The Walking Dead
Why go on? That’s the big existential question this show has grappled with in every season. The longer we peer into the miserable lives of these survivors, it’s one that’s increasingly tough to answer. Last week, Daryl and Beth spent a night sweating it out in the trunk of a car while a herd of zombies lumbered by. That was a good night. This episode begins with a flashback focusing on Bob before Daryl and Glenn picked him up on some lonely road (the only kind of road there is anymore). The scene serves as a reminder of the solitude and misery in this world. We see Bob unshaven, swigging cough syrup, searching for shelter and wandering aimlessly. When the guys find him, they give Bob the Official Ricktatorship Membership Exam. (His most intriguing answer, to why he killed a person: “She asked me to.”) Bob, in turn, doesn’t give a hot shit about who they are, where they’re from, or how many of anything they’ve killed. He’s just happy to have company again.
As this season winds down, the metaphors pile up higher than the body counts. There’s also a lot more progress made this week, as we follow two of the splinter groups, one of which inevitably gets sucked into the advertising campaign of Terminus. Apparently, the zombie apocalypse triggered some sort of strange magnetic disturbance that leads all sentient human life toward train tracks, no matter how lost they claim to be. Kudos to the Terminus ad team for figuring this out and placing signs accordingly. (This is also clearly why Maggie’s compass is broken. Definitely not a metaphor for being emotionally directionless — it’s zombies meets Lost, people!) We also learn, oddly matter-of-factly, that the static-riddled, unintelligible radio signal Daryl, Bob, Tyreese, and Michonne heard in the car was some sort of Terminus transmission. (No idea how anyone could decipher that noise, but if you say so, Bob.)
Daryl and Beth’s journey to the funeral home begins with a piggyback ride and ends in near death and abduction. I’m still scratching my head over what to make of the tombstone scene, as Beth takes his hand and Daryl obliges. There’s two kinds of hand-holding — closed fingers and interlocked fingers. The former is used when you’re a kid playing games in grade school, or at awkward church sing-alongs. The later is more intimate, usually employed by couples as a precursor to some major PDA, or close-ups in movie sex scenes. Last week, I still read the Beth and Daryl relationship as a bit crushy on her part, mostly brotherly on his. But this looked a little more mutually romantic. Then there’s that moment when Beth asks why Daryl’s changed his theory about all the good people in the world being dead — a long silence, a stare, Beth muttering “Oh.” As in, oh, you mean I am the reason you changed your mind. He’s also into her singing now, maybe the surest sign the crush is mutual. (Note how Beth has become the Zooey Deschanel of the apocalypse. Never misses an opportunity to let everyone know she can sing.)
Once Daryl suggested turning the funeral home into a long-term staycation, you knew something bad would happen. Scares are getting harder to come by on this show, but Daryl’s standoff in the morgue was intense. What I didn’t guess was that the owner of the pig’s-feet stash would come home and decide to ditch the food and shelter, but kidnap Beth. Something tells me most of you think Daryl should thank the guy (or gal).
As for the other group — who I’d guess has been approximately 500 yards from Daryl and Beth at all times — Bob and Sasha were the focal points of the episode in terms of character development. Not that we really learned much about either, though — Bob doesn’t want to be alone ever again and Sasha is scared, particularly about learning what happened to Tyreese. Bob also takes his flirtations to a new level, hoping a kiss will convince Sasha to follow him and pursue Maggie. It doesn’t. (Again, imagine how rank everyone’s breath must be? I guess that, like the constant groaning of walkers and one’s own imminent demise, you get used to it.) Maggie unwisely heads off on her own, but at least she has the good sense to start leaving zombie-blood messages for Glenn.
To keep with the metaphor-a-minute pacing, Sasha finds herself in the shelter she’d been longing for — a second-floor loft with lovely exposed brick, awash in natural light and strangely clean. But the weight of her solitude hits her hard. Luckily, Maggie’s passed out near an ice-cream truck right outside her window. After some creative zombie slaying (nice use of that “No Parking” sign, Mags) and some quick girl talk, they catch up to Bob, hug it out, and get back on the road to Terminus.
The episode winds down with Daryl, who finds himself — literally — at a crossroads. It seems Daryl may have changed his mind about “good people” a little too soon. The crew that surrounds him are the same ne’er-do-wells who ransacked Rick’s house, led by Joe, the smooth-talking philosopher of the gang. “Suicide is stupid,” Joe observes. “Why hurt yourself when you can hurt other people?” Although Joe appreciates a “bowman,” this doesn’t feel like a bromance that’s bound to last.
In the end, Bob isn’t alone anymore, Daryl probably wishes he was, and Glenn — who finds the Terminus sign, at last — won’t be for long. If “hell is other people,” as Sartre’s most famous quote sorta goes, then none of these survivors (or the show’s writers) think much about French philosophy. Why go on? The answer is inescapable — for each other. It’s the mantra of this season. Maybe for the next, it’s one better left unspoken.