There's a natural momentum to a story that features an extended journey. Star Trek took place during a seemingly never ending odyssey to seek out new life and new civilizations, boldly going where no man had gone for three seasons, then a next generation, then three more spinoffs and two film series. One of my favorite television shows of all-time, Battlestar Galactica, started with a war, then really got interesting when the characters jumped from galaxy to galaxy in search of a new home. The series ended when they finally made their way to prehistoric earth and seeded modern civilization (or so goes the tale).
The first season of The Walking Dead largely took place on the road as our core characters found each other in the wasteland that was left in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. The farm and the prison served as semi-permanent refuge, but the bulk of the series has been a trek across central Georgia. Having spent some time in that area myself, I'm curious how they haven't run out of real estate yet, or stumbled upon another decent sized city (Macon, perhaps?), but that's a question for another time.
With three episodes left in this season, we have a destination, but our characters are still scattered and still wandering the countryside. Last week focused exclusively on Daryl and Beth, but this week had the potential for more character development, especially for Daryl. After finding a seemingly abandoned funeral home, they took refuge and feasted on a "redneck brunch" (more on that below). With Sasha, Boob Stookey and Maggie chasing Glenn, and Rick, Michonne and Carl on the move, it was clear this wasn't a permanent home. It was, however, a turning point. Just as Daryl said that he never really believed in good people and Beth asked, "What changed your mind" and they leaned in for a kiss, a walker horde attacked as if on cue.
In the aftermath of the big zombie fight, Beth was kidnapped and Daryl wandered off alone. He was eventually surrounded by a group of less than kind-looking men who realize he has only one arrow for his crossbow. Daryl was a certified ruffian – never as bad as his brother Merle – but as much as he grew into a leader and fought like a loyal soldier, he always had the potential to slide back into bad habits. One of the biggest things to look for in the coming weeks is whether Daryl maintains the humanity he has developed or whether he devolves into his former life.
On the other side of our story, we got a much better look at Bob Stooky. TWD has not relied on flashbacks as much as many other shows, and this group of scenes was well-executed. Bob has described himself as an alcoholic, and his penchant for booze has nearly gotten him and the group in trouble before, but perhaps nothing illustrated his plight better than the shot of him hiding in an abandoned still, chugging bottles of cough syrup to get his fix and staring existentially into the face of death. It was a strong opener that filled in some gaps in Bob's backstory.
The opener also served as a bookend to the episode's final scene. In the opening, Glenn and Daryl stumbled upon Bob, asked him some questions and brought him back to their camp. When the shady men discovered a distraught Daryl, their first thought was how to divvy up the spoils of what he's carrying. It's a stark contrast between two groups who are now on a collision course with only three episodes left.
And now, a hail of bullets:
Zombie Kill Report: "Alone" took one of the best pages out of the horror movie playbook for the first big scene with Bob, Maggie and Sasha. Trapped in a fog bank, the trio was forced to fight from a tight formation as zombies stumbled out of the mist. We couldn't see the walkers, but we sure could hear them, making for a much tenser scene. The episode also saw some innovations in the standard weapons: Sasha's four-foot club/stake, which combines both reach and lethality; and Maggie's "No Parking" road sign. Who knew that something that was such a nuisance in the civilized world could be a lethal weapon after the apocalypse?
High culture: Daryl is a character who can turn a phrase. Last week it was "Ain’t going to have your first drink be no damn peach schnapps." This week we got a look at central Georgian cuisine when Daryl and Beth took up residence in the funeral home. "Peanut butter and jelly, diet soda and pigs feet – that's a white trash brunch right there," Daryl said, right before diving into the jar of pickled pigs feet. As an east Tennessee native, I can attest that PB&J and pigs feet are not eaten everywhere in the South, but they are some of our delicacies.
The beaten path: As we discussed in previous weeks, the survivors of the prison are now all headed down the railroad tracks towards the sanctuary (except Daryl; we hope he's headed there soon). We haven't checked in on Rick, Michonne and Carl in a while, but the last time we saw them, they were beginning their journey to what they hope is a promised land. Sasha had some serious misgivings about this place, which may have been foreshadowing what's to come. Somehow all the pieces of the puzzle will come together – the three groups will converge somewhere down this beaten path, I'm guessing there will be a showdown with whoever took Beth or the bad guys Daryl's with (or that may be the same group). We can only hope that Rick's healthy enough to take on a new group of bad guys.