Last night’s episode wasted little time in confirming two big hunches from the week before: Father Gabriel locked his congregation out of the church, and Bob was indeed the victim of a zombie bite. (Here’s hoping #TaintedMeat is trending by now.) There’s also some inevitable tension between Rick and Sergeant Abraham, a bold if questionable plan to take out the Gareth bunch, and another tense cliff-hanger to keep us all guessing till next Sunday.
The opening scene cuts between some ravenous zombies and the Termini eating some Bobmeat, all while Gareth gives one of his sanctimonious
speeches. (Though he scores points for his line about why women taste better: “My brother Alex — also currently dead, because of Rick — had a theory …”) The juxtaposition shows yet again that walkers aren’t the only monsters in this grim world. It’s not clear why Gareth initially hoped to recruit Bob — “join us or feed us” — then skipped straight to the dining option. But give the nutjob some credit for a little wisdom. He knows his mom’s old saying, “Every day above ground is a win,” rings hollow these days. “Nothing lasts too long anymore,” he says, as poor Bob knows for sure.
As Gareth rattles on like a cannibal Dr. Phil, Bob begins to cry, then laughs, then cackles. They think he’s in shock, losing his mind, but Bob flips the script: “You idiot. I’ve been bitten, you stupid pricks! I’m tainted meat! Tainted meat!” (That’s a killer band name, by the way.) It’s a great moment, even if we kinda saw it coming. It also raises an interesting question: Would cooking Bob’s flesh make it safe to consume, as Gareth suggests? That seems doubtful. But it’s one question of zombie-apocalypse science that will remain unanswered, since the test subjects have eaten their last supper.
Aside from Bob’s terminal state and dealing with the six remaining Terminus escapees, two plotlines move forward, starting with the not-so-good father. When Bob is dumped at the church, he provides solid intel on Gareth — including the sighting of “the archer” and “that grey-haired queen bitch” who killed his mom. Paranoia sets in among the survivors, and Sasha — understandably upset by her boyfriend’s disappearance, and later, his amputation and future as a zombie — wonders why everything’s gone downhill since they met Father Gabriel. That’s unfair, of course; downhill is the only direction they’ve all traveled since the world went Romero. But Rick buys in and gets in Gabe’s grill: “What are you going to burn for, Gabriel? What did you do?” The sins of the father are big ones — men, women, and children begging for shelter, “entire families calling my name as they were torn apart.” Gabriel is sure he’s damned, that the Lord sent Rick’s crew as punishment. My guess is that he’ll eventually come around and see them as his salvation, likely moments before he dies a gruesome death.
Then there’s the matter of getting to Washington. The Sarge decides, understandably, that Gareth poses a “clear threat” to Eugene, and it’s now time to “extract his ass” pronto. Hard to argue with that, except for one detail — Daryl and Carol (“Caryl”?) are MIA. Leaving them behind is a non-starter for Rick, and finally, the two alphas get into some nose-to-nose macho posturing. Tara offers to join the Short Bus posse, as if that’s much help. Finally, Glenn says he and Maggie will go if the Sarge agrees to help take out Gareth. It’s a bold move, considering Glenn didn’t consult with Maggie if she’s onboard. But she is, and the Sarge likes the deal.
Brief aside here regarding Mags. As some of you rightly pointed out last week, it’s more than a bit strange that she seems to have forgotten about her sister, Beth, otherwise known as the only other surviving member of the Greene family. Daryl had little to say about what happened to her. She’s been missing for days, at least. But in the last episode, in the church, it seemed like all Maggie needed was a little communion wine and Glenn by her side, and all was right with the world. She even forgave Tara’s role in the prison raid. Wouldn’t she be in a constant state of anxiety over her sis, who was kidnapped by someone driving a hearse? You’d think Glenn would have to convince her, hourly, that they can’t go looking for her yet. And now she’s all about a road trip to D.C.? It doesn’t add up, even for a show that demands a lot of logical leeway.
The episode ends on two very different notes. The first is a tense, horrible one, as Rick’s plan to trap Gareth unfolds. You see why the others saw it as risky — Rick used a few friends, Lara Croft, a priest, his son, and his infant daughter as bait. If Judith cries sooner, or Gareth stops yapping and starts shooting, it’s a bloodbath. Instead, the ruse succeeds. Rick shoots Gareth’s hand into a bloody stump, then decides to save bullets and beat the last of the cannibals to death. Even Tyreese is disturbed as they go to work — Rick with a machete, Michonne and the Sarge with their rifle stocks, and Sasha with a knife. When it’s all over, Gareth’s butchered body lies on the floor in pieces. But to play Bob’s “Good From the Bad” game for a second, Michonne is reunited with her sword, which she raises up slowly and badass-ly, as is her way. Maggie also gives Gabriel a theological reality check, one likely borne of watching her Bible-toting father beheaded by a one-eyed psychopath — this church ain’t the Lord’s house no more. Hard to blame her if she feels that God is dead.
The massacre segues into the serene, as Bob lays on his death couch beneath a depiction of The Last Supper. It’s a surprisingly emotional scene, considering we — and they — didn’t know Bob all that well. It’s affecting because Bob became the group’s last optimist, and he sticks to that philosophy. “Nightmares end,” he tells Rick. “They shouldn’t end who you are. And that is just this dead man’s opinion.” I’ll admit, I got a little misty as Rick held Judith in one hand and Bob’s hand in the other. In a particularly depressing moment, Sasha asks Bob what good will come of his fate. There’s no reply — Bob is gone. Tyreese puts him out of his misery permanently with a quick slip of a blade and an awful sound. You had your issues, Bob Barksdale — namely, the bottle and a bad sense of zombie radar — but you will be missed.
Rick and the Sarge part on good terms, and the big man even leaves an apology on the map to D.C. (“Sorry I was an asshole.”) If I had to place a bet, I’d say the Sarge’s intentions are genuine, but there’s still something I don’t quite trust about his crew. Thankfully, yet another split for the group seems like it will be a brief one. Later that night, Michonne finds someone else in the woods by the church — it’s Daryl, with Carol hidden in the shadows. Why don’t we see her? A guess: Carol has Beth, who’s in bad shape, and the next episode will be a flashback to her rescue. Then they’ll be ready to follow the Sarge and won’t be far behind.