Explaining ‘The Walking Dead’ to a Zombie: ‘Strangers’

WD

Gettin’ the gang back together. (AMC)

Scene: My living room, Sunday night. This guy Ed has been crashing on my couch for a week now. The smell is pretty overwhelming, and he doesn’t seem to move very much. But now he’s super excited to watch the next episode of The Walking Dead with me. 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, can you just watch the previouslies? You were sitting right here. You know, where you always sit? It wouldn’t re-kill you to, like, shamble out of the house every once in a while, you know.

Ed: Grrr. Argh?

Me: Yeah, yeah. So the smoke in the distance is from Terminus. Which Carol Peletier, Special Forces, blew up with a bottle rocket last week and helped everyone else break out.

Ed: Grrr. Argh?

Me: Tara is looking at Maggie and Glenn kissing all guilty-like because she was part of the Governor’s attacking force when the Gov beheaded Maggie’s dad. Glenn knows, but Tara is pretty sure Maggie doesn’t. But Rick, who can have decent leadership skills when he’s not moping or hallucinating or freaking out, sees and reassures Tara that he knows she was never really on the Governor’s side, and that she’s now a part of their group.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Yeah, Tara is apparently supposed to be really young, and super-dorky. Hence the awkwardly intergenerational fist-bump.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: They took Michonne’s sword back at Terminus, and she never had a chance to get it back. Carol apparently had time to grab Rick’s watch and Daryl’s bow, but not Michonne’s sword. Or maybe it wasn’t in the same room. Don’t worry, she’s still badass as ever, only now she has an assault rifle instead.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: The other watch was originally Carol’s husband’s, and Carol gave it to Rick after his disappeared with now-dead bleached blond Sam. The fact that she won’t take it back is a sign of Carol finally, truly moving on. She just took out an entire compound—she’s clearly an entirely different person now from that meek abused wife we met in season one.

Ed: Grrr. Argh.

Me: I totally agree. This scene is so, so well-written. The episode has some clunky writing, but this is fantastic: Rick asking for Carol’s forgiveness for sending her away by requesting permission to join her group, instead of the other way around. And notice that he doesn’t necessarily forgive her for killing those people back at the prison. He just recognizes that she had her reasons.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: That’s Seth Gilliam. He played Sargeant Carver on The Wire.

Ed: Grrr. Argh.

Me: Yeah, that is a lot of Wire alumni in one place. Guess the casting directors just really liked that show? Or maybe they didn’t really know any black actors and were like, “hey, you know what show had a lot of good black actors on it? The Wire. We should totally use some of them.”

Ed: Grrr. Argh?

Me: Yep, he’s a priest alright. Or at least wearing a priest’s collar. It’s about time, considering how this episode began. I mean, this is a super-churchy episode, and on one level here we’re dealing with themes of confession and forgiveness. But that’s only way that we deal with the past. Each of the conversations that start the episode has suggested different methods of approaching history: Rewriting it, as Rick does for Tara. Or acceptance, as Tyreese is determined that everyone approach Carol’s prison murders. But as for the deaths of Mika and Lizzie, he just wants to forget them—and Carol can’t talk to Daryl about any of it. Confessing your sins, that’s really only one model.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Of course they don’t trust him. How could you trust someone who claims to have survived this long—it’s been about a year and a half since the apocalypse—without committing violence of any kind? More than untrustworthy, though, they just find him dissonant. They can’t wrap their heads around him: they’ve all become totally different people in this new world, while he seems to have stayed the same exact man. And of all the models of dealing with the past, they just don’t think that one is possible.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: I have no idea. Carl used to be this angry kid who shot at whatever moved, and now he’s this super-sensitive guy who thinks they should blindly trust strangers? Doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense, particularly since the last thing that happened to him was trusting a group of people who turned out to be cannibals. And this “you are not safe” speech Rick gives him is totally redundant and stupid. It’s been 18 months of zombie apocalypse—the kid knows he’s not safe.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Well, Bob’s always been a smart guy. And being a former alcoholic gives him a special kind insight into the whole “the person you were in the past” thing. But this level of cheerful gnomic wisdom is a little out of left field. If I had to guess, I’d say it means Bob is about to die. They’re making us see him as a ray of sunshine right before they off him. He’s the obvious choice for next on the chopping block anyway. Way too many black characters/Wire stars for this show.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Well, like he says, the communion wine isn’t actually sacramental until it is blessed. And the church is Episcopalian, so I guess they don’t actually believe that communion is like drinking Jesus’s blood. But yeah, it is definitely interesting that they just escaped from cannibals, and now they’re eating and drinking under an arch that says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life.”

Ed: Grrr? Argh?

Me: Yeah, it certainly looks like Carol is running away. Earlier she was just looking at the door. Guess it’s not that easy to just “start over.” Even if everyone forgives her, she may never be able to look them in the eye.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: That’s the car that Beth was kidnapped in. So you better believe Daryl is going to go after it, especially now that he’s got a car engine already running. This episode puts that cross on the roof of the car in a whole new light, though, doesn’t it?

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Well, obviously Bob’s cheerful demeanor hides a deep internal sadness. Or something. Doesn’t really matter now, though, I guess.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Gareth is in full cartoon villain mode here. Unhinged cannibal psycho that he is, he still feels the need to explain himself and what he does. Which fits in with the whole confession theme of the episode in a neat, if totally fucked up and backwards, way.

Ed: Grrr, argh.

Me: Yep, this is another seriously gross scene. Knowing that someone is a cannibal and actually watching them eat a living person—those are two very different things. I think I’m going to go sob silently to myself now. Enjoy the couch. Explaining ‘The Walking Dead’ to a Zombie: ‘Strangers’