Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review The Walking Dead each week in a series of letters.
Emo Hipster Douche is dead!!! This is the happiest I’ve been about anyone dying since Hershel, and I know the entire episode was pretty solemn and full of poignant meaning, but I’m not going to pretend I’m a good or mature person and hold back my glee here in the first paragraph. I mean, I didn’t see Talking Dead, but I did see the little in-show promo, and even the actor who plays this guy offends me. He SMIRKS, Josh! HE’S SMUG.
So, a lot going in this episode, “Four Walls and a Roof.” The title is a nod to Maggie’s hardboiled line about the church, after Father Gabriel frets about all the dead folk in “the Lord’s house.” But just like everywhere else in the zombiescape, a church is just another place for people to die, and you can read more deeply into the metaphor if you want and come out with some Nietzschean wisdom: God is dead. Then again, the real dead man walking, Bob Stookey, keeps his hopeful outlook until the last moment, seeing a brighter future in Judith and Rick. (PS, I’m not even sure how proud I should be, but I must note for the record that I called him being zombie-bit…and unfortunately, due to the mass murder in the church, we’ll never know if eating future zombie meat turns the consumer into a zombie.) I’m not sure which viewpoint the show endorses, or if they’re going for ambiguity, but there were a lot of mixed messages in the hour.
I’m not sure what to make of this episode…there were some beautiful shots, especially the scene outside the church after Rick and his gang left and Gareth’s crew creeps out of the woods and into the moonlight. And the brutality in the church was pretty stunning—and, for me, satisfying. I’m not sure what that says about my outlook on things, but my hope was that Rick wouldn’t equivocate in that moment, and that everyone would understand the need for brutality. (I think I spotted some disapproving looks afterward from Maggie and Glen, but the executions needed to happen, and Rick’s original impulse at Terminus was proven out—when you leave some piece of evil un-snuffed, it’ll find its way back to your doorstep. Call it the “Saving Private Ryan” Theorem, after that German soldier who danced and sang and talked his way out of death, and then came back to kill his former captors.) I’m also thrilled that Michonne has her katana back, and that Daryl is safe and sound after his high-speed bootlegging’ run through the back woods. Plus, I loved Bob’s maniacal laughter when he revealed his bite…the kind of delirious ironic glee only a dying man can muster.
In the end, though, I think I’m a little unsatisfied with this episode. The conflict between Rick and Abraham felt a little artificial to me, and the two Big Monologues of the show—Father Gabriel recounting his history of cowardice and Bob falling asleep and waking up half a dozen times in the midst of unleashing some new piece of sunny wisdom—felt schmaltzy in the way the show can become when they make the mistake of telling too much of the story in dialogue. Last week, we talked about how the show succeeds because it strives for deeper terrain even as it treads the shallow, fun ground of hot zombie action, but this week I think we got a taste of what happens when they overreach and slide into preachy territory. Neither the affected hardassery of Maggie or the dopey rose-colored worldview of Bob made any impact for me. The show is best when we get the sense that we’re watching people behave in ways that might seem realistic in a totally unrealistic and horrifying world, but too often last night I felt like I was watching characters reciting lines.
But of course, I could be dead wrong. I’ll count on you to correct me, sir, and to point out anything I’ve missed.
This was just some good, ol’ fashioned comeuppance, beginning with Bob’s big reveal. To play the downside/upside game: You’ve been bit by a zombie and captured by a gang of cannibals who are eating your leg in front of you and being dicks about it. BUT: You may have just wiped out their entire crew by being “TAINTED MEAT!” Bob was already condemned, but Gareth (sorry, Emo Hipster Douche) manages to inadvertently give him one final role in destroying the remains of Terminus before Rick finishes the job.
There were some wonderful moments in the episode—the entire opening scene, Sasha’s view through the scope (because you could feel what was coming), the long anticipatory shot on the church sign—but there were a couple of plot holes that bothered me more than the monologues. First, when the Terminus gang delivered Bob to the door step of the church, that was a great time for them to pick off some of Rick’s group with their rifles. And then, there was no real reason given for Rick and company to return so quickly after announcing the plan was to make the 10-minute walk to the school. Unless the plan was for them to pretend like they were leaving before doubling back to lure the Terminus folks into the church. That could have resulted in a slaughter of Carl, Judith and the rest if Gareth wasn’t so mouthy. “You caught me monologuing!”
But as you say, Emo Hipster Douche is dead, Michonne got her katana back and Daryl is still alive and ass-kicking. So I’ll stop quibbling. We’ve moved past Terminus pretty quickly and it’s time to find out what’s going on with the joyriding kidnapper. Please give us a flashback buddy-tracker episode with Daryl and Carol. My DVR stopped before scenes from next week, which is just fine with me.
So Shane, at this point, tell me which character you identify with the most. You understand the brutality Rick showed, so I’m guessing it’s not Tyreese at this point. Who do you think you’d most be like in the zombie apocalypse? And who do you wish the real answer was?
Also, I think it’s safe to say you should steer away from tainted meat, even if it’s been cooked and you don’t have a definitive answer from this episode.
I just can’t take not knowing for sure.
Eats zombie meat.
Waits two days.
Gets a slight fever.
Long, saccharine monologue about how you’re one of the good guys and you never had to take me under your wing for Walking Dead recaps, but the fact that you did means this crazy world is gonna be a-okay.
Realizes I didn’t eat zombie meat at all, but Purina Dog Chow.
Considers making a Super Size Me-type documentary, but where I eat only dog food.
ANNNNYWAY…to answer your question, I think you’ve guessed correctly that Rick is my spirit animal at this point. I like to think I’d retain shreds of my humanity while still being a badass though, so that might actually be the wish fulfillment answer too. Here are the top five characters I’d aspire to be if the zombie apocalypse hit earth:
4. SARGE ABRAHAM
5. Bob Stookey (at least you could wander around drunk some of the time)
And here are the five I’d be horrified to emulate:
2. Emo Hipster Douche
t-5. The Governor
t-5. Father Gabriel
Oh man, Josh, I just realized I said that I was happy about Hershel’s death in that first letter, when I meant Dale. I love Hershel! I could ask you to edit it for me, but I think we should leave it there for comedy, so people really think I’m a terrible person. For the historical record, though: I meant Dale.
Totally agree with you about the plot holes, and I think Gareth’s terrible strategy deserves a mention: Let’s bottleneck ourselves in the aisle of the church and just talk for a couple minutes until someone comes back to shoot us. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: If you really wanted to “win” against an enemy force, just sit in the woods and play sniper every time someone pokes a head out of the church/prison/farm/whatever. I had the same issue with the Governor—unlike Emo Hipster Douche, I loved watching him, but the man really came up empty when planning an attack.
Okay, let’s hear your Walking Dead spirit animals. Also, if Las Vegas were still around in the zombie world, what kind of odds do you think the bookies would give on that idiot Eugene actually saving the world? Ten million to one?
For the first few seasons, my Walking Dead spirit animal was Glenn. But the Governor changed him, and I wouldn’t ever want to be changed like that. This season, surprisingly enough, I think it’s Michonne. She’s been through some shit, Shane, but she’s come out better for it. They say vengeance doesn’t satisfy, but she’s proven to be the exception to that rule. There’s no more thirst for justice; she simply thirsts for life, as hardened as she needs to be but learning to be open and vulnerable with her friends.
But back to this episode, the more I think about it, the more disappointed I am in just how easy it was to beat the Terminus gang once they were flushed from their meat factory. In the end, they didn’t even put up a fight, though they had to know they weren’t going to be shown mercy. I’d have dived behind a pew and at least battled for survival. But then I’d like to think I’d have also posted a guard on the door and spent less time talking. And maybe not been an asshole who eats people.
So pour one out for good ol’ Bob. And someone please cast Lawrence Gilliard Jr. in a role where he doesn’t meet a tragic end.
Please don’t die Daryl Dixon.
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