Tainted Meat: A Review of The Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 3 “Four Walls and a Roof”

Posted: October 27, 2014 in Reviews, The Walking Dead, TV
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Episode: 503
Airdate: October 26, 2014
Directed by: Jeffrey F. January
Showrunner: Scott M. Gimple
Written by: TBD (episode); Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore (graphic novels)

Bob was left in something of a tricky situation last week – no leaving his plight on the back-burner, as it were. Gareth and his group of remaining Termites, the self-described Hunters, will need to be confronted, lest Rick and the gang go the way of Bob’s left leg. So how are they going to get out of this one? Click through for my complete review.

<<Spoiler Alert: The following review will discuss at length plot points of The Walking Dead S05E03, “Four Walls and a Roof” – read more at your own risk.>>

We begin with Bob. There are several close-ups on Gareth and his crew as they savor every bite of Bob’s leg. Frankly, these shots felt a little gratuitous, going for the gross-out factor – but they are used as a set-up. As Gareth waxes poetic to Bob about how nice they really were at Terminus – he tells Bob that there would have been a choice to “join us or feed us” – Bob just ignores him. Gareth’s upset by this, his false urbanity cracking a little. He gives Bob a fair amount of information – the notches on the trees were their marks in case they wanted to retrace their steps to Terminus; one of their members nearly nabbed Daryl and Carol before they headed off in the car last week – all of which serves to solve some of the minor mysteries from last week, without feeling like too much exposition.

Bob appears to be overcome with emotion, and Gareth gets upset. “I’m being human here,” he protests, acting as though he is entitled to Bob’s undivided attention. But Bob is rather distracted. Although it looks at first like he is sobbing, he is in fact in the throes of gut-busting laughter. The other Termites gather around, the woman commenting that he’s lost it, Martin offering to put him down, when Bob speaks through his tears. “You morons,” he says, pulling his shirt back to expose a bite on his right shoulder. “You stupid pricks! You’re eating tainted meat!” They all, save for Gareth, spit their Bob burgers out on the grass, retching up the contents of their stomachs, while Gareth tries to calm them with talk of cooking the virus out. But Bob continues to laugh, yelling “Tainted meat!” several times, until Gareth shuts him up with a boot to the face.

This scene will resonate very strongly with readers of the comics, with much of the dialogue taken directly therefrom, as was much at the end of last week’s episode. Clearly, this is one of those times where everything comes together across the two media and brings the stories back into conjunction, if only for a few moments (or an episode and a half, approximately). With all of the changes that Gimple and co. have made to the television production, this is indeed a rare occurrence, and one that tends to bring a thrill for those that follow both versions of the story.

Back at the church, Sasha notices that Bob hasn’t come back from his walk, and goes out looking for him. Rick and Tyreese help her out with a couple of walkers, and Rick tells her that Carol and Daryl are missing as well. Sasha puts two and two together, and gets ready to cut open the good Father Gabriel. He breaks down, and tells the group exactly why he acts so guilty all the time. Turns out he kept the church doors locked at night, and when parishioners showed up looking for sanctuary, he couldn’t find it in himself to let them in. Could have been the whole room full of food and a safe place to stay thing. Just saying. Before the parishioners could break in, their shouts and banging on the church door attracted walkers, and they were eaten while Gabriel cowered inside.

About this time, the group hears a whistle and a thud from outside the church. Much like you or I might take some bad meat back to the grocery store, Gareth and crew bring Bob back to the church. The group carries him inside, Rick firing blindly into the night. Bob tells them everything, and they find out that Daryl and Carol haven’t been taken. Rick decides it’s time to deal with the cannibals once and for all, but Abraham has other plans. His priority is Eugene’s safety, and for some reason he figures that taking him out at night, while possibly surrounded, would be the best possible plan. Rick and he nearly come to blows, but in the aftermath, Abraham agrees to stay, and Glenn, Maggie, and Tara agree to accompany he, Eugene, and Rosita up to DC.

We don’t hear the plan Rick lays out, but Abraham does comment that, “It’s got stones, I give you that.” The majority of the group heads out, leaving only Tyreese, Carl, Bob, Eugene, Rosita, Father Gabriel, and Judith at the church. As they leave, we see a large red “A” painted on the side of the church – just like the “A” that was painted on the boxcar they were kept in back at Terminus. To Gareth and his group, Rick’s people are nothing more than cattle.

We get a great shot at this point. Centered on the church’s placard, we see Rick and his group walking into the woods to the left. After about ten full seconds of motionlessness – a gutsy directorial call at any time – we see Gareth and his group emerge from bushes on the right side of the shot, moving toward the church. They have been watching, and knew that Rick would have to respond to the gauntlet that was Bob’s return. Seeing the well-armed group heading toward the school, Gareth moves in to take the young and weak.

They enter the darkened church, Martin breaking open the lock with ease. This does beg the question: why didn’t any of the parishioners think to do that when Gabriel had them locked out? Walking up to the apse, they cover two closed doors, one to either side. Gareth begins with psychological games, listing off each of the people still inside to prove that they’ve been watching the church. Then he tries to negotiate with Father Gabriel, offering him the opportunity to be left alive, and even offering to allow him to keep Judith. To be fair, Gabriel, who is holding a rosary (do Episcopalians use rosaries?), looks like he’s tempted, but he doesn’t speak. Instead, Judith cries, revealing their location.

Two Termites stand at either side of the door, guns at the ready, and Gareth asks them once more to come out. His buddy Martin is getting impatient, and asks him if they can get on with it. Gareth tells him to shoot out the door’s hinges, but before he can, there’s a “thwip…thwip” as two silenced bullets take out the two men by the door. Gareth, to his credit, reacts very well, assuming he’s still in charge. He warns the unseen assailants to put down their guns, or he’ll shoot through the door. He points with his left index and middle finger to make his point, and in a burst of red, the two fingers are blown off by a third bullet. Rick tells them to put down their weapons and kneel. Gareth and two others comply, but Martin stays on his feet – until Abraham appears beside him with an automatic rifle pointed at his head.

What follows is as brutal as anything we’ve seen in the show so far, right up there with the scene in Season 3 when Michonne takes out the Governor’s eye, or in this season’s premiere, when we see the first four men at the trough get hit on the head and have their throats slashed, or in last season’s finale, when Rick bit Joe the Claimer’s jugular, and then gutted and physically destroyed the Claimer who had tried to rape Carl. Gareth begins to plead with Rick, promising that if he lets them go, that they’ll never cross paths again. Rick doesn’t particularly care – he points out that Gareth will just do the same thing to other people he meets out on the road, and he’s not going to let that happen. As Gareth pleads, his eyes drop down to Rick’s side – where a red-handled machete is cradled in a belt slot.

Gareth tries one more ploy, seeing the fact that they weren’t immediately shot as an opening – surely that means Rick doesn’t want to kill them? “We didn’t want to waste the bullets,” Rick tells him. “Besides, I already made you a promise.” With that, he draws the machete and brings it down on Gareth’s neck. Abraham smashes the female Termite in the face with the butt of his gun, and Sasha begins to stab Martin over and over again in the chest (this is a particularly symbolic moment, as Sasha completes the job Tyreese was unable to complete back in Episode 501, when he should have killed Martin). All four Termites go down under a hail of chops and blows, blood splattering everywhere through the apse of the church. Tyreese watches in stunned silence from the door, and Father Gabriel comes out, trembling. He looks around, shock writ large on his face, and says, “This is the Lord’s house.” Maggie, who is standing beside Glenn, shakes her head. “No,” she says. “It’s just four walls and a roof.”

The denouement of the episode runs a bit longer than usual, giving viewers a chance to catch their breath again. We get an extended goodbye with Bob, who is on his last – wait for it – legs. There are some touching moments as each survivor visits with him, although there was a moment of inadvertent humor when Maggie tells him that he’ll always “be a part of us.” Really? Did the scriptwriter forget what the opening two thirds of the episode were about? Maybe he was just going for the cheap cannibal joke (not that I’d know anything about that…). Rick brings Judith to say goodbye, and Bob the Optimist shows up again, using Judith as an example and symbol of the hope he feels still exists for humanity. He tells Rick that, “Nightmares end. They shouldn’t end who you are.” This has been the theme of the season so far, from Carol’s confrontation with Mary at Terminus, through Rick’s decision that Gareth and his crew couldn’t be allowed to live.

Bob’s death is handled deftly and with a touch of the bittersweet. He awakens with a smile and a laugh, and tells Sasha that he was dreaming. In that dream, she was smiling at him, and she mirrors this as she listens to him. She tells him she isn’t playing the good from the bad anymore, and he asks her to humor him, so she asks, “So what is it? The good that comes out of this bad?” He can’t answer, however – he sighs, and breathes out his last. She takes her knife, and sits trembling, unable to do what she must. Before she can gather the courage to do so, Tyreese comes in and takes the knife from her. Prior to going out against the Termites earlier, he had tried to talk her out of her anger, her desire for revenge; now, he’s here for his sister, and he overcomes his own distaste at putting down the dead, dealing with Bob before he can turn with an almost gentle thrust of the knife through the dead man’s temple.

After Bob has passed, Abraham and his entourage say their goodbyes out front of the church, piling aboard the now repaired church bus. While about half of the group is heading for DC, the other half, led by Rick, are staying behind, hoping that Daryl and Carol will come back soon. Abraham gives Rick a map of their proposed route, asking him to follow as he can. On the map, he’s written a short note: “Sorry I was an asshole. Come to DC. The New World is going to need Rick Grimes.” A peace-offering by Abraham’s standards, and with Glenn and Maggie accompanying him, I can only assume that Rick and the rest will be on the road behind them as soon as they can.

With the bus moving out of sight, Rick sees Tyreese digging a grave outside the church grounds, a pile of bodies covered by a bloody sheet beside him. Rick goes over and grabs a shovel, helping him with the gruesome task. He asks Tyreese about the time between the prison and Terminus, and Tyreese tells him, “It killed me.” Rick pauses, shakes his head, and then replies, “No it didn’t.” Tyreese, of course, means this metaphorically – and in a sense, the earlier raging Tyreese has been killed. But the newer, kinder man who replaced him has now had his hands bloodied, albeit with the gentle putting down of Bob, and he is, perhaps, going to find a new equilibrium between his two extremes.

In the aftermath of the slaughter inside the church, Michonne found her sword sticking out of the backpack of one of the dead Termites, and she takes it. Despite her claims to the contrary last week while chatting with Rick, it’s obvious that she missed it. We see her outside on the church stairs the next evening, holding the sword out in front of her. Tyreese checks on her, and heads back inside, when she hears a noise in the bush. Remember last week when every time we heard something approaching it turned out to be Daryl? Apparently, it was foreshadowing for this moment, as it is, once again, Daryl. Only he doesn’t look too happy, almost hanging his head. Michonne smiles at first, but then realizes that he’s alone. “Where’s Carol?” she asks, and he turns back to the bush, saying, “C’mon out.” Smash cut to black.

While this isn’t the cliffhanger it could have been had we, say, left things unresolved with the Hunters (maybe in the church, before Rick and the others return), this is still a pretty major “To Be Continued” kind of moment. Who is in the bushes behind Daryl? And why does he think it is necessary to keep this person hidden, at least initially? I have a couple of ideas. Of course, it could be Morgan – but Daryl doesn’t know Morgan, except through stories. The only other survivors to meet him were Carl and Michonne, back in Episode 312 “Clear.” It could be Beth or Carol, but why then would Daryl need to keep them hidden? Or it could be someone else. My personal belief is that it is Beth, and that Carol somehow got either killed or captured while Daryl got Beth out. I guess we’ll have to wait until next week (or possibly for two weeks) to find out.

The episode had a lot of payoff tonight, as we saw a culmination to the Gareth/Terminus/cannibals/Hunters storyline. Gareth was a great bad guy, right up there with the Governor for menace, but a nicely developed, different brand of evil. While the Governor was a psychopath, Gareth was representative of bureaucratic evil. He’s every DMV agent who made you wait, every IRS agent who audited you, every call center phone maze that kept you on hold. And to Gimple’s great credit, he wasn’t over-used.

The Sasha/Tyreese doubling was very interesting tonight. Tyreese’s inability to act was addressed, redressed, and overcome, and Sasha – while in pain for the moment – is going to become a stronger (and likely more interesting) character for the events tonight.

Rick had already shown us his ability to take his violence to the next level when dealing with the Claimers in Episode 416, and here we see that this wasn’t an anomaly. Take on his family, try to kill, eat, or hurt them, and he won’t mess around. He will do whatever it takes to protect his own. While this is reassuring, it also means that he will likely get himself into more trouble in the future, as he leaves his old diplomatic self behind. The fact that he and Abraham almost came to blows tonight shows that, theoretically, this new direction for his character could lead him to make choices that are potentially more harmful than good for the group.

A few characters were also-rans tonight. In fact, I believe that Daryl had more dialogue in his fifteen seconds than Carl did in the entire episode. Eugene had all of two lines, which contradicted each other in fine Eugene fashion, and Rosita had a bit more to say than usual. The stars of tonight were clearly Bob and Sasha, with Rick and Gareth coming in just behind. Abraham and Glenn had some good moments as well, especially when Glenn acts to keep the group together – perversely, but promising to break it apart.

The coming weeks should be very interesting, with a shift to Atlanta and a focus on what happened to Beth. With the rest of the group split again, we could very well see three separate storylines moving forward, although I believe they’ll at least partially come together well before we get to DC (if that is what ends up happening). And Morgan is still somewhere nearby; he’ll definitely be a factor at some point this season.

Cool Facts and Moments:

  • When Gareth and his cannibals are talking to the hidden survivors in the church, we see a framed verse beside Eugene. It says, “Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn’t misuse it.” This is a wonderful example of mirroring the action that is happening at the same time, as Gareth’s over-confidence leads him to dangerously underestimate Rick
  • The first forty-five minutes of tonight’s episode clearly mirror the finale of the Hunters arc from Kirkman’s comic; although the couple involved – here, Bob and Sasha – is changed, the major events and much of the dialogue are taken directly from the comics
  • According to the <i>Talking Dead</i> following the episode, one of the main reasons the producers chose to build a church from scratch was due to the violent nature of Gareth’s demise
  • The scene where Gareth looks at the school window holding back several walkers is not only a clear allusion to the Governor’s zombie aquarium back in Woodbury, but it is also a way to juxtapose the two types who are busily eating humans: walkers, and cannibals – thus equating Gareth with the undead

In Memoriam:

  • Martin – killed by Sasha with a series of knife blows to the chest and throat. This show her completing what her brother Tyreese was unable to in Episode 501, “No Sanctuary”
  • Gareth – killed by Rick with the red-handled machete – as promised. A nice follow-on Big Bad to replace the Governor, and used just long enough to keep him menacing without devolving into melodrama. Well done – or perhaps rare, with a bit of char
  • Bob – killed due to illness brought on by the underwater walker that bit him in Episode 502, “Strangers.” Bob was never one of my personal favorite characters, but he was filled out rather nicely through his interactions with Maggie and Sasha over the latter half of Season 4, and through his burgeoning and foreshortened romance with the latter. Fare thee well, Bob – may your sleep be free of nightmares


Steve’s Grade: A
Another excellent episode that keeps the streak alive so far this season. The group deals with a grave threat by becoming more dangerous and savage than the enemy they face, while still somehow holding onto their humanity.

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  1. Emma says:

    Great recap! Best one I’ve found and I’ve been looking for a while for someone to mention the painted “A”s.
    And, yes, episcopalians do use rosaries. We usually make our own during confirmation classes when we’re 12 or so as a rite of passage. They are super complicated so I don’t use mine much (oops!). Just, Fyi 😉

    Thanks for the great read!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Emma, and thanks for the head’s up regarding rosaries! The A stood out to me right away – I stopped the recording, and ran it back just to have another look. It was right in line with Gareth’s psychological tactics. Great villain – I’ll miss him. But I have a feeling we’re going to get some more excellent episodes if the first three this season are any indication. If you’re into podcasts at all, have a listen to the new one I’ve just started with my friend Dan – he’s a sociologist, and I study literature, so we have some different perspectives. Our cast for this episode should be up later today (I’ll post on the blog).

      Thanks again for reading!

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