Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review The Walking Dead each week in a series of letters. You can also catch them talking about the show Monday afternoons on HLN.
Last week, we debated whether we were going to get red-hot hospital raiding action (my take) or pure set-up (yours) in “Crossed,” the penultimate episode of season 5.1. And even though we saw the first forays into the hospital adventure, I think you came out on top on this one. Most of what we saw was table-setting for next week’s mid-season finale, and man, it promises to be a doozy. The sneak peek even showed that we’re getting a RICK GRIMES UNARMED NEGOTIATING SCENE! We haven’t seen the likes of that since the prison, when he stood in front of the Governor’s tanks like some modern Tiananmen Square protestor, and somehow didn’t die. I am very much looking forward to that.
But we’re not here to talk about next week…we’re here to talk about “Crossed.” The problem is, I don’t really find myself having much to say. It’s not that I didn’t like the episode—there were lots of compelling vignettes sprinkled throughout, and even though the initial stages of the hospital attack seemed kind of disordered, they did an okay job of establishing Rick’s upcoming negotiation play. But overall, nothing that happened last night really made a huge splash for me.
Father Gabriel, I think, is the best microcosm for the episode. He continues to be weird and panicky, and I guess the fact that he’s been holed up in his church for years has prevented him from recognizing the really horrible shit that happens outside his walls. As far as companions go, Rick & The Gang are about as good as you can hope for, but still he devised a very complicated method of escape, and then sets out with no weapons and a nail-pierced foot that is going to require a tetanus shot and will probably lead to gruesome infection and self-amputation…or so we can hope. To be fair, it’s probably a bit traumatic to see your sanctuary stained with blood, and strangers dismantling a pipe organ to help impale zombies, but the fact that he thinks Emo Hipster Douche and his crew would’ve left without a fight, after they had cannibalized Bob, shows how naive he is. It also makes him a sort of weak character, I think, or at least a tepid one. The Walking Dead is in love with transformations, so I imagine since we’re spending so much time with him, he’s eventually going to become a badass and learn the realities of life before dying gloriously, but in the meantime…we’re wasting valuable minutes on this guy!
Elsewhere, Dawn has shown a bit of mercy in helping Beth save Carol’s life, although part of me wonders if it’s a frame job—is she so threatened by Beth that she’s going to claim key theft and have her killed? Or am I just cynical because of her cold, hard Maggie Gyllenhaal-esque stare? In any case, that plan is probably going to be thwarted by the arrival of Rick and the Grady Invasion Party. It’s still hard to understand these hospital folk, to be quite honest, or what their weird little society is trying to achieve. It seems like the writers want to stake out “neither totally good nor totally evil” turf for them, but, as with Father Gabriel, it just feels like their intentions are murky and poorly defined.
I guess what I’m saying is that if I have a complaint about the first half of this season, it’s that the secondary characters stink. Our villains are half-assed, our eccentrics like Father Gabriel are just sort of tepid, and even when we have someone hatable like Emo Hipster Douche, they force these weird cannibal affectations on them. AND THEY TOOK BOB STOOKEY AWAY. The only new character that piques my curiosity is Noah, so hopefully he sticks around for a while.
All that being said, I’ve loved the Abraham/Eugene side of things, and Rick and the group are better than ever. I think that’s why “Crossed” left me shrugging. Things that should have been major decisions, like the group agreeing to go to Atlanta, were sort of glossed over, while we spent too much time with the cops and Father Gabe. My wish for the second half of season five is that we get a really terrifying new super-villain. My vote is for the guy they briefly showed imprisoning Emo Hipster Douche earlier…also, what about Morgan Jones? We’ve gotten hints and teasers, but I want him back!
Kicking it your way, Josh, what stuck out to you? Were you more riveted than I, or should we just let this one float past and wait for the finale fireworks?
I know you’re a baseball fan, so I’m going to liken this episode to the under-appreciated 8th inning guy. You wouldn’t buy a ticket just to go see the set-up man pitch, but he’s necessary to get to the 9th inning still in good shape. Unfortunately in this case, his stuff was only impressive enough to give the closer a chance to shine.
But enough with the sports metaphors: Rick has lost the element of surprise with Bob the Cop distracting Sasha with a sadsack tale about his friend who’s been melted to the pavement for months. I mean, c’mon, we’ve all heard that one before. Poor Sasha probably would have never fallen for that if she hadn’t been softened by the other Bob, trying to trust people to honor her boyfriend’s eternal optimism. Rick’s initial plan to leave a trail of bodies in the rescue of Carol and Beth is looking pretty good to Sasha about now.
And of course Tyreese was the one to propose a plan that involved shedding less blood, but it was interesting to see Daryl come out on his side. Daryl was the one to save Noah last week, but was also later prepared to let him die. He seems to have become a fluid thinker to put it in your Game of Thrones terms. He’s trying to be a merciful person, but don’t test him on that. It’s an interesting position between Tyreese’s rigid, almost pacifist, thinking and Rick’s rigid protect-his-people-at-any-cost mentality.
Father Gabriel is indeed a walking pile of weakness, but I like his addition this season. Zombies have become more pests than a real threat most of the time at this point, but Gabriel escaping on his own, injured, unarmed, trying to be faithful to his beliefs, trying to atone for his horrendous sins and then almost getting killed by a single walker was one of the more interesting threads in this episode.
Meanwhile you had Glenn, Rosita and Tara on what felt like a little vacation to the creek. Washington D.C. might be a farce, but they could still see that there’s plenty to live for—like fresh-caught fish and yo-yos. I imagine that Abraham will see that eventually.
But other than the capture of the cops and the melted walkers on the street, there wasn’t a lot of action in “Crossed.” It was the calm before next week’s storm. Dawn isn’t the most compelling or frightening villain, but that may just make for a more nuanced resolution to the rescue attempt. I can’t imagine that they’ll leave Grady a burned out shell like Terminus. This isn’t the psychopath Governor or cannibal Gareth. These are a mix of people, some goodish, some evilish, who have sent Beth to debtors’ prison and aren’t giving it their all with Carol. Beth already killed the worst of them with an assist from a zombie. It has me generally curious how it’ll all play out because I don’t know, not even really in the Hollywood sense.
But we are due for a bigger, meaner bad guy in the second half of the season, and the internet surmises that the guy who imprisoned Gareth (sorry, Emo Hipster Douche) was the same wild bearded guy who died right after being freed from the train car, so he’s not really an option. Here are a few suggestions for you to choose from or you can pick your own:
1. One of the “bad cops” from Grady escapes and gathers a gang of former drug dealers who used to pay him off. They try to evict Rick’s gang from their corner in Southwest Atlanta.
2. Father Gabriel go on his vision quest, eventually learning how to dispatch walkers with nothing but a Bible. He’ll survive on the hearts of his enemies and eventually return for Rick’s gang, mad about bloodstains on the floor of the church.
3. The creepy guy from “Too Many Cooks” shows up. Scarier than zombies.
Will Sasha ever trust again? Will Bob the Cop turn out to be a really bad guy or a peacemaker in the end? And what do you want to see in the next villain?
I think our boy Abraham is back in the world of the living, based on his symbolic grab of the water bottle at episode’s end. Next week might even see him shift from his kneeling position that has to be hell on the quads after a while. My big question to you on that one is, will we see a united group at the end of it all? Or will they keep the two sides separate going into the season’s second half?
Of your three options for a super villain, I think I’d take Father Gabriel with a warped spirituality returning for blood. The guy from “Too Many Cooks” is arguably too scary, and I feel like the bad cops aren’t smart enough. What I really want to see in my next villain is someone smart. Sadistic? Sure. Evil or evil-ish? Fine. But a worthy enemy intellectually. Everyone we’ve seen has either been incompetent, stupid, or a raving lunatic. What about a Tywin/Jaime Lannister type? Someone cold-blooded and mean, but also pragmatic and with an eye on their own longevity. Between EHD, the Governor, the weird redneck at the house, Shane, and whoever else I’m forgetting, the group’s biggest enemies seem like they’re almost trying to die. That’s my biggest hope for our next bad guy.
On the Sasha topic, have you noticed that there’s a trend in Walking Dead sneak attacks where someone will pull off a clever maneuver like New Bob, and then run away instead of grabbing the gun (or even presumably some keys?) that are standing right in front of them? I swear this has happened before, even recently, but I can’t remember exactly where…help me out here, Josh. Also, we need a name for this phenomenon. Something like, “The Needless Flight.” But better.
You hit on a really good point with the fluid thinkers…there aren’t many, are there? Almost everyone on this show seems rigid in their own way, and that’s been true since the early days with Dale. When we do see fluidity, it comes in sudden personality reversals, as in ‘Carol’s a crazy murderer but now she’s a hero again’ or ‘The Governor is an evil sadist until he’s a thoughtful vagabond for an episode until he’s an evil sadist again.” Ditto with Rick, who goes back and forth. Nobody really seems to exist in shades of gray, just wildly fluctuating from black to white and back again.
Okay, I’ll send it back with one last question: When is Tyreese going to become a badass again? I want a Tyreese rampage, Josh! Make someone else a pacifist!
Oh wait, one more—am I the only one who picked up on the sexual tension between Glenn and Rosita? Possible love triangle emerging??
There’s an obvious rallying point for everyone now at the church, so there’s no reason to think we won’t see the whole group reunited unless a new threat pulls some of them away. There is a giant herd right near Abraham’s gang, but we’ve ended with a swarm of walkers scattering the group once already. So I’m going with a reunion.
I like the idea of a smarter bad guy than we’ve seen so far, though the Governor was no slouch in that area. The comics have a fantastic villain that has yet to appear in the TV show, so you may just get your wish pretty soon.
You also may get your wish with Tyreese: He’s part of the rescue mission, his mercy towards the cannibal bro backfired, the Grady brigade just knocked out his sister, and his no-bloodshed plan is about to blow up. I wouldn’t want to be Dawn right now.
So I’m ready for the battle. Sunday can’t come soon enough.
Please don’t die, Daryl Dixon.
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