This summary is a little late, we know, but Tehkella was on holiday and has only just caught up! Forgive us, and be on the lookout for Episode 10, tomorrow.
After a summary of the shocking events of the mid-season finale, The Walking Dead opens with a funeral taking place; at this stage, we presume it is for Beth, who was tragically lost in the previous episode. The cinematic styling is nicely done, with the camera shooting from behind wispy tree branches, disguising the participants of the funeral party. The whole episode takes on a dreamy aspect from the outset with a montage of apparently disconnected images.
Father Gabriel recites from the Bible and we see the individual group members grieving, a framed picture of a cabin, someone looking out a car window, the group running, photos of twin boys, the prison tower, Noah telling Rick that Beth was going to go with him to Virginia, a pretty little town street, and Rick conversing with the group about whether or not to go to Noah’s hometown. An artful shot of a skeleton with weeds growing through its ribcage follows, then a child’s chalk drawing, the convoy, Judith, an apparent car wreck with a walker trapped inside one of the vehicles, train tracks, and Lizzie and Mika saying “it’s better now”, before wrapping with the cabin picture being obscured by dripping blood. The opening credits begin, and as we should know by now, that first five minutes contain plenty of clues for what is going to happen throughout the rest of the episode.
We start with Rick, Tyreese, Glenn, Michonne and newcomer, Noah, driving towards Noah’s hometown, where he hopes to find his mother and twin brothers. Carol is heading up the rest of the group a little way behind. Noah and Tyreese talk about the situation back at the hospital, and Tyreese assures Noah it went the way it was meant to. He reveals that he hadn’t been facing up to the whole apocalypse deal, despite being taught by his father to keep up to date with whatever’s happening in the world, and looking at it head on; so you’d know how to help when the time came. This becomes a pretty important theme throughout the episode, particularly the emphasis on listening to bad news on the radio, as we soon see.
On the way, Rick’s group pulls into the trees near the car wreck shown in the opening montage. He suggests it an ideal hiding place, as their vehicle will look like part of the wreck upon cursory glance. They make towards the town on foot, passing the weedy skeleton on the way. The outskirts of the town are barred by wire fences, designed in such a way for the living to be able to navigate but not walkers. They head down the road, passing some carrion and an inexplicable grandfather clock. Is this a metaphor for something? Death and time… I’ll keep that in the back of my mind for a future episode.
The group arrives at the gate to ominous silence, and upon Glenn scaling the wall at the entrance, they realise the town has been overrun and no one has survived. They enter the town to find it has been torched and is in ruins. Corpses lay on the street, and a lone walker approaches as Noah falls to his knees next to the chalk drawing. As the camera pans to a forlorn-looking Michonne, we see an odd message painted on a wall: “wolves not far.” Another clue to remember!
Tyreese comforts Noah; Rick is ever the pragmatist, and suggests doing a sweep to get supplies. Michonne is defeatist and sadly goes to take out the walkers. Another chance at a fresh start seems to have been lost, yet again. Rick reports back in to Carol with the bad news; Tyreese stays with Noah while the others head further in to the town. We next see Michonne taking an autographed shirt from its frame, while Rick tries to placate her. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Michonne looking so dejected, even after everything she’s been through. Glenn and Rick debate the rights and wrongs of killing Dawn in the hospital, and later Glenn picks up a baseball bat (the emphasis of which is likely on purpose but I don’t know what it foreshadows and I don’t want to know!) Michonne steps in as the voice of reason and tells them they can’t give up hoping things will get better.
Tyreese tells Noah about how he went a bit crazy after losing Karen, but he stepped up and saved Judith when she needed protecting, making sure she got reunited with Rick and Carl against all odds. Tyreese explains the importance of choosing to live and understanding that things happen for a reason; this is also another important theme throughout the episode. Noah suddenly leaps up and runs to his house, with Tyreese in hot pursuit. They enter and find Noah’s mother well and truly dead on the floor. Tyreese goes to check the rest of the house. We note a presence behind one of the bedroom doors, and then Tyreese finds one of the brothers dead on a bed, his stomach eaten away (that’s usually a good indication that you should be alert). Somewhat stupidly, Tyreese keeps his back to the hall while looking at the photos on the wall; a lot of emphasis is put on the photos of the twin boys. For a moment, I thought some amazing revelation was about to happen, when suddenly the missing twin appears and chomps down on Tyreese’s forearm like a boss. Using the somewhat unconventional weapon of a model airplane, Noah appears and puts the walker kid down being running off to get Rick and co. The scene pans to a radio on the dresser and fades out to the sound of Tyreese’s labored breathing. Cue early onset zombification fever and resulting hallucinations.
Lizzie and Mika, Bob, that asshole Martin from the Terminus group, and the Governor all make an appearance as the various sides of Tyreese’s conscience wrestle for the upper hand. This whole sequence is incredibly unsettling and is interspersed with scenes from the episode’s opening montage and a British newscast reporting on violent militants in an undisclosed location. There is a very clever connection between the voice over and the events in the show, with reports of burning, beheading and cannibalism. Even though the report appears to be from before the zombie apocalypse, it could also be a report from its beginning, as no one could understand at the outset what was happening, and could perhaps think it some terrorist attack. Very deep stuff! Tyreese briefly awakens from his hallucination as he is accosted by another random walker. He drops his hammer and that’s pretty much when I knew it was all over. Apparently this one is super strong, and Tyreese’s only means of stopping it is to offer up his forearm for another bite. He then gets the upper hand (no pun intended) and takes the walker out with a handy rock, leaving it to drip its viscous blood all over the cabin picture.
Meanwhile, Michonne wants to reinforce the gate to make the town safe, but Rick is against the idea due to its forest location. They go to check the perimeter and find a massive group of severed walkers – just legs and arms. What the hell! It’s clear the gate has been majorly damaged and is not fixable. Glenn and Rick are unemotional and laissez-faire about the walker bits, and I think that’s a bit of an issue – aren’t you the least bit curious as to where the rest of them are? And who did it? Michonne, however, is determined to get them back on track and suggests the group make their way to Washington, despite Eugene lying about the cure. They need to have a chance, rather than just surviving day to day. Rick agrees they should go. Just then they hear Noah screaming out and find him beset by walkers as he was on his way to get help for Tyreese. Michonne has a close call as she tries to take out a walker that has a steel rod in his shoulder. They survive and make for Tyreese.
Meanwhile, back in Tyreese’s hallucinations, Beth arrives with her best singing voice and pitiful attempt at pretending to play the guitar (girl, you didn’t even make a chord there!); and the montage continues. Tyreese is bleeding profusely, however he decides to fight for his life after the imaginary Governor pushes his buttons just so. Michonne arrives and promptly severs Tyreese’s arm and the others drag him out of the house and back down the street; stopping for a pretty intense zombie culling scene which is shown from Tyreese’s fevered perspective. They get to the car, and Rick bags up the wheels, bogging the car like he’s never driven ever, before slamming into one of the wrecked vehicles; its doors promptly burst open and the upper halves of those severed walkers from the gate appear and roll about ineffectually for dramatic effect (did you note the Ws carved into their foreheads?) The group hoons away in the car, with Tyreese bleeding and delusional in the backseat. Nary a mention is given to just who the hell is chopping up walkers and keeping their Basketcase-esque torsos in a van for safekeeping…
Tyreese hallucinates with all the dead good guys in the car (imaginary Beth is still a better driver than Lori, who managed to flip her car on a straight road that one time). The radio theme continues, as Tyreese stares out the window at the sun. He says to turn it off. The dead ones repeat their mantra: “It’s okay, you gotta know that by now. It isn’t just okay, it’s better now.” The camera zooms way out as the car stops on the crest of a hill, and Tyreese is dragged out to lay on the road. Michonne draws her sword. As deaths go, this was probably one of the most peaceful despite its violent onset, but I can’t say I’m happy about it :(
Back to the funeral scene, where we now realise it is Tyreese who is being buried instead of Beth. It went the way it had to, the way it was always going to…