A BIG SPOILER, ACTUALLY, IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY WATCHED THE EPISODE (and/or read the graphic novel).
SO, YOU KNOW. SPOILERS. SPOILRRRRR. JUST CALL ME SPOILY McSPOILINGTON.
Here we are.
Episode five, season five jumps quickly to Abe in flashback, beating a man to death in a grocery store, with a lethal can of beans in his hands. The camera travels through the grocery store, which is littered with Abe-fueled death. We don’t know who these people are, or why Abe has snapped a tether. And we don’t really find out. We just know it has something to do with his family, and he has smote relentless death unto his fellow man.
And herein lies my MAAAAAJOR problem with this episode. It wasn’t the acting. I thought the acting was perfectly fine. Or the directing. I mean, the production values were generally as high as ever. But I thought the writing was sorely…sorely…lacking.
For those of you who don’t read the graphic novel and weren’t able to infer what was going on from Abe’s flashbacks, in the early days post-apocalypse, Abe and his wife and family had joined up with a group of survivors, all neighbors, all people he’d known for years and had barbeques and watched football with on Sunday afternoons. People you know and trust, right? So. He was out on a supply run and when he came back, discovered that his wife and daughter had been raped by his friends and neighbors. Boom. He snapped, and went all Skullcrusher. His relentless violence freaked his family out so much that they fled from him, figuring they’d take their chances in the great wide world. Which, of course, was a terrible decision, and led to them getting eaten by zombies.
Since I don’t read the graphic novel I’m sure you’re wondering, how do I know this?
They explained it all on The Talking Dead. Which I watch all the time and enjoy very much indeed, but–let’s face it–it shouldn’t be up to host and stand up comic Chris Hardwick to deliver relevant plot points from the TV show unto the viewers. Not that I don’t like Chris Hardwick; I do. He’s funny. He’s smart. And I’m not saying I needed to see a rape scene to make it clear to me what happened. But it shouldn’t have been Chris Hardwick’s job to get me that information.
Anyway. Back to the show.
Aside from Abe’s backstory, the other significant plot point in this episode is that Eugene finally outs himself as a fraud (well, duh). Abe, obsessively single-minded in his purpose, launches himself into a vicious fight with Glenn over the next leg of their mission to get Eugene to DC so he could stop this whole apocalypse thing.
Eugene has been trying to cockblock the mission to DC for a while. Remember when he shot their old truck and rendered it unusable? Or when he convinced Abe and Rosita that they should help Glenn find Maggie? Or when he tried to get the group to stay with Rick Nation in the church? In this episode, he told Tara that he put glass in the fuel line of the bus they were in, so it wouldn’t run. Eventually, it seems a conscience has worked its way into Eugene’s mental mechanism and at last he’s done with the fighting and the lying and trying to figure out more ways to derail their DC jaunt. When Abe and Glenn get ready to come to blows (and seriously, they’re about to go at it, hammer and tongs) over the direction the DC crew should take, Eugene finally (FINALLY) yells, “I’m not a scientist! I’m not a scientist! I lied…I don’t know how to stop it…”
*cue the sound of a needle scratching across a record*
So. All the emotional investment Abe had put into Eugene was for naught, and the mission to get Eugene to DC–the only thing that propelled Abe forward–was pointless. Subsequently, Abe was pointless. And as a result, Abe saw it fitting to nearly beat Eugene to death, so much so that Rosita actually stepped between Abe and Eugene, hand on her pistol, ready to shoot if Abe made one more move toward him.
Even Rosita–who I don’t think has said more than a few words in any given episode, before this–now has a sense depth and a personal moral code. But as far as Abe goes, writers, you let me down. Abe remains one-dimensional. He’s a military guy and he’s been written as that thick-necked military guy who’s only got one move, which is HULKSMASH.
If they’d explained more successfully why Abe flipped a switch in the grocery store, or made him less likely to want to beat up Glenn or practically kill Eugene, then you know. OK. We all have bad days, but are complicated creatures underneath. I mean, even the Hulk suffered melancholic internal struggles.
Maybe some of the flashback was supposed to cover Abe’s emotional turmoil but again…it didn’t translate as well as I would have liked.
So. What’s going to happen now?
I would imagine Glenn and Maggie will turn around to try and rejoin Rick Nation. Why hang out with the dangerous, meathook-wielding borderline psychopath when hanging out with the cooler, more calculating, machete-wielding Ricktator is an option?
I’m pretty sure Eugene wasn’t beaten to death (largely because on The Talking Dead, Josh McDermitt–the actor who plays Eugene–was still in his Eugene hair, while in real life he’s non-mulleted and sports a kind of sandy blond hipster ‘do, and they’re in the middle of filming the second half of Season 5 now), though he certainly had his clock cleaned. I think Abe, Rosita & Eugene will also head back to Rick Nation, since what the hell else are they going to do? Abe is a man who needs direction and now doesn’t have any, and if I were the rest of his group I’d want to get away from Captain Unstable and his Flying Fists of Doom, ASAP.
As for Abe, he needs to think long and hard about what he’s about as a person and just how much he owes Eugene, whose calls for help–as we saw at the end of the episode–prevented Abe from eating a bullet. Eugene saved Abe’s life.
Particularly in the zombie apocalypse, it seems, no good deeds go unpunished.