Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Walking Dead 5.03: Four Walls and a Roof

First, firstfirstfirstfirst... we need to address the single most important thing that happened on this week’s Walking Dead: MICHONNE’S KATANA HAS RETURNED!! Whew, that was a close one. I shall now be able to call off my Kickstarter campaign to get it back.

Nikki: So here’s what happens when you write up your thoughts on a show and think you can do it without your notes: You leave a TON of stuff out. I realized after last week’s post that I’d entirely forgotten to mention something I spent probably too long doing: looking up the bible verses that were hanging on the wall near the altar. This week, they rang even truer than they did last, so let’s take a look at them now:

Romans 6:4: We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Ezekiel 37: 7 (how badly do I wish that was Ezekiel 25:17?! says the Tarantino fan): So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.

Matthew 27:52: and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.

Revelations 9:6: During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.

Luke 24:5: In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?

I think these are all self-explanatory, and I would guess that Father Stokes actually mounted them after the apocalypse happened, not before. One can assume he’s been reading those bibles until they were falling apart.

In this episode, many of our predictions came true from last week: Yep, Bob was bit. (And watching the Terminites trying to spit up their meat was gloriously funny.) I have often ranked the success of screen gore based on whether or not I could eat popcorn through it. For the most part, I seem to be able to do it with The Walking Dead. I’m less successful during Hannibal. So I’m thinking it must be a cannibal thing, because this week I had to put down my popcorn completely in that opening scene. Seriously, did they have to show the veins hanging out of the meat? :::Gyuuuuuuhhhhh:::

Also, Father Stokes had shut out his congregation, as we predicted. Perhaps there’s something more to the revelation still waiting, but despite it being predictable and obvious, I think Seth Gilliam’s performance when he has to tell them what he did was astounding. He’s humble, honest, apologetic, horrified, and you can tell he lives with the nightmare of what he’s done ever since. When he looks at the group moving towards him in anger, he cowers before Rick, and says rather matter-of-factly that he led them back to the church because he assumed they’d been sent by God to punish him. He believes he deserves any punishment coming to him. But even so, later in the episode, when he’s cowering in his office as everyone else is silent (except for Judith), I couldn’t help but think he might suddenly speak up and say, “They’re in here! Spare me, spare me!” Thank goodness he didn’t.

There’s a lot to say about this episode, but I’ll turn it over to you for your thoughts on it, Josh. But not before saying I’m SO hoping that among the deleted scenes for this episode is Rick and the gang leaving for the school, with Rick turning around as he leaves saying, “Stay in God’s House, Coral!!”

Josh: There was another telling quote featured in tonight's episode, but it wasn't a Bible verse. They were the words of Pope John Paul II, highlighted on a plaque in Father Gabriel's office: “Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn't misuse it.” I wasn't familiar with the phrase before now, but I believe it's an apt observation. There are times in our lives when poor decisions can teach us more than all the success in the world, but if we fail to take those lessons to heart, our negligence can cost us dearly.

Gareth allowed his self-righteousness to give him false confidence. He believed that Rick's initial escape from him must have been some kind of fluke, based solely on the notion that he thought he had it all figured out, believed his sick philosophy was irrefutable. Even at the last, he was still trying to convince Rick that he didn't really want to kill them, looking for escape even in the circumstances of their ambush.

But this is not the same Rick who might once have been swayed by such words. He's taken all the lessons to heart, and they've darkened and hardened it, and he is a man made new. Back during the premiere, when he told the rest of the group that, “they don't get to live,” he wasn't being vengeful – he was being sensible, at least in his own estimation. He wanted certainty, and the only way to get that was to finish the job, all the way to the bitter end.

The way that the ambush and subsequent executions were staged and shot would seem to indicate that there were those in the group who still had a problem with how it all went down. Out of the nonparticipants, however (being Glenn, Maggie, Tyreese and Tara), only Tyreese looks as though he truly takes umbrage with the brand of frontier justice that Rick has adopted. Glenn simply doesn't appear to have the stomach for it, and Tara may have seen more of the Governor in Rick's actions than she would have liked, but I think they both understand, like it or not. Maggie continues to grow more pragmatic as time goes on, and after everything she's been through, no one could blame her for it. The shots we saw of her looking at a Bible and then returning it to the shelf unopened were a perfect overture to her exchange with Father Gabriel from which the episode took its title. God may have been here once, but He's gone now. We're forsaken.

The place Tyreese is coming from, however, is all about the morality of it. What he went through after Karen's death, culminating in his forgiveness of Carol after her confession, has served to convince him that the virtues of the past should still hold true, regardless of the way the world's changed. It's why he didn't kill the kid that put his hands around Judith's neck, and it's why he worked so hard to talk Sasha out of participating in the assault this week. He still believes in grace, and I think he may be the only one. I wonder what that will mean for him, and them all, down the road.

Nikki: So well put. What The Walking Dead has always done best is be an examination of humanity — what is it? Who gets to determine what is humane and what isn’t? And when the very notion of “human being” changes, does the definition of “humanity” change also? The problem is, no one can agree on those definitions within our society, much less in an apocalyptic one. Is euthanasia humane? Some would say absolutely, others a defiant NO. Is the death penalty humane? On the one hand, you’re ridding society of someone who could cause it more damage; on the other, you’re falling back on an ‘eye for an eye’ credo. What about abortion? Is the Republican Party humane? Are Democrats? Is it humane to live in a society where the 1% has the same amount of money as the other 99? On the flip side, is it humane to create nighttime fake news shows that do nothing but poke fun at people?

What is “humane”? (Before I conjure up internet hysteria, all of the questions above are merely rhetorical, designed to make a point and not suggest I have beliefs on one side or the other; those who know me already know my answers to most of those questions.)

At its core, we all have some sort of definition of it. Whether it’s doing something for the greater good, or helping the less fortunate, or living life in a way that would never hurt another person, we all strive for some sort of humanity. Even the worst dictators in history actually thought they were doing something for the greater good, no matter how fundamentally fucked up their ideas and actions look to the rest of us.

So what happens in a universe where your brother is the guy you grew up with, played with, laughed and cried with, loved, and then one day turns into a mindless walker who will kill you? Is it humane to stab them in the head and put them out of their misery? Is it humane to put him in a barn to try to wait it out until a possible cure comes along? If one escapes from a dangerous group of cannibals who obviously lost their way, is it humane to leave them behind, knowing they’ll attack and eat others? Or do you go in and slaughter them, thereby saving future groups of people from being found by them?

And what do you do when those cannibals leave their compound after you showed them “mercy,” hunt you down, and show up armed and ready to massacre the whole lot of you, as long as they don’t get too many bullets in you (wouldn’t want to destroy the “meat”). And then you turn the tables with a surprise attack, and they fall to their knees and beg for mercy? Do you try to help them? Do you assume they’re beyond help and destroy the whole lot of them? They surrendered, so you could imprison them, but what good would that do to anyone? You can’t rehabilitate them; they probably don’t want to be rehabilitated. Rick and Co. don’t have the resources or the ability to do anything like that. And besides, they have to keep on moving. Do you put Eugene ahead of everything and just dismiss anything that gets in the way of that mission?

I thought that scene was so beautifully done, for all the reasons you describe, Josh. For the looks on everyone’s faces, the anguish as they all try to come to terms with the new reality. Rick gunned them down. They were a threat, they hadn’t just killed one of theirs, they’d eaten part of him. They were threatening the whole group of them moments before. They dealt in fear, and, let’s be honest, weren’t smart enough to actually check over a person’s body before eating it. That alone deserved a bullet in the brain.

What seems humane to us doesn’t necessarily work in this new world. Someone asked a couple of weeks ago in the comments, if they begin to do things for pragmatic reasons, do they lose all humanity? My response would be no. There has to be a new definition of humanity. And I think it’ll take time, and some people — good people, I have to stress — will take a longer time than others to come around. As you say, Tyreese has taken longer than others to come to terms with what is needed. As you say, he couldn’t kill Lizzie, and Carol had to do it. More tellingly this week we find out he didn’t kill Martin, as you predicted, Josh. When Gareth comes into the church he starts calling out names, and he includes Tyreese, Judith, and Carol, even though the former weren’t at Terminus at all; they were back in the little cabin. Then we see Martin (we might have seen him last week but I didn’t recognize him until he was inside the church) and it’s clear: Tyreese probably knocked him out cold (hence the shiner) and left him behind, telling everyone he’d killed him. Instead he led Martin back to Terminus, he probably gave them information on the entire gang and some extra names Gareth was missing, and it hurt all of them.

Carol’s actions at the prison hurt Tyreese, but probably saved everyone else. Tyreese’s actions saved Martin but put everyone else in harm’s way. It’s time for new definitions.

At the end of this episode, the gang is split up AGAIN (ugh) and then Daryl emerges from the trees and calls to someone over his shoulder, whom we don’t see (cue screams of frustration echoing over the east coast at 10pm on Sunday night). But the preview to next week’s episode suggests we’re going to go back in time to see what happened to Beth, and so they couldn’t reveal if she is or isn’t with Daryl. I can’t WAIT for next week.

Any last thoughts on this week’s episode, Josh? What did you think of Abraham wanting to leave the church in the middle of the night?

Josh: Abraham feels – quite literally – like the fate of the world is resting on his shoulders. He believes in Eugene, in a very Morpheus-&-Neo sort of way, believes the knowledge he possesses could be the difference between living like this forever and making real progress toward something better. He also knows that without help, Eugene would be doomed long before he got anywhere close to Washington. We don't know much about Abraham's background yet, but whatever happened to him before he found Eugene seems to have filled him with an unwavering drive to make a difference, and he sees Eugene as the ultimate opportunity.

Abraham and Rick don't know each other very well, but you can tell they already share a mutual respect. When he penned that note on the D.C. Route map apologizing for being an asshole and stating 'THE NEW WORLD'S GONNA NEED RICK GRIMES,' that isn't posturing; he means it. But Rick's top priority is keeping his family together and keeping them safe. Abraham has much bigger plans, and while he might like to include these capable soldiers in his unit, he isn't afraid to strike out on his own if he feels that they're holding him back. His urgency seems undue because, really, the world has ended, and one would think they have nothing but time. But in Abraham's mind, every moment that passes, and every conflict they face, is another chance for something to go wrong, another opportunity for he or Eugene to wind up dead, and then all hope is lost.

Hope is a huge component of Abraham's motivation, all wrapped up in there with pain and guilt and anger and fear and desperation and whatever else you can imagine, and it's driving him, fueling his progress like an engine. That's a powerful thing indeed. Glenn and Maggie are in good hands, I think, and I'm thrilled to see what happens should anything be fool enough to block their path.

It does, however, split up the group yet again. Sometimes it feels like they do this not only to mix things up with multiple concurrent story lines but also to continually grant new opportunities for warm reunions. It may be somewhat manipulative, but I'm okay with that, particularly if it means the next big one we see is between Beth and Maggie. C'mon, TWD – don't let us down.

Bits & Bobs:

• Father Gabriel's confession really was played so well, wasn't it? Sure, it's the obvious answer, but it also works. Cowardice is a grounded, relatable fault – not flashy, but unquestionably human.

• If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, hone it to a gleaming edge and lop off all the heads. Please, ma'am.

• Bear's music is phenomenal so far this season. The emotional beats are killing me, but the action stuff is as good as it's ever been, too. The moment when they're all waiting in Father Gabriel's office for the Hunters to arrive, and Carl is tapping a finger on the butt of his holstered gun, and the music is echoing that same tap-tap-tap? So good.

• I'm pretty sure Bob Stookey got the best send-off of any character in the history of the show. While I'll miss Lawrence Gilliard week to week, he sure was amazing here; everything about his performance elevated this episode.

• “I knew if I told you, it'd become all about the end. And I really liked the middle.” Kind of broke me.

• But that cliffhanger? Uncool, man. No fair.

Next week, Daryl's got some splainin' to do.


Efthymia said...

Have I ever told you how much I love Glenn? Because I really really do. -Man, I'm in for soul-crushing sadness this season, I just know it!
But yeah, even though they kind of did give Rick the right to believe he decides for everyone, I'm glad someone actually told him they can decide things for themselves (and of course that someone was Glenn, because he's AWESOME! OK, fangirling over.).

I don't think the shocked faces of Glenn, Maggie, Tara and Tyrese had to do with the killing of the cannibals, but with the brutality of the killings. There definitely was some unnecessary violence there (however understandable in Sasha's case). And especially when it comes to Tyrese, considering what kind of person he is, it must have pained him a lot to see his sister like that.
Regarding Tyrese, while I really like him (he's easily become one of my favourite characters), I'm not with him on the forgiveness/no-killing-humans thing. People like the Termites and the Claimers and the Governor (and Shane!) are a worse affliction to(of?) the world than the Walkers -Walkers can't help themselves, they don't consciously decide to treat other people badly. For the -yes- greater good of humankind, in a world with no reformatories, people like these have to go (I still wish the cannibals had gone from zombie diarrhea, though).

One person I AM with is Abraham. There is a guy who knows (or at least claims to know) the cure and needs to go to Washington, and every day things get more dangerous, so of course the number one priority should be getting that guy to friggin' Washington. I totally understand the frustration Abraham must be feeling -"There is a chance for a cure, and you stupid people prefer to wander aimlessly and kill walkers and people and leave without telling anyone! UGH!"

I think the person with Daryl is Beth, and something horrible happened to her after she was taken and she's incredibly traumatised and afraid of her own shadow, and that's why she's hiding and Daryl has to let her know that she can come out. I'm pretty sure it's not Carol, because I think that they would have shown her after Michonne asked "Where's Carol?" if it was her. But I don't think Carol is dead. Maybe she still wanted to leave and be on her own, and she convinced Daryl it was the best thing for her to do. Maybe she decided to take Beth's place at wherever she was, because of reasons.
(Something completely unrelated to this specific episode, but Daryl-related, and absolutely ridiculous: A friend and I were talking about the whole Daryl-Carol-Beth shipping thing -I ship him with neither, by the way- and this is what happened:
Friend: I read he might be gay.
Me: Yeah, I've read that, too; I couldn't care less.
Friend: No, it's just, if he's gay then I definitely don't gave a chance with him.
Me: Umm... You already could never have a chance with him, since he's a fictional character.
Friend: I know, but...
Me: Hey, Norman Reedus, however, is definitely heterosexual, and he's an actual person.
Friend: Yeah, but he's old.
Me: ...................)

Last but most definitely not least: the Katana Returns!
I guess a lot of people imaginarily signed our imaginary petition. Squeeee!

Blam said...

♫ Efthymia li-ikes Gle-ennn! ♪

I'd have "wasted" the bullets. Not because it's "the Lord's house," as Gabriel protested, but exactly because, as Maggie said, it's "four walls and a roof". Why brutally spill guts, blood, and skull all over a nice little sanctuary (in the non-religious sense) that'll be hard to clean up?

Of course the issue was pretty clearly less using up precious ammo than venting some serious rage. And while I can't say the rage isn't earned, my point stands just as a practical matter — never mind what the brutal vengeance means from a human perspective.

I'm disappointed that the group will be splitting up again even if it makes some sense from a plot perspective.

Over on his shared blog Teebore commented on how the show's depiction of a knife through the skull makes it look awfully easy. And I agree; regardless of the squishy sound effects, it tends to look like a hot knife to butter going in, then coming out with no resistance as well. Shades of how all Buffy's normal human pals got way too good at staking vampires through the sternum in one quick motion.

That being said, I have to mention that one place this show still gets me is the moment when people — people we know, especially — are about to turn. Most of the viscera and suspense are right on the level of just sick or scary enough to handle; I know that it's all make-believe, yeah, but I'm swept up enough in the show that it works. When Tyreese was standing there waiting to brain-stab Bob (well, the Body Formerly Known as Bob), however, I wasn't just on edge wondering if Tyrese wouldn't be able to do it and might suffer some consequences... I didn't want to see Bob turn at all, not even for just one eyes-glazed-over, death-rattle moment. Which is a testament to the actors, the writers, and viewers' own humanity, bringing home again how much of a tragedy it is for the world to have succumbed to this disease.

I don't see how the person whom Daryl told to "come on out" of the woods is Beth or Carol, unless his enigmatic, nameless summons is a completely artificially suspenseful moment on the order of referring to John Locke as Jeremy Bentham until we know who he is then never mind.

yourblindspot said...

Blam: "I don't see how the person whom Daryl told to "come on out" of the woods is Beth or Carol..."

With you 100% on this. Daryl looked pretty sheepish to me, and the vibe I got from the situation was much more of the holding-your-pookie-hostage-while-you-lead-me-back-to-your-people variety than anything else. And that's bound to drive him totally crazy, being forced to give up information he'd ordinarily die for because he's allowed himself to be emotionally leveraged, maybe for the first time in his life. I can't wait to hear the whole story.