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Wow! What an incredible premiere episode for The Walking Dead's fifth season back half!

TV Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ Mid-season Premiere – ‘What Happened and What’s Going On’

Wow. Just wow. The Walking Dead is back, and what a brilliant premiere we get, directed by effects guru Greg Nicotero. It’s an artistically gorgeous episode as we’ve gotten in the series’ history, with its glimpses and fractured images, hints and spooky radio broadcasts of the (not-so-distant past).

Chad Coleman  Tyreese Gibson The Walking Dead
Chad Coleman as Tyreese – The Walking Dead. Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Still reeling from the sudden, tragic death of Beth Greene in the mid-season finale, and now we’re walloped again, this time with the stunning death of the show’s defacto moral compass Tyreese Gibson (Chad Coleman). Jeez. Poor Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green). First, she looses her love interest Bob Stookey, and now her brother.

After two months, it’s great to see The Walking Dead back for the back half of season five. When last we met our intrepid survivors they were reeling with the death of Beth Greene, killed on the verge of rejoining with her comrades.

We begin with the digging of a grave and a glance at a photograph–a house: a faded memory. The opening two  minute teaser sequence of this week’s The Walking Dead is filled with images, references, moments–the suggestion of tormented memories, of regret, of an endless trek to nowhere.

But whose? We assume all these images are in memory of Beth, but the intentional misdirection only slowly clarifies into a developed image. And the final truth revealed is devastating, impossible, stunning.

Each of the survivors are on this slow, halting journey: one foot in front of the other–endless steps, endless tracks, endless memories of things that are dead and are no longer recoverable. Yet, they trek ahead as the episode opens, north towards Richmond, Virgina, where Noah believes there will be yet a new sanctuary.

But finding Noah’s family and home are a pipe dream–to optimistic to be real, and when they arrive there is nothing left: more loss, more grief. Not that Rick had any realistic belief that anything but pain would be waiting for them. But he has to try–to honor Beth’s memory. Beth had hoped to reunite Noah with his family–to get him home. This, Rick says, is for her.

They are not only grieving the loss of Beth; they are also grieving the loss of hope–the hope Beth had represented, and the hope symbolized by the quest for Washington–now proven a hollow quest, since Eugene’s confession that his big plan to reverse the virus had all been one great big lie.

And then, the unthinkable happens when, distracted, caught in his own thoughts, looking at photographs of Noah’s brothers, Tyreese is bitten. Oh Sh*t.

Tyreese is visited by the ghosts of the past: Bob and Gareth’s baseball-capped comrade–the guy that Tyreese couldn’t kill (and then lied about it). Had Tyreese’s moment of compassion (or cowardice) in letting the dude live, lead to Bob’s death? Had it set in motion a series of domino falls that ultimately leads to Beth’s?

Then the Governor joins in on the haunting, deriding Tyreese for refusing to pay the price for survival. Then Mika and Lizzie–kinder and gentler assure the dying man that he no longer needs to feel the pain of survival. And then there are the radio clips telling the story of the first days (I assume) of the first days of the virus. Is this all in Tyreese’s mind? Or is it something else?

Tyrese’s fever dream gets even weirder, as Beth joins the group, reminding Tyrese along with everyone else that he’d avoided “being a part of it” — getting his hands dirty and out of the lofty idealistic haze in which he’d dwelled. Being informed, being intelligent, idealistic doesn’t wash in this world, and Tyreese wonders as he looses his touch with reality whether his place is to die, but, in the end he chooses life. It is not his time, and Rick, Michonne, and Glenn find him, slicing off his left forearm to save his life.

But it is too late, and Tyreese finally lets go and finds peace. And so the grave we see at the episode’s beginning is not for Beth, but for Tyreese.

Wow. What a stunning start to season 5B! Tyreese had never been cut out for this post-apocalyptic life, a fate decreed long before the start of the viral outbreak. He is far too thoughtful and intellectual. He is haunted not only the dead, but by his father’s teachings to always be informed and aware of the world around him. We now understand Tyreese as someone who’d kept an ear to the radio in the early days, trying to understand the impact of the virus, its progress, the fight against it and the stunning loss of the battle.

But in the cold new world, there is little room for the thoughtful, the politic, the thinkers of the world, and undoubtedly, most of them are, by now, dead. And so Tyreese is dead in a powerful, at times surreal, episode of The Walking Dead.

The remaining survivors are headed for Washington in the hopes that something better there lies ahead. Will it? Only time and the weeks ahead will tell. But for now, it’s great to see the series back with such a “wow” of a first episode. Along with Beth, Tyreese has been the source of idealism and an almost-naive sensibility among the characters. With both gone, who will fill the vacuum left by their absence?

RIP Tyreese. Your moral compass and ethical sensibility will be sorely missed. Chad Coleman, you will be missed. Chad put in a remarkable performance, showing us the agony of Tyreese’s life, and the burden of legacy he carried with him, bequeathed by his father!

What did you think of this week’s episode of The Walking Dead? Tweet me or comment in the thread below!

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."

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2 comments

  1. I know I’m in the minority – at least I think I am – but I didn’t really like this episode. The Walking Dead should be more than who is going to die next. They really need to develop a story arc for this season. Tyrees’s last name is Williams not Gibson.

    • Couldn’t agree more. I don’t know why there’s so much love for this episode! It reminds me of those art pieces back in film school where the Professor would praise it, while the rest of the class would be thinking “what the hell was that?”