See correction below.
Episode three. The metaphors accrue.
The third episode of the fifth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead opens in the courtyard of an elementary school where the remaining Termians are enjoying roasted Bob shank. Bob, you might recall, was abducted in the final moments of the previous episode and woke up to find his captors working through the gristle on his leg meat, like a cross between The Raft of the Medusa and that scene in Red Dragon where Hannibal Lecter serves the Baltimore symphony board of directors a dish of clumsy flutist.
(For fans of Telltale Games’ excellent The Walking Dead: Season One, it also recalls the woebegone happenings at the St. Johns dairy farm in episode two, ‘Starved for Help.’ Download it here for iPad and iPhone.)
The cannibalism—and some of the attendant culinary musings by the group’s leader Gareth—are supposed to be stomach churning. (And they are!) But mostly they raise questions of hunger in the world two years on from the apocalypse. What does it cost to satiate your appetites now? And what can the pursuit of nourishment turn you into?
Shots of the Termians eating human flesh are interspersed with shots of the hungering walkers clawing at the windows nearby, trying to get in. The glass is going to break sooner or later, or as Gareth puts it “nothing lasts too long anymore.” But the point seems to be that the division between the living and the living-dead is already transparent. And that, pretty soon, it might not be there at all.
(To me, Gareth—both in the book and on the show—vaguely parallels the unnamed protagonist of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger, primarily for falling into traps of his own making and for the harshness of his self-imposed rules of conduct. Too bad he won’t be around long enough to be developed more fully.)
In any case, Bob’s horror turns to sardonic laughter as he reveals that he’s been bitten. As far as taunts go, “you eatin’ tainted meat!” is hard to top.
Back at the church, Gabriel is pushed to confess his sins. He shut himself inside his sanctuary while his congregation begged to be let in. The group, having discovered Bob is missing, fights about what to do and Glenn mediates between the half that wants to go on to Washington and the half that wants to deal with the Terminus and wait for Daryl and Carol to return.
Ultimately, half the group heads off to find the Termians just moments before they break into the church. The showdown that follows is tense and wonderful and proves the show’s writers could easily forgo the walkers and still have something compelling to present. The whole thing is an ambush, which ends with Rick and company hacking Gareth’s group to bits with machetes. Objecting to the violence, Gabriel says “This is the lord’s house!” To which Maggie replies coldly, “No, it’s just four walls and a roof,” hence the name of the episode.
Bob, meanwhile, dies stoically having had a chance to say goodbye to everyone, including his girlfriend Sasha. Recalling Goethe’s Werther, he concludes that “nightmares shouldn’t change who you are.” The group splits in two and, later, we see Daryl emerge from the darkness before saying “come on out” to someone whom we can’t quite make out before the credits roll.
Zombie Kill Report
1 bullet and 1 riffle butt to the head by Sasha; 1 riffle butt to the head by Glenn; 1 knife to the skull by Maggie; 1 gun shot to the head by unseen; 1 knife to Bob’s temple by Tyreese (does it count?).
Estimated total: 6
The Termians spit out the “tainted meat,” but don’t stick around long enough that we find out whether or not cooking flesh decontaminates it. (What would Mark Bittman say?) We’ll probably never know.
Michonne finally has her sword back!
Correction: Maggie unleashes the four walls and a roof line.