We see some of this show’s strengths return to the fore this week. Specifically, they know how to do a theme for an episode, stringing it across multiple characters and scenes, even if they do bludgeon you with it at times. Second, they do killer set pieces. You won’t find much in the way of TV that does it better.
That said, the writers are now officially hanging a lot on those mysterious signs promising sanctuary at Terminus. I’ve basically liked this half season so far, but the emphasis on Terminus means any grade at this point is incomplete. We need something dramatically substantive out of Terminus. This half season pretty much stands or falls on that.
We open to a flashback of Bob alone, before he arrived at the prison: wandering; building temporary protection out of sticks and wire; staring up at a Walker who can’t quite reach him; wandering; and sleeping on the top of a truck. There’s a poetic quality to that montage. The overall sequence certainly drives home the idea of being utterly and completely alone. When he runs into Glen and Darryl, Bob doesn’t hesitate to go with them: “Doesn’t matter who you are.”
After the break, we launch into a superb set piece. A wickedly simple one, too. Fog. It happens. Most of the time we never give it much thought. But what if you’re in the woods with the sound of Walkers snarling all around, and you can’t see them. Then you’re three people named Maggie, Sasha and Bob freaking out back-to-back-to-back. This show is ingenious about finding simple, common things to make a Walker attack scary.
Our threesome wins this time. It’s a close run thing, though.
Beth sprains her ankle. That’s a little too obvious and convenient of a handicap. Things get creepy when Darryl carries her through a cemetery to a funeral home. On the inside, it’s well taken care of: stocked with food, not dusty, and someone is embalming and cleaning up Walker bodies. Beth thinks that’s beautiful. It means someone remembered that these were people. Darryl thinks it’s nuts. Still, Beth does need a safe place to heal her ankle sprain. Even better, Darryl discovers that showroom coffins make reasonably nice beds.
Maggie, Bob and Sasha disagree over what to do next. Maggie wants to head for this Terminus place in hopes that Glen is there. Sasha isn’t convinced. While Bob and Sasha argue, Maggie heads off on her own, leaving a note written in mud that she can’t ask them to risk their lives for her. Maggie’s penmanship with a stick and mud is also seriously awesome.
Maggie finds another sign for Terminus along the railroad tracks. She kills a Walker and paints a message for Glen with its… well, fluids. Ick. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain soon.
Bob and Sasha head down the railroad tracks after Maggie. Sasha eventually tires of it. She says they need to accept that they’re on their own and try to make a safe camp out of the first tall building they see. Bob says he won’t do that to Maggie. He eventually kisses Sasha to try and get her to see things his way. No such luck.
They part. There’s that theme again—alone.
Darryl heard scratching at the mortuary door earlier, which turned out to be a dog that ran away. He hears scratching again at night and goes to let it in. Wham! There’s a horde of Walkers at the door. He can’t get the door shut, which leads to a confusing helter skelter run about in close quarters as he yells for Beth to climb out a window. We get another killer set piece when Darryl is pinned in the morgue. He uses the room’s corners and two carts holding embalmed bodies to create makeshift barricades. Surgical knives do the rest—bob and weave, stab stab, duck, stab stab, shift left, stab stab, etc. Again, that’s a simple and clever trick to film.
Outside, Darryl finds Beth’s bag dropped on the road while a car with a cross on the back window peels out. He gives chase to no avail. It would seem someone deliberately set Walkers upon them.
A dispirited Darryl keeps going until he comes to a railroad crossing. He sits down bleakly. There’s that theme again—alone.
Sasha finds her tall building. She goes upstairs looking for, say, maybe a loft apartment? She looks down on the ground below only to see Maggie lying among three Walkers. A stunned Sasha leans against the window, whose pane proceeds to fall out. Maggie wakes up just in time to be surrounded by Walkers attracted to the noise of glass breaking. There’s always an inconvenient horde of Walkers around when you least want them.
Another cool set piece. This one is all about Woman Power. Sasha has a long stake, Maggie has a road sign still on its pole, and they’re stabbing, slashing and hacking with truly impressive style. Sasha even manages a sort of half-pirouette between car hoods. Well done. They realize the error of going their separate ways and head out together.
Of course they catch up with Bob for a group hug. Resolution of a theme—no longer alone.
Darryl is surrounded by the assholes that chased Rick out of his temporary house a few episodes ago. The leader reaches for his crossbow. Darryl punches him in the face and draws down. The leader is impressed. Any man who can punch like that and knows how to use a crossbow is a useful guy to have around. Darryl goes with them, cuz’ it’s not like he has much choice.
Maybe being alone isn’t so bad sometimes. Echoes of a theme.
Glen makes a cameo at the end to see one of the Terminus signs. And that’s all, folks.
Solid stuff all around for a creepy, post-Apocalyptic show not exactly going anywhere. It certainly keeps your interest going, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Terminus is worth the time.