By far the most plot-advancing part of the episode involves Rick and co. as they prepare their rescue of Carol and Beth. Rick favors a stealth infiltration and firefight if necessary, and blithely gives Daryl the task of neutralizing the guard they expect to encounter. Tyrese asks just how that would go down, to which Rick cooly replies "He slits his throat."
Tyrese, clearly appalled by Rick's casual willingness to slaughter, suggests instead that they try capturing a couple of Grady cops, then ransoming them back in exchange for Beth and Carol. Rick still favors his sneak attack plan, but Daryl, who whatever he was before the apocalypse is clearly a drastically changed man, agrees with Tyrese, and that convinces Rick.
So it is that they have Noah, who they know is still being sought after by the Grady Fascists, fire off a pistol randomly in order to attract a patrol. Two cops show up in one of the hospital's "ambulances," nearly run Noah down, and begin to "arrest" him, but Rick and the others emerge, guns drawn, to turn the tables. They put the Grady cops in restraints, and one of them - played by Maximiliano Hernández, AKA Jasper Sitwell in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - tries to strike common ground with Rick by asking if he (Rick) is a cop. Before Rick can answer, a backup vehicle from Grady shows up, machine gun blazing. Rick and co. scatter and their two captive cops leap into the new car's back seat and take off.
Fortunately, Sasha is a pretty good shot and she manages to shoot out the car's rear right tire. Rick's group runs after them and discovers the car abandoned, either because of that back tire, or because of the melted zombies it drove over.
Oh right, yes, melted zombies. Remember how the federal government's final response to the zombie disaster was to drop napalm on Atlanta? Turns out it didn't kill all of the zombies. Many of them just ended up melted to the ground, unable to move from where they're stuck but still moaning and chomping away. It's gloriously disgusting, and an uncharacteristically (for this show) inventive take on zombie biology.
Anyway, we see two of the cops running around a corner, and Rick, Sasha and Tyrese run after them. Daryl, meanwhile, stays behind to look for the third cop. He's swiftly ambushed, then forced to the ground, the cop choking him while trying to force his head toward one of the melted zombies. In another beautifully gory moment, Daryl reaches over and grabs another melted zombie's head like a bowling ball, smashing it into the cop's head, which stuns him, giving Rick enough time to come back and force the cop's surrender at gunpoint.
Rick seems awfully eager to kill this particular cop but Daryl stops him by reminding him that three hostages are better than two. This convinces Rick to spare him, and they take the prisoners into the warehouse in which they're hiding.
We'll cut to the chase. Officer Sitwell quickly ingratiates himself, using he and Rick's shared police background and his apparent regret over the way things have gone in Grady hospital - plus the increasing lack of control Dawn has over things - to curry favor with the group. So much so that they treat him almost as a friend, affording him respect and niceness they denied to his colleagues.
Obviously, he's playing them. I mean, he is in Hydra after all. At episode's end, he gives Sasha a woeful tale of regret and sadness involving a former police colleague he knew from just before the world ended and who, so he says, he recognized as one of the napalmed zombies. Sasha, who has spent the entire episode shutting down over having lost Bob and who is herself struggling to move on, sees in Officer Sitwell a kindred spirit,
and she offers to kill the zombiefied friend as a kindness. Sitwell offers to point him out to her, but when they walk to a nearby window, she takes aim, giving Sitwell the chance to quickly ram her face-first into the glass, knocking her out. He takes off, and closing credits.
- So about that religious symbolism. This season has been littered with it, but so far I'm having trouble discerning precisely what the point is, aside from just a stand-in for "the old world is dead". That's not the worst thing ever, but I'm hoping the way they have been so front and center so often pays off in some way. For now, it just feels like freshman lit, heavy use of Christ-metaphors and old testament analogies to give philosophical weight to shlock.
- I kind of loved when Tara awkwardly referenced Band of Brothers early in the episode. Not only does it suggest the show takes place in a world where Band of Brothers was made, but somehow zombie movies never were, it also speaks to how she really does believe in the group, almost naively, which serves to bring the fractured others back to it.
- Going back to melted zombies, this episode, like most of the season, made the most of some pretty great shots, including one scene where Tyrese and Sasha embrace, only for the camera to pull back, framing their emotional reconciliation with a moaning, grasping zombie in the foreground. A+.
- Where the hell is Gabriel going? I don't think we've seen the last of him, and that nasty case of tetanus he's almost certainly picked up has to pay off later.
- Casting Maximiliano Hernández as a villain was seriously dope misdirection. We're already inclined to see him as villainous, given how often he plays shady characters, leading to the easy conclusion that he's playing against type here. Nope, he's still in Hydra after all. Love it.
Bottom Line: This season has been very good, with clear and intelligent advancement of core themes, and "Crossed" is no exception. I especially love how the process of tending to one's friends and family, of making sure they don't lose their humanity and their making sure the same is true for you, is shown to be constant and difficult. It's by far some of the most real, honestly human stuff this show has done, especially considering that previous seasons seemed to be written by people who had only heard about people, but never actually met them. Unfortunately, all these positives can't undo the fact that it was a limp, somewhat boring episode that felt like stuff was constantly just about to happen, even when stuff was actually happening.
Recommendation: Not terrible by any stretch, but definitely only essential watching if you're binging on the entire season.
Next week, it's the Fall season finale, "Coda," written by season 5, episode 3 co-writer Angela Kang.