By Matt Vella
November 24, 2014

“Crossed,” the seventh episode of the fifth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead, might as well have been titled “Aftermath.” Nearly all the show’s characters find themselves reeling from the multiple denouements in last week’s episode, “Consumed.” All of them are more or less groping to find the boundaries of morality, the show’s most consistent theme.

The episode begins with the rage of Sasha, the latest of our unmerry band to have been pushed beyond the edge. Still distraught over the loss of her boyfriend Bob, she is taking it out on a church pew with an ax while the rest of the group fortifies the abbey in preparation for a standoff to come. The organ pipes are becoming battlements, the kneelers deadbolts. Gabriel, the milquetoast priest with qualms about killing the undead, looks around and asks worriedly, “Are you going to take the cross too?” “If we need it,” Daryl replies, implying it has little value beyond its physical utility.

This augurs the moral searching of the other characters throughout the episode. In a world where the clergy is futile and religious icons are only as good as the literal material they’re made out of, it’s up to every individual to settle their own codes. This is underscored (maybe) by Gabriel trying, manically, pointlessly, to scrub dried blood out of the church’s hardwood.

(Side note, the liturgical readings posted inside the church are all topical. They include: Matthew 27:52And the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. And Luke 24:5In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”)

At the hospital, Beth learns that Carol has suffered serious injury (duh) and may not recover without the right medication. Not wanting to waste resources on a seemingly lost cause, Dawn orders her taken off machine care. But later, Dawn also gives Beth the key to the medicine cabinet, suggesting she’s got to pose as a strongman to stay in control. Dawn is a new kind group leader. Though she seemed a run-of-the-mill tyrant at first, she increasingly appears to be just a figure head, barely keeping the hospital collective together. “You don’t know how fragile this thing is,” she tells Beth (who’s scars have reached Chucky frequency).

At the stalled fire truck, a concussed Eugene is baking in the sun. A PTSD-ed Abraham is looking off into the distance, spaced way out. In the mean time, Glenn, Tara, and Rosita take trip to the local pond to stock up on water and do a little impromptu fishing. It’s all very Stand By Me and the trio seems the least conflicted of any of the current sub-groups, amiably deciding to forge ahead even in the wake of the charade that was Eugene’s “mission” to Washington.

At the church, Carl tries to convince Gabriel he can teach him to protect himself from the undead. When Gabriel expresses discomfort at the conflict that ended the lives of the Termians, Carl points out they were “killers,” and Gabriel retorts, “So are we.” (Throughout, the confessor is on his knees and the teenager shaped by the post-apocalyptic world is towering above him in role reversal.) Gabriel retires to a backroom where he pulls up the floor boards and takes off. On his way to exile, he lands on a nail creating some Stigmata light for the road. When he encounters a roaming walker, he can’t bring himself to bash her brains out.

The main tension (and action) is with the fourth group—Tyrese, Sasha, Rick, Daryl and Noah—who are on a rescue mission to retrieve Carol and Beth from the hospital. Rick’s plan: slip in, special forces style, killing whoever gets in the way. Cold, ruthless, pragmatic. Tyrese’s plan: capture two of Dawn’s officers and diplomatically negotiate a trade. Measured, generous, idealistic. To Rick’s mild annoyance, the group sides with Tyrese’s more humanistic plan. Again, testing of boundaries…

Things go wrong pretty quickly. Though the group manages to ambush two of the hospital’s police officers, they’re quickly saved by a backup force. The shootouts that follow take place in a wasteland of badly burned walkers, many of which are melted to the pavement. This is the napalm-scented hell awaiting those who were evacuated from the hospital in the midst of the outbreak. Ultimately, Rick’s group gets its hostages.

One of them, Officer Bob, seems like a pretty good guy. Earnest, trustworthy. He convinces Sasha to put one of his former colleagues, now rotting and writhing outside, out of his misery. But as she’s lining up her shot, Bob bashes her against the window and scuttles off.

Zombie Kill Report
1 double fingers to the eyes by Daryl; 1 silenced shot to the skull by Rick; 1 knife to the head by Glenn; 1 knife to the head by Rosita; 1 knife to the head by Tara.
Estimated total: 5

Contact us at editors@time.com.

SPONSORED FINANCIAL CONTENT

Read More From TIME

EDIT POST