode. Maggie has lost all of her family members, in most cases witnessing their deaths. I griped for months about how Maggie seemed to not care about the whereabouts of Beth. It seems to me now that Maggie was dealing with all of that internally. She was getting by on the assumption that Beth was already gone. Maybe in her own mind she imagined it to be peaceful. Suddenly, she was given hope only to have it dashed away with a single bullet. When Maggie discovered the reanimated teenager bound and gagged in the trunk, it hit her hard. It became easier to imagine that could have been what it was like for Beth when she was kidnapped from Daryl. Maggie stared blankly at her wedding ring. Is her love for Glenn enough to keep her pushing forward? How real is their marriage? She blasts Gabriel for trying to counsel her, admitting that she was abandoned her faith. Meanwhile, just three weeks prior, Maggie used a story from the Bible to comfort Eugene just before his confession. Her hopes have been dashed, but Maggie’s faith remains intact. She just needed to work through some things. There are stages to grief and Maggie, Sasha and Daryl are working their way through them in their own ways.
Moments I got a kick out of: Daryl swooping in and scalping the walker with his bare hands just before it bit Rick. And, when Eugene volunteers himself (out of guilt or thirst) to sample the water they found to be sure it was safe for drinking. Abraham, who recently tried to kill Eugene with his bare hands, smacks the bottle from Eugene’s hand, potentially saving him. I’d say Abraham has done some healing, wouldn’t you?
Now, while I still feel strongly that in the course of 2 years they should have encountered more dogs, I’ll take what I can get. The weather, on the other hand, went from ‘it’s about time’ to ‘this is ridiculous’ real quick. Living in the south, we have severe thunderstorms with down bursts or down drafts that mimic the damage of a twister without actually forming one. When the camera pans out to show the damage path–a swath of land perfect in its accuracy–we are led to believe it was a tornado that did the damage. We did hear the familiar ‘train’ sound and screams of wind outside. But, that much damage and the barn remains standing? Was it constructed from adamantium or mythril? Was it divine intervention? Look at the storm as a test. The three people who have completely given up were the first ones rushing to secure the doors from the approaching walker herd. Had they remained seated, they all would have perished. If they truly wanted to give up, they wouldn’t have moved so quickly to save lives. And, it’s not about saving their own lives; it’s about saving the lives of others. That’s what life is about. It’s not about isolation and remaining solitary. Being alone won’t protect you from having your heart broken. But, among friends and family you can do for others. Being selfless feels good. We give one another hope when there is none to be found. You need a reason to live. These three feel like they have no reasons left. And then, in one single moment, they all realize they have many reasons left to push on. Daryl fixes Maggie’s music box. Maggie and Sasha share a moment of peace. Perhaps, God or the universe was testing their faith. When they got up to protect the others, and then everyone else joined in, their mutual potential sacrifices were enough to cause the universe to wash away that which threatened them. Imagine the barn as the Ark, the children as the animals that represent the future, and the rains and storm as the great flood sent to wash the bad away. Only, they had a beautiful sunrise when it was over, rather than a rainbow. Unless you count Aaron. #seewhatididthere I’m so excited that Aaron has been introduced!
I did love that we finally heard Rick give the “We are the walking dead” speech. And, the debate about old world vs. new world, reality vs. giving up, was pretty intense. Daryl’s exclamation “We ain’t them” broke my heart. I get where Rick was coming from, saying what he said. But, I also loved seeing Daryl cling to his own words–the words Carol had to remind him of. We’re not dead. Everyone needs to grieve. Everyone needs to heal. Everyone will have moments when they stray from the path, but ultimately, their faith needs to hold fast–whether it’s faith in a higher power, faith in mankind, faith in one another, or faith in themselves. Your glass can always be half-full, if you want to it be. But, be careful…if Dale, Hershel, Beth and Bob are any example, a glass half-full can be a mark of death on this show. I’m looking at you, Glenn.
Stay hydrated, take care of your pets, be there for your friends even when they don’t think they need you. Until next time…