The Walking Dead: "Self Help" (Season 5, Episode 5)



"I did almost die today, and we don't have a car, and we're drinking toilet water." That's a pretty awful day by any standard.

Abraham Ford's response? "We roll on." Straight into the nastiest kick of all. We the audience were expecting it, but goodness gracious this show is merciless in its delivery.

This episode is a step up from last week, largely because we're hanging out with people we know, not a whole bunch of new people that it's obvious don't matter. Tonight begins on the bus with Ford, Glen and Maggie, Rosita and Eugene, and Tara. They're tooling up a Georgia road on the way to DC: chat, pass the time of day, pass Walkers, that sort of stuff. At least until the bus blows out something. Couldn't have happened at a worse time, either. The bus hits a wreck and topples over as the latest pack of Walkers they'd just passed close in.  

Flashback: Abraham Ford is somewhere else. He's also just finished beating three guys to death. His knuckles are bleeding.

Back to the bus. Walkers have it surrounded. Our intrepid survivors prepare themselves, kick out the rear emergency door, and get down to business hacking and slashing. Eugene is the dead weight, so terrified he has to be saved by Tara of all people. They then decide to get supplies from the bus right before it bursts into flames. Who says this show doesn't have a sense of humor? 

Trudging on, the gang finds a book store. There's a neat little survivalist sequence where they all get to work without so much as a command, ultimately boiling a pot of water taken from a toilet tank over a trash can fire with crossed coat hangers for a grill. As Ford says, "We're kind of at a point now where everyone still alive is strong." The action slows as we proceed into a montage of Rosita and Ford having sex, Eugene playing voyeur, and Maggie and Glen sharing the line at the top of this review. That's life in the zombie apocalypse. The only discordant note is Eugene confessing to Tara that he sabotaged the bus because he didn't want to go to DC like this, maybe without the others. It foreshadows the episode's conclusion, but that's too abrupt and odd coming out nowhere. It needs a stronger reaction than it gets.   

Flashback: Ford is somewhere else again. He's telling his wife it's okay, but both her and the two kids are scared of him.

A new day beckons. The gang find a fire engine backed up to a building. Good transportation to have. Ford gets it to start a bit, just enough to lurch forward and stop  pinning a door behind it. Diagnosis--the air filter is clogged. About the time they decide that, a single tire come rolling by. That's odd. Then a wall of tires in the now open door behind the fire truck give way to disgorge a bunch of Walkers. It's a desperate moment until Eugene reveals he's not always dead weight. Atop the fire engine, he unloads with the water cannon, literally blowing decayed Walkers apart and simultaneously checking the box on our grossness quotient for the week. 

We roll on.

Flashback: Ford is somewhere else yet again. He wakes up to find a note from his wife: "Don't try to find us." I don't know. Absent any indication that he beat them, a husband who can kill three attackers with his bare hands seems useful to have in the zombie apocalypse.

The fire engine sputters out in the middle of nowhere. So they start walking. There's a little sci-fi shout out before they do as Eugene is reading "The Shape of Things to Come" by H. G. Wells. A ways down the road, the wind turns, bringing with it a very bad smell, harbinger to the sight of a horde of Walkers in the distance, all converged on the remains of a small town. Glen says they have to go back and look for a detour. The others agrees, except Ford. His monomania, which has kept Eugene alive all this time, is about to get everyone killed.

What do you do? For Eugene, it's finally confession time. He's not a CDC/Human Genome/cutting edge weapons guy. He's just some smart guy who needed Ford to protect him. So he lied. It's a good scene because Eugene doesn't come across as a selfish bastard, just a confused, desperate guy who told a lie once to save himself and then never could stop. The technical term is, I believe, "snowballing."

The gang is despondent. Ford brutally punches Eugene's lights out only to find the bandages Rosita put on his knuckles have given way. He's bleeding again. He staggers a few feet down the road to collapse on his knees, just like he does in flashback space when he finds the bodies of his family. In that flashback, he puts a gun in his mouth. The only thing that stops him is a voice crying for help. That turns out to be Eugene in flight with three Walkers close on his heels; Ford dispatches them and starts to leave, still intent on killing himself.

"I have an important mission," the desperate Eugene lies. One big, little lie. It's enough to give Ford a reason to live. It's also enough now to leave him in a very dark spot as he sits on his knees in Georgia dust.         

Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

There's worse things in life than drinking toilet water.