Explaining ‘The Walking Dead’ to a Zombie: Season 5 Premiere

A zombie recap of The Walking Dead. (AMC)

A zombie recap of The Walking Dead. (AMC)

Scene: My living room, Sunday night. I’ve just got a huge new TV and want to show it off to my friends, so I invite them all to come over and watch the season premiere of The Walking Dead. But only Ed shows up. Which blows, because Ed never really pays attention, so I have to spend the whole time explaining shit to him. Also, he’s a zombie.

Ed: Grrr. Argh?

Me: Seriously? The whole thing with Terminus? They literally just did a “previously on The Walking Dead” all about it.

Ed: Grrr. Argh.

Me: Ugh. Fine. So, remember when the prison was attacked and they all got separated? Everyone started seeing signs for a place called Terminus, which said anyone could find sanctuary there. So they all made their way there separately. When they got there, they were attacked and herded into a shipping container. Now they’re all in there plotting their escape.

Ed: Grrrr, argh?

Me: Well, let’s see. In the shipping container we’ve got Rick and Carl, and Glenn and Maggie, and Daryl, and Michonne. Then from the prison there’s Bob, the former alcoholic guy played by D’Angelo from The Wire. And Sasha, the sister of Tyreese, who’s played by Cutty from The Wire.

Ed: Grrrr. Argh.

Me: Yeah, I know. Everyone loves The Wire.

Ed: Grrrr, argh?

Me: No, Sasha is in Terminus, not Tyreese. That was her just now in the dark, asking if anyone had seen her brother. Anyway, also inside there is Tara, the lesbian former cop who used to be on the Governor’s side. And Abraham, Eugene and Rosita, the trio that is trying to get to Washington to bring Eugene’s cure for the zombie apocalypse. That bring you up to speed?

Ed: Grrr, argh.

Me: That guy in the flashback at the very beginning, he’s the leader of Terminus, a guy named Gareth. And back then he was on the verge of making the decision to turn from a helpful community that put up signs to direct people to sanctuary into something much, much darker. I mean, look at this fucking room they just hauled them into. Those bins say “Feed” “Burn” and “Wash.” And they’re sawing off pieces of a dead body on that counter.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Yeah, you recognize that bleached-blond dude who just got his throat slit with a butcher knife, because you saw him last season. He is—was—named Sam. Carol and Rick saved him and his girlfriend from some walkers, and they made plans to meet back up, but then they saw the girlfriend becoming zombie-chow and figured Sam was toast too. That was right before Rick exiled Carol for killing Tyreese’s girlfriend.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Oh, you also recognize Sam because the actor, Robin Lord Taylor, minus the bleach job, is playing the Penguin on that show Gotham. He might be the best thing about the show. He’s definitely the scariest thing, unless you count Jada Pinkett Smith’s haircut.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: No, Bob doesn’t have any idea what the cure for zombie nation is. Nobody knows that but Eugene. But Bob would say anything to Gareth at this point to buy some time. Wouldn’t you, kneeling over a pig trough filling up with arterial blood?

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Carol and Tyreese are the only ones left who aren’t in Terminus. (Well, except for Beth, who was last seen being grabbed and stuffed into a car.) The two of them have been together for a while now, even though Carol killed Tyreese’s sick girlfriend. They really bonded over having to shoot an 11-year-old girl in the head. The baby is Rick’s daughter, Judith. Rick and Carl have no idea she’s alive.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: That guy is from Terminus, and he’s about to set off some fireworks. Remember just now, when the gunfire made the whole herd of walkers turn and walk toward Terminus? I guess each time a new group comes to the compound, if there’s a firefight, they send people out in every direction to set off fireworks to draw the walkers away from them. Looks like their system is like a well-oiled machine.

Ed: Grrr, argh.

Me: Right, except this particular dude is not so bright, so he’s blabbing away on his walkie-talkie about having Michonne and Carl captive. Which is enough to get him held hostage by Carol and Tyreese. And now they know the truth about Terminus. Well, some of the truth.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Yeah, for all his size, Tyreese is sort of a gentle giant. He’s the sensitive one who stays home with the kid, while Carol goes out and kicks some ass.

Ed: Grrr. Argh.

Me: The show does seem to be trading a bit on the trope of the huge black man with the tiny white baby, yeah. Race is sort of a murky topic on The Walking Dead. The leaders are all white, and for a long time the most significant African-American character barely spoke, remaining this enigmatic wisdom-warrior figure. And now we’ve got the former alcoholic teetering on the edge and the gentle giant who doesn’t want to give in to his violent impulses. I guess you could argue that every character on the show is an archetype, in a way, but it’s still a little troubling.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Oh, Carol has been getting more and more badass with every passing episode. She just does what she thinks needs to be done. But this here is definitely some next-level badassery. The show seems to be saying that eventually you start to become the thing you love. Carol loves Daryl, and now she’s turning into him, a poncho on her back, and eventually his bow slung over her shoulder. And now she’s got his cunning, and his bravery—and his aim. It’s enough skill and guts to bring down the whole huge compound, all on her own. I think Carol Peletier is my new hero.

Ed: Grrrr, argh?

Me: Yep, that’s what it looks like. Terminus turns out to be a big cannibal slaughterhouse. They’re luring people in and then eating them.

Ed: Grrrr, argh?

Me: I guess they’re just not self-sufficient enough without it—not enough canned goods in the surrounding towns?

Ed: Grrrr. Argh!

Me: Oh, you’re one to talk. Seriously.

Ed: Grrrr, argh.

Me: Yeah. It’s super gross. No wonder Rick, who is usually all “We only kill if we have to,” takes a much more “kill ’em all” approach for most of this episode.

Ed: Grrrr, argh?

Me: Carol recognizes that watch as the one that Rick gave to newly-throat-slit Sam right before he disappeared. It’s fitting that Carol is finding it now—she gave Rick her own watch to replace his, right before he kicked her out of the group. And now, on the cusp of reconciling with him by the sheer dint of her Rambo-level awesomeness, she finds his Jaeger Lecoultre. Incidentally, if you’re out of ideas for what to buy me for my birthday this year…

Ed: Grrrr, argh?

Me: Yeah, there is a lot of focus on watches on this show. You’ve got Rick’s, Carol’s, Herschel’s…Probably something to do with how our heroes continue to impose human order on a world that has become neither human nor orderly.

Ed: Grrrr, argh?

Me: That woman is named Mary—she’s another leader of Terminus, the one who originally invited Rick & co. in. She’s played by Denise Crosby, who was Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Ed: Grrrr, argh?

Me: Before opening the door and letting the walkers eat Mary, Carol says, “You’re not here”—because she’s not a person anymore. The implication is that, in becoming “what we had to become,” i.e. “the butcher” rather than “the cattle,” the Terminans made themselves the same as the walkers. So then, dressed in her walker costume, covered in her walker-blood camouflage, Carol says, “Neither am I.”

Ed: Grrrr, argh?

Me: Yes, this double family reunion is actually the sweetest, most touching thing that has happened in four seasons of The Walking Dead. I’m sure it won’t last.

Explaining ‘The Walking Dead’ to a Zombie: Season 5 Premiere