With the Season Finale just one week away, there are a ton of questions yet to be answered, and our groups are still widely scattered. Now that everyone save for Daryl and possibly Beth seems to be on the road (or tracks) to the same destination, this situation should be changing very soon. How much did it change tonight? Were any lingering questions answered? And how does Scott Gimple follow last week’s intense episode, the best of this season and possibly the entire show so far? Click after the break to read my episode recap and commentary, as I try to dissect what we learned tonight, and suggest what may be coming up next week.
<<Spoiler Alert: The following review will discuss at length plot points of The Walking Dead S04E15, “Us.” Read more at your own risk.>>
We begin in tight focus on a quarter on the tracks, as Eugene and Tara walk in the lead of the group. Eugene is talking about examining the fossil record, and how there’s nothing to disprove the possibility that it wasn’t something like this that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs – he suggests a zombie velociraptor, which he says is a game he’d buy in an instant. I have to say I’m with him – zombie dinosaurs? Sign me up. Tara picks up the quarter and gives it to him, and he tells her how to make a simple battery, the sort of experiment most of us did in high school science class. Tara feigns interest, but it’s obvious he’s boring her. He asks her what kind of gamer she was – did she play MMOs, RPGs, etc. She just seems to be shaking her head. We cut to night, the scene we saw in last week’s Sneak Peek video (see the video and my review here). The conversation centers on Abraham seeing Tara and Glenn as people to help him get a vehicle, after which he’ll take off north with Eugene. He’s trying to understand Tara’s motivation for helping Glenn. He realizes that she’s gay, so he knows it isn’t love, and he narrows it down to something she did, or something she didn’t do. She’s not willing to talk about it, but appeals to his military training, pointing out that “We’ve all got our missions.” We then go to day again, and they’re heading down the tracks. They see a Terminus sign – and Maggie’s gore-writing telling Glenn to head there. Glenn starts to run down the tracks, leaving everyone behind.
We see Joe’s group, sleeping on the ground, a barbed wire fence strung with tin cans surrounding their little bivouac. A walker approaches, and proceeds to peel it’s own cheek off on the barbed wire, waking the men. The dispatch it, and then realize that Daryl isn’t there. Seeing that his gear is still in the camp, Len (the idiot who claimed Daryl’s jacket when they first met) suggests he’s gone to do his business.
Back on the tracks, Rick is walking, talking about what they need to do. He stops, realizing that Carl and Michonne have slowed down. They’re balancing on the tracks, walking along slowly. They’ve made a bet, and Michonne loses, offering Carl one of her last two chocolate bars. He takes her favorite, and she’s sad, but doesn’t stop him. He breaks it in half, and hands one half to her, saying “we always share.” Nice moment, showing that they’ve bonded well. Rick is pleased to see Carl being playful.
In the woods, we see a rabbit. Daryl is sighting down his crossbow at it. As he releases, there’s the sound of a bow, and an arrow shoots from behind, both the arrow and the bolt hitting the rabbit simultaneously. Len tells him that his arrow hit first, and that he claims the rabbit. Daryl pulls out Len’s arrow, and tosses it aside with a shrug of contempt. He refuses to give up the rabbit. Len then goes into the spiel we heard on the Talking Dead promo video. As Daryl pulls his knife and goes to take on Len, Joe suddenly shows up out of nowhere, and grabs Daryl’s arm. He asks what’s going on, and then explains the rules he and his men live by. The main point is that things can be claimed, and once claimed, the belong to the claimant. Len wants Daryl to be beaten up – the penalty for breaking the rules – but Joe points out it wouldn’t be fair to punish him for breaking a rule he didn’t know about. Throughout, Daryl is openly recalcitrant. He tells Joe that there aren’t any rules anymore. The dynamic between he and Joe is very interesting. It’s almost as though we’re watching an episode of The Dog Whisperer, where Joe is Cesar, and Daryl is a dog that he knows might be dangerous, but can be saved. Joe is very careful with Daryl, recognizing in him his strength and ability. Most of the guys in Joe’s group seem little better than psychopaths; Daryl is someone who might actually be useful, long-term. Joe takes the rabbit by one end, Daryl not relinquishing the hind quarters. He pulls it up against a tree between them, and then uses his knife to cut it in half, tossing the front end to Len, who looks peevish, but takes it.
Back with Glenn, Abraham calls from behind, telling him they need to stop. They’re beside a loading tower, and he figures this would be a safe place to stop – they’ve only slept a couple of hours. Just as he’s saying the place is safe, they hear a walker from above. It starts to walk out an opening toward them, and in his effort to physically block Eugene from attack, he knocks Tara down, who hurts her knee. The walker falls, and splatters on the ground. Glenn helps Tara up, and asks her if she’ll be able to continue. She says she can, but Rosita intervenes, telling Glenn he needs to “man up.” She tells him that Tara will do whatever he wants, because she feels she owes him, and he needs to see that or he’ll end up taking advantage of her. Tara insists she is able to go on. Glenn makes an offer to Abraham: he’ll give him his riot gear to protect Eugene with, if he agrees to continue down the tracks until sunset. Abraham agrees, and they get moving again.
On another set of tracks, Joe and Daryl are walking together. Joe is talking to him about “men like us” and how they need rules to survive. He gives him a rundown again of the basic rules, catchy easy to remember lines like, “You steal, you keel” – so stealing is death, and a real focus on the concept of claiming things. Daryl tells him there is no us, but Joe calls him on it – he asks if Daryl is planning on leaving right now, and when Daryl doesn’t answer, Joe says, “Looks like an ‘us’ to me.” Joe sees a warehouse beside the tracks, and whistles for the men to stop – they’ll stay here for the night. He turns to Daryl and asks if he’s a cat person. He then tells him, “Ain’t nothing sadder than an outdoor cat things he’s an indoor cat.” If he’s not The Dog Whisperer, maybe he’s The Cat Whisperer.
We see Eugene in Glenn’s ill-fitting riot gear, walking down the tracks. Pulling out, we see the entire group, Glenn in the lead, and Tara obviously limping. They approach a tunnel opening, and Abraham realizes that he and Glenn aren’t going to agree on the best way to do this – Abraham wants to go around, but Glenn wants to go straight through. There’s a message on the wall, and it’s still wet – Maggie has been here very recently. To Abraham’s credit, there’s no hard feelings. He gives Glenn and Tara a couple of cans of food, as well as a heavy Maglite. Rosita hugs Glenn and says, “Try not to be an ass.” Eugene waxes poetic on Tara’s charms, but she tells him, “I like girls.” He says he knows that already, but it does look a little like he’s just covering up his mistake. Abraham and co head back up the tracks, planning on going to the last road they crossed and looking for a vehicle; Glenn and Tara head into the tunnel. Inside, Glenn tells Tara that he understands what she’s going through, that he went numb when he realized he wasn’t going to see his family or friends again. She opens up, talking about finding her girlfriend, her niece, and her sister all dead. She then begins to talk about “Bryan,” and how she knew that what he was doing to the prison was wrong, but that it wasn’t until he killed Hershel that she realized he was evil. She’s still trying to come to terms with her own role in the fall of the prison.
Daryl and Joe head into the warehouse. It’s filled with old cars and tools. As Daryl walks toward what looks like a comfy backseat, one of the gang steps in front and says, “Claimed.” He walks toward the next: “Claimed.” He walks toward a pick-up truck’s welcoming bed. Len steps up and says, “Claimed.” Daryl just shakes his head and makes his bed on the floor, while Len gives him a real stink eye.
Inside the tunnel, Glenn and Tara come up to a cave-in. Several walkers are trapped within it, still alive, but unable to pull themselves out. There’s blood, and Tara checks it out: “The blood is still wet. This had to have happened today.” Glenn goes around a pile of debris, seeing several more walkers trapped inside a narrow gully. He starts looking at each carefully, then climbs up on the pile, only to find about a dozen more walking around on the other side. He shines the flashlight beam in each one’s face. Tara is concerned – he’s drawing them closer – but we realize what he’s doing when he says, “She’s not one of them.” He tells Tara that they need to carry on, but she points out they don’t have enough ammo to take them all out. But he insists – they need to push through.
Back on the road, Abraham and co have found a few vehicles, and are clearing them out. He asks Rosita to keep Eugene back while he kills one walker in a minivan. He dispatches her, gets inside, and the ignition works. He runs the windshield wipers to get the dirt off, and sees a handwritten note on the window: Leave Momma Be. He dismisses its sentimentality with a slight shake of his head. Outside, Eugene is arguing with Rosita. He wants to be the navigator, and she points out that he’s gotten them lost before. He denies this, and starts using his more advanced vocabulary to try to baffle her with bullshit; she just shakes her head, hands him the map, and tells him to remember that they’re heading north.
In the tunnel, Glenn is using the flashlight beam to try to draw the walkers to one side of the cave-in, while he and Tara sneak around the other. However, just as it looks like they’re going to get by, a rock shifts, trapping Tara’s leg inside the debris. Glenn pulls hard, but is unable to get her out.
We cut back to the minivan, where Abraham is fast asleep in the back, with Rosita driving and Eugene giving instructions. “Turn left here,” he says, and she complains that this is the third left turn he’s asked her to make. Suddenly, he tells her to stop. They’re on a set of tracks. Rosita and Eugene start to argue, but he explains that the whole purpose to his navigation is that he figures that this is where Glenn and Tara should be, if they get through the tunnel safely. Abraham wakes up, and gets angry with Rosita, telling her that she is not to stop under any circumstances. She points out that Eugene told her to, but Abraham is having none of it, and their conversation grows heated. Eugene, staring off to his right down the tracks, says, “Guys. Guys. Guys!” He’s seen something, and he has to yell to get the others’ attention.
We smashcut to the warehouse, and a close-up of Daryl lying on the floor as Len starts complaining loudly. He accuses Daryl of stealing his half of the rabbit, because it isn’t in his bag anymore. Joe comes over to sort things out, Len claiming Daryl’s a thief and a liar, Daryl claiming that he hasn’t touched the rabbit. Joe takes Daryl’s plastic garbage bag, and empties it out. Out falls the front end of the rabbit, and Len looks justified. Daryl gets really pissed off, telling Joe that Len must have planted it. Joe asks Len to be specific about what happens, and when he’s done, decks him, telling the others to “teach him a lesson.” Turns out he saw Len plant the rabbit in Daryl’s bag, and he just wanted to see if Len would lie about it. He did; as he tells Daryl, “You told the truth, he lied. You know the rules, he doesn’t.” Daryl doesn’t blink at this, but does seem a bit uncomfortable with how people are laying into Len. Joe tosses him the half rabbit, a reward in effect for following the rules, even if Daryl only does so by being himself.
Back in the tunnel, Tara is still stuck, and their struggles are starting to draw the attention of the walkers. Tara yells at Glenn to go, but he refuses. He pulls out his handgun, shooting about half a dozen of them point-blank, until he runs out of bullets. He bends to grab a rock, anything, when the roar of an engine interrupts him. A voice yells, “Get down!” and he ducks and covers as multiple guns start firing into the crowd of walkers, taking them all out. Looking up, Glenn sees six people in silhouette, framed by vehicle headlights lighting them up from behind. One walks toward them – it’s Maggie. She starts to cry, and the two hug each other. She smiles, and says, “Hi.” We cut to a little later, as they’re piling the walker bodies up on one side of the tunnel. The people who saved Glenn and Tara are a mixed crew of Maggie, Bob, and Sasha, along with Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita. Turns out that what Eugene saw was Maggie’s group walking up the tracks toward them, and they all rushed in here to find Glenn and Tara, arriving just in time. Glenn introduces Tara to Maggie, telling her that she is someone he met on the road, and that she decided to help him, “Because that’s just the kind of person she is.” This is a kindness done both for Tara’s and for Maggie’s sake, as knowing her involvement in The Governor’s plans won’t bring back Hershel, and Glenn has recognized Tara’s utility and her capacity for loyalty. I think he’s just cemented their friendship with this act.
Abraham tells them that now that they’re all together, he suggests they cram into the van and head straight to DC, and Tara indicates that she’ll go along with them – her mission, helping Glenn find Maggie, has succeeded, and she’s no longer in thrall, even if she likes and appreciates Glenn. I think she’s got hope where Rosita is considered, so she now wants to tag along with their group. However, before any kind of resolution can pass, Eugene suggests that they not head off heedlessly to the north. He points out that they’ve only made it 55% of the way from Houston to DC, “most of that in an armored military vehicle.” And yet, they’ve managed to lose eight other survivors along that trip. Rosita gets defensive – there’s a story here – but before she can talk about the losses too much, Eugene continues. He wants to go on to Terminus, thinking that they may have food or other supplies that would greatly aid their journey. Abraham comes around, and says, “Tomorrow we go to the end of the line. Then Washington.” Later, as they’re all settling in for the night, Maggie and Glen are lying beside each other. They move their blanket, and Glenn’s photo of Maggie falls out. She takes it, and goes to set it on fire, Glenn taking it away and complaining that it’s the only photo he has of her. She says, “You’ll never need another photo of me again,” and together they set it on fire. This marks a transformative moment in their relationship – fire is often a symbol of change and clean beginnings, and this is what they are hoping for now that they have found each other again.
Back in the warehouse, it’s morning, and the men are getting ready to leave. Daryl notes some bloodstains on the floor where the others were beating Len. Through the open door, we see one of the thugs carrying Len’s bow over his left shoulder, and looking down, Daryl sees Len’s body, and arrow through its head, lying below the loading dock. Daryl picks up a blanket, and seems to consider placing it over the body – but he decides not to. Is this a turning point for Daryl, as well? It’s subtle, but it is a moment where he denies his own humanity, much like the scene back in the clubhouse shop when he didn’t understand Beth’s desire to treat a dead torso with respect. I hope this doesn’t mean he’s giving up on the side of himself Beth drew out. We next see him walking beside Joe, sharing some white lightning in a flask. This is confirmation – the last time he drank, it was the same moonshine, and it was with Beth. He opened up to her, showed her his human side; here, that situation is being mirrored in the narrative, only this time the person who is influencing him is Joe, who is a negative image, a sort of doppelganger for Beth in the relationship they each have as mentors in Daryl’s journey. As they’re walking, they come across a sign for Terminus. Daryl asks if they’re heading there, and if they’ve seen similar signs before. Joe tells him that they were in a house a few days ago, and that someone holed up inside choked one of their men, leaving him to turn and to attack the rest of them. One of them saw his face, and they’ve been tracking him since, wanting to exact justice. Of course, it’s Rick they’re talking about. The man who saw him was Tony, who was fighting over the bed Rick was hiding under; he saw Rick when he was in the choke hold, just before he passed out. As Joe tells the story, Tony spies a wild strawberry, and walks over to pick it. “Claimed,” says Daryl, who steps in front and picks it. He looks down and notes a chocolate bar wrapper on the tracks – this is the chocolate bar that Carl and Michonne were sharing earlier in the episode. The other men don’t seem to notice it, and they continue walking on down the tracks.
In the final sequence of the night, Glenn, Maggie, and the others finally arrive at Terminus. It’s a large train station, with the name written across it in huge block letters – fitting, considering it is a physical as well as figurative terminus for Season 4. They go up to a chain link fence with a gate, which isn’t locked but rather held together with a large chain. They go through, and come to a second gate, also not locked. It has a sign on it: “Lower your weapons. You will be met. You have arrived at Terminus.” They go through, and see a narrow alley with a small garden, a table set with washing tubs and scrubbing boards, and at the end, a lone woman with her back turned to them, standing behind a brick barbecue. She turns and smiles at them. “My name is Mary,” she says. She goes on, “Let’s get you settled, and we’ll get you a plate. Welcome to Terminus.”
We end up seeing four groups in tonight’s episode, and get the answers to a couple of questions, so there was definitely movement. Was there as much as last week? Physically, yes, and the culmination of Glenn and Maggie’s mutual search was a nice mini-climax for the episode. I like the fact that Eugene talked Abraham into staying on until Terminus, because I sense that whatever they find there, Abraham’s pragmatism and strength will be a great boon to the group. Having them meet up with Maggie’s group is a good move as well. If they’d all arrived at Terminus individually, they may not have been as safe, and Glenn and Tara likely wouldn’t have even made it out of the tunnel alive.
We got to see Rick, Carl, and Michonne briefly, but this turned out to be more in service of Daryl’s storyline, as the chocolate bar turned out to be a major plot point for later, when we discover that Joe’s group is tracking Rick. Remember what Len said early on: “The rules of the hunt don’t apply out here.” Daryl, the best tracker of this bunch (he’s the only one that notes the chocolate bar wrapper), is now in a position where he is hunting his own friend, although he doesn’t know that it’s Rick for certain yet. His move to “claim” the strawberry from Tony at the end of the episode can only be one of two things: either he’s buying into Joe’s set of rules, or he’s trying to fool Joe into thinking he is. Either way, he’s making himself a part of this group, but I just can’t believe that he’s caving that easily to Joe. Seeing what this group is capable of won’t endear them to Daryl; remember, he always tried to avert Merle’s more homicidal tendencies, such as when he stopped his brother from stealing from a family near the end of Season 3. I believe that, at this point, he’s clearly using Joe’s group to help him survive, and in order to help him find the other survivors. If they’re tracking someone, Daryl can be pretty certain it’s someone from the prison, just given the proximity. Seeing the chocolate bar wrapper is what convinces me of this. He’s been living and working with Michonne for a while now, and the two really bonded on their trip to the veterinary hospital. He’s seen her eat numerous times, and will know something of her habit – and he probably knows that this brand of chocolate bar is Michonne’s favorite, something she made a big deal of when Carl took it from her over their bet. Daryl is aware that Michonne is with whomever they are following, and he’s going to play along so that he can save them from Joe’s group. If I’m wrong, I’ll be greatly disappointed, but I can’t think of another reason why a) the writers emphasized this particular chocolate bar as being her favorite, b) the only one to note the wrapper is Daryl, and c) he doesn’t point out to anyone else that he’s spotted spore. Daryl, although tempted by Joe’s dog-whispering ways, stays loyal to his human side, the one nurtured by Beth. And on a deeper level, I’m pretty sure that he knows it’s Rick they’re tracking. If it were Carl, Joe would emphasize that it was a boy; if it were Bob or Glenn, Joe might mention race – after all, that’s something deeply ingrained into the American psyche through years of watching police procedurals, where race becomes a defining factor in description – except when the individual is white. In those cases, there are often no descriptors whatsoever, and the only person who fits the bill is Rick. Seeing that Michonne is there confirms this for Daryl, so in that one moment, he goes from understanding what is motivating Joe’s group, to understanding who exactly they are chasing. I’m just hoping that when they see Rick, Daryl shouts, “Claimed.”
It wasn’t as moving an episode as last week, although the emotional reunion of Maggie and Glenn was touching and done well. The burning of the photo was especially poignant, and shows that they are looking for a new beginning with each other. The darker purpose of Joe’s group, and their ability to turn on and kill one of their own (although in their defense, Len was a complete jerk), escalates the potential for a violent ending to the season next week. One thing that we get reminded of week after week: no matter how deadly the walkers are, humans are a far more dangerous foe.
Steve’s Rating: B
A solid penultimate episode, without as much drama as we’ve seen in previous seasons. Moving groups together means that we should see more reunions next week, and likely a confrontation between Daryl’s new group and Rick – let’s hope that Daryl remembers who his real friends are.