As the title suggests, this episode is just plain lousy with crosses of all sorts: the cross at the church that could end up being chopped to bits; the cross around a zombie’s neck that moves Father Gabe to yet another emotional breakdown; the Grady Memorial car with a cross in the window that nearly wrecks Tyreese’s hostage plan; and a double-cross that Sasha really should have seen coming. There’s a lot going on, as the pace quickens and the stakes ratchet up ahead of next week’s mid-season finale.
Rather than focus on one story line, this chapter toggles between all four: the survivors holding down the church, the D.C. road-trippers who’ve hit a dead end, Beth and Carol at Grady Memorial, and a rescue team led by Rick and Daryl. Let’s briefly address the situation at the hospital, where there’s not much going on. For no apparent reason, Dawn decides Beth is trustworthy enough to take a key to the medicine locker and keep Carol alive on the sly. Dawn says she realizes Beth ain’t weak — she’s strong! (Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that despite two Frankenstein scars on her face, the cast on her arm, and plenty of Dawn’s abuse, Beth won’t back down.) Surprisingly, this vote of confidence does not lead Beth to break into song. She gets Carol the meds she needs, and we know the silver-haired hardass will pull through. Sure, it seems like Dawn has something up her sleeve, but I just want to be rid of her and the Grady Bunch as fast as possible. This all reinforced how comparatively dull the “Bethisode” was; every time we checked in at Grady, I hoped it would end quickly so we could return to the good stuff.
Like the church, where the survivors are fortifying the joint — hacking up the pews for wood to secure the windows, turning organ pipes into stakes to block the front door. It’s all too much for Gabe, who could be the least-useful adult survivor on the planet. (At least Eugene is good for a few laughs and water-purification tips.) While the rest of the gang works to zombie-proof the church, Gabe spit-shines the floor, furiously scrubbing away at the blood stains from the Terminus massacre. Ain’t no getting clean in this world, father. Gabe seems to sense this, and pulls a fast one, using the machete Carl gave him to pull up the floorboards in his office and slip away. Of course, he doesn’t have the stomach to take the weapon with him, so when he literally runs into a zombie in the woods, it turns into a WWE wrestling match. Just as it seems Gabe is going to notch his first kill, he sees a cross around the walker’s neck and loses his nerve. Unless he goes through some sort of remarkable transformation, soon, the odds of him lasting much longer look slim.
Speaking of dead weight, Eugene is still flat on his back in the middle of the road, and since Maggie’s afraid to move him, they’re stuck waiting for him to either wake up or zombify. Tara continues to provide some comic relief — getting really pumped to find a yo-yo in a backpack and giving their posse a nickname, GREATM, to boost morale. She also isn’t hating on Eugene: “He had one skill that kept him living. Are we supposed to be mad because he used it?” It’s a fair point, but one that only a scriptwriter could probably endorse. Glenn’s response feels more realistic: “Damn right.”
We also finally get some insight into Rosita. The poor man’s Lara Croft met the Sarge in Dallas, when he saved her bacon and then asked for her help with “saving the world.” In light of Eugene’s big lie, she can’t help but wonder if the Sarge was lying, too — perhaps just to get some apocalyptic ass, to paraphrase the Sarge himself. We also see Maggie step up and put the Sarge in his place when he gave Rosita a threatening look. (I had two thoughts during those scenes: Maggie’s southern accent tends to fade away at times, and the Sarge must have abs and kneecaps of steel to spend a whole afternoon kneeling on the road.) She also drops some harsh truth about the future, now that there’s no hope in Washington: “It’s never gonna get any better than this.”
The real tension lies with Rick and the rescue party. He’d rather hang back with his family at the church, but as he tells Michonne, he owes Carol big-time. There’s some debate over how to save Carol and Beth — Rick wants to take Grady by force, and the cold, casual way he mentions slicing a guard’s throat is chilling, but completely logical. Tyreese suggests a hostage exchange to minimize the chances of casualties and finds a surprising ally in Daryl. Rick shows that while he can be an emotionless killing machine, he’s also open to suggestions. (So much for the old Ricktatorship.)
Of course the plan doesn’t go as planned. They grab two Grady guards, but a third comes flying in with a car and some heavy gunfire. That leads to a most gnarly fight scene, as Daryl jabs his fingers in a zombie’s eye sockets like a bowling ball, rips the head off its shoulders, and clubs the Grady guard in the face. He also does something subtle and smart to keep Rick from capping the guard: Daryl slowly walks behind the hostage, knowing Rick won’t shoot if he’s in blast range.
The whole scene is a gory one, as we see a FEMA substation that’s been bombed, with charred, gooey walkers that have been fused to the asphalt. One of the guards — Sgt. Lamson, whom Noah calls “one of the good guys” at Grady — weaves a heartstring-tugger to Sasha about a friend of his who died in the blast. Shoulda been him out there, burned and moaning, he says. So Sasha decides it’s a good idea to waste a bullet putting this walker out of its misery and let the captive lead her to a remote corner of the building. One swift head-butt later, Sasha’s out cold and her prisoner is running free.
It was awfully unwise to bring Sasha along at all, considering her fragile state in the wake of Bob’s death. Maybe Tyreese’s “let it go” speech about Bob worked a little too well, leaving her vulnerable, rather than in a laser-focused state of show-no-mercy revenge-seeking. And something about Lamson didn’t quite feel right. Note his response when Rick, in a moment of law-enforcement bonding, reassured him he’s still a cop, even now: “Nah,” he replied. “The real ones are all gone.”
So now, as Rick and the gang head to Grady to play “Let’s Make a Deal,” there’s a captive on the loose. With Eugene waking up, the D.C. crew will probably head back to the church. But will they then follow Rick to Atlanta? Will a new threat surface? And where the hell is Morgan?