Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Walking Dead 5.4: Slabtown

(My apologies in advance for the at-times angry nature of this post; I really do love this show... I probably don't have to say that, but after writing this post I feel like I have to reiterate it...)

Last week ended with Daryl looking into the bushes and telling someone to come out. Was it Carol? Beth? Someone else? We had several ideas in the comments of that recap, and this episode ain’t about to reveal the truth any time soon. (Nor will next week’s.) Looks like The Walking Dead is back to its old tricks, splitting up the group and pushing different stories that will make us wait for closure. Let the games begin!

Nikki: This week’s episode was surprising for one main reason: ELECTRICITY. When’s the last time we saw THAT on this show?! Clearly it’s meant to make us think we’re flashing back to The Time Before, but as soon as Beth looks out the window and realizes she’s in a ruined, post-apocalyptic Atlanta, we know that nope, this is the present day.

There’s a lot to say about this episode, and I’ll actually let you get started with the actual analysis this week, Josh, because I’d like to say something else. I love The Walking Dead, y’all know I do, but sometimes this show is just SO BLEAK it’s bordering on being too much. There are weeks where I think if I didn’t write this column each week with Joshua, I’d just let it pile up on the DVR like so many other shows and marathon it when the season is over. In this week’s episode we see a place that has actually figured out how to maintain electricity, heating, cooking (even if the food isn’t exactly five-star quality), and what should be an element of safety, but hold on there, you optimistic freaks, there’s NO SUCH THING as contentment in the world of Robert Kirkman. I truly believe this guy has one of the most pessimistic views of human nature ever. I honestly don’t see where he’s coming from sometimes. Maybe it’s because I’m a Canadian, maybe it’s because I’m just naive, but I simply don’t believe that in a world that’s this dark, there isn’t SOME sort of refuge somewhere that isn’t run by one megalomaniac dominating a bunch of hapless idiots.

Oh look, a sweet little town called Woodbury with food, water, individual houses, guards keeping you safe, and OH MY GOD ARE THEY DOING ZOMBIE COCK-FIGHTS?! And is their “Governor” a crazy one-eyed Pete who has aquariums filled with zombie heads? Good god no.

Oh but hey, after our long journey there is an end point, a sanctuary called Terminus. Wonderful. Rally on, friends and let us all head to this OH MY GOD unsanctimonious hellhole of revolting cannibalism where we are not only NOT safe, but kept in train cars TO BE EATEN. Fuck. ME.

And now we’ve blown up that Not-Sanctuary and... hey? Where’s Beth? Why, she’s gone back to Atlanta where she’s found a hospital with actual doctors and comfortable beds (well, as comfortable as hospital beds could possibly be but at least they’re a leg up on prison beds AMIRIGHT?!) and indoor heating and a rooftop mushroom-growing sunbathing free-from-zombies area that’s all kept sanitized and there’s food (even if you don’t want to know what the food is) and Blind Willie Johnson playing on the turntable and Caravaggio paintings and lots of books and if you look down the darkened hallway there’s even what appears to be the janitor from the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video but... oh right. There are rapists and murderers and dead bodies in the elevator shaft and “giving back” in unseemly ways, where even the good doctor is killing the competition and that little girl from Whale Rider would rather become a goddamn walker than spend one more minute in this place. Quick, grab the kid from Everybody Hates Chris and get out of there.

Butbutbut... what about Blind Willie Johnson?!

NO. You may not have artistic extravagances because art doesn’t belong in this world of evil and damnation and neither does goodness, honesty, or, you know, human frickin’ beings working together to bring peace and harmony. Because apparently all of the good people turned into walkers pretty damn fast and all that was left were the horrible dregs of society that want to rape their way through the rest of their lives.

Sigh. Sorry. That was a rant I didn’t see coming. Didn’t see that weird stream-of-consciousness coming, either. But as much as I enjoyed this episode, it just seemed like ONE MORE PLACE that could have worked, but simply can’t in Kirkman’s screwed-up view of the world.

Will Eugene make it to Washington alive and save the world? Of course not. Will the good survive? Nah. Will they ever find a nice library in the middle of nowhere with endless books and a farm out back they can work on to grow food and a place where they won’t be raped daily or fear for their lives? What?! That’s boring television.

When I see Carol blow up Terminus I’m fist-pumping the air and bouncing with delight, and I love the ways they show the humanity that’s in that core group of people. But according to Kirkman’s worldview, they are the only sane people in the world right now, and everyone outside of them — be it immoral preachers, roaming bandits, cannibals, rapists, or just plain goons — seems to be what the rest of the world looks like. I have said that in this new world we need a new definition of humanity, but unless they find a way to travel to the Arctic and isolate themselves from the rest of the universe, there’s no way there will be a definition of anything. There is no hope. At this point I’d be like, knife me in the head, I’m done.

OK, I’ll let you actually talk about the episode, because you’re probably more clear-headed than I am right now, Josh.

Joshua: Don't mince words, Nik. We're all friends here. You shouldn't feel like you have to hold back.

You know, when I first started reading the comics, I remember seeing an interview with Robert Kirkman in which he discussed the conception of the series. He'd always loved zombie stories, he said, but couldn't help noticing how the vast majority of them seemed preoccupied with the genesis of such situations. It was a genre that focused more on reaction than perseverance, telling the beginning of the story and then hewing to a narrow timeline thereafter, and likewise wrapping up well before they got into the real meat of what it might be like to exist in such an environment over the long term.

The idea that intrigued him was attempting to lengthen that timeline to explore what kinds of things would happen after months or years had passed. The concept was novel enough to intrigue me, too, and there were times when I thought he absolutely nailed it and others when the tale felt much less genuine, when it veered dangerously close to gratuitous exploitation for me. And sure, I know it's fiction, and you gotta sell books to make more. But in my opinion, questionable content without any narrative justification –  for no reason other than simple shock value – is feckless and lazy, however effective it might prove down the road.

I think for the most part AMC has avoided these kinds of pitfalls, keeping the show more grounded and excising parts of the original story that would likely overwhelm the sensibilities of a broad tv audience. However, the atmosphere certainly isn't one of hopefulness. It isn't designed to encourage or inspire, and even the fist-pumping moments are tempered by design, peppered with scenes that are carefully tailored to give us pause.

And the truth is that I have a lot of respect for that, for all the same reasons I detailed above. A show that includes as much graphic violence as this one should feel a certain responsibility to make it impactful as well, and I believe they hold that balance carefully as a general rule. But as far as the writers' misanthropic worldview is concerned, I tend to think it's just a pitfall of the genre. In fact, it's probably the single greatest challenge in maintaining a long form post-apocalyptic narrative. How do you infuse a world so devoid of hope with enough optimism to keep your readers or viewers engaged?

Then again, how much do we really want that, after all? We come from a culture that has long rewarded artists who gift us with tragedy, from Shakespeare to Dickens to Faulkner to Cormac McCarthy. The idea has become so prevalent that sometimes it can seem like happy endings are disingenuous. And it's hard to forget that we're the same species who used to delight in the viewing of public executions.

While I may be one of the folks who still believe humanity is inherently good, I can easily understand those whose perspective makes them feel otherwise. The world is a dark place that frequently rewards ruthlessness and brute strength with power and privilege, and circumstances as radical and nightmarish as a zombie plague could only serve to shift that dynamic in the worst direction. Moreover, I think that feeling of futility is a vital link to the characters whose stories we're watching play out on our screens every Sunday night. The uncompromising nature of the drama helps me understand the mindset of the players and the gravity of their decisions, puts me in their shoes and helps me relate with an objectivity that might not be possible otherwise.

Understand that this is coming from someone who stopped reading the comics after over a hundred issues of investment because the story became too bleak for me. I'm not immune to the same fatigue you're describing, and I'm not sure why it doesn't get to me the same way. The reality is that the folks behind the show will likely do whatever is necessary to create conflict and continue producing episodes ad infinitum – after all, it is the most successful property on television, and The Powers That Be wouldn't jeopardize that for simple positivity.

Nonetheless, I'm inclined to keep rooting for them, for the promise of something better. The law of averages dictates that our heroes are bound to cross paths with more people like themselves eventually, and all these trials will have strengthened them, refined them, helped prepare them to soldier on and war against both the evil that men do and the evil they become. Ad astra per aspera, you know? For all its gloom and horror, perhaps this story will prove to be about shifting the equation back toward the light.

Nikki: I hope so. I was reminded of Lost when watching it, actually, and how on a mysterious island fraught with uncertainty, there was the constant battle of man in a state of nature. Do we go with John Locke, who stated that man is born a blank slate and becomes whatever he learns and is written upon him? Or Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who believed man was essentially good and would find positive ways through the situation? Or do we agree with Thomas Hobbes, who said that in a state of nature, man was essentially evil and would fall to the basest of natures? I would like to think that on Lost, the Locke/Rousseau argument won out. Yes, there were many Hobbesian moments on the show, but ultimately, people wanted to be good. The smoke monster lost, and Jack restored light to the world. If Robert Kirkman had written Lost, he would have had the smoke monster devour all of the children and elderly in the first episode, and Charles Widmore would have been the hero of the story. Kirkman has subscribed to the Hobbesian theory and has a members' card in his wallet, and this show demonstrates it in every episode.

My friend Troy posted a status update today that made me laugh: “Just a thought: If Rick and his crew had died in the first season Hershel and his daughters would be living happily on his farm, the good citizens of Woodbury would be safe under the watchful eye(s) of the Governor, the people of Terminus would be sitting down to a lovely home cooked meal, and somewhere in Atlanta there would be a hospital offering free medical care.”


So, um, we should probably talk about the episode? (Behind the scenes I’m emailing my first pass to Josh saying, “Does this sound like a crazy person ranting?” and he’s emailing me back saying, “So I still didn’t mention the episode...”) I inadvertently covered a bunch of the material in my rant, I think, and so I’d like to talk about what was my favourite scene in the episode, which is Dr. Edwards talking about art and its place in this world. I thought that whole speech was fascinating. “Art isn’t about survival, it’s about transcendence. Being more than animals, rising above.” “We can’t do that anymore?” Beth asks. “I don’t know,” he replies.

Maybe, again, the optimist in me is just looking for that one shard of hope in this crystal ball of hopelessness, but I think if Kirkman has infused any of it into this episode, it hangs on that statement. “I don’t know,” he says, not “No.” Yes, there is hope. Edwards is a good person who did a bad thing for his survival. Dawn looks like she’s trying to keep it together under difficult circumstances, but she’s willing to turn a blind eye to what Gorman is doing. He finally gets his at the end, and Dawn isn’t relieved, but angry. Cops don’t have to be the bad guys (look at Rick) and maybe they can be brought around? What will happen when Rick and Co. show up? Or, even better, when Carol wakes up, since we see her being brought in at the end and a collective WHOOP goes up from the audience at the possibilities of this one? Carol will deal with everything in her cold, calculated way if given the chance, but will that make things any better? Or will this be like Hershel’s farm, Woodbury, the prison, and Terminus, and end up a big pile of burning rubble when they’re done with it?

As Blind Willie Johnson sings that if he doesn’t read the bible his soul will be lost, and that’s nobody’s fault but his, we can’t help but wonder if there are any souls left in this world. One would think in an age when all hope seems lost, people would hang onto some hope, whether or not it contains any truth, and be reading their bibles like mad. But maybe, in this new reality, the bible is better used as kindling.

And as for my vote for who is with Daryl and emerges from the bushes, I think it’s going to be Noah, the guy who was trying to escape with Beth and got away.

Any final thoughts, Josh?

Josh: Good thought about Noah! I hope you're right. Bum leg or no, I always like seeing new faces added to the crew. And speaking of which, I'm also hoping the hospital doesn't wind up another bloodbath, because I don't think it has to be like that. Dawn is a twisted Ayn Rand nightmare, to be sure, but we're talking about one person. Other than the late Officer Gorman (may he rest most uncomfortably), none of the other uniforms came across as particularly sadistic, and perhaps some more peaceable solution can be reached than the stock stabby, shooty variety. We might even gain more able bodies for Rick's Ragtags in the process.

Barring that, there is still plenty of potential for escape. Grady is an enormous hospital, at least in reality – the largest in the state, and fifth largest in the country. There's no way that Dawn and her Regulators have more than a fraction of it functional (I'm thinking a couple of floors, at most). With Carol as mastermind, they're bound to be capable of a better getaway scheme than Noah's tie-sheets-together-and-shinny-down-the-body-chute plan. Which, much as I like Noah, was super dumb, and they were lucky to survive it. I mean, come on. This isn't Meatballs, pal.

We'd love to see what you all thought, dear readers, so let us hear your voices in the comments! We'll both try to chime in when we can. Until next week, campers.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

This Morning, While Making Breakfast...: Doctor Who's "Dark Water," Recounted by Children

[Spoilers for this past Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who, which revealed the identity of Missy.]

So I finally got around to watching “Dark Water” with my kids last night — my 10-year-old daughter and my 7-year-old son — and they were scared at times, and elated at others, and quite upset at others (especially what happened in the beginning, which I figured out the instant it happened and they had to have it explained to them over and over) but one of the biggest gasps that came out of both of them happened when Missy was revealed to be the regenerated Time Lord, (sorry, Lady), The Master. So this morning as I was making their lunches for school, my daughter was finishing her breakfast and I decided to talk to her about that.

So, what do you think about the Master being a woman?

I LOVED it. I really like Missy, and I was so excited when they said she was the Master.

What do you think about the possibility of a Time Lord being able to regenerate into a Time Lady? Do you think that means there’s still a chance the Doctor might one day be a woman, or do you think the writers are saying, “OK, you wanted a Time Lord to be a Lady, here you go” and now they won’t do it with the Doctor?

I don’t know, I guess it could be either way. It must be a little weird to suddenly regenerate into a completely different kind of body, I think. But I do hope they decide to make the Doctor a woman some day. I think that would be amazing.


Because I’d love to see what the Doctor is thinking from a woman’s perspective. Would she see the world differently? And she’d probably have a male companion. I think having two females wouldn’t be as fun, so I’d like to see them switch around.

You know, when Tom Baker was the Doctor — he’s the one with the big scarf...

Yep, I knew that...

... one of his companions was a Time Lady, Romana.

Well, if she can last forever and regenerate, and so can he, I don’t know why they just didn’t stay companions forever. That didn’t make any sense.

Well, you’re right, maybe not from a story point of view, although I think the Doctor likes his adventures with different people. But in real life they actually got married and probably didn’t want to spend all day together working.

Ah. Well, yeah. Are they still married?


Hm. Well, that was just silly then.

What I think would be great is if we see John Simm’s Master regenerate into Missy on next week’s episode in a flashback.

Oh my god, that would be awesome! He was already wearing dresses and acting like a woman in that one episode when all of the people turned into him, remember? So that would be really funny. I hope they show that, too! But I really do like seeing them together, Missy and the Doctor. I think it’s interesting seeing their battle played out now with two different sexes rather than both of them being men. Sometimes I think there are too many men on the show and it’s nice to see one of the powerful ones being a woman.

Not all of the fans are happy; there are some saying they’ll never watch again because the Master is a woman and it just changed everything for them.

Whatever. That’s their problem. Every single time the Doctor regenerates he’s a different person, so how is this any different? Peter Capaldi is the “go to hell” Doctor, but Matt Smith was the, “Oh I love everyone and this is so much fun!” Doctor, and your Doctor [Tennant] was all moody, loving things one minute and hating them the next, and my Doctor [Eccleston] was very sad and cried a lot, I think. So they’re all different. What I think would be really cool is for this Doctor we have right now, Peter Capaldi, for him to regenerate into a woman, and then have that woman regenerate into ANOTHER woman. Then people will see that just because it’s a woman doesn’t mean that THAT is what makes the Time Lord different, that it’s how they react to situations. One woman might act like the 11th Doctor, and another one like my Doctor. I don’t understand why people are so weird like that. I want the Doctor to be a woman, and I want a male companion with her.

[And just as I was coasting on these words thinking I must be the best mother ever...]

[ENTER 7-year-old son]

So we were just talking about how the Master has become a woman. Are you happy about that?

Oh yeah!!


Because women are weaker than men, so the Doctor will be able to beat her WAY more easily.


Women are not weaker than men!! What about Wonder Woman?

Pfft. Batman would totally get her.

I don’t think so, he just has a bunch of toys hanging off his belt, whereas Wonder Woman is an Amazon.

[Daughter] That is SO stupid what you just said. Missy is pretty powerful, look at all the Cybermen she rounded up!

[Son] Pfft. The other Master did stuff like that, too, and the Doctor is going to stop Missy, he always does.

[Daughter] The Doctor stopped the Master, too!! UUUGGGHH it doesn’t have anything to do with her being weaker, women are not weaker than men.

[Son] Oh yes they are.

[Daughter] Oh yeah? I could come over there and beat you up right now and you wouldn’t stand a chance.

Okay, let’s not...

[Son] Nah, I know taekwondo.

[Daughter] I know taekwondo, too, buddy, I have a higher belt than you!! I’ll show YOU that women aren’t weaker than men!!

You know, women give birth. I don’t know anything that takes more strength than that.

[Daughter] Ha!! That’s true!

[Son] Nah, that’s easy. Baby just comes right out.

[Daughter] No, that’s not what happens, it’s—

Okay, I think that’s enough on this topic. Geez, guys, you are already prepared to be on fan forums when you grow up. Now what fruit do you want in your lunches?

[Daughter] You’d better watch it, buddy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Walking Dead 5.03: Four Walls and a Roof

First, firstfirstfirstfirst... we need to address the single most important thing that happened on this week’s Walking Dead: MICHONNE’S KATANA HAS RETURNED!! Whew, that was a close one. I shall now be able to call off my Kickstarter campaign to get it back.

Nikki: So here’s what happens when you write up your thoughts on a show and think you can do it without your notes: You leave a TON of stuff out. I realized after last week’s post that I’d entirely forgotten to mention something I spent probably too long doing: looking up the bible verses that were hanging on the wall near the altar. This week, they rang even truer than they did last, so let’s take a look at them now:

Romans 6:4: We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Ezekiel 37: 7 (how badly do I wish that was Ezekiel 25:17?! says the Tarantino fan): So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.

Matthew 27:52: and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.

Revelations 9:6: During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.

Luke 24:5: In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?

I think these are all self-explanatory, and I would guess that Father Stokes actually mounted them after the apocalypse happened, not before. One can assume he’s been reading those bibles until they were falling apart.

In this episode, many of our predictions came true from last week: Yep, Bob was bit. (And watching the Terminites trying to spit up their meat was gloriously funny.) I have often ranked the success of screen gore based on whether or not I could eat popcorn through it. For the most part, I seem to be able to do it with The Walking Dead. I’m less successful during Hannibal. So I’m thinking it must be a cannibal thing, because this week I had to put down my popcorn completely in that opening scene. Seriously, did they have to show the veins hanging out of the meat? :::Gyuuuuuuhhhhh:::

Also, Father Stokes had shut out his congregation, as we predicted. Perhaps there’s something more to the revelation still waiting, but despite it being predictable and obvious, I think Seth Gilliam’s performance when he has to tell them what he did was astounding. He’s humble, honest, apologetic, horrified, and you can tell he lives with the nightmare of what he’s done ever since. When he looks at the group moving towards him in anger, he cowers before Rick, and says rather matter-of-factly that he led them back to the church because he assumed they’d been sent by God to punish him. He believes he deserves any punishment coming to him. But even so, later in the episode, when he’s cowering in his office as everyone else is silent (except for Judith), I couldn’t help but think he might suddenly speak up and say, “They’re in here! Spare me, spare me!” Thank goodness he didn’t.

There’s a lot to say about this episode, but I’ll turn it over to you for your thoughts on it, Josh. But not before saying I’m SO hoping that among the deleted scenes for this episode is Rick and the gang leaving for the school, with Rick turning around as he leaves saying, “Stay in God’s House, Coral!!”

Josh: There was another telling quote featured in tonight's episode, but it wasn't a Bible verse. They were the words of Pope John Paul II, highlighted on a plaque in Father Gabriel's office: “Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn't misuse it.” I wasn't familiar with the phrase before now, but I believe it's an apt observation. There are times in our lives when poor decisions can teach us more than all the success in the world, but if we fail to take those lessons to heart, our negligence can cost us dearly.

Gareth allowed his self-righteousness to give him false confidence. He believed that Rick's initial escape from him must have been some kind of fluke, based solely on the notion that he thought he had it all figured out, believed his sick philosophy was irrefutable. Even at the last, he was still trying to convince Rick that he didn't really want to kill them, looking for escape even in the circumstances of their ambush.

But this is not the same Rick who might once have been swayed by such words. He's taken all the lessons to heart, and they've darkened and hardened it, and he is a man made new. Back during the premiere, when he told the rest of the group that, “they don't get to live,” he wasn't being vengeful – he was being sensible, at least in his own estimation. He wanted certainty, and the only way to get that was to finish the job, all the way to the bitter end.

The way that the ambush and subsequent executions were staged and shot would seem to indicate that there were those in the group who still had a problem with how it all went down. Out of the nonparticipants, however (being Glenn, Maggie, Tyreese and Tara), only Tyreese looks as though he truly takes umbrage with the brand of frontier justice that Rick has adopted. Glenn simply doesn't appear to have the stomach for it, and Tara may have seen more of the Governor in Rick's actions than she would have liked, but I think they both understand, like it or not. Maggie continues to grow more pragmatic as time goes on, and after everything she's been through, no one could blame her for it. The shots we saw of her looking at a Bible and then returning it to the shelf unopened were a perfect overture to her exchange with Father Gabriel from which the episode took its title. God may have been here once, but He's gone now. We're forsaken.

The place Tyreese is coming from, however, is all about the morality of it. What he went through after Karen's death, culminating in his forgiveness of Carol after her confession, has served to convince him that the virtues of the past should still hold true, regardless of the way the world's changed. It's why he didn't kill the kid that put his hands around Judith's neck, and it's why he worked so hard to talk Sasha out of participating in the assault this week. He still believes in grace, and I think he may be the only one. I wonder what that will mean for him, and them all, down the road.

Nikki: So well put. What The Walking Dead has always done best is be an examination of humanity — what is it? Who gets to determine what is humane and what isn’t? And when the very notion of “human being” changes, does the definition of “humanity” change also? The problem is, no one can agree on those definitions within our society, much less in an apocalyptic one. Is euthanasia humane? Some would say absolutely, others a defiant NO. Is the death penalty humane? On the one hand, you’re ridding society of someone who could cause it more damage; on the other, you’re falling back on an ‘eye for an eye’ credo. What about abortion? Is the Republican Party humane? Are Democrats? Is it humane to live in a society where the 1% has the same amount of money as the other 99? On the flip side, is it humane to create nighttime fake news shows that do nothing but poke fun at people?

What is “humane”? (Before I conjure up internet hysteria, all of the questions above are merely rhetorical, designed to make a point and not suggest I have beliefs on one side or the other; those who know me already know my answers to most of those questions.)

At its core, we all have some sort of definition of it. Whether it’s doing something for the greater good, or helping the less fortunate, or living life in a way that would never hurt another person, we all strive for some sort of humanity. Even the worst dictators in history actually thought they were doing something for the greater good, no matter how fundamentally fucked up their ideas and actions look to the rest of us.

So what happens in a universe where your brother is the guy you grew up with, played with, laughed and cried with, loved, and then one day turns into a mindless walker who will kill you? Is it humane to stab them in the head and put them out of their misery? Is it humane to put him in a barn to try to wait it out until a possible cure comes along? If one escapes from a dangerous group of cannibals who obviously lost their way, is it humane to leave them behind, knowing they’ll attack and eat others? Or do you go in and slaughter them, thereby saving future groups of people from being found by them?

And what do you do when those cannibals leave their compound after you showed them “mercy,” hunt you down, and show up armed and ready to massacre the whole lot of you, as long as they don’t get too many bullets in you (wouldn’t want to destroy the “meat”). And then you turn the tables with a surprise attack, and they fall to their knees and beg for mercy? Do you try to help them? Do you assume they’re beyond help and destroy the whole lot of them? They surrendered, so you could imprison them, but what good would that do to anyone? You can’t rehabilitate them; they probably don’t want to be rehabilitated. Rick and Co. don’t have the resources or the ability to do anything like that. And besides, they have to keep on moving. Do you put Eugene ahead of everything and just dismiss anything that gets in the way of that mission?

I thought that scene was so beautifully done, for all the reasons you describe, Josh. For the looks on everyone’s faces, the anguish as they all try to come to terms with the new reality. Rick gunned them down. They were a threat, they hadn’t just killed one of theirs, they’d eaten part of him. They were threatening the whole group of them moments before. They dealt in fear, and, let’s be honest, weren’t smart enough to actually check over a person’s body before eating it. That alone deserved a bullet in the brain.

What seems humane to us doesn’t necessarily work in this new world. Someone asked a couple of weeks ago in the comments, if they begin to do things for pragmatic reasons, do they lose all humanity? My response would be no. There has to be a new definition of humanity. And I think it’ll take time, and some people — good people, I have to stress — will take a longer time than others to come around. As you say, Tyreese has taken longer than others to come to terms with what is needed. As you say, he couldn’t kill Lizzie, and Carol had to do it. More tellingly this week we find out he didn’t kill Martin, as you predicted, Josh. When Gareth comes into the church he starts calling out names, and he includes Tyreese, Judith, and Carol, even though the former weren’t at Terminus at all; they were back in the little cabin. Then we see Martin (we might have seen him last week but I didn’t recognize him until he was inside the church) and it’s clear: Tyreese probably knocked him out cold (hence the shiner) and left him behind, telling everyone he’d killed him. Instead he led Martin back to Terminus, he probably gave them information on the entire gang and some extra names Gareth was missing, and it hurt all of them.

Carol’s actions at the prison hurt Tyreese, but probably saved everyone else. Tyreese’s actions saved Martin but put everyone else in harm’s way. It’s time for new definitions.

At the end of this episode, the gang is split up AGAIN (ugh) and then Daryl emerges from the trees and calls to someone over his shoulder, whom we don’t see (cue screams of frustration echoing over the east coast at 10pm on Sunday night). But the preview to next week’s episode suggests we’re going to go back in time to see what happened to Beth, and so they couldn’t reveal if she is or isn’t with Daryl. I can’t WAIT for next week.

Any last thoughts on this week’s episode, Josh? What did you think of Abraham wanting to leave the church in the middle of the night?

Josh: Abraham feels – quite literally – like the fate of the world is resting on his shoulders. He believes in Eugene, in a very Morpheus-&-Neo sort of way, believes the knowledge he possesses could be the difference between living like this forever and making real progress toward something better. He also knows that without help, Eugene would be doomed long before he got anywhere close to Washington. We don't know much about Abraham's background yet, but whatever happened to him before he found Eugene seems to have filled him with an unwavering drive to make a difference, and he sees Eugene as the ultimate opportunity.

Abraham and Rick don't know each other very well, but you can tell they already share a mutual respect. When he penned that note on the D.C. Route map apologizing for being an asshole and stating 'THE NEW WORLD'S GONNA NEED RICK GRIMES,' that isn't posturing; he means it. But Rick's top priority is keeping his family together and keeping them safe. Abraham has much bigger plans, and while he might like to include these capable soldiers in his unit, he isn't afraid to strike out on his own if he feels that they're holding him back. His urgency seems undue because, really, the world has ended, and one would think they have nothing but time. But in Abraham's mind, every moment that passes, and every conflict they face, is another chance for something to go wrong, another opportunity for he or Eugene to wind up dead, and then all hope is lost.

Hope is a huge component of Abraham's motivation, all wrapped up in there with pain and guilt and anger and fear and desperation and whatever else you can imagine, and it's driving him, fueling his progress like an engine. That's a powerful thing indeed. Glenn and Maggie are in good hands, I think, and I'm thrilled to see what happens should anything be fool enough to block their path.

It does, however, split up the group yet again. Sometimes it feels like they do this not only to mix things up with multiple concurrent story lines but also to continually grant new opportunities for warm reunions. It may be somewhat manipulative, but I'm okay with that, particularly if it means the next big one we see is between Beth and Maggie. C'mon, TWD – don't let us down.

Bits & Bobs:

• Father Gabriel's confession really was played so well, wasn't it? Sure, it's the obvious answer, but it also works. Cowardice is a grounded, relatable fault – not flashy, but unquestionably human.

• If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, hone it to a gleaming edge and lop off all the heads. Please, ma'am.

• Bear's music is phenomenal so far this season. The emotional beats are killing me, but the action stuff is as good as it's ever been, too. The moment when they're all waiting in Father Gabriel's office for the Hunters to arrive, and Carl is tapping a finger on the butt of his holstered gun, and the music is echoing that same tap-tap-tap? So good.

• I'm pretty sure Bob Stookey got the best send-off of any character in the history of the show. While I'll miss Lawrence Gilliard week to week, he sure was amazing here; everything about his performance elevated this episode.

• “I knew if I told you, it'd become all about the end. And I really liked the middle.” Kind of broke me.

• But that cliffhanger? Uncool, man. No fair.

Next week, Daryl's got some splainin' to do.