Season 4 of The Walking Dead may be one of the most brilliantly pieced together seasons so far of the AMC series. Of course, there was hope and relief when the originals first found a prison to call home—cultivating a way of life, protected in ways the old farmhouse couldn’t provide. But we had to know that nothing is permanent in a post-apocalyptic zombie-walking world. And perhaps that moment was best realized in this episode when we discover that—yes, Glenn is alive. (Did you hear that, Maggie?) But more on that later.
After the prison raid that left everyone fragmented and scattered across the Georgian forests, we were left with familiar questions we’ve had to process before when an episode ends in a battle or a mass fleeing. Who will survive? Where will they go? How on earth will they reunite, if at all? Last week, we quickly learned Rick, Carl and Michonne are OK. Because they have to be OK. But this raid at the hands of the Governor —excuse me, Brian— and his soul-crushing assassination of my favorite character, Hershel, signified a new beginning for The Walking Dead. Beginnings on this show mean three things: Something terrible has just happened and morale is now a top priority, food and shelter are seemingly secondary to tracking loved ones, and in the words of Jim Morrison, the future is uncertain and the end is always (still very) near.
Lizzie and Mika are alive, along with Tyreese, and the biggest surprise of the episode—Baby Judith. So why did Rick and Carl think they saw a dead baby in the carrier back at the prison during the raid? Tyreese has his hands full with a crying baby and two girls who barely know the ropes. We’re past the point where we need to bring up conversation about kids using guns in TWD. Carl had to grow up sometime, often forced to brave the walkers in season of the past when Rick was losing his mind, their father-son roles reversed. As we watched Carl navigate a world of new understanding and responsibility, the prospect of kids growing up in this type of world meant they’d all have to become little musketeers. Lizzie tells Mika to put her knife in front of her shirt so that it’s easier for her to access. Lizzie is a little bit older, and her face says it all—she is not prepared to give up, cry, or take any risks that might endanger her survival. She begins smothering Baby Judith after she won’t stop crying and walkers are nearing closer.
In a flash, after hearing the girls’ gunshot to ward off the walkers, Tyreese, who has run up the road to help a gaggle of strangers, turns to see the girls safely walking toward him with Carol, holding a quiet and calm Baby Judith! It’s Carol, you guys! She’s alive! She’s totally been in exile for killing Tyreese’s girlfriend Karen and friend David, and he still has no idea. He’s overjoyed to see her. And Carol’s face tells us this is the most awkward reunion to ever take place on a road where signs warn: Hitchhikers may be escaped inmates. Oh, the irony.
Meanwhile, Daryl and Beth have been tracking the forest for signs of life, but they run into a swarm of walkers and we start to see how significant Beth’s role is becoming after several seasons of a rather meek young girl homesteading and care-taking for the children. The show wants us to know Beth in a better way. As the show opens, we hear Beth’s voice reading her diary entries from the time they first arrived to the prison. She is hopeful and resilient, quoting her father Hershel’s wise advice. But the words are juxtaposed with Beth and Daryl running through a huge field, Daryl the silent huntsman nodding to Beth that they must keep going—she must keep going.
Maggie appears to be in a daze, giving her knife a half-assed sharpening over a rock by a river. She’s with Sasha and Bob. But she wants to find Glenn. The two are reluctant at first, but finally follow her to stick to the group. They manage to locate the bus where we last saw Glenn board with others to get away from the prison. It’s now laden with walkers, but Maggie insists they bring the walkers out to determine if any of them are Glenn. To her extreme relief, he isn’t there.
Oh, there is he! Glenn wakes up inches away from a hoard of hungry walkers, their hands outstretched above them. He realizes the second-story walkway atop the prison yard has been blown apart in the middle, and goes inside the cellblock to the room he once shared with Maggie. This is that moment I’m talking about when I said, earlier, that we now realize how imperfect and unknowing this new world has become. Even though their little room is decorated with white linen curtains, a few paintings on the wall, and a photo of his wife Maggie sitting near the bedside, this will no longer serve them the sanctuary they once believed existed, even if they only let themselves believe it partially, in passing moments riddled with doubt.
Glenn, covered in hard-shelled prison armor, escapes through the walkers waiting outside of the block to find—drum roll, please!—Tara, our favorite post-apocalyptic lesbian who is huddled in a gated-off area looking stunned and scared. He finally gets her to walk with him, realizing she hasn’t fired a single shot from her gun. Tara was the last person who wanted to go along with Governor/Brian’s raid. She lost her sister, her niece, and her new lover Alisha. So no one is having a worse week than Tara.
Glenn doesn’t care that Tara was technically brainwashed to kill him and all of the people that matter the most to him. She breaks the news about Hershel’s death and Glenn tells her that Hershel always told him to believe and do his best, so that’s exactly what he intends to continue doing. I can’t help but feel really weepy in this moment, thinking back on those early days when the original group led by Rick first met Hershel and his family at his farmhouse. How so many relationships have flourished even though civilization as we know it is completely gone, is the green bulb of life that keeps the circle turning in this show. Without these relationships, what are we left with? A separated, disbanded group is more horrifying than a ghastly, blood-soaked walker.
Outside of the prison, Glenn and Tara have made it safely to the road when Glenn is knocked over by a surprise walker and Tara kills the walker by bludgeoning him over the head with Glenn’s rifle. Crush, squish, crush, squish. She doesn’t stop. This is Tara’s first kill (at least that we know of). And now, she knows it’s her complete duty. Oh, yeah—that shirt she’s wearing? It’s a Motormouth Mabel T-shirt—they’re a punk band from South Carolina. Tara is a hip girl.
“Hope you enjoyed the show, assholes!”
Tara chucks the ground to the gun, proud of her newfound fury. Three people emerge from behind a big tank and a man who introduces himself as Abraham (an importantly huge character in the Walking Dead comics) tells her she’s got a big mouth on her, followed by: “What else you got?”
Funny he should ask! We’re wondering the same thing, Tara. ‘Til next week.
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