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The Walking Dead, Ep. 5.02 “Strangers” sweet and bloody disgusting

The Walking Dead, Ep. 5.02 “Strangers” sweet and bloody disgusting

 TWD-S5E2-2

The Walking Dead, Season 5, Episode 2: “Strangers”
Directed by David Boyd
Written by Robert Kirkman
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC

After last week’s action extravaganza, “Strangers” is unsurprisingly a much quieter episode of The Walking Dead. Written by comic creator Robert Kirkman, “Strangers” follows the entire group traveling side by side, and introduces us to a new character (the mysterious Father Gabriel played by Seth Gilliam). The group takes shelter in a church, before making a decision about Abraham’s proposed plan for D.C.; meanwhile Bob discovers a new horror lurking in the woods. Gareth and his Terminus buddies are back for more disgusting cannibal mayhem.

No Sanctuary” is a fantastic episode and was an exciting way to kick of the fifth season. It features some of the best action sequences of the series history, but the more pressing questions about Terminus and Beth’s whereabouts were put aside to focus on how the group would escape from the compound; thus leaving little room for any sort of exposition or character study. “Strangers” on the other hand, allows the team to take a break, albeit even if very brief. There’s plenty of breathing room for the necessary parties to play catchup, allowing Rick the time to properly thank Carol and allowing Tara a chance to clear the air about her involvement with the Governor, and ultimately Hershel’s death. But for a show that usually does well with intimate encounters, the dialogue fell flat here. Rick and Carol talk about their past, Carol and Tyreese discuss their past, Daryl and Carol talk about their past – even Tara who normally gets very little to do is given an entire scene to talk about her past mistakes. For an episode that is very heavy on conversations, we don’t get much outside of characters repeating each other’s dialogue verbatim.

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The most interesting take-away this week is the long-awaited introduction of Seth Gilliam’s Father Gabriel, now the third Wire alum joining the party. Despite his clean cut, his soft spoken voice and his religious beliefs, Gabriel clearly cant be trusted as evidenced by the scrawled message etched on the side of the church (“You’ll Burn For This”). Gabriel definitely marks a change of pace for the series and his introduction will show us how Rick will deal with strangers from now on. Rick embraced his cynicism after the attack on the prison but it’s telling that his followers are determined to hold on to their faith in humanity, despite the many horrors that they’ve witnessed. Rick is in a place of wary acceptance, but he’s not quite the burdened leader of past seasons. And so while Gabriel doesn’t present much of an outward threat, Rick isn’t taking any chances. Rick hesitates to help the man and Carl continues to be his father’s moral compass. “What have you done? We’ve all done something,” Rick insists, to which Gabriel replies, “I’m a sinner, I sin almost every day. But those sins, I confess them to God, not strangers.” The question is, what has Gabriel done bad? My guess is the Father kept himself zealously locked up in  his church, forsaking anybody else to enter when everything went to hell.

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Abraham, who hasn’t had much to do thus far, gives a long rousing speech about traveling up to Washington in search of a cure. Abraham makes a good point that the group wouldn’t have very much to lose by taking another road trip especially considering that he and the others don’t have any specific plans for the near future. It is a vital moment for the group, and one that introduces a renewed sense of purpose. Unfortunately now that the group has a new destination to travel to, their plan gets jettisoned in the wake of Bob’s capture and Carol and Daryl’s disappearance.

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Speaking of which: It isn’t surprising to see Carol sneak off in the middle of the night and try to leave the group behind with the abandoned car she finds earlier on. Even after rescuing the group, she is clearly having trouble dealing with Rick’s betrayal back at the prison. I just wonder if she is also feeling guilty about her previous actions? Luckily for viewers, Daryl catches her in the act, and before he has time to confront her about it, the same car that Beth was last seen in zooms by. And so he and Carol take off in chase of the speedster with hopes of once again reuniting with Beth.

It wasn’t any surprise to see Gareth and his goons pop up to recreate a famous comic scene, albeit one that replaces the long-dead Dale with Bob. After Garreth’s nefarious monologue, the camera pans back to reveal the most disturbing scene of the series so far. Watching Gareth eating, and savouring, a piece of Bob’s leg right in front of him nearly made me puke. It’s a terrifying scene, made all the more upsetting by the matter-of-fact way in which Gareth compliments Bob on the way he tastes. Given the half-season’s tagline “Hunt or Be Hunted,” we can only assume we’ll be seeing a lot more of Gareth and his fine young cannibals.

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“Strangers” reminds us just how terrific The Walking Dead is with special effects and makeup. The walkers in the flooded basement are disgusting even by zombie standards. David Boyd does a superb job directing the big set piece which sees the group willingly dive into murky waters in order to stock up on food supplies. The only odd choice is the extensive use of slow-motion shots showing the crew walking down a road. I also particularity like the shots of the stalker trailing them in the woods.

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In the end,we’re never given a chance to see if Bob was somehow bit by the underwater ghoul, but considering his mysterious departure from the group at the church, not to mention his breakdown – I’m willing to bet he is indeed infected.

It’s the quieter episodes that really emphasize what it is like to live in a post-apocalyptic world – and if anything, “Strangers” is an episode about forgiveness and moving forward. From the opening scenes punctuated by repeated shots of the group threading through the forest – to the dinner scene in which they all raise a glass of wine – the idea of constantly moving on is both emotional and literal this week.

– Ricky D

 Other thoughts:

Was that Martin (Chris Coy) I saw briefly sitting with Gareth and the other cannibals? If so, Tyreese will live to regret he didn’t kill him last week.

It’s nice to hear Michonne talk about Hershel and Andrea.

Does anybody remember the significance of Rick and Carol exchanging watches?

It’s a bit convenient that the guys that took Beth would happen to drive by that exact road at that exact moment.

We get a little bit of background on Michonne’s sword and learn that she found it after the outbreak.

It is nice to see Glenn doing what he does best: scavenging. I’m pretty sure those three silencers will come in handy in the near future and save either him or Maggie.

Gabriel: “Members of my flock tell me that my sense of humour leaves something to be desired.”

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Rick: “You are not safe. No matter how many people are around, no matter how clear the area is, you are not safe. It only takes one second, and then it’s over. Never let your guard down. Promise me.”

Glenn: “Found what we came for: three silencers in a mini fridge. Rule # 1 of scavenging: there’s nothing left in this world that isn’t hidden.”

Don’t forget to listen to our Walking Dead podcast. We release new episodes each week with a different guest.