the Walking Dead: "What Happened and What's Going On" (Season 5, Episode 9)

Flabbergasted

"It went the way it had to, the way it was always going to." That thought succinctly sums up this entire series. They're rubbing it in our face tonight, but this is one of the most beautifully filmed episodes the show has ever seen.

 

It was a very simple story, so there' s not much to summarize. We open with an absolutely gorgeous shot of a shovel sinking into a mound of earth, small clumps of recently disturbed clay rolling, sliding and slumping in its wake, the very soul of chaos theory come to life. Then an image of a weathered, decaying skeleton amid weeds that's a poem for the eyes. Lots of muted light, too. In the midst of all that, the inept Father Gabriel of all people is finally doing something useful--he's giving a eulogy. It's even a good one.

 

Bet you think this is Beth's funeral. Guess again.

 

Viewers kind of get the idea that something else is going on with the first fully staged scene after the shadow play of that opening montage. The gang is closing in on Richmond, Virginia, quite a ways from Georgia. It seems their final tribute to Beth is to take Noah home like she had wished for him. That feels abrupt, but let's be honest. After 4.5 seasons, wasn't everyone but the Georgia State Tourism Board getting a little tired of Georgia? Nothing against the Peach State. A change of pace is just overdue, especially if they film it like this.

 

Noah's family lives in a gated community that's supposed to be safe. Does anyone believe that will prove to be the case on this show? Of course it's overrun. No survivors. Strange accumulations of chopped off legs beyond the crumbled rear wall. Cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria. That sort of thing.

 

Amidst a slew of Walker kills, Tyreese gets bit by a Walker who was Noah's little brother. This show never settles for a depressing riff when an extra depressing one is available. And that's our episode for tonight. It's about Tyreese, who he was and how he chose to live, as expressed through the hallucinations of a dying man. Occasionally he sees the others--Michonne chopping off his arm, Rick and Noah carrying him to the car-- frantically trying to beat time as he bleeds out. There's even a ballet of slow motion gruesomeness that ends with an awesome head shot as they fight off the last Walkers in their way. That head literally explodes like a solar flare. You decide whether that's an achievement or not.

 

In the car, Tyreese sees Beth and Bob and the two tragic little sisters from last season. Beth tells him he doesn't have to be a part of this anymore. The two little girls say "It's better now." It is, and Tyreese dies. We close out the episode watching his funeral, seeing that shovel so beautifully fill his grave once more.

 

It's a wonderful, gross, surreal episode. And I guess that is an achievement.

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