The Walking Dead: Strangers

Gabriel: "Nowadays people are just as dangerous as the dead, don't you think?"
Daryl: "No, they're worse."

This episode gave our group and us a breather. After the death and destruction at Terminus our group reforms and they give each other and themselves a fresh start.

One of the things I appreciate about this show is its depth. Last week I talked about how I didn't notice the death at Terminus because it didn't include anyone from our little group. Just like them, I've become desensitized to the deaths outside the characters I am invested in. And this week, just like our group I felt like I could dial down the adrenaline a little bit and have a bit of hope that things might actually turn out okay. Until the end, of course, when it appears that the human mercy that Rick was convinced to show to the survivors of Terminus will now bite him and his 'family' in the ass -- literally. There are many layers to the viewing of this show and I appreciate almost all of them (it's pretty obvious I don't watch it for the gore).

I know that some people will complain that this episode was too slow, but I really appreciated it. You would expect that after such a harrowing experience, after finally coming together again, that people will have to work through some issues. It is true that their experiences have worked to dehumanize them but they have also made them appreciate each other and let go of issues that even a few months ago would have divided them. Rick banished Carol from the prison because she was capable of murder, but now knows that he is just as vicious when it is called for. Maggie, along with everyone else, forgives Tara for being with the Governor. Carl has grown past being a possible devil child and has found a way to hang on to his humanity. Michonne has moved from berserker to warrior woman. I hope that Carl is right. That the group is strong enough to remain human and survive because as Bob points out, even if someone does return the world to what it was before, too many people will have moved past the point of return. They won't be able to live in such a world.

I am a little surprised to find that Carol has become one of my favourite characters. She is such a badass but still feels that she can't be part of the group. Although the group will forgive her, it seems that she can't forgive herself. I think she sees herself as irredeemable. There hasn't been time for people like Rick to talk about the things they have done so she can see that she is not as far outside the lines as she thinks. I was very glad that Daryl showed up when he did, even if it means that our group is now split again. I just hope it doesn't take a whole season to get them back or to find Beth. I don't mind slow progressions, but there is a limit.

The other somewhat problematic story line is the push to go to Washington. Eugene manages to sound like he knows a thing or two, but I find it all a little fishy. If there are places that can withstand a pandemic of this "fubar magnitude", then there are already people in it and they are already working on the cure. Besides, have they forgotten what happened at the CDC? I really hope that somewhere, at the end of all this, there is a somewhat happy ending, but I am certainly not counting on it.

Bits and Pieces

I enjoyed the beginning of the episode with the slow motion shots of the group interspersed with bits of group development.

Are they drinking water straight from the streams? One of the things this show hasn't really addressed is how many people would die from other diseases and things like untreated water and spoiled food.

There were some great moments of humour in this episode, all the more enjoyable because they are unusual. The fist bump between Tara and Rick was priceless.

It's pretty clear that Gabriel is a coward who let people die, including his own wife. Although that is an act of omission rather than commission, I think that he has a lot of blood on his hands.

Was Bob bitten? I can only hope he is, and the cannibals get very sick from eating him.


Abe: "Right there is why we're waiting for our moment."
Rosita: "Yeah, fair enough."

Rick to Carol: "Will you have us?" (one of my favourite moments from this episode)

Rick: "Can we take a look around first? We just want to hold onto our squirrels."

Abe: "We slow down, shit inevitably goes down."

Rick: "You are not safe. No matter how many people are around, no matter how clear the area is, no matter what anybody says, no matter what you think, you are not safe."

Carl: "We"re strong enough that we can still help people and we can handle ourselves if things go wrong. And we're strong enough that we don’t have to be afraid and we don't have to hide."

Bob: "If a sewer could puke, this is what it'd smell like."

Michonne: "Stumbling around in three feet of slime for some peas and carrots, that's living."

Rick: "This is the real world, Bob."
Bob: "Naw, this is a nightmare. And nightmares end."


Jess Lynde said...

I liked this one, too, Doc, but I’m really confused about what they are trying to do with Carl. His characterization veers wildly from “budding psychopath” to “mature voice of reason” within the space of days. You noted that he had “grown past being a possible devil child,” but it was only a day or two ago (story time) that he was watching his dad brutally murder a man with gruesome fascination, and then confessing to Michonne that he’s a monster, too. He’s still got the scrapes on his face from that guy assaulting him! Has he really had time to grow past anything? Is this a purposeful part of his struggle, or do the writers not have a handle on this character? It’s confusing! (The pesky timeline issues strike again.)

I don’t think Rick is necessarily buying what Abraham and Eugene are selling re: Washington. Not after telling Carl “you are not safe --- ever.” And Glenn and Michonne seem to have a certain level of skepticism, too. But what else have they got to do at the moment? It reminds me a bit of Battlestar Galactica, with Adama giving the crew the “search for Earth” reason to keep going. Giving purpose and hope to others can be a powerful thing, even if you don’t believe in it yourself. And that’s pretty much how Rick has always operated with the group. I wonder if that’s what Abraham is doing, too. Does he really believe in Eugene, or does he just need a higher purpose to keep going?

So, Tyreese didn’t kill his cabin nemesis from last week. Good call, Patryk. Erg. I wonder if he thinks he killed him, but just didn’t the job done. Or if he straight out lied to Carol. TBD.

Doc, I had that same thought about the water from the streams! Are they boiling this stuff? They used to do that kind of thing.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Horrific reveal at the end - but I couldn't help but think if Bob was bitten too! 'cause why else would he have left the church, crying, seemingly to leave the group entirely?

And I had the exact same thought about Washington - why would Eugene need to go to a place where there would obviously be people working on a cure already. Somehting's fishy.

drnanamom said...

@Jess I hear what you are saying about Carl but it is possible that the experience at Terminus has had a profound impact on him. Seeing how far down the rabbit hole people could go may have brought him -and others - up short. Cannibalism seems to be a very distinct line in the sand, that is, it is one of those places that Bob says you could never come back from even if the world goes back to 'normal'. I do find it fascinating to watch how each individual struggles to find a way to cope with the ongoing horror. Many of them are using various forms of denial. I think that might be my choice!

Jess Lynde said...

A fair point, Doc. Or perhaps it was discovering that his sister hadn't died after all. The same world that created Joe's gang and the Termites also had space for people that would protect and save a baby. Maybe having her back pushed him away from his "I'm a monster" mindset and more towards "I want to be a good person," so he's trying again to push past it.

If he's going to continue swinging back and forth, I don't really mind. This world could definitely do that to a person. Especially a young kid. I just hope it is a purposeful thing the writers are doing, and not random inconsistency.

Billie Doux said...

I don't watch this show for the gore, either. And I suppose it was just a matter of time until they got to what happened to Bob, although I could have waited a whole lot longer, like forever.

Bob did feel "off", like something was going on with him, and like he was maybe leaving the church to kill himself because he'd been bitten. It would be cool if he just infected them, but that might be too simple for The Walking Dead.

Yes, I also keep thinking about contaminated water and getting infections, and I wish they'd address it. Wouldn't taking water right from a stream in a zombie-filled world and wading around in slime like that for cans of peas and carrots make them sick? It might not happen every time, but it should happen sometimes.

Carl is sort of bouncing around character-wise, agreed, but he's a teenager fighting for his life in a horrible world. Teenagers do spend a lot of time trying to find themselves and it has to be even harder for Carl.

drnanamom said...

@Billie - Yes! I also thought about that water in the food bank and horrible diseases. You make a good point about Carl being a teenager as well. I just had a discussion with one of my kids about the Gabriel. Do you think he actually closed the church doors on his wife or do you think he just didn't bother to go save her from the foodbank? My position was that he just locked the doors and hid but wouldn't have actively denied his wife entry. What do other people think? She also wondered if he still has a flock or was he speaking in the past tense?

Jess Lynde said...

I’m curious, what makes everyone think the food bank lady was Gabriel’s wife? I just got the impression from that photo that she was the church organist, and therefore a friend/parishioner of Gabriel’s. And that he possibly feels guilty for indirectly causing her death. Did I miss something?

To me, it significantly changes the moral calculus of his choices --- and the way we should react to his character --- if she was his wife. Don’t get me wrong, locking out friends/members of his congregation to save himself is a horrifically selfish act of betrayal (which is my vote for what he did). But doing that to his wife seems a step beyond that. It seems more reprehensible.

drnanamom said...

@Jess, You're right - I just made that assumption. She could have just been the church organist but then why was the picture so important to him - maybe a close friend? I looked around on the web and there is a lot of speculation about the relationship between the woman in the picture and Gabriel. Thanks for bringing up the question, you are always paying attention Jess :)

Jess Lynde said...

Too much attention! :)

I had seen a lot of folks 'round the interwebs making that assumption, too. Or speculating that he had some sort of romantic relationship with her. And I didn't get that vibe at all. I just got that he knew her, they worked together, they were probably friends, and he feels guilty about/responsible for what happened to her. So I was curious what made people automatically go to the wife/girlfriend/lover place. Especially since the nature of that relationship affects the way I react to whatever it was he did. But I'm sure more will be revealed in time.

Heather said...

Doc, a great review, once again.
You guys, I don't like how the Terminus people are stalking our mains. It feels contrived to me. I get they're displaced now etc. and maybe the point is to move the needle on the moral compass of TWD to what appears to be inevitable, that Rick was right, that they did in fact need to die because all this world can offer people now is kill or be killed but it just doesn't seem smart (or story-wise, altogether believable) to me that a group *that* organized and self-contained would spend their days exacting revenge on people who they knew less than a week. I don't know.

I also had a thought recently that this show is not good when the writers try for subtlety. In my opinion, beats (character and story, alike) work much better when they're explicitly spelled out because it's almost like the premise of TWD, just generally, is so big, heightened and life or death, that attempts at nuance (or ambiguity) just end up looking sloppy or worse, half-assed. I think Carl's character 'development' is a good example of this, as is the situation with Bob and what he was crying about or Tyreese and the confrontation from the season opener in the cabin. I feel like the pay-off to any of these things gets inevitably swallowed in the magnitude of the sheer horror and the unrelenting drama and outrageousness of their post-apocalyptic world of survival.

By the by, of all the things I read online about this show, I feel confident in saying that the conversation happening here on DR is really quite elegant and refined. :)
And I love it!

Jess Lynde said...

Heather, I didn’t get the impression that the Terminus people were stalking Rick’s group for revenge. Their camp burned down the day before they grabbed Bob (maybe two days before), and based on what Gareth said in his evil monologue, they were just looking for something to eat. Hunting, and waiting for a good moment to pick off one person. They would have done it to anybody, but it worked out “nicely” that they bagged one of the people responsible for destroying their camp. “Oh, cool! We’re getting food and revenge. And on the crazy optimistic guy that tried to convince us it didn’t have to be this way! Sweet!”

It makes sense that the nearest potential targets would be the people that just escaped from their clutches. Especially given that Gareth and crew seem to have swung by the nearby cabin where their pal Martin was last known to be setting off distraction fireworks. They would all be in the same vicinity.

Heather said...

Thanks for your insight. I jumped to the wrong conclusion about the Terminus crew. Admittedly I'm pretty dense in general and the timeline is hard for me to follow. :)

Jess Lynde said...

Don't feel dense about the timeline, Heather! I obsess pretty hardcore over the thing, because it fascinates me, but I think the way the narrative plays out generally makes it difficult for the audience to follow. It almost always feels like so much more time has passed than actually has, and it clearly affects the way huge chunks of the audience respond to the plot progression and the head space the characters are in (which is why it fascinates me).

And I’m not saying you are definitely wrong about the Terminus folks. I was just giving my take away from the evil monologue. It generally seemed like it was just a day or two after the escape --- I can’t imagine Abraham waiting much beyond that to give them the hard sell on DC --- but at the end, Martin from the cabin didn’t look nearly as pummeled as he probably should have after that beatdown from Tyreese. If Tyreese thought he killed the guy (just what I’m assuming for now), shouldn’t Martin have seemed beaten to a pulp and not just slightly puffy? Like Rick, after his fight with the Governor? So I’ve still got some potential concerns about the timeline.

Heather said...

That's it. I have to rewatch it. LOL. :)
Also admittedly, I am at times playing Subway Surfer or on Twitter when I am watching the episode! That's my own attention span not a reflection of the show, per se.
Anyway, I am also obsessed with several aspects of TWD because I guess, in the end, the concept is like nothing I've ever seen before thus very compelling -- which should, in itself, warrant, regularly, a second viewing. I agree with you about Martin looking curiously well for having survived Tyreese's wrath.

Oh but how I long for this show to be brilliant and consistent.

Billie Doux said...

I'm sort of obsessed with TWD, too. There's just something about it that draws me, despite its negatives. I think it *is* brilliant, even if it's not completely consistent.

Jess Lynde said...

Yea! I'm not completely alone in my obsessions! :)

The Martin thing is particularly weird, because they've given tremendous attention to detail when it comes to the progression of cuts/bruises/scrapes/etc. on our little band. At the end of this episode, Rick still has a few cuts from his fight with the Governor and some bruises from the fight with Joe, Carl still has the scrapes from his attacker, and Daryl still has the black eye and some cuts from getting beat by Joe's gang. They've made the effort to maintain those wounds and show how they are healing over multiple episodes, so why not be consistent with Martin? Did the crew just goof, or should I maybe take it as a sign that Tyreese lied to Carol? TBD, I suppose.

Maybe he'll suddenly look a lot more beat up in the next episode. We did only get a brief glimpse of him from Bob's blurred perspective.

Lamounier said...

Ok, that was some seriously disturbing shit. Oh my zombie god. Doc, how could you call that a breather? Season two was a breather. This was horrifying. Fine, most of the episode was a breather, but still... That final scene killed any joy and hope the episode built.

Like most of you, I too thought Bob had been bitten and was going to either leave the group before turning or kill himself. I didn’t think the Terminus people would appear so quickly, much less eat a piece of Bob while keeping the man alive. God. I don’t see Bob lasting much longer now... Damn it, I like Bob.

I do believe there are secret bases on Earth where people are living well and happy, away from all the mayhem of the zombie apocalypse. Of course, that would not make for interesting television, so we follow our little group of decent human beings trying to hold on to their decency while the world around them keeps falling apart.

A little bit of hope wouldn’t hurt.