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The Walking Dead, Ep. 5.07, “Crossed” and why season five is such an improvement

The Walking Dead, Ep. 5.07, “Crossed” and why season five is such an improvement


The Walking Dead, Season 5, Episode 7: “Coda”
Directed by Billy Gierhart
Written by Seth Hoffman
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC

It’s all table setting …

Matthew 27:52
“…and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.”

Only one episode of The Walking Dead remains until the winter break. Season 5 has been a hell of a ride, complete with cannibals, the death of Bob, and a community held prisoners by a bunch of renegade cops. “Crossed” cuts back and forth between four groups in four different locations in order to set up the big midseason-finale. While it seems a wise decision to check back in with Rick and Michonne after several episodes spent elsewhere, the episode feels like a filler/transitional episode. There are far too many characters to follow in far too many places, and the end result feels somewhat disjointed. It succeeds in moving the chess pieces into their necessary places for next week’s dramatic showdown, but lacks the tension and urgency viewers were anticipating. With plenty of dialogue and little action, “Crossed” is the weakest instalment of season five yet. But fear not, The Walking Dead season five is still a vast improvement from previous seasons.

Let’s just get this out of the way. “Crossed” features one of the best close-call moments yet: Watching Daryl and Licari brawl in the midst of all those burnt, carbonized zombies is pretty awesome. And watching Daryl rip off a zombie’s head and use it to bash in Licari’s skull like a bowling ball is one of the more creative zombie kills yet. All credit to the special effects and make-up teams and the actors underneath the gore. The special effects has just gotten better and better over the years to the point where each and every week they find new ways to surprise us. If it isn’t a zombie in a well or zombies raining from the ceiling, it’s watching zombies get hosed down by a firetruck extinguisher, and right down to The Walking Dead’s most iconic zombie, Bicycle Girl.

Season one was short, only six episodes long, so we didn’t see many locations. We spent all of season two at Hershel’s farm and season three followed our heroes either behind the prison walls, or behind the walls that surrounded Woodbury. Season four broke away from the prison, but we didn’t get to see much outside the country landscape. Season five starts at Terminus but quickly veers away, back to the country side, stopping at Gabriel’s church and eventually on the way to both Atlanta and Washington. Opening the world to more places will only increases our interest in the series.

The city seems somewhat less overrun than before, but nevertheless, the wide shots of the desolate landscape is a refreshing change from the usual countryside. We already knew the government napalmed Atlanta, but aside from a flashback shown in season two, we haven’t seen much evidence until now — the walkers with their skin melted off, lying in grotesque pools of flesh on the asphalt is truly horrific, and a reminder that the biggest threat to man is well, man. Greg Nicotero and Scott Gimple weren’t lying when they said season 5 would escalate the nastiness, and boy are they bringing it. The world of The Walking Dead is only starting to open up, and fans of the comic know that there is still plenty of road to travel.

The Walking Dead is surprisingly strong in its quietest moments, unearthing moments of humanity and pathos between its characters. The biggest and most obvious change this season, is how the show has found ways to strengthen its character base and make the entire ensemble interesting and engaging to watch. This week the episode focuses heavily on Sasha. When we rejoin Sasha and Tyreese at the church, it is abundantly clear that Sasha is still suffering from the loss of Bob — and her inability to stab him herself (notice how she is now wearing his shirt). Despite Tyreese’s best attempts to cheer her up, she remains callous and focused for most of the hour, trying her best to forget about her former boyfriend. When Sasha accidentally rips Bob’s shirt, she suffers an emotional breakdown. A recurring theme this season is watching characters find ways to reclaim their humanity and find faith in their fellow mankind. The episode introduces another Bob (Maximiliano Hernandez), one of the men working for Dawn at the hospital, and one of the three cops who are captured by Rick and his crew. Bob’s courteous, repentant attitude convinces most that he’s trustworthy, only we as viewers know better. As much as kindness is a good quality to retain in a zombie apocalypse, it can also make you weak. Sasha makes the mistake of trusting the most likeable of the captives, and it bites her in the ass when she is easily double-crossed by Dawn’s duplicitous goon. The Sasha we see in the opening shot of the episode angrily chopping down a church pew with an axe, isn’t’ the same Sasha we see at the end of the episode. Sure it’s another baffling rookie mistake from a group of survivors who should know better, but there’s something more to it. In previous seasons, this twist would’ve felt unrealistic, but here it somehow works. Sasha moves from anger and depression to once again finding hope, only to have someone exploit her vulnerability. Hope can be just as dangerous as the undead roaming about, and season five proves this. Sasha lends a helping hand, and in return, Bob repays her kindness by knocking her out and escaping. These small one-episode story arcs are needed, as they flesh out each member of the group so that we have reasons to care about them. In the past, character was never the primary focus of The Walking Dead, but ever since Scott M. Gimple took over as show-runnier, the character work has became stronger each week. We’ve seen Beth transition from the background babysitter to a lone warrior; we’ve heard Carol make an astute observation about how much Darryl has changed from a kid into a man; and we’ve seen a once abused housewife steal the spotlight away from a katana swinging she-devil and a sheriff with an axe to grind. And that is what The Walking Dead does best: taking characters who are unlikely to survive in this setting, and developing them into key players. Which is why anyone who thinks Eugene will soon die, better think twice. He’s a prime candidate to become MVP in upcoming seasons simply because there is so much for him to learn, and so many ways for him to grow and find ways to adapt to this zombie-infested world. Furthermore, he’s the smartest of the bunch, and has the skills and knowledge to teach his teammates ways to help them survive.

The Walking Dead seems to finally realize that despite being the show’s lead protagonist, Rick Grimes does not make for a good leader. Last week, Daryl fought hard to forge a more honourable path for himself — first taking care of the zombie mother and child in the shelter and later by refusing to shoot Noah in the back. He’s trying real hard to put the lessons he’s learned since his brother died into practice. This week he sides with Tyreese and agrees that a plan to try and trade some captured hostages for Beth and Carol would be better than Rick’s plan to sneak and attack. Darryl would rather negotiate and hope for the best than risk more bloodshed. And later, when Rick comes close to shooting Licari, Daryl remains the voice of reason.

GREATM: That’s the acronym Tara bestows on the group per the letters marked on their water bottles. The scene opens right after the moment Abraham beat the living crap out of Eugene. Tara’s awkward, yet endearing sense of humour proves to be the groups most valuable weapon this week. Along the way, she, Rosita and Glen pass a few walkers trapped beneath a fallen telephone pole. “Just stay here, guys,” Tara says. “Don’t get up. There is nothing for you in Washington.” At first, nobody appreciates her dark humour, but by the end of the episode, she manages to win over Glenn and Rosita, making it easier for them to concentrate on their short-term goals. “Eugene wasn’t strong. He isn’t fast. He doesn’t know how to use a weapon. The truth hurts, but he was useless. He had one skill that kept him living. We’re supposed to be mad at him because he used it?” Sometimes the truth hurts, but sometimes people need to hear it in order to move on. And she’s right. Eugene may have lied to everyone, but his sin is not nearly as bad as the sins committed by everyone else.

While not as powerful as some earlier episodes, “Crossed” still gets the job done, moving characters to where they need to be for what is promising to be an action-packed mid-season finale. Given how fast the show dispensed of the cannibals, next week could sidestep the usual cliffhanger and bring the Grady hospital story arc to an end. At one point Dawn shows her own spark of humanity: “You just killed that woman. Who do you think I have to side with?” Lerner says to Beth. She talks again about the fragile ecosystem and than gives Beth the key to the medicine cabinet to get Carol the drugs she needs. “I thought you were weak,” she says to Beth. “You’ve proved me wrong.” Is Dawn just a good person trapped in a tricky situation that has escalated out of control? If so, will she eventually join Rick’s group?

Other thoughts:

We finally get some backstory on Rosita and Abraham. Turns out they met in Dallas, when her group was in trouble with walkers and Abraham swooped in to save them. He saw how Rosita handled herself and asked for her help on his mission to Washington.

Tara: “He was the first person to ask me for that since this all started. Maybe he was lying, too.”

Strawberries are good to use when bribing any of the ward of the hospital?

Maggie: “Get over yourself. You’re not the only one who lost something today.”

Maggie: “It’s never going to get any better than this.”

I love how Tara is so excited to find a yo-yo!

Does Gabriel need a tetanus show now?

I am really enjoying the mix of multiple focus storytelling and single focus episodes we’ve seen this season.