The Walking Dead, S 5, Ep. 9: What Happened and What’s Going On



I have been wondering for the last two days, just what in the hell I was going to say about this episode. It’s complex. It’s arty. It’s visceral. It’s the episode that will end up getting discussed in a film class. Welcome to the biggest acid trip The Walking Dead has given us thus far. And, GODDAMN IT. You had to go and kill Tyreese, didn’t you? He was a good guy, maybe too good. I think even Chad Coleman, the actor who played Tyreese, described his character as the moral center of the group, which he should know is always the death knell for anyone on the show but GODDAMN IT. I generally liked Tyreese.

A note, if anyone is reading this blog for the first time. This particular blog assumes you regularly follow The Walking Dead and are familiar with past characters and plot lines. If this is your first time reading…stop, read everything else I’ve ever written about The Walking Dead, and come back here when you’re ready.

This episode is largely cerebral…in more ways than one, ha ha. Much of the last half of this episode involved the goings-on in Tyreese’s hallucinatory, fevered brain as he makes the journey to the Great Beyond, but on the grander scheme, his internal hallucinations reflect the more general question of what it takes to be considered a citizen of the world.

Visited by the recent dead–on the positive, welcoming side by Lizzy, Mika, Beth and Bob, and on the negative, shit-to-work-out-before-I-die side by The Governor and Martin, a Terminian who Tyreese almost killed once, but didn’t (and who died when Sasha savaged him in the neck with a knife)–Tyreese tries to come to an understanding of the worlds he once lived in, and lives in now. And they’re curiously similar. Reminding us–over and over again–that humans are perfectly capable of being monsters, Tyreese re-audio-hallucinates a BBC radio broadcast reporting on a war-torn nation that has suffered vast brutality; to me, it sounded like reports from the genocide in Rwanda. The radio reporter (voiced by Andrew Lincoln, speaking in his normal, British, non-Rick-Grimes-accent) talked about people being done in with machetes, or set on fire, all of which are things Tyreese has witnessed in the post-apocalyptic world. And the point is, if it wasn’t an actual BBC report…it could have been.

It's better now, they keep on promising.  Image from

It’s better now, they keep on promising.
Image from

What does it mean to belong to the world? Tyreese has a dying-dream conversation with Martin, who was ready to kill Baby Judith, and from whom Tyreese rescued her. Maybe if Tyreese has killed him at that point then he couldn’t have told Gareth where Rick Nation was, and maybe Bob would be alive, maybe it would all be different. Instead, Tyreese holds the image of that baby up as the pinnacle of good that he’d accomplished in the world. Judith is alive, and it is, entirely, all because of Tyreese. When The Governor showed up he started yelling about how Tyreese couldn’t “pay the bill”. He couldn’t be cold, couldn’t be ruthless. Couldn’t be the killer The Governor wanted him to be. Couldn’t kill Carol, who killed the woman Tyreese loved, a woman who was sick with a superflu and was about to infect and/or kill almost everyone around her. But the person who operates from the Governor’s perspective as their personal base is someone who belongs only to himself, only to the notion that the self is paramount and that the idea of a collective “Greater Good” is whatever a single individual decides is right and good, even if it’s morally reprehensible.

The gang's all here. Does the afterlife really have to involved folk singing? Image from

The gang’s all here. Does the afterlife really have to involve folk singing?
Image from

The Governor, if you remember Merle‘s and Andrea‘s deaths, proved that he was perfectly willing to let someone slowly die so they would turn into the undead. He bit Merle’s fingers off, he murdered Hershel in cold blood, to make a point. Rick is right on par with The Governor, having ripped Claimed Joe’s throat out with his teeth. Rick is the guy who strategically left another member of the “Claimed” group dead and ready to turn, so said dead guy would attack and distract his own gang members, and in this, most current episode, admitted to Glenn that he knew Dawn didn’t mean to kill Beth but didn’t care, he just wanted to shoot her anyway. Without Beth and now without Tyreese, Rick Nation has become an army of assassins, with little to keep them anchored to a humanity that is anything other than carnal.

Michonne, I think, is getting close to being the new voice of humanity, as she is about three steps away from losing her mind. They’ve been out on the road too long, she says, and they need a place to stay. To root. To come back together as a community with a common goal (other than, simply, survival). To build something, and grow plants, and hopefully figure out how to have a sheltered rest.

Tyreese is a great example of Rick’s warning to Carl earlier in the season to never let one’s guard down. For just a few moments, Tyreese was pulled out of the present, lost in a picture of Noah‘s younger twin brothers and what the previously “normal” world was like. Going for pizza. Sitting at a ball game. Hanging out at the playground. Contemplating the loss and promise of the lives of these two young boys, one of whom was dead in the bed next to him, with large chunks taken out of him. Then the other brother came in quietly from behind and took a bite out of Tyreese’s arm. Game over for our favorite moral compass.

Yup, that's about right.  Image from

Yup, that’s about right.
Image from

And speaking of “carnal”, let’s talk about what happened at Shirewilt, the gated community where Noah used to live. Somebody came at this community, hard. They busted in through a cement wall like they were an army of evil Kool-Aid mascots. They burned and looted and bashed in heads, and it was probably just for the joy of killing. Rick took some time to point out the strategic flaws of Shirewilt as a homestand; I mean, it looked secured, with a big old wall and locking gates. But it wasn’t. If Rick understands the flaws in it as a stronghold you can assume that anyone else with a reasonably sound sense of defensive strategy would see the same flaws. So, the people who busted in to Shirewilt weren’t there to take it over, they just hearkened to the call of bloodlust. And then…they cut walkers in half, chopped off their arms, carved “W”s into their heads and loaded them into the back of a pickup? For…?

And you know they did the head carving while the person was still alive. Just for added evil. Image from

And you know they did the head carving while the person was still alive. Just for added evil.
Image from

I would imagine that would make one hell of a decoration around a fortress. Kind of like putting your enemies’ heads on spikes after you chop them off. Is this a way for some group to mark their turf? Since we got a nice, close look at the walker with the W in its head, you can rest assured we’ll see them again some time soon. And–seriously–it seems like any time you have someone willing to manipulate the bodies of the undead, it’s shorthand for “we are dealing with a crazy person”. Think of The Governor and his wall of heads. Michonne was close to crazy–was certainly dangerous–when we first met her with her undead entourage chained to her side, but then again, she’s come to realize that when she does that she’s in a dark, dark place.

Wolves not far, the graffiti said.

So...THAT's ominous.

So…THAT’s ominous. Image from

Never let  your guard down, not even for a second. Duly noted.

Image credits:

Dead End

Lizzie and Mika

The Gang’s All Here

Head carving

Wolves Not Far

The Walking Dead: Geez, Andrea, WTF?

Meet Andrea.

Hi, Andrea!

Hi, Andrea!

Andrea is a survivor of a global zombie apocalypse.  The apocalypse has annihilated the very fabric of civilization.  Survivors cling tightly to one another as they fight off the mindless, voracious hordes of flesh-eating ghouls, forming fiercely protective clan groups.  Most clans develop a social hierarchy with an easily-identifiable leader and clearly-defined roles for the other members of the group.  Trust is paramount in maintaining the integrity of the clan and ensuring its best chance for survival.  This allows not only for the group to perform efficiently but also establishes a civilizing influence in a world gone mad.

Currently, Andrea is at a crossroads.  She just reunited with the original group–we’ll call it the Grimes clan, after Rick Grimes, the de facto leader–she belonged to at the start of the zombie apocalypse, from whom she was separated when an enormous herd of the undead overran the group’s former sanctuary/farmhouse.  Recently she’s been living in Woodbury, a fortified enclave of human survivors run by the self-appointed “Governor”.  Andrea constantly clashes with the Governor because of the sociopathic ruthlessness he displays by his appalling lack of humanity.  She has said she feels the people of Woodbury “need” her, partly to shield them against the Governor.  Yet she sleeps with on a regular basis.

Andrea is making her way back to Woodbury after meeting with Grimes, from whom she learned a number of disturbing facts regarding the Governor and his recent attacks on her old friends.  Instead of driving straight back to the Governor, let’s all take a moment to consider Andrea’s options.

Back to the prison compound!

Back to the prison compound!

1) She could turn the car around and head back to the Grimes clan, currently holed up within a prison.  While a prison might not be the ideal place to call home, it does house the people she’s always been able to trust and who only lost track of her because of an extraordinarily set of terrifying circumstances.  Though Rick may have snapped a bit of his tether to the real world, his main concern right now–as it has always been–is keeping his people safe.  In the process of re-integrating into Grimes, she could work to re-forge the bonds of friendship she’d established during the early, frightful days and weeks of the zombie apocalypse, before fields of swarming undead became the new normal.  And she could start to repair her relationship with Michonne, the woman who saved her life from zombies, took care of her when she was sick, saved the lives of Maggie and Glenn when they were being held prisoner by the Governor, and whose friendship Andrea tossed by the wayside in favor of the Governor.  Downsides: Merle is at the prison, and he is a dick.  Andrea would have to start over, as the low man on the hierarchical totem pole.  The Governor has more guns and people.  And Rick is a little…you know.  Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

Perhaps the great unknown.  Does adventure await?

Perhaps the great unknown. Does adventure await?

2)  She could turn the car around and head past the prison and on to points as yet unknown.  She has a car, her gun, and some semblance of wits.  At one point, she was  enough of a bad-ass to shoot her own sister after that sister was infected by a zombie bite and turned into a monster.  Admittedly the road is full of dangerous unknowns, but so is the world she’s used to.  Rick doesn’t always live up to the concept of “stable” and the Governor is a power-hungry, murderous narcissist.  Neither of these factors contributes to a desire to prolong one’s loyalty, and she could theoretically have days of travel under her belt before anyone actually gave a shit that she was missing.  Downsides: traveling on one’s own can be nerve-wracking in the best of times.  She lacks the knowledge about road conditions (clear? Or full of abandoned vehicles?) and supplies.  She only has one clip in her gun.  And there is no guarantee that any other group she encounters will offer more safety than the ones she is currently dealing with.

Maybe it's time for Andrea to have some "me" time.

Maybe it’s time for Andrea to have some “me” time.

3) There is an abandoned town somewhere between the prison where the Grimes clan is holed up and Woodbury.  Glenn and Maggie had gone there for supplies and subsequently were captured by Merle, who at that point was one of the Governor’s soldiers.  Andrea could make her way to that abandoned town, break into the library, loot a copy of Codependent No More and not. Move. A. Muscle. until she determines why she has a thing for power-hungry, murderous narcissists.  Remember, she also had a fling with Shane, who was on the express bus to Crazyville.  Shane killed Otis and tried to kill Rick, but only after he tried to steal both Rick’s authority and his family out from under him.  Because seriously, it’s like the writers cracked open a textbook, found a definition for codependency, and wrote her character around that.  This may be a golden opportunity for Andrea to get to know herself a little better, work on her inner selfness, and break the pattern of destructiveness that has plagued her since we first met her in the series premiere.  The town is fairly clear and she is familiar with the surrounding area.  Downsides: she will be on her own, and may have to come to grips with some painful aspects of her personality.

Or: back to Woodbury?

Or: back to Woodbury?

4) She could get in the car Rick has given her and drive back to Woodbury and the Governor.  It is walled and relatively safe, with food and water.  We can all understand that Andrea’s romantic involvement with the Governor may skew her initial perceptions, and that mayhem has been raining down fast and hard in Woodbury and gets in the way of level-headed thinking.  However.  Girlfriend needs to take some time to assimilate all of her information about the Governor.  Downsides?  You got ’em:

  • He kept zombie and human heads in jars as trophies of his kills.
  • He kept his zombie daughter locked in a cubby hole and would take her out to cuddle her when he had a sad.
  • He concealed the presence of Glenn and Maggie from Andrea, and would have had them executed if Rick didn’t show up in time.  He then lied to Andrea about his motives for concealing them.
  • He sent Merle to kill Michonne.  Michonne lived.
  • He captures zombies for fun and experimentation.
  • He forced Merle and his brother Daryl to fight in the human equivalent of a bear pit, to appease a crowd he whipped into a bloodthirsty frenzy.
  • He initiated an assault on the prison the Grimes clan lives in and destroyed their outer defenses by having one of his minions drive a bread van through the exterior fencing and open the back of the truck, which was loaded with zombies.  So, not only are zombies now able to make their way in past the exterior fence, they seeded the yard with zombies of their own.  Furthermore, he lied to Andrea about who started what, and said Rick attacked them.
  • He expects all of his people–including the untrained, the young, the physically infirm–to behave as soldiers.  And his word is law.
  • Andrea has caught him lying and found out about nearly everything he’s done, including seeing his wall of jarred creepy zombie head trophies.

“I just want to make sure no one else gets killed,” Andrea said to Carol, a member of the Grimes clan.  Carol said, “You can end this,” and told her she could go back to Woodbury like Mata Hari, give the Governor the night of his life and dispatch him in his sleep.

In the end, out of all her possible options, Andrea did decide to return to Woodbury.  She did bump uglies with the Governor.  And then, in the middle of the night, she got up, got her knife, looked at him sleeping so peacefully (like an angel!) and got all soft and doughy.  Then she put the knife away and went back to bed.

Seriously, Andrea, WTF?  What else does the Governor have to do to finally prove he’s a goddamned nightmare?  Zombie rape?  Puppy kicking?  Wearing white shoes after Labor Day?

Photo from

Photo from

Since Andrea has become the poster child for impaired decision-making, I’m proposing a line of Andrea-based paraphernalia, starting with the What Would Andrea Do? bracelet.

What Would Andrea Do?

What Would Andrea Do?

So when you’re trying to figure out if that new boyfriend or girlfriend is right for you…or you come across some information about your current relationship that gives you pause…or you’ve got friends who are fighting and you keep finding yourself in the middle of it…take a long, hard look at your What Would Andrea Do? bracelet.  Consider her actions, based on codependency and misguided arrogance.  And then?  Do exactly the opposite.

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