This week’s The Walking Dead is more set up for the finale than anything else. There were a few intense moments, and some interesting ideas thrown out, but for the most part, the penultimate episode “Crossed” sets the stage for the daring rescue that shall be in next week’s mid-season finale, “Coda.”
It was interesting to get back to the multi-narrative storytelling that has been absent for much of this season. We’ve spent quality time with individuals and small groups existing in parallel stories during the same timeline, and now they’re all brought back together, albeit in still separate stories.
Tyreese and Daryl Gang up on Rick
Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) breathless return to the church to rally the troops for a trip to rescue Beth and Carol sends him right back out again, with Noah (Tyler James Williams), Rick, Tyreese (Chad Coleman) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) in tow. There is something in Daryl’s demeanor, in the early scenes that seems off–unspoken. His mind is on rescuing the two women being held at Grady Memorial in Atlanta, but there is a certain overly subdued vibe I’m picking up off of Reedus’s subtle characterization of Daryl here. And that sense is reinforced by his surprising reaction to Rick’s guns-ablazing plan to storm Grady. Agreeing with Tyreese that it will be saner–and far less brutal–to capture a couple of cops to use as trade bait, than to attack the hospital, Daryl is choosing a path much different than we might expect of him. Why?
In a way, Daryl has become a quiet voice of reason, even as far back as the prison, but I think there’s something else going on with him at this point. I’m sure he feels responsible for both Beth’s position at the hospital and Carol’s dire condition. And maybe he believes that going in gangbusters would put them at even more risk.
Daryl wants both women returned in safety, and having two vulnerable targets during a battle at the hospital will likely get them both killed (especially the gravely injured Carol). Even when one of the Grady cops viciously attacks Daryl (in the episode’s coolest sequence!), Daryl talks Rick back from shooting the officer in the head, pleading that “three hostages are better than two.” Perhaps Daryl just doesn’t want any more killing (of humans, anyway) on his watch–unless it’s absolutely necessary. Is it the best way? Whether or not capturing hostages and arranging a trade will work or not, it’s something they’ve got to at least try, and Rick goes along with it. And it seems to be happening according to plan…until it doesn’t, and the grief-stricken Sasha stupidly trusts the third cop, allowing him to slip out of her sight–enough that he can easily attack her from behind and escape back to Grady in plenty of time to warn crazy Officer Dawn.
On the other hand, who can blame Sasha. Grieving for Bob, blaming herself for not being able to perform on him a mercy killing, she is wracked by sorrow and guilt, and when Officer…Bob…seems like a nice enough guy, she is very willing to mercy-kill his friend–as she had not been able to end her boyfriend’s life. Perhaps it will give her just a tiny bit of solace.
And Then There’s Dawn…
I’m not sure what to make of Dawn–except that she’s very unstable. And that makes her very, very dangerous. Is she, at heart, a good person trying to make the best of a terrible situation? Trying to keep control of a society that simply no longer exists? Is Grady some last stand against dehumanization? I think she thinks it is. But it’s her unpredictability that is the biggest threat. Why help Beth secure drugs for Carol? Are they the right drugs–or will the medicine cause her to convulse and die like that poor man in “Slabtown?” With Carol off life support, Beth really doesn’t have a choice but to trust The Powers That Be at Slabtown–crazy as they are?
What sort of horrors had they witnessed during the fall of Atlanta? The government bombed the city, peppering it–and all the survivors–with Napalm, leaving zombified survivors melted into the asphalt. Can you even imagine what the survivors of that horror, watching from inside concrete structures while everyone on the streets perishes in flame–and then turns zombie–before their eyes? How would that have affected Dawn and the others, sworn to “serve and protect?” How helpless they must have felt; no wonder Dawn went crazy. It is almost as if they are all on autopilot: what they “must” do, and how, all perverted into a weird, twisted, horrific parody of their pre-apocalypse lives.
The napalm bodies, themselves, zombified and warped…part of the asphalt canvas, represents a twisted vision of the dregs of humanity. Reedus noted that the scene reminded him of a Hieronymus Bosch painting, but with moving parts. Yes. Bosch was a late-Medieval-era Dutch painter. His most famous painting is “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” but he painted many masterpieces of an apocalyptic world that would fit reasonably into any surrealist realm. And those asphalt zombies, teeth chomping and hands grasping from shredded, melted skin, is very reasonably Bosch.
Back at the Church
The scene is no less surreal back at Father Gabriel’s church. While Michonne and Carl have gotten the building all buttoned up, Father Gabriel, consumed by guilt (and who knows what else), crawls his way from the church and out into the dangerous open. He’s virtually a living zombie, himself, barely feeling a nail that pierces through his shoe and into his foot. He stumbles around, aimlessly through the shambles of his neighborhood, and finally the full impact of his deed–not providing sanctuary to his parishioners in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse–places him firmly into hell. Will he survive? My bet is that he doesn’t make it out of the mid-season finale. And perhaps that’s really what he wants–what he believes he deserves for his failure as the shepherd to his flock.
Catching up with Abraham, Eugene, Glenn and Company
In the aftermath of Eugene’s (Josh McDermitt) devastating revelation–that he’s not the savior with the cure–Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) becomes practically catatonic, refusing to talk, to eat, or to drink. He is seething, literally frozen by his fury, and the horror that his life is now completely pointless. Everything he’d been holding onto had been wrapped up in his mission to get Eugene to Washington, D.C., keeping him sane at the end of the world with a mission. And now that mission is gone, there is nothing left of the man. And what of Eugene? How close is he to becoming just another mulleted zombie?
I’m always intrigued by The Walking Dead episode titles. “Crossed” has several references in the episode: Abraham feels that Eugene has double-crossed him; of course, crossed also refers to the white crosses that decorate the Grady vehicles. Gabriel’s hand is stayed outside the church from killing a zombie wearing a cross). Daryl tells Gabriel that the church’s cross may indeed be used to make a weapon if necessary. There are other crosses (and double crosses) as well throughout the episode, but perhaps the biggest double-cross was to the people in Atlanta in the apocalyptic aftermath. They had trusted officials: the police, the army, national guard, whomever to rescue them. For FEMA to provide sanctuary. And then to be napalmed–the survivors and the dead alike. There is no bigger sort of double-cross. Or crossing of the lines.
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Next week, is the big mid-season finale. Phew. I can’t wait. Who will make it out alive? Be sure to vote in Blogcritics poll and predict who will not survive: