"What Happened and What's Going On" takes The Walking Dead to very bleak places and revisits familiar faces.
Spoiler Warning: Scenes from the first half of the season and The Walking Dead comic book storylines are referenced below.
The Walking Dead Season 5 quickly established itself as the series best so far. It opened with an apocalyptic confrontation against armed cannibals, moved on to tightly-written character arcs, and capped 2014 with a staggering final twist that left everyone in tears. What's more, Season 5 proved it was willing to move even farther from The Walking Dead's comic book roots with a complex storyline about corrupt police in the end times. The Walking Dead is finally the zombie outbreak show we've craved after that promising first episode, and I couldn't be happier.
After "Coda" neatly wrapped everything up, one question remains - where will Rick and the survivors go from here? The directions are endless, especially now that writers are taking The Walking Dead to places the comics never explored. The only hint we have so far involves Morgan, who saved Rick's life way back in Episode 1, and now follows the trail of carnage left in the survivor's wake. Robert Kirkman himself also dropped a hint that remaining episodes will introduce "a prominent gay character" - which likely refers to Aaron from the comic series. If that's the case, the TV show might finally be heading towards the Alexandria Safe-Zone and the most ambitious storylines from The Walking Dead's long history.
But in the short-term? The group needs to address their losses and immediate survival concerns, which "What Happened and What's Going On" presents nicely. Saying anything more is digging into spoiler territory, so I'd suggest watching the episode on AMC or digital providers like iTunes or Amazon before continuing.
After last episode, our survivors are reunited but mourning Beth, who they spent most of Season 5 trying to find. What's possibly worse is that everyone knows Eugene's zombie cure really is just a myth - meaning there's nothing of value the group can fight for beyond basic survival. With everyone rapidly approaching emotional collapse, one last hope remains: Noah's family home. According to his descriptions, it's part of a walled-off suburban neighborhood carrying 20 residents that might just make an ideal home base. Provided it hasn't fallen apart in the year he's been away.
"What Happened and What's Going On" is all about keeping hope in a hopeless situation, and more importantly, whether doing so actually means anything. After the tumultuous events of the past two seasons, everyone's spirits are so broken they already expect Noah's hometown to be overrun - which of course it is. Meanwhile, Rick and Glenn have an ongoing conversation about whether shooting Dawn was the right decision - since she never wanted Beth to die - and whether that even matters. The general consensus: It doesn't matter. It was going to happen no matter what Dawn's intention was or who pulled the trigger. It's an incredibly hamfisted way of saying "Wow, this zombie apocalypse sure is depressing" but it sets the episode's tone well enough.
One of the few lone holdouts for optimism in this bleak world is Tyreese, continuing his arc as the survivor who doesn't want anyone to die. To be fair, his philosophy hasn't been working out lately - letting that one cannibal survive in the premiere probably killed Bob, while his plan to negotiate for Beth's freedom backfired spectacularly. But even as Tyreese admits he's trying to accept this world's cruelty, he still wants to be the good guy. He comforts Noah in his grief and takes charge in investigating his home. It's incredibly refreshing, and a stark contrast to everyone who wears pessimism on their sleeve.
And then some fucking walker shows up and bites him. Damn it.