The Walking Dead returned last night after an explosive season premiere, and while it appeared like Rick and his group were out of the frying pan, the final moments of “Strangers” proved otherwise. Remember, life is hell in a zombie apocalypse, and it’s not always because of the undead.
Please note that there will be SPOILERS for The Walking Dead series and the “Strangers” episode below.
“Strangers” opened with Rick and his group walking through the woods after the perilous escape from Terminus in the season premiere. Everyone is feeling quite jovial, but Tara feels the need to get her ties to the Governor off her chest to those who don’t know that she was part of the attack on the prison in season 4. Tyreese is also feeling like sharing his feelings and wants Carol to tell the group that she killed two people at the prison last season, but he doesn’t want to bring up the two girls that were killed while the two were on their own. At night Rick has a talk with Carol and is appreciative that she welcomed him and the group back even though he banished her to be on her own after learning that she killed two sick group members at the prison. Carol accepts Rick’s offer and then goes off to watch camp with Daryl, who happens to sense a disturbance in the force, but can’t see who or what may be watching the camp.
The next morning the group merrily marches on but halts at the sound of someone crying for help. Carl urges them to search out the victim and they find a priest atop a boulder being attacked by walkers. Rick and his gang kill off his attackers and begin to question the priest whose name is Gabriel. Gabriel tells Rick that he hasn’t killed a single walker or human since the fallout, which causes Rick to not trust him. Gabriel takes the group to his church where he’s been hiding out by himself since the outbreak. Unfortunately he’s eaten all his food, so he explains to Rick that there’s a food bank nearby that may still have some supplies. Rick decides to stay at the church and find supplies even though Abraham wants to use the church bus to continue on to D.C.. Rick and a few select members of his group along with Gabriel go in search of the supplies, which they find after a harrowing encounter with waterlogged walkers trapped in the food bank. The group grabs supplies and heads back to the church for a celebratory feast.
While this is going on Carol and Daryl find a car that she wants to charge up for a backup plan. The action cuts back to the church and Rick’s return, which prompts Carl to show him that someone, or something tried to break into the church using knives. They also carved a message in the church that said, “You’ll burn for this,” which convinces Rick that his suspicions about Gabriel are correct and that he isn’t telling him everything.
Abraham toasts the group and gives a moving speech that ultimately convinces Rick and everyone to commit to traveling to D.C. to save the world. Rick ensures that Gabriel knows he appreciates his hospitality, but he also threatens to kill Gabriel if he gets his friends killed. Meanwhile, Carol appears to be trying to leave on her own before Daryl rolls up on her. As they’re talking a car with a cross on it streaks by that prompts Daryl to get excited and give chase because he believes the car to be the same one that stole Beth towards the end of season four. The two peel out in pursuit.
Back at the church Bob heads outside seemingly distraught about something. Unfortunately for him he gets knocked out by someone and taken away. When Bob wakes up he realizes he’s been captured by Gareth and the dude Tyreese was supposed to kill last episode, and other Terminus survivors. Gareth tells Bob that nothing they’ve done to him is personal, they just need to eat, which prompts Bob to look down at his leg and see that its gone. Gareth and his cannibals are cooking Bob’s leg on a grill and eating it in front of him to further prove they’ll do anything to survive and that they’re even more insane than ever before.
“Strangers” started slow and appeared to be going nowhere, but the ending and the character of Gabriel made it very interesting and setup the events for the next few episodes to follow. The beginning was quite slow due to the fact that Tara had to come clean with everyone about her role in the prison attack, which no one seems to care about at this point. The opening segments also helped to strengthen the bonds between the main survivors, while also introducing Gabriel, who I must admit seems just as shady as Rick thinks he is. Although, the whole supply raid scene offered a bit of insight into the character of Gabriel, and unless he was acting, he definitely doesn’t appear to have become a cold hearted killer in a world with no hope, so maybe he’s just a pawn of another awful faction that we have yet to meet.
Rick continues to assert the fact that his group, especially Carl, should never feel safe, which leads to the discovery that something is definitely funky about the church and its inhabitant. This mindset has served him and most of his flock well, but based on a few of the Carol-centric scenes, he may have created too much of an uncaring robot, because she appears that she’s struggling to rejoin the group, either because of her actions, or because she feels they’re too weak to be survivors these days.
The ending instantly makes “Strangers” a solid episode, but I’m still puzzled over what led Bob outside to cry. I thought maybe he had been bitten during the supply run and was sad that he was going to have to die, but that doesn’t appear to be the case because Gareth and his gang are eating him, so his flesh obviously isn’t infected. Daryl and Carol seeing the car with a cross on it was also very intriguing, and it possibly hints at Gabriel being in league with them by choice, or by force by another faction, or the survivors of Terminus. If anything, the ending proved that Rick and his gang are far from done with Gareth and the cannibals, and that Gareth’s group is the epitome of what can happen to normal humans in a zombie apocalypse who were pushed to the brink by other humans trying to take advantage of them.
For as slow as this episode started it ended with a bang and ultimately proved to be a worthy entry in The Walking Dead saga. It really helped to push the conflict between Rick and Gareth’s group to the forefront, while also calling back on plot threads that haven’t been closed since being opened in season 4. With Daryl and Carol speeding off by themselves and Bob being captured and eaten, it appears that Rick’s group will be splintered again even though they just reunited last episode. Man, life sure is a bitch living in a zombie apocalypse…
Collection of behind-the-scenes featurettes, making-of spots, and a preview of next week’s episode.
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