The Walking Recap: What Happened and What’s Going On

Two deaths in a row– my heart can hardly take this show anymore. What I will say, is that with this mid-season premiere, The Walking Dead delivered a surprisingly redemptive, reflective exploration of death. The death is not a sudden event, which is to say, it is not succinctly shocking or instantly brutal like Beth’s was, for instance. But rather, death is treated as a process, a carefully paced journey. Death is an episode long arc in and of itself, making this victim’s unfortunate demise the most mournful and beautifully melancholy of any the show’s featured thus far.

Anyone reading this already knows that “RIP” is in order for Tyreese, the most recent “voice of reason” character and the most deeply conflicted of them. The episode begins so cryptically that we do not see this coming– until the montage of images that flash across our screens in the episode’s opening, are steadily disassembled, reappearing one by one throughout the episode. Then we understand what those images are– where they’re coming from. and what they truly mean. In that way, the episode is a bit non-linear; I loved that everyone on Talking Dead referred to it as their “Terrence Malick episode,” which is to say– it is exquisitely shot and edited, and reads like an existential-art house film.

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Those images include dirt being shoveled for a grave– we assume at first that it’s for Beth– and Maggie crying– also for Beth? Think again. We see a painting of a house with blood dripping on it. We see Lizzie and Mika. We see a skeleton in the grass. These images are enough to sell the episode as an existential reverie of sorts, artistic and poignant and mysterious and meaningful. But it isn’t until Tyreese is bit in Noah’s house that the actual reflections and reckonings begin.

tyreese Half the gang has arrived and scoured Noah’s formerly walled-off town; now it is decrepit and deserted. Tyreese enters the house first before Noah, who is still reeling from the tragedy of finding his loved ones gone or dead (or zombified). Tyreese is bit, and from there, the episode is filled with reassurances and judgments in equal measure from both dead enemies and dead friends. These visions come to embody the push and pull that’s plagued Tyreese since the world fell apart– the Governor reminds him that he said he’d pay his due to survive, while Martin tries to make Tyreese feel guilty– as if Bob’s death and their current predicament would have all played out much differently had he killed him when he had the chance. Bob is there though, and so is Beth, and so are Lizzie and Mika, to tell him that everything is okay– not that he should or has to give up necessarily, but that everything has happened as it was meant to, so it’s okay if this is the end. If giving up versus fighting has indeed been the inner-conflict which Tyreese has grappled with all along, then that conflict manifests in these ghosts, all while he bleeds profusely, feverishly hallucinating them and making his peace because of them.

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Then one of the hallucinations abruptly shifts to reality– Rick, Michonne and Glenn whacking Tyreese’s arm off. The shift is jarring. It almost feels sacrilegious somehow, like we have interrupted something sacred and spiritual by trying to save him at this point. Ultimately, we see the car pull over– we see Michonne and Glenn and Rick drag his body from the backseat. We see them bury him (see– not Beth’s grave after all), putting his iconic beanie on the makeshift tombstone. All before this though, we see what Tyreese sees from the backseat– he sees Bob, he sees Mika and Lizzie, he sees Beth. They leave the choice up to him but the choice seems logical and natural, as if this whole episode has been a reckoning for Tyreese, a way out but with the rare opportunity to reflect and forgive first, and to then go as peacefully as one could given the circumstances of their world– I think that’s what made this episode so emotional, because no other death has come with such an opportunity for the character who is dying.

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Anyway, I wonder who will be the next voice of reason, or if the responsibility will be shared now in Tyreese’s honor. I do love that Michonne is giving Rick pep talks on being hopeful and practical, on having one more day with a chance otherwise what’s the point. But I don’t know where this leaves us and our characters– I know they’re hungry, tired and traveling, so the prospect of giving up might seem appealing to all of them. But I don’t think Tyreese gave up, not really– I think he let go, which is different. I think he became free, and what bittersweet liberation it was. 4 out of 5 walkers.

The Walking Recap: Crossed

Hello, everyone! Tonight is the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, and I’ll try my best to write the recap of that tomorrow night, since I’ll be on a business trip from Wednesday until Saturday, so no procrastinating allowed (because blogging in general will be very difficult and unlikely during that time!)

Last week’s episode deserves a 3 out of 5, I think (practicing being less of a rating-pushover)– it was clearly a build-up episode, which is a common, but logical, tendency the show has to devote an entire episode to building up to, and saving any payoff for, the episode(s) to come. Usually, this is the case preceding big showdown episodes, and tonight’s episode, which centers upon the rescue mission itself, is sure to provide that payoff we so desperately seek– even if it means killing someone off (will it be Beth? Carol? Tyrese? Those are the rumors I’ve been hearing, anyway)

So, let’s review in time for tonight’s episode: Carl offers to teach Father Gabriel how to fight and use weapons, and he chooses the machete but says he feels unwell and must lie down. When Michonne checks on him later, he responds a bit aggressively, asking what she wants from him since he already took the weapon. Michonne says she doesn’t want anything, but it seems like she should have been more forceful in checking in perhaps– a little more prodding may or may not have revealed that he was using the machete to dismantle the floorboards of his office, eventually fleeing the church. Early in the episode, the church had been fortified, which made this route of escape the only option for him, and his halfhearted attempt to kill a walker in the woods later was pitiful to watch (I want to say boohoo so what that she had a cross necklace, but it’s fine, I digress)

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Sasha, meanwhile, is still upset about Bob’s death, and has yet another heart-to-heart with her brother, Tyrese, who gets her to forgive and move forward finally. But this is probably the worst time for this enlightened level of coping to occur, since it causes her to be easily duped by one of Dawn’s cops; our group has taken him hostage, and he appeals to Sasha’s new-found humanity, tricking her into mercy-killing the walker who’d once been his partner. I kind of figured these cops’ cooperation would have been too simple. So, anyway, we leave Sasha knocked out and our runaway cop runs away to who-knows-where. And, who-knows-where is pretty much where the plan probably stands as a result. Hopefully Rick and Daryl can still figure out a way of making the swap work, with as few casualties as possible (although if it were up to Rick, the more casualties the merrier!)

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The series has some of its most successful moments, this season especially, when there are no walkers at all, just really well-executed quiet moments of character development and pondering morality, and I’ve said this before. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that some of them leave something to be desired for me personally, and that was the Glenn/Maggie group’s experiences in this episode. I liked that we got to know Rosita little bit more, but Abraham’s sulking in the sun and Maggie’s looking after both him and Eugene was just a little too redundant; the development to be had from their episode arc could have been reached with slightly less screen time, I think. Like, I’m happy that Tara found a yo-yo on their fishing expedition, but as far as “build-up” goes, this group didn’t need quite as much focus as it got.

I guess the episode felt a bit underwhelming because of the way it tried to weave all our survivors’ stories back together after briskly barreling through each story separately for a while now (something that in itself never worked that well for the show until this season, I’d argue). So maybe this one felt a little more choppy and less tense as a result. But, everything is in place for tonight’s episode and if that was the overall goal, then it succeeded.

The Walking Recap: Consumed

Last night’s episode was quiet, moody, slow and introspective. Not one of my favorites, despite having it follow my favorite duo– Daryl and Carol. I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5 like I gave last week’s, but this time, I’ll applaud its overall unpredictability that really punctuated the overall subdued tone. 3.5 out of 5 machetes, shall we say, after the only really awesome, gory zombie kill of the episode? Or perhaps the unit should be books about dealing with domestic abuse.

At any rate, this episode follows Daryl and Carol through the streets of Atlanta, giving us a feeling of both nostalgia and frustration– is this really how far we’ve come, that we can return to the beginning so easily and quickly? The city is looking pretty rough at this point, and our dynamic duo have a lot of serious conversations in which not much is really said, while camping out partly in what was once a shelter for wives and children living with abusive husbands/fathers. The fact that Carol had stayed here once with Sophia is another eerie revelation about how far our characters have come spiritually, emotionally, mentally, even if not physically getting too far outside Atlanta’s city limits. It was emotional for Carol to see a zombified mother and daughter, and heartwarming in a weird way for Daryl to tell her he’ll take care of it because she shouldn’t have to; the next morning, she wakes up to Daryl respectfully burning the bodies. One great line in the episode comes from Daryl where he says that they’re not ashes, as they talk about who they were and how they’re different. The whole thing seems really intent on examining Carol in particular and retracing her steps, outlining and highlighting the various lows and sacrifices and unspeakable acts she’s had to commit, and we’re definitely meant to see that they’re taking a toll on her at this point, that they’re really informing her survival skills and weighing against her humanity a little.

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One way the episode shows this that I did love was the way pretty much every return from commercial break was a flashback to some other moment in Carol’s timeline– when Rick makes her leave, or when she burns and buries bodies, etc.

The episode wasn’t devoid of action necessarily, and even if it were that would be okay with me normally. I think I was expecting something more from this episode, but I can’t quite articulate what, or why. Maybe it was a pacing issue especially given the fast pace of the season up until this point. But things certainly did get interesting when they’re stuck in a van that is teetering at the edge of an industrial bridge, with walkers swarming all around, forcing them to hold on for dear life and face the fall. Even more interesting, of course, was when they get their weapons stolen from none other than the escaped Noah. But, Daryl and Carol eventually catch up to him and switch places in terms of which one wants to kill versus spare him (at first, Carol is willing to wound him in order to save their weapons, but when Noah later actively endangers Carol’s safety, that’s when Daryl seems all too willing to let him die beneath a bookcase with a walker right over him). When they do ultimately save him though, they find out all about Beth and the hospital, so it’s a good thing– unless we’re not meant to trust him.

Carol, as usual, gets a little too trigger happy but this time, I mean that figuratively: she should have looked both ways before crossing the street, even during a zombie apocalypse– she gets hit by one of the hospital’s vehicles and subsequently saved and taken by that same vehicle (though I use the term “saved” loosely here). The episode ends with Daryl and Noah heading back to the church for reinforcements so they can save Daryl’s two ladies. So I’d presume that it’s Noah who’s in the woods with him after all but we’ll have to wait and see– all I know is, it looks like our group is gearing up for a classic rescue mission. I just hope it plays out in a refreshing and exciting way, because that is something that could very easily be trite and tired at this point. All in all though, this was a pretty good episode in a mostly amazing season so far.

The Walking Recap: Self Help

This is the most behind I’ve ever fallen on my Walking Recap series of posts and I feel so terrible about it but my life got extra topsy turvy this past week and I’m trying to get back on track and not letting my day-to-day affect my blogging too much; after all, this is still a passion and a hobby and not something I ever want to see as a chore. So anyway, I’m writing this before tonight’s episode, and it may be moot to do so, but still a principle and a commitment. I’ll keep it short:

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I’m giving last week’s episode a 3.5 out of 5 lies. It wasn’t the most engaging episode this season so far, and its twist was one I saw coming. In fact, this recap will inevitably short for another reason, and that is that not a whole lot happened that wasn’t repetitive or predictable.

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Essentially, last week’s episode gave us a glimpse into Abraham’s former life, the life he led just as the zombie apocalypse was starting. We may have some remaining questions about who he was with during these scenes, and how much his anger issues and need for purpose were instilled in him from before the outbreak and how many of those qualities directly resulted from the outbreak. But in the end, all I cared about was knowing that these flashbacks would reveal how Abraham and Eugene met, and how he came to devote his militaristic sense of discipline to protecting and transporting Eugene to Washington D.C. And, this moment was gratifying, especially because it comes soon after the present day revelation that Eugene has been lying all along– he isn’t a scientist, just a really good liar.

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The moment plays out shockingly, but the revelation in itself was not shocking at all (maybe that’s the pessimist in me… or maybe it’s due to the fact that Eugene has been secretly stalling their travels this whole time, and this becomes obvious at various points in this episode). He decides to reveal it because if he doesn’t, he knows someone will get hurt: he reveals it just as Abraham and everyone else are arguing about which way they should travel– take more time to backtrack and guarantee safety, or go through the shorter route which will no doubt be a zombie minefield.

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So, it’ll be interesting to see where this subgroup stands now, but if I’m being honest, I feel more invested in the other storylines that have been established this season, and there’s really not much of a point in having this one go on for much longer on its own merits, in my opinion.

The Walking Recap: Slabtown

No complaints from me yet in season 5– each episode has been nothing short of spectacular, in my opinion. And though last night’s episode shook things up and deviated from our newly established norm (the group, the church, Terminus, violence, cannibalism, all that good stuff), it was a welcome breath (or BETH… get it?) of fresh air– a strange and suspenseful episode that views the post-apocalypse through a creepily contained pressure cooker of indentured servitude.

I’m giving this one another 4 out of 5, and disagree with those who time and time again complain about the “slower” episodes or those that do not focus on the main group. Beth really proves she can hold her own here and the writing in this episode proves that it too can stand out and drive the suspense and drama, without many walkers or much action at all.

behtwakeSo, alas, the episode does not begin with Daryl telling us the story of finding Beth. Instead, the show takes a few steps backward to show us her parallel storyline. The timelines got a little muddled, for sure, but I tried not to dwell on it. Beth awakens at a functioning hospital in Atlanta, which is eerie enough in itself. Things get worse, rather than better as is so often the case in the TWD universe, when Beth learns that she “owes” for the help she’s been given– the help she never asked for, but needed.

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The hospital is run by one doctor and a staff of crazy cops, ranging from the sexually abusive (to watch Beth have to take a lollipop in her mouth by force was bad enough, and to watch as she is almost raped later was intense and unsettling) to the delusional and belligerent Dawn. Dawn, the leader, is fiercely stubborn and wildly overbearing, to put it lightly. She keeps giving Beth speeches about all the good they’re doing in preparation for when they’re all rescued (delusion); she also slaps Beth out of anger at something not caused by Beth at all (belligerence). And sexual abuse is hinted at throughout the episode, with regard to another female patient, Joan, and brought up subtly again when Dawn says if the cops are kept happy then they work harder to protect the hospital. Yuck. My stomach was probably in knots during this episode more than in any other this season so far, actually– not because it was more suspenseful necessarily, but it just built up to these themes and questions and moments in really unnerving ways.

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I will say, though, that it was deeply satisfying for Beth to take note of the almost-zombie in the room (Dawn’s office, to be precise, from which she was stealing keys for her escape attempt), an almost-zombie who happened to be the apparently suicidal Joan, and to use that to her advantage. Just as the aforementioned attempted-rape is about to occur, Beth knocks the creepy cop over the head with a glass jar from Dawn’s desk and he falls right in front of Joan’s hungry walker mouth. This was the perfect revenge for both females, even if one happened to be undead, to seek and further achieve in a microcosm where sexual assault is justified as a means of productivity and survival.

Some key moments include Beth’s befriending another patient, Noah. They try to escape together but it fails– shockingly, Noah gets away and doesn’t help Beth, who is pinned to the ground by the police. Beth finally talks back to Dawn at one point, and I think we really see a full range of emotions from Beth; impressively, we see the side of her that is meek and afraid, but also the side of her that Daryl helped bring out, the back-talking, more abrasive and far braver Beth, who does what needs to be done even though her fear is still evident. She’s one of the most human characters the show has developed, I think, and this episode proves that.

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Especially shocking is when Beth gets blunt with the doctor, Dr. Edwards, who seems like a good enough guy in the grand scheme of this prison-like hospital. She knows that the patient who was brought in earlier in the episode was another doctor, and that that’s why he gave her the name of the wrong medicine to give him so that he’d die, leaving Dr. Edwards with no competition or fear of being killed or kicked out of the hospital. Dr. Edwards says earlier that it’s still better in there than it is out in the world, where walkers are still rampant; I think we’re meant to question the validity of this opinion and weigh it against what Beth is going through and what she was taken away from on the outside.

Just when we see her approach Dr. Edwards unsuspected, with a scissor in her hand, prepped for a shocking stabbing, something else shocks us even more– a new patient being brought in on a stretcher. This new patient is none other than Carol. Beth’s look of shock is enough to dictate how we’re meant to feel, even though I think we need no instruction on the matter. Beth is just as confused as we are (muddled timelines not withstanding– could Carol be sent in by Daryl as bait of some sort, to rescue Beth from the inside? Or did something happen to Carol while they were chasing down the car with the cross on the back?) but unfortunately, next week’s episode will follow Abraham and his new little crew. Again, I’m all for bouncing around if it’s done well and paced right, but I’m dying to know who is with Daryl in the woods after all, which hinges directly upon the end of last night’s episode and whatever is to follow.

The Walking Recap: Strangers

Wow. As Chris Hardwick said at the very beginning of tonight’s Talking Dead: that was vile. I give this episode 4 out of 5 soggy walkers. What an intense and insane season this is already shaping up to be, isn’t it?

First of all– Gabriel, the priest the group stumbles upon early in the episode, is mysterious, not to mention annoyingly meek– which in itself is a mystery, since the zombie apocalypse has been going on long enough now for someone to be used to, and not paralyzingly afraid of, the walkers. The group finds Father Gabriel cowering and screaming for help on a large boulder while futilely trying to fend off a group of walkers below him. The group saves him, but is also highly skeptical of him, as they should be; he seems to have rubbed Rick the wrong way the minute he starts spewing his “protection of God” sermon, and I certainly do not blame him. But the religious undertones of forgiveness in this episode, and in the series as a whole I think, are interesting to consider nevertheless.

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Anyway, they follow him back to his church, where he’d been hiding alone this whole time, allegedly, living off of donated food that never made it to the food bank in town. But when there is such a food bank available, it’s only natural that our group would go scavenge there, right? Father Gabriel says he avoided it due to his fear of the waterlogged walkers in the semi-flooded basement, but that’s something the viewers would love to see, isn’t it?

These walkers looked more like undead, mutant sea creatures. They were disgusting, probably the show’s most daring and interesting zombie makeups yet, even more gag-inducing than the well walker of season 2– their milky blue skin drooped and dripped and sagged, and their deaths were particularly gruesome, too. I loved it even while wincing at it. Even Bob says that it smelled like a sewer could puke. Well, these walkers looked perfectly at home in that fowl setting.

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But, happy ending (temporarily speaking), they end up with a feast’s worth of food, and what a feast do they have. Everyone is laughing and bonding over former-communion wine, and Abraham makes an idyllic speech that finally sells Rick on whether everyone will join in on the heroic road trip to D.C. Carol on the other hand, steps out to an abandoned car she prepped in case things went south at the church but it seemed a lot to me like she was actually going to leave the group again. Daryl finds her, though, and then a car drives by them– a car with a cross on the rear window, similar to the car that Beth was taken away in! And it’s a cross… and Gabriel is a priest… let the speculating and theorizing commence, am I right?

Daryl and Carol take off in hot pursuit of the Holy Kidnap mobile, while Bob stands some distance away from the church, leaning upon a tree, crying. I didn’t get to linger too long on why he was crying– he’s always had inner-conflict and baggage and bouts of alcoholism, anyway– before someone in a hood knocked him out from behind. I shouldn’t have been so bewildered at who it might have been– clearly the Terminus folks didn’t all die.

Alas, Bob wakes up, tied to a post, with Gareth telling him how none of this was personal, and that they would have done this to anyone (but he also remarks that it is a bit of cosmic justice since Bob’s group was responsible for their home’s destruction, turning them into hunters again). He also talks about how they didn’t always eat people– cannibalism confirmed– but man’s gotta eat. That’s when we zoom out from a close up to a medium long shot of Bob, missing one leg! And Gareth– and his remaining Terminus crew– are all chowing down on meat! And he tells Bob that he tasted better than he thought he would! And we see a foot roasting in the fire! And the whole ordeal is by far more disturbing than any zombie the show could ever produce– sewer-puke water balloon walkers included.

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Other moments of note: Carl and Rick argue over whether to trust Father Gabriel, and Carl finds the words “you’ll burn for this” scratched into the outside of the church (Carl says he doesn’t know if it means that Gabriel is a bad guy, but he does know it means something, and I tend to agree). Carol tells Daryl that she can’t talk about anything she’s experienced in their time apart (mainly, the events of “The Grove” from last season), because she just wants to forget– a line she basically stole from Tyrese, who by the way did not kill the Terminus guy in last week’s episode after all, because that guy is seen happily chowing down on Bob-leg at the end of the episode.

The Walking Recap: No Sanctuary

Hello dear followers and fellow Walking Dead fanatics! My sincerest apologies for publishing my Walking Recap so delayed– a minor case of the infamous “con flu” (which, in my case, is really just a head cold brought on by post-NYCC exhaustion) has made me sluggish. But better late than never– let’s talk about that season 5 premiere, shall we!

This episode ushered in the new season with a literal bang; the entire episode was a metaphorical explosion– suspense coming to a head and bursting with violence, action and emotion over and over again, exhilarating and unrelenting– that also happened to feature an actual explosion. I give this season opener a 4.5 out of 5 crispy, flame-broiled walkers.

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First of all, the voiceover snippets at the very beginning were deeply effective even if they were fleeting, as they’re paired with flashes of our train car bound survivors crafting makeshift weapons in preparation of their escape. Then, the show becomes a well-lit scene from a torture porn for a few white-knuckled minutes, as Rick, Daryl, Glenn and Bob Stookey are taken to the chopping block; that pun was very much intended, since the other gagged men with them are systematically and brutally beaten and killed, their blood draining into the trough-like sink they’re kneeling at, while another man lies dead, cut open on a table. So, the whole cannibal thing certainly becomes a lot clearer at this point. And poor Glenn– his buffoonish would-be killers keep getting interrupted by their leader, the smarmy hipster villain, Gareth. But every time they raise their bats and bludgeons only to be stopped, the gimmick remains tense and terrifying. Thank goodness for Gareth wanting to know their bullet count!

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Well, of course, Rick proves his end-of-last-season statement, that Terminus’ overlords were screwing with the wrong people. They make their escape but thanks in large part to the aforementioned explosion, caused by none other than Carol! Good old Carol, always doing something insane to maybe save the day– except in this case, it really works, as both distraction and destruction. But, in carrying out this plan, she leaves gentle giant Tyrese with another of the hipster villains, who eventually threatens baby Judith’s life in one of the episode’s more quietly intense moments. Tyrese’s fury is eventually unleashed though– which was very satisfying to behold.

Anyway, back to Carol– her showdown with creepy Mary was awesome, because in a way, you sort of see them as two sides of the same coin. Both have gone more or less crazy at least in comparison with their former selves, doing things no woman– make that no human– should ever feel they have to. But Carol is seen more and more as a truly human anti-hero; she is not a cold sociopath but rather an extremely sacrificial realist.

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Mary claims that things were worse before they took over Terminus– that they were beaten and raped by its former leaders until their mutiny. I don’t know if we’re being asked to weigh evil against evil in this post-apocalyptic scenario, but it is crucial that the episode is presented to us as “Now” and “Then,” the latter being a flashback to Mary and Gareth in the train car, and Gareth says– you’re either the butcher or you’re the cattle. It’s a haunting line that Mary even says to Carol during their confrontation. It speaks to the way many of these characters have negotiated or lost or refashioned their conceptions of their own humanity. It speaks to the way many of these characters have grappled with good and evil, ethics and necessity.

It’s a chilling and ominous line but nothing was more chilling than that secret post-credit scene– Morgan has returned! We see a masked man find Rick’s edits to the Terminus signs (they now say “No Sanctuary”) and when he reveals his face, it is exciting and shocking– what will this mean for the rest of the season?

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Among the many amazing moments of this episode, my favorite has got to be the Daryl-Carol reunion. Their emotional embrace was too much for me, although I really hope Daryl and Beth are reunited at some point as well– I grew to like their dynamic even more. But even so, the look on Daryl’s face of relief and elation was wonderful and proved that the human element of this genre show about the dead is very much alive.