“Previously on Epicstream’s reviews of The Walking Dead”.... yes I know we’ve used that one before but it just feels so right whenever we’ve been through a painful off air break. Yet through all the freak snow storms, dodgy Christmas jumpers and endless Superbowl hype we have endured that horrible thing they call reality. We’ve suffered through all those days without crossbows, katanas, mullets or screwdrivers to the eye. We’ve faced these horrible moments in our lives without even a motivational speech from Rick to get us back on our feet again but now we’ve made it; back to our to beloved band of survivors in a zombie apocalypse..... where life just makes sense again.
What Happened and What’s Going on – With the whole group still reeling from the tragic loss of Beth they decide to honour her memory by going with Noah back to his family in Virginia like he and Beth planned to do and hopefully find the safe community he claims is there in the process. In true Walking Dead style Noah learns that there really is no place like home
So on the road again it is as the group sets off on what immediately feels like another season long 500 mile journey only to see them refreshingly skip the first 495! One of the biggest gripes we get with The Walking Dead is the amount time and stringing on it can take to get somewhere important. Instead this week we’re virtually travelling by map and skipping to the end to reach Shirewilt Estates (a play on the key early comics location of Wiltshire Estates). It also does this in a much more personal manor than we’d expect now the gang’s had its big old mid-season reunion. Rather than the whole tribe we stay with a single car scouting party of Rick, Glenn, Michone, Tyresse and Noah which again is great change up because it feels deliberate storytelling choice rather than the forced hand situations we witnessed in the second half of last season with everyone split into small groups. Even though the focus is on Noah and Tyresse it permits all of them to have relevant individual character moments as they come to terms with another failed safe haven and their recent loss of purpose following Eugene’s lies and Beth’s demise. Michone’s is the most interesting in her continued hope of re-fortifying the estate and achieving a less desperate, day by day method of survival. It’s also quite curious the main problems become not repairing barricades to keep out walkers but the surrounding forest cover making ideal for an ambush from other groups; going back to the show’s roots “fight the dead, fear the living”. The explosive marks around the wall breach imply just that happened to the former residents. The “wolves not far” graffiti glimpsed briefly on a wall feels quite foreboding. A second blink or miss it clue sees a “W” carved into the forehead (the redneck Inglorious Basterds?) of the biting walker torso on the car windshield near the episode’s end (belonging to the many severed arms and legs the group found lying by the breach). Whoever these Wolves are or were they seem to have a flare for the dramatic and will give the group a lot of trouble if they cross paths with the pack. No immediate Wolves tie in to the comics springs to mind but one big familiar name was being tantalising teased this week. With Washington re-declared as the new destination it seems almost certain that Negan will come swinging into the picture and as this week Glen finds a baseball bat and a couple corpses look like such a weapon carved their head in; it appears the seductive writers know we’re waiting too as savour us devouring such morsels.
Yet the big and surprisingly interesting story this week was centred on the big man himself, Tyresse. He’s always been a good character and we have delved previously into his morality by choosing to forgive Carol but here we actually dive head first into his mindset as some very real peril sees him have hallucinatory confrontations with many of his regrets across his time on the show. You could call this some serious fan fiction indulgence but you really shouldn’t the reappearing killed of faces of Bob, Martin, The Govenor, Lizzie & Mika and even dear Beth all serve the narrative fantastically as they represent the different arguments and fears inside his head burning through a vast array of topics like morality, heroism and even chaos theory. Many imply he will perish because as a man of conscience he hasn’t been able to adapt to the realities of what the world has become. As Martin implies that (harking back to season opener) doing the right thing would just get him killed “It was gonna be you.... you’re the guy that saves babies” or the way Governor tells him he really didn’t know what he was saying when he promised to whatever it takes in Woodbury. Yet at the same time you have Bob fighting the corner of predetermination as his killing blow came so casually “It went the way it had to, the way it was going to”. It’s all an incredible psychedelic mental explosion of man staring death in face. There’s also several great intercuts between both realities, the best being Lizzie and Mika taking his hand in apparent condolence. Yet for all the past life attacks on Tyresse’s decisions his ultimate defiance in the face of his biggest opposition is nothing short of moving. As he grits out a repeating “it’s not over” he’s not just talking about himself or his life but his choices and the path of humanity. That we are not over; that a good man can still survive in this world without becoming a monster. Scott Gimple’s script frequently sucker punches you with its depth and intelligence.
The episode’s title is appropriate as this is heavily a recap and taking stock episode right down to the framing of past locationss such as The Prison, Woodbury and the road to Terminus. Yet it does so in an enjoyable manor while of course achieving the key goal of such an episode by finishing with a clear new direction as The Walking Dead finally leaves Georgia in its dust to give us a wider reaching story. It boats some great visuals in the burned out estate remains and Tyresse perspective slow mo shots of zombie action going down have a real touch of quality to them. While episode director Greg Nicotero doesn’t have the same licence for destruction he was issues in No Sanctuary, he reminds us why that season opener was memorable for more than the just Michael Bay moments thanks to his skill. The Michone proof zombie (metal rod sticking out of its neck) was a hilarious touch. Noah coming to terms with losing his family and friends is nothing new for the show and the character doesn’t do anything groundbreaking with it but it give the episode a nice grounding. Overall an excellently constructed episode that just wants for a little more energy in places to contrast the downer vibe of the first half.