Episode two of the fifth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead is titled “Strangers,” but it might as well have been called “Meditations” or “Aphorisms.” The bulk of the episode is composed of multiple, one-on-one ruminations on the fundamental question (after basic survival) for our group: how to be in this world.
Carol and Tyreese, Rosita and Abraham, Bob and Sasha, Carl and Rick, Carol and Daryl all take part in these brief discussions at the beginning of the episode. Rick tells Carl, summarizing his world view, “You are not safe,” in pretty much the exact opposite speech of the one given every day by every helicopter parent everywhere. Bob, in contrast, comes to a more optimistic conclusion: “This is a nightmare, and nightmares end.” (More on Bob’s nightmares later.) Michonne, who doesn’t have her samurai sword anymore, expresses an anti-materialistic worldview. She doesn’t miss her blade, she misses her friends who have died. (I miss her samurai sword.)
The stranger we meet is Gabriel, a world-weary pastor without a flock. In Christianity, Gabriel is the angel of God’s revelation, the messenger who comes to earth to tell people important things they should probably know, like a holy low balance alert. He tells Mary about Jesus, for example. This Gabriel, in contrast, is anxious, frightened, barfy. He tells the group he is a pacifist, having neither killed the living or the undead since the outbreak. The writers, in other words, paired the group’s self-searching with the meeting of a character who supposedly should have the BIG answers.
(Gabriel is portrayed brilliantly by Seth Gilliam, who played Sergeant Ellis Carver on HBO’s The Wire. Though, given his illustration in the comics I would have thought another Wire actor, Andre Royo who played Bubbles, might have been a better fit.)
Gabriel leads some of the crew to a canned food repository to get supplies, while Abraham and Eugene try to fix a broken down short bus that, they hope, will take them to Washington, D.C. The cans are submerged in about four feet of water and obstructed by about a dozen very water-logged walkers. When a walker was pulled out of the well on Herschel’s farm back in season two, it was a terrifying and pivotal plot point. Now, melty zombie faces are just par for the course.
Back at Gabriel’s church, it becomes clear he is hiding something. He’d panicked at the food storehouse when he saw a walker wearing church-lady glasses and Carl has found scratch marks on the outside of the church, suggesting it was locked from the inside. Somebody also took the time to carve "You'll burn for this" on the side of the church before being bitten to death. Rick tells Gabriel we all have secrets but that if his threaten the group, he will kill him.
What happened exactly, we’ll surely find out. But Gabriel is an interesting new character for a number of reasons. He recalls Graham Greene’s whisky priest, the ordained man with obvious moral failings. (Gabriel’s not an alcoholic, but he is obviously a coward.) Think Friar Tuck or Robert Mitchum’s character in The Night of the Hunter. He is interesting because his moral quandaries are singularly different from everybody else’s. He isn’t grappling with kill-or-be-killed. He’s grasping with his own failings, personal sin outside of the basics of survival. He’s a pre-apocalyptic figure in a way.
The show ends on a double set of cliff-hangers. Daryl and Carol see the car that kidnapped Beth last season and go on the hunt. Poor Bob meanwhile is captured by Gareth and some of the surviving Terminus members. When Bob comes to, Gareth gets his turn at answering the “how to be?” question, making the case for the ultimate pragmatism being cannibalism. In one of the show’s more deliciously gruesome twists, the camera pulls back to reveal that everybody is having a fine old meal on roasted Bob leg. Ew.
Zombie Kill Report
1 gun handle to the face by Michonne; 1 bullet to the head by Carl; 3 blunt force traumas to the head by Rick, Michonne, Carol; 1 arrow to the skull by Daryl; 11 sharp objects to the waterlogged face by multiple; 1 knife to the throat by Carl.
Estimated Total: 18
Unless I missed this last episode, the credits have been redone to reference more recent and upcoming scenery.
Was Bob infected or what?
Moments before the Termians knock Bob unconscious and drag him away, he’s looking at the church and begins to ball. What’s up with that? Did something happen—a cut? a bite? pukey zombie water in the mouth that infected him? If that’s the case Gareth and company are not eating the finest quality meat…