What the feckin’ shite??!! I’m attempting to keep this a somewhat civilized recap, but I think I’m going to have a tough time.
A few months ago, we were treated to “Coda,” the mid-season finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead. It was heartbreaking, but it was also wonderfully done. And the final few minutes (Beth’s death; Maggie’s heartbreak; Hell, everybody’s heartbreak!) drove home the feeling of helplessness. If the walkers don’t get you, somebody else probably will.
Note: There are definitely spoilers throughout this review, so you may want to stop here and return after watching the episode.
I’ve made no bones about my affection for Tyreese, The Big Man (Yes, I put his nickname in caps!). Chad L. Coleman brought morality to the character. He brought a strength of conviction. Yet I hated the corner they boxed him in. Who is they? Producers, writers, directors, or whoever had the power to move Tyreese from the little box they were slowly building around what should have been an amazing character.
Rick is the leader. Michonne and Darryl are the enforcers. We needed someone that had the power and presence to bring a moral compass to their group. For a time it was Hershel (played with a wonderful strength by Scott Wilson), and it worked for one simple reason – his age. He was older, wiser, had seen and done more, and for that reason (also because he was awesome), we all bought him as the group’s collective conscience. When The Governor (rat bastard piece of crap!) killed Hershel, someone needed to step up and take his place. That someone should have been Tyreese. He was big, strong, and had proven he could fight, yet he had a heart. He protected Judith, Lizzie, and Mika, and he showed strength of character when he forgave Carol for killing Karen, the woman he loved. He took down hordes of walkers by himself, yet he spoke so softly and tenderly to Sasha after she lost Bob. This is the man that should have been a leader, a guide.
But then they boxed him in a corner. Seeing what Lizzie became broke Tyreese. He went through the motions, but he had given up. We thought he killed that creepy Termite, Martin, that threatened Judith, but we later learn he didn’t. Even threatening innocent Judith couldn’t bring him to kill. Even that didn’t show Tyreese that sometimes being the good man means doing bad.
And despite my continued frustrations with The Big Man, I thought this was leading up to some big redemption – some big moment that would allow us to see him wake up and become the man he should be.
In this mid-season premiere, “What Happened and What’s Going On,” there were a few moments when I thought we would get that redemption. Possibly when Noah, looking lost and alone without Beth, collapsed in the street after seeing that his old neighborhood had fallen. But wait? Perhaps we did. It was Tyreese’s words that made Noah get up, that made him take a step forward. Sure Noah quickly ran off, but it only was because he wanted to see his home. And when they got there… well, I was still hoping for that moment for Tyreese.
But it never came.
I should go ahead and say that this episode is pretty much all about Tyreese. Sure, Michonne, Rick, and Glenn are with him for a while, but they run off to loot the neighborhood. They’re too busy fussing about where they are going to go next. Michonne is all for shoring up the neighborhood, but Ricks says no… blah, blah, blah. The rest of the crew stayed at a camp a few miles away. And of course, Noah is a mess. So really the focus is Tyreese. I’ll also say that the artsy feeling at the beginning of the episode threw me off, and at first I didn’t like the feel…. more on this in a bit.
Back at Noah’s we see a woman laying dead on the floor. I assume it’s Noah’s mother. And kudos to Noah for going to her, placing a blanket over her, and giving her that last bit of dignity. But there is a scratching… and Tyreese hears it. He makes his way to the back of the house, and we see two small feet shuffling behind a door with that telltale walker hissing. I think images like that always grab The Husband for a minute. But for me it was the other room. On a small twin bed is a young boy, still dressed in what I imagine are his favorite jeans and the sneakers he loves. Being the mother of five boys, images like this always tug at my heart.
As Tyreese ventures further into the room, there are pictures tacked on the wall. They draw Tyreese and us, the viewers, in. Two young boys sitting on a bench, eating at a restaurant, and then at a movie/concert with big brother smiling in the background. We get a close-up of Tyreese’s eyes as he sees these pictures, and you can see the broken man he’s become. Again, kudos to Coleman for showing the depth of Tyreese’s pain. Screw you to the powers that be for breaking The Big Man.
And then, SPOILER SPOILER… it’s all over for Tyreese. The other twin comes in and takes a bloody, horrific bite of Tyreese’s arm. When he screams, Noah runs in and dispatches of his brother swiftly and brutally – I won’t look at a toy jet the same way ever again. The fact that Noah doesn’t hesitate tells me he has accepted what the world is – something Tyreese could never quite seem to do.
Noah is scared and confused and says he is going to run for help. And then the craziness commences. And I do mean craziness!
The ghost of Termite Martin (the guy who threatened baby Judith) taunts Tyreese as the infection starts to spread.
“If only you had killed me, Gareth probably wouldn’t have found you… maybe Bob would still be here…” Blah, Blah, Blah. Ugh. He said “Gareth.”
We also see Bob! YEAH! I’ll take Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) over Martin any day.
We see Lizzie and Mika, and Beth too. And they all tell him that this happened because it was supposed too.
And then The Governor. BOO! HISS! Telling Tyreese that “The bill must be paid.” What? What debt does Tyreese owe The Governor? What score must be settled?
More taunting ensues, and our four friends (Yes, I’m counting Lizzie here because she wasn’t gross and creepy in Tyreese’s vision.) try valiantly to soothe Tyreese.
The Governor rushes at Tyreese, and he suddenly turns into a walker – but the walker isn’t a ghost. It’s real! Tyreese tries to fight him, ultimately offering up his already wounded arm as a means to grab a rock and kill the walker. I gasped, and The Husband gave me a soft smile – he knows Tyreese is one of my favorites. After that second bite, I started to understand the dreamy quality of the episode… Hold on. I’ll get to it.
Tyreese collapses again, and we get more hallucinations, but then he seems to rally when The Governor makes another appearance.
“I haven’t given up!” Tyreese says in a powerful voice. This is the redemption moment I spoke of, or so I’m choosing to see it that way, because it was then that I knew… he wasn’t going to survive. NO!
Tyreese sees the two little girls crawl to him. Lizzie picks up his arm, and then we get thrown harshly into reality again. Rick is holding his arm, and Glenn is pushing down on his shoulders.
“ONE HIT!” Rick yells to Michonne, and she slams her katana down on The Big Man’s arm. OUCH!
The final five minutes of the show are just as heartbreaking as any I’ve seen. Rick, Glenn, Michonne, and Noah are trying to carry Tyreese to their car. When they get to the gates of the neighborhood, they can see walkers swarming outside. Rick hands Tyreese to Noah, who had no chance of supporting The Big Man. And then we see things from Tyreese’s point of view – Noah trying his best to support him on the ground, Rick with his gun, Michonne with her katana, and Glenn with his newly acquired baseball bat. We get slow-motion scenes with amazing detail. Good stuff!
And that race through the woods to get to the car? Intense. Trying to push Tyreese’s weakening body through the barbed wire that had been put up around the community. The four of them carrying him and running through the woods. Shoving him in the car. And then the long pans of the railroad started to make sense. All the dreamy scenes started to come together. The fuzzy image of the sky as seen from a moving car too. This is what The Big Guy saw as he died. This was his acceptance of what will be and what happened. And as he accepts his fate, he tells them to “turn it off.” (He’s speaking of the radio he thinks he hears.)
Bob asks if he is sure. Beth is driving, and the two little girls are riding next to him. The young girls he couldn’t protect, the friend he killed, and the young woman they couldn’t save carried him down that long stretch of railroad.
I appreciated the long shot we got as the “real” four travelers realized he had passed. Glenn and Rick take his body from the car. We see Noah once again collapse. We see Rick’s anger and frustration. But there is no loud screaming or weeping, and in the end Tyreese died with dignity and the strength his character failed to find.
At the beginning we saw a shovel digging and digging. We assumed they were burying Beth. We were wrong. The shot of Tyreese in the grave, and then someone placing a cloth over his worn face… Well, let’s just say I was a mess. And then the shot of his hat on the cross? DAMN YOU!! DAMN YOU!! Again, directed at those that came up with this storyline. Those mother bitches!
While the acting was wonderful (as usual), and some of the shots were amazing (Amazing!), I am left wondering where this journey is taking us. If there is no hope, no end game… why watch? Just to see beloved characters get picked off, one by one?
Is this nothing more than a waiting game? Who’s gonna survive tonight’s episode? If so, I don’t like it!
Give us something to hope for, some sort of outcome that will give us a glimpse into what MIGHT be.
And while you’re at it, find us another conscience for the group – you’ve already taken the last two from us.