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The Walking Dead "Strangers" - Feeding The Hand That Bites You

Ross Lincoln | 20 Oct 2014 13:30
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Bob knows he's fucked, but that isn't enough for Gareth. Gareth, despite his amiable demeanor, is clearly furious about the destruction of Terminus, and so he delivers a truly excellent speech to Bob, explaining to him that "everything that's going to happen" to him is basically their fault. "You and your people took away our home. That's fair play," Gareth says. "Now we're out here like everybody else, trying to survive. And in order to do that we have to hunt. We didn't start out that way, eating people. It evolved into that. We evolved. Now we've devolved. Into hunters."

It gets worse of course. "I just hope you understand that nothing happening to you is personal," Gareth continues. "We would've done this to anybody. We will." Then we pull back and see that Bob's leg has been removed from the knee down. What remains of his lower leg is currently roasting on an open fire. They're keeping him alive because they can't preserve the meat anymore, which makes the moment even more delicious. Gareth leans in, takes a giant bite out of what clearly used to be Bob's calf, and says "you know what? You taste a lot better than we thought you would."

It's an incredible moment and, for my money, up there with the show's greatest. I'm frustrated that it had to come after the reveal that our survivors will continue to be stupid whenever the plot demands it. After all, why did Bob wander off by himself? More importantly, why the hell didn't Tyrese make certain that Baseball Cap Cannibal was dead? Why did Carol take his word for it? But those questions, and the shaking of fists at the lazy way we're expected to believe people can survive despite being so goddamned dumb, will have to wait. Because Gareth and the surviving cannibals have just emerged as the first truly terrifying villains since before we knew how horrendously this show planned to waste The Governor.

PARTING THOUGHTS:

  • If you've read the comic, then you already know A) that Bob is going out like Dale did on the page. That's fine, especially since Bob was barely more than a background character in the comics. Still, it's sad how obvious it was that Bob was doomed simply because he suddenly got so much character development. At least he'll be kept around as the cannibals slowly chop away his body. I'm looking forward, in a most grisly way, to seeing how much longer he lasts.
  • Naturally, it won't be for very long of course. And speaking of, it must really suck to be a black male actor on The Walking Dead. Sure, you get to draw a nice check co-starring on a fantastically popular TV series, which is great for your visibility. And meanwhile, your job is basically just "sit around waiting for the writers to finally bother to develop your character". Easy! But it comes with a dark price: there's a 60% chance that when your character development finally comes, it will coincide with the addition of a new black male character to the cast. And unfortunately, if there's already more than one, that means you're about to be removed from the show.

    Just ask T-Dog actor IronE Singleton. Or better, ask Lawrence Gilliard, Jr., who plays Bob Stookey. Bob, as you can see, is the latest victim of the show's strictly enforced equilibrium. It's frustrating as hell, particularly since it's so obvious and predictable, but on the bright side, that setup came as part of a re-purposed version of one of the comic series' best moments. If Bob has to go, at least he's going to get some incredible final moments before he does.

  • Speaking of, what is Father Gabriel's deal? Well, even though everyone on the show is going to refuse to connect the dots, we won't, right? Clearly, he panicked when the apocalypse happened and locked himself in the church with all of the canned food drive food, leaving his former parishioners to be devoured by the living dead. I mean, what else could "you'll burn for this," scratched on the outside of the building, actually mean? Unless...
  • Surely, you saw the way the camera lingered on that marking on the tree, right? Obviously this is significant. Is that marking a sign the hunters themselves use? Maybe, but Father Gabriel has a demonstrated tendency to completely lose his shit in a tough situation. Maybe the reason he survived for so long by himself is that he worked out some kind of deal with those creeps. That'd explain why the marking is so close to the church. Either way, obviously Rick's right. He's hiding something.
  • In addition to the theme of confession and redemption, something else sticks out. The crayon drawings depicted scenes from the Bible, and one in particular specifically referenced the Israelites 40-years of wandering in the wilderness. I wonder if that's significant.
  • By the way, nice misdirection, The Walking Dead. I felt sure that Father Gabriel would be revealed to have something to do with Beth's abduction. And yes people, she was definitely abducted. But nope, it looks like whomever is driving the mysterious cross-car has nothing to do with Gabriel. But now of course we've split Daryl and Carol off from the group, which means two of their most effective killers are absent right when they're about to have more run-ins with the totally chill hipster cannibals. Whoops.

Bottom Line: I'm disappointed that The Walking Dead is once again relying on stupid decision-making to move the plot forward, especially because some of it, like Tyrese failing to kill Baseball Cap Cannibal last week, was so awkwardly telegraphed. But the show at least managed some decent character development that didn't have me reaching for the nearest bottle of scotch, the stupidity seems, for now at least, to be localized to only a few characters, and that final scene, especially Gareth's creepy-rational lecture to Bob, was one of the show's all-time best.

Recommendation: Keep watching. Despite some last minute flaws, "Strangers" is a solid episode that didn't waste the audience's time (even taking the return of stupid behavior into account).

NEXT WEEK: "Four Walls and a Roof" written by Angela Kang, in which more drama and more cannibal hi-jinx happen.

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