AMC’s The Walking Dead has a pretty good track record for roaring back from its mid-season breaks. Season Five’s latest episode, “What Happened And What’s Going On” certainly left its mark and while I have some issues, it’s definitely one of the strongest episodes to-date and one that captured the right balance of zombie-related mayhem and human drama. To keep things simple, let’s simply look at what we loved and what we didn’t love for the episode.
Things We Loved:
- Tyreese’s “high cost of living” speech to Noah in the car. The theme of consequences weighed heavily upon this episode, and this solemnly delivered bit of dialogue was a perfect bit of foreshadowing, enigmatic as it may have seemed at the time.
- Michonne, absolutely nailing two ends of the emotional spectrum — first, losing hope and sinking into despair as they discover the burnt-out ruin of Noah’s former home, but more importantly, the desperate, earnest home that she finds when she pleads for them to make the journey to Washington DC. Michonne has realized that in order to not just survive but to live, they must have a purpose. And however slim the possibility of civilization in DC may be, at least it gives them purpose.
Tyreese’s fatherly attitude towards the desolate Noah, from his kind words to his protective actions upon finding Noah’s house, this really was a terrific episode for Tyreese…
… speaking of, the visions. While I am still skeptical of the visions as a device when there was no intention of Tyreese surviving (what’s the point of them, if he won’t get to actually take action based on their message?), the actors — Chris Coy as Martin, Lawrence Gilliard, Emily Kinney, Alexandra Breckinridge — all perfectly captured his various inner conflicts.
The directing. Greg Nicotero’s artful direction of this episode, not to mention outstanding pacing and music, made for a thoroughly engaging experience and one that was not only exciting, but captivating and often quite beautiful. Extra credit for the lovely shot of Noah reflected in the broken glass of his former home.
Things We Didn’t Love:
- While I appreciate Rick’s sentiment for honoring Beth, a 500 mile journey for the sake of that sentiment? Really? The logic there was a trifle hard to swallow, but then again — perhaps it’s just to give them a sense of purpose.
- Noah running off. Seriously, enough with this trope. Sure, emotional stress and all that, but the idea that now, after everything that’s happened and all they’ve lived through
the air of solemnity over the whole group after all they’ve lost, someone will still run off.
-Tyreese’s death. Without any exaggeration, five minutes before he got bit, I was actually thinking of starting a meme about how “It’s been XX days since we lost a minority character.” And here we are. Tyreese was not always the most well-developed character, and they certainly saved Chad Coleman’s best performance for his final one, but I would genuinely have rather seen him continue on and develop further. His death was absolutely shocking (the moment of the bite had me gasping), but it was ultimately disappointing.
This was a beautiful episode, and not just in an emotional sense. It was also one of the more carefully and lushly-shot of the show’s history, showing an interest in making it not just gorily intense, but also finding beauty in the chaos and despair. It was also a well-crafted, tightly-scripted one that wasted few moments, despite also being a fairly quiet episode (main character deaths and limbless bodies aside (seriously, what was up with that?). It bodes well for the future, even as we say farewell to another cast member.