It’s never too soon for the unexpected.
The Walking Dead returned Sunday night for its second half run of the fifth season with a tantalizing, but beautifully crafted episode, “What Happened and What’s Going On”. It’s a question that doesn’t nearly seems close to being solved.
Following the events of the first half of the season, I expected there to be a somber, decompressing mood to hold the group down as they mourn the loss of Beth. It turns out that Beth as her own character had very little of the focus for the episode, apart from a shot of Maggie (Lauren Cohan) weeping for five seconds — so she didn’t forget her sister after all!
The intro of the episode is a bit strange, with various montages of photo frames, houses, streets, and blood staged together. There’s a voice-over from Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) speaking at a funeral, which we assume is for Beth. Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman), Glenn (Steven Yeun), and Noah (Tyler James Williams) are seen driving in a van and out of the state of Georgia (that’s a first!) into Virginia. It’s so that Noah can reconnect with his mom and little twin brothers back in Virginia.
When they reach Noah’s gated community, things seem a bit off. There’s not so much activity coming out from the residential area, and lo and behold, they’ve reached another ghost town. No one needs to say those harsh, sad words for Noah, as he crumples down onto the ground, weeping for his undoubtedly dead family.
Realizing that this trip was seemingly pointless, the group scavenge around looking for resources while Tyreese takes his usual babysitting role and hovers over Noah. Tyreese has been given a lot of attention by this point, so it’s safe to assume that something is potentially gonna go down.
Tyreese urges Noah that it’s important to keep moving on. Even when things get rough, you have to stay strong and have resolve; that’s the only way to survive in this world. Still, Noah remains shaken and decides to run off to find his house with his limp, with Tyreese trailing after him.
They reach the house and to no avail: there are no survivors. Noah finds his mom’s broken and charred body in the living room, and sits down next to her while Tyreese checks out the rest of the house. He enters Noah’s brothers’ room, and for some reason that’s beyond me, completely forgets to check out the rest of the house for walkers. Instead, he stands at the wall, mesmerized by photos of Noah’s brothers (that were featured in the beginning montage). Perhaps it’s Tyreese’s sensitive side that’s the most dominant behind his rough exterior: sensitivity for lost children, lost potential, etc. As he stands fixated and invested in the sad life of Noah’s siblings, one of the twins emerges from nowhere and bites him.
Forget the moments where Tyreese was somehow able to survive a huge onslaught of zombies equipped with nothing but a hammer. Forget all the moments where Tyreese was able to do the impossible and survive beyond everyone else. I had a feeling when he first showed up on the show that Tyreese was unbreakable and withstanding to all forces of the zombie apocalypse. But it seems fitting in a weird sense that he yielded his life to the most innocent in essence: a child.
Noah enters the room in a weird bolt of energy and kills his twin with an airplane model, before running out to find the others. At this point, the episode takes a wildly different turn as there’s an homage to the fallen “warriors” of the show. How are they really supposed to treat death? Do they enter it with warm, open hands? Or do they go down with a fight?
As a dying Tyreese faces these questions, he is joined by Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino), Mika (Kyla Kenedy), Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), Martin (Chris Coy, one of the Terminus groupies whom Tyreese faced awhile back), the Governor (David Morrissey), and a serenading Beth (Emily Kinney). With ominous flashes to a radio and to each of the hallucinations, Tyreese is given a weird eulogy of sorts. Each of the dead seem to identify some aspect of Tyreese’s own spirit and character and bring it to attention. Lizzie and Mika, the two girls who Tyreese fought so hard to protect, urge Tyreese to relax (“It’s gonna be okay… it gets better”). Beth, whose loss is still a bit heavy, tries to put Tyreese at ease as well. It’s all going to be a lot better after this. The Governor remains a tantalizing figure, urging Tyreese on to a fight and bringing to light regret, shame, and fear.
In the meantime, Rick, Glenn, and Michonne have accumulated supplies in garbage bags when they come across the backyard to the neighborhood. They are greeted be a sea of walkers that have been sliced in half. As they’re contemplating actually setting base in this community, they hear Noah’s shrieks and run out to help.
There’s the usual human vs walker struggle but everyone (sans Tyreese of course) emerges ok. Scarily enough, Michonne almost becomes a victim herself thanks to her katana, but is thankfully saved by Rick. They run into Noah’s house, where Tyreese is being faced with the vision of Lizzie and Mika grabbing onto his infected arm before the two manifest into Rick and Michonne. They slice off Tyreese’s lower arm.
So is it worth fighting to survive at this point? There seems to be no question about it as the rest of the group fight to bring Tyreese back, heaving him out through the community, through the forest, and back into the car. The only person who seems to be losing resolve is Tyreese. As the radio blares on about survivors and cannibals and Tyreese asks quietly for it to be turned off, we know that there is no hope left for him. The group stops the car and unloads Tyreese.
It turns out that the funeral shown in the beginning was not for Beth, but for Tyreese. We get to see Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) take the shovel with little to no resolve left, as she helplessly dumps the shovel onto the mound covering her brother. The episode ends with a shot of the shovel in the ground, marked with a beanie.
Though I wasn’t satisfied at all with the storyline (I’d just prefer if the characters had more direction in their lives before each get marked off), I do have to commend the directing and editing of the episode – thank you, Greg Nicotero. The hallucinations were ominous and haunting, but it worked well in establishing the mood to accompany Tyreese’s death. It’s just really sad that Tyreese’s character development was somehow fast-forwarded and maximized in his dying moments. At the very least, it allowed Chad L. Coleman to shine through with his acting.
The episode really makes you question if there’s supposed to be some innate quality that gives characters immunity. In other words, who is powerful enough, in all senses of the word “powerful,” to survive this apocalypse? Considering that there was very little breathing room in between Beth’s death and Tyreese’s death, the writers tantalize us with “no one’s ever safe” yet again. And to never to trust these writers into thinking there could ever be a happy, breather episode (except we can always trust the writers to follow the pattern of having some character death mark each premiere/finale). At the same time, Tyreese’s death puts enough emphasis on the group’s need for a safe haven, which makes me super excited about the prospect of a road trip into DC. There’s even a chance that DC is the place where the group will finally be reunited with Morgan.
Also, something to keep in mind: there were small moments that seemed to foreshadow something happening with Glenn (namely the baseball bat). If it’s what I think, all I’m gonna say is that I’m not okay. Not okay at all. On a lighter note, David Morrissey’s return to The Walking Dead set was probably one of the more exciting parts of the episode.
Although I’m happy Tyreese was given the grand farewell that should be afforded to him, it’s not without a heavy heart. Hopefully the gang will be able to last till next season without losing anyone else.