“TAINTED MEAT! YOU EATING TAINTED MEAAAAAAT!”
On a personal note my prediction after the last episode was proven to be correct, so go me. Finally, Gareth and his gang of cannibals bit off more they could chew (I’m not even going to apologise), as it turns out that poor Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr)’s days are numbered, although to his credit he does his best to take Gareth (Andrew J West) and his fellow bastards down with him.
His demise, while unwelcome, shouldn’t have come as a surprise, thinking about it – his screen time had suddenly been increased, and he’d overcome some personal demons, so things couldn’t go his way for long.
Besides, it’d been (relatively) ages since someone had died – the gang were looking just that bit too safe. Not anymore. They’ve had their sole episode of calm, now it’s back on the run. At least he gets a nice deathbed scene – it’s better than most get.
Moving back to Gareth, despite the increasingly explicit confirmation of just how he depraved he is, he never gave the impression of being an especially scary adversary, so seeing him reduced to a begging wreck after an especially cack-handed attempt to take Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and co by surprise (did he seriously think it would be that easy) seems like a fitting end. Nonetheless, it does come across as kind of anti-climatic, and makes you wonder what else is in store.
Shorn of baddies, this could perhaps pave the way for the introduction of Negan, although The Walking Dead has made a cold hard habit out of surprising us, so anything could be in store.
One welcome development comes in the form of an added layer to Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam)’s back story. Revealing him to be a traitor would have been too straightforward, and the alternative is a fitting compromise. Facing his own demons, he is a character forged by the fires of the world he’s found himself in, and it’ll be interesting to see him grow as a character.
However, not every instance of progression is welcome. In another case of stupid decision-making, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) make the decision to up sticks to Washington in aid of delivering the increasingly silent Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and his supposed cure. Sure, we’ll see them again at some point, but it seems like a rare moment of questionable judgement in a show that has so far avoiding the let’s-split-up trappings of the worst sides of the genre.
Another gripe is the slightly uneven level of screen time devoted to some of the characters. Save for a heart-to-heart with Gabriel, Michonne (Danai Gurira) again has precious little to do, as had Carl (Chandler Riggs).
This has all been in the interest of giving characters like Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) more focus, which is fair enough, but it seems odd to see such a fan-favourite character sidelined. At least she’s got her katana back now, as we’ve got a sneaking suspicion that she’s going to need it sooner or later.
This especially rings true with the strangely abrupt episode climax, which leaves us clinging on for… what, exactly? I’ll throw my cards out on the table here – I have no idea in hell what’s going to happen! When television still has the power to surprise you like this, it’s clear that it’s doing a good job.