Is the well running dry?
This Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead brings us down to just a handful left in the season, and it still isn’t one hundred percent clear how exactly the showrunners intend to wrap things up for the long, long wait to Season 5. The end of Season 1 had the climactic scene at the CDC; Season 2 the disaster at the Greene farm; and Season 3 the Governor’s initial assault on the prison. This half season feels much more like the Season 1 lead-up than either of the two later seasons, as it is much more about the journey than it is about losing a stable location they already have (the farm/the prison). The question, then, is this: is the “Grove” of the title the town of Terminus, or is it somewhere along the way? Whichever it is will determine the tone of the show moving forward into Season 5, and dictate whether we go out on a bang, or a whimper. Click through after the break to see some thoughts on this, as well as a detailed breakdown of the Sneak Peek and Promo videos this week.
<<Spoiler Alert: This Sneak Peek of The Walking Dead Episode 414 “The Grove” will discuss events from earlier episodes in the series, as well as discussing events that may be upcoming. Read only if you’re all caught up!>>
Before we get to my thoughts on where the last three episodes as a whole are taking us, let’s take a look at the Sneak Peek video:
This one’s pretty straightforward and requires very little unpacking. The only real question is who or what is that coming down the tracks toward Tyreese and Lizzie? The shuffling walk reminds me a lot of how Rick looked right after the attack on the prison, but it’s been a few days now, and he’s starting to get back his strength; plus, if it’s him on the tracks, where are Michonne and Carl? They’re not exactly going to split up out of choice at this point. There are three possibilities I can think of: something’s happened to Rick, Michonne, and Carl, and this is Rick struggling up the tracks; it’s a walker; or, it’s another new survivor, someone most likely connected either to Terminus, or to the group of marauders that have taken Daryl in. I’m kind of hoping it’s someone from Terminus, and that they have less than happy news about the place. This would make Tyreese and Carol’s journey there all about trying to ensure that other survivors aren’t heading that way, and add some tension to their journey. Of course, seeing Tyreese leave baby Judith with Lizzie was disturbing – obviously, this means that Tyreese doesn’t know that she almost smothered the baby, and that either Carol didn’t see her doing it, or she is keeping more than one secret for the moment.
Par for the course (wouldn’t that statement have made more sense two weeks ago at the golf course?), the Promo video contains a whole lot more information packed in a smaller package (warning – the video runs for 29 seconds, then goes into a promo for the YouTube channel that’s published it – this ad is loud!):
“Whole world’s haunted now,” Tyreese says in voiceover, as we see he, Carol, Mika and Lizzie walking down the tracks, looking thoroughly depressed – but where is Judith? I don’t see her in this scene, which bodes ill. She may be on either Carol’s or Tyreese’s back, but again the people who put together the Promo videos have done an excellent job of choosing shots and angles that make us question what’s going on. “We are who we are,” Tyreese continues, as Carol, leading them, comes to two handles sticking out of the ground – they look like the handles of a post hole digger. Cut to an African American hand reaching for a pistol sitting on a table – it’s impossible to say who it is, but my guess is Tyreese. The person reaching is wearing a sweatshirt, and the sleeves remind me of something he wore earlier in the series, so it may very well be a flashback to a time Tyreese contemplated suicide. We’ve already seen several flashbacks in recent weeks in the service of character building, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see something from Tyreese’s past. “And we do what we do,” he continues, as the camera shows a close-up of him and Carol looking ahead; he turns toward her and shakes his head: “There’s no getting out of that.” Beat picks up, and we go into smash cut mode: a walker crawling toward us; Mika and Lizzie running down the tracks; Tyreese drawing his hammer from his belt, as seen in the Sneak Peek; more walkers approaching; Lizzie, hanging her head and crying; Tyreese, trying to see what’s down the tracks with his hammer in-hand; Carol crying – someone’s dead; Tyreese: “Not until we’re dead.”; Mika on the ground, trying to crawl under a wire as a walker reaches to grab her, and she screams, “No, Carol!”; Carol sobbing, as the screen fades to sepia.
It looks like two possibilities arise here: either Judith is dead, hence both Carol’s and Lizzie’s tears, or Mika is unable to escape from the walkers, and they are mourning her. Of course, a third possibility is that they both die, but I just don’t see the showrunners killing two children in one episode. Past child deaths in the series have been particularly solitary and poignant moments: Rick’s dispatch of the teddy bear carrying zombie in the Episode 101, and the shooting of zombie-Sophia in Episode 216. I don’t think they’d want to alienate viewers, nor appear to be picking on the most vulnerable, when a huge part of the survivors’ story has been their insistence on protecting those unable to fend for themselves (even if temporarily, such as during the illness at the prison). Of course, another huge part of that story has been their inability to do the same, hence their loss of first Hershel’s farm, and then the prison more recently.
Carol, considering how to break the news
There is a third video, the one shown during The Talking Dead last week, and for my money, it’s the creepiest thirty seconds I’ve ever seen from the TWD team:
We’re focused in on a gas stove, one element on high with a copper kettle nearing boiling on top. In the background, we hear The Inkspots classic song, “Maybe.” If you’re a fan of the Fallout series of videogames, this song will be familiar, as it was used in the game’s first trailer, and is a particular haunting tune, invoking a sense of poignant nostalgia. The camera pans back, and we see a window. The scene both inside and out is idyllic – a typical early summer day in Anytown, America. Outside, a child runs by, giggling. We see a garage with what appears to be a vehicle inside, and then we pan past an old wood-fired stove, covered in baskets of nuts and a few pots – this is definitely a lived in and homey environment. We look out a second window, and hear a voice – it sounds like a young girl – saying someone’s name, just out of earshot. A second figure lurches into view. It’s clearly a walker, and the girl giggles as she casually avoids its lumbering embrace. As we watch, the kettle begins to boil in the background.
Creepy stuff indeed. If I had to make a guess, I’d say this is where Beth has been taken. It has the feel of a sort of Bizarro World version of Hershel’s farm, where walkers are playmates. I’m very intrigued to see what kind of family would have a daughter that thinks playing with walkers is normal, and I fear for Beth in this situation. Perhaps this is, in fact, the grove of the episode’s title.
Although the only survivors we see in the Sneak Peek and Promo videos are Carol, Tyreese, and the Samuels sisters, I’m pretty sure we’re going to see more groups in this episode; at the very least, I think we’re going to see Beth, and perhaps Daryl. At this point, we’re getting very close to the end of the season, so we’re going to need to see some more connections happening. Maybe they’ll even have a couple of groups run into each other. What’s going to happen if Daryl and his new “friends” meet up with Rick, Michonne, and Carl? I’m looking forward to seeing what the writers and showrunner have in store for us over the next three weeks.