“The Walking Dead” recap (5.2): Strangers

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Terminus is up in smoke, but as the episode begins, I find myself really freaked out over that bit of foreshadowing I caught in the season opener when Rick insists they all go back in to make sure “every last one” is killed. As the group hurled the fence, we see hoodie-wearing cannibal asshole Gareth dodge Rick’s bullet—a real cosmic failure considering Rick confidently told Gareth just minutes earlier that he would kill him with the machine guns and ammo he had hidden in the forest, in those bags Gareth was so interested in retrieving. It’s one of those fatal Walking Dead mistakes that will come back to haunt everyone sooner than later—you know it because you’ve been watching since Season One and this shit always happens to Rick. 

The group charges forward and spends a few nights in the woods, simply relieved to be away from the place that provided zero sanctuary. Rick thanks Tara (Alanna Masterson) for saving Glenn’s life and basically being a cool chick that he can trust. This moment is so solidifying because it gives me hope that Tara will survive a little longer and earn her place in the group. There’s been a lot of talk lately about lesbian characters being killed off in television—and in case you haven’t read our interview with Alanna Masterson yet, it should be noted that she’s rooting for Tara to live a long, full life.

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Carol (Melissa McBride) is dealing with some heavy emotions surrounding the dark decisions she made last season. She refuses to talk to anyone about it—that means Rick, Tyreese, even her homeboy Daryl (Norman Reedus). Carol not only killed Tyreese’s girlfriend Karen and was banned from the prison by Rick after she confessed what she did, but she also killed little Lizzie, the girl who killed her sister Mika and played in the yard with walkers like they were her friends. Carol had reason—she was worried for baby Judith and was willing to do whatever it took. She felt threatened, but now she’s wrought with the kind of guilt that makes her stone cold determined to just be okay. Daryl asks her if she’s really, truly OK, and she responds: “Have to be.”  

Not-so-little-anymore Carl Grimes hears cries off in the distance. It could be anything—it could be a human pretending to suffer, only to lure the group into danger. Rick knows this, but the group runs toward the screams anyway. There they save and meet a man in clerical attire complete with a white neckband. The guy is freaked—he introduces himself as Gabriel. If you’ve read the Walking Dead comic, you might remember him as Fr. Gabriel Stokes. He leads them to his church, but they feel like he must be hiding something. How is it that he’s been here ever since the world ended so long ago? Carl’s convinced that not everyone is bad—there has to be some people left in this world who aren’t so far gone. Clearly, due to the zombie apocalypse Carl never made it far enough in school to have his class syllabus include Lord of the Flies. Rick reminds him: “You are not safe. No matter how many people are around—it only takes one second, and it’s over.” 

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Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and a few others hit up a gun shop nearby Gabriel’s church. They don’t expect to find anything left behind, it’s been years since the world changed and the chances of there being any gear of any kind is about as questionable as Gabriel’s story about a canned food drive being the reason he’s survived this long on food without venturing too far from his holy sanctuary. 

“Sanctuary” is a strange concept in the world of the Walking Dead. When Rick and the rest of the group met Maggie, Hershel, Beth and the rest of the family on Hershel’s farm, that felt like the deepest haven from the new ways of the world. Hershel even knew exactly where to sit and drink the last bits of aged whiskey at a nearby saloon, if the moment called for it. When that ended, it was mercy that the Governor disregarded and destroyed —the kind of mercy Hershel gave to Rick, the kind of relationship that was developed so sweetly over time, the kind of humanity that served a beautiful reminder amid all this violence and fear. When that ended and the group found the prison—the institution now represented a juxtaposed place of safety, once for captivity, now for refuge. Of course, it reverted back to its original inception when the Governor found them out. And we don’t even need to discuss the moral codes behind whatever kind of “sanctuary” the Governor and others of his kind have established in the new world. That said, how is anyone supposed to trust that the ultimate space for what we define as holy, spiritual and open to all “children of God” is serving its original purpose? 

Rick decides it’s time to go on a run—they must go to the place Gabriel claims is overrun by walkers to retrieve supplies. The basement supply room is not crawling, but floating with walkers. The whole place is flooded, making for an interesting standoff between the group and the undead. Father Gabriel has a major panic attack when he spots a walker inching closer to him—and by that familiar look in his eye, we most certainly know it’s likely someone he knows. Later on, it’s confirmed: It was someone he knew. He still has a photo of himself with the woman, but we don’t yet know if she was his partner or someone in his congregation, or what. Rick spares Gabriel from getting bitten by whoever this glasses-wearing zombie is. 

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