We’re down to two more episodes before the mid-season finale so you had to figure much of tonight’s outing was going to be all about the set-up for next week and that was largely what we got. If anything, this was “Mid-Season Finale – Part 1” and the sole purpose was to get us hyped for next week.
For the first time in weeks, we get a comprehensive look at our cast. Instead of episodes devoted to one group — Daryl and Carol; Beth at the hospital and Abraham’s expedition to D.C. — we bounce around to the various subplots, a storytelling format that works best for the show.
Things are at a crossroads for the former D.C. Expedition group. Eugene is still unconscious and Glenn has effectively relieved Abraham of command of the D.C. Expedition or as Tara dubs them GREATM — short for Glenn, Rosita, Eugene, Abraham, Tara, Maggie. Abraham isn’t in the mood for offering up a better name as he’s still in a near catatonic state after Eugene’s revelation. Tara gets why Eugene lied about being able to find a cure in D.C. though as it was the only talent he had. Not a whole lot happens with this look at the group beyond Glenn ensuring Rosita she’s necessary in their group. While it’s convenient to keep them apart, the writers haven’t fully given a worthwhile reason why Glenn wouldn’t want to get back with Rick and the others at the church.
We’re finally back to the church with The Grimes Gang. The group is fortifying the church using whatever isn’t nailed down or can’t be chopped up. Sasha’s still grieving over Bob while Tyrese struggles to find some way to comfort her. Now with Daryl back and Noah’s insight in to how Dawn’s camp operates, Rick is preparing his rescue strategy for Carol and Beth from the confines of the hospital prison. Rick is fully set to go Assassin’s Creed on the hospital and take out Dawn’s police army quietly using their silencers and edged weapons. Tyrese offers a suggestion of just capturing two of Dawn’s men and making a fair trade. Rick, clearly echoing the audience’s sentiment, says Tyrese’s plan could work, but his will work. Shockingly, Daryl wants to try it Tyrese’s way and Rick shoots him an “I don’t even know you anymore man!” look.
Michonne (who has been criminally underutilized thus far this season) draws the short straw and has to stay with Carl, Judith and Gabriel, who is still trying to clean the bloodstains out from the Gareth Cannibal Crew vs. Grimes Gang battle. Funny how the stain remover is always the first thing to go.
Carl tries to reason with Gabriel about the practicality of being familiar with a weapon and not to rely on anyone, recalling an earlier message Rick gave Carl a while ago. Michonne is impressed Carl’s got the new zombie world order speech down and Gabriel seems somewhat convinced as he takes a machete. But before we start giving him too much credit, Gabriel is just using it to create an escape hatch. He doesn’t get far when a walker corners him and Gabriel manages to overpower it by impaling it. The next obvious move is for him to just drop the stone he’s carrying over the walker’s head, but after seeing a cross around its neck, Gabriel can’t bring himself to kill — even a walker. Gabriel is an interesting character as he’s the first true coward/pacifist we’ve seen and you know at some point he’s either going to get someone else killed or wind up a walker meal.
Turning to the place where everyone wants to get to — save GREATAM — Dawn is talking with a deputy about how to handle Noah’s escape and Carol’s medical care as Beth eavesdrops. As the momentum on the “let’s use our valuable resources to save this stranger” starts to fade, Beth interrupts and calls out the deputy for wasting power on his DVD player. Watch your face Beth! Surprisingly, Dawn gives Beth the key to the drug locker so she can attempt to save Carol so long as Dawn isn’t connected to it. Dawn is understanding her control is tenuous and doesn’t want to give any disgruntled cops a reason to turn on her.
Speaking of just such a circumstance, Rick’s crew manages to nab three of Dawn’s cops in a parking lot filled with walker bodies melted to the pavement. Daryl offers the episode’s bad-a$$ moment by pulling a walker’s head off and using it to club one of Dawn’s cops. The cops say they were planning on turning on Dawn anyway so this whole prisoner exchange isn’t gonna work out too well. Their argument would be a lot more convincing if the lead spokesman, Sgt. Lamson wasn’t played by Maximiliano Hernandez (one of the Hydra traitors in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier [Blu-ray]”).
This is one of those rare cases where an actor’s previous role really affects how credible you find him and no matter how reasonable Lamson sounds in offering Rick a way to peacefully settle this issue with Dawn, you’re kinda expecting a betrayal because …
And then he gains a little extra credibility with Sasha because he tells Rick his first name is Bob. For some reason, Sasha is alone with Lamson, and he begins telling her about a dead cop whose walker body is melted to the pavement outside. Sasha offers to take out the walker for him courtesy her rifle. It makes sense for Sasha to go along with this as she’s not thinking clearly, but where the heck was Tyrese or Daryl or Rick? Heck, even Noah? It’s to make what happens next — Lamson running Sasha’s run into the window — possible, but still… And clearly the morale of tonight’s lesson is that Rick’s intense, kill-em-all strategy may be ruthless, but it sure won’t get your sister’s head split.
The episode would have been a lot stronger had the focus just stayed on Rick and co. especially since the GREATM subplot just felt like so much filler and Gabriel’s storyline only needs development up to him getting someone else killed. Next week will prove the definitive statement on this first arc of the season and it kind of needs a strong cliffhanger to recover some of the momentum lost after the conclusion of the Terminus arc.