The Grimes Gang tries to strike back against the Terminus leftovers, with predictably bloody results
“Bears, when they start to starve, they eat their young. If the bear dies, the cub dies anyway.”
Gareth didn’t last long on The Walking Dead, but the character left a mark. Quiet, reasonable, handsome, charismatic: You imagine he was a pretty cool guy before the world fell to pieces. At the beginning of “Four Walls and a Roof,” he has a chat with Bob that is positively amiable, to the extent that anything is “amiable” when a fellow wakes up to discover he’s short one limb. In the last few days, Gareth has seen his entire life explode and implode, his home destroyed, his friends and family most gone.
Yet he can maintain a healthy sense of humor. It’s there when he tells Bob about his brother and, almost as an aside, clarifies that his brother is “also currently dead.” And it’s there when he reveals that he isn’t just a cannibal; he’s a cannibal foodie. Women taste better, you see. (Maybe it’s that extra layer of skin.) Pretty people taste better, too. Soon, the remaining citizens of Terminus will find out just how good the Grimes Gang tastes. Gareth reveals this quietly, unabashedly. He can’t understand why Bob is so sad. Isn’t Gareth going out of his way to make this experience as painless as possible? “I’m being a human being here,” says Gareth. “I’m talking to you.”
Bob has something to say, too. His crying turns into laughter. Horrible, horrible laughter. Insane laughter. The kind of laugh that you used to see all the time in the old EC Comics like Tales from the Crypt, where half the stories ended with someone descending into gibbering lunacy. “Eh…Eh…Eh!” laughs Bob. “You idiots!” He pulls down his shirt, revealing bite marks from the zombie who attacked him during the food run. “Tainted meat!” he screams. “Tainted meat!” (ASIDE: I have no idea if Kirkman intended the line as an homage when he originally wrote it for Walking Dead #64, but there was an old “Crypt of Terror” comic that ended with a wife killing her husband and serving him up to customers, offering up the cannibal treats with the specific term “Tainted meat.” END OF ASIDE.)
And that’s where we began with Walking Dead this week: One of our lead characters about to be killed by the cannibals who were in the process of devouring his leg, only to reveal that he was already dying of a zombie bite. Another cheerful episode of the most popular show in America! (I’m revisiting my old Walking Dead duties this week while your regular Walking Dead recapper, Kyle Ryan, disappears into the forest to chase after a mysterious car with a cross on its back windshield.)
The rest of the Grimes Gang are looking through the woods, trying to find the missing Bob and the missing Carol and the missing Daryl. Sasha is on edge. She turns to Father Gabriel and demands to know what is happening in his Church of Misery. She’s convinced it’s all connected: The people watching them in the woods, the disappearance of three Grimes Gangbangers, the scrawled messages and clawmarks outside the church.
But Gabriel is no mastermind. His origin story, revealed under duress, is one of the more depressing in Walking Dead‘s history. Not long after Atlanta got bombed, Gabriel’s congregation showed up at the church, seeking sanctuary. They knocked on the door; they pummeled the side of the church; they screamed “Let me in! Let me in!” All that noise attracted the walkers. Gabriel kept the doors locked. And everyone outside died, badly. “The Lord sent you here to finally punish me,” says Gabriel. He kneels down in front of his executioners. They don’t kill him, of course. But as Anton Chekhov once said, if you pull out a gun in a church in the first act, then you definitely need to kill a bunch of cannibals in a church by the third act.
At this specific moment, the Terminus remnants opt to deposit Bob back on the front porch. He gives them the short version: “Yes, I’m missing my leg. Yes, those Terminus people really were cannibals, just like we would’ve all guessed a million years ago if we were bloggers. Yes, I’m also dying of a zombie bite. And yes, I’m also totally bummed that we won’t make it to four Wire alumni on The Walking Dead at once.”
Abraham has a big idea. Things have gone FUBAR; it’s time to GTFO. Abraham has a mission: Save the mullet, save the world. Eugene even tells him he doesn’t want to go, and Abraham won’t accept that. Abraham and Rosita fixed up the church bus while nobody was looking; now they’re ready to head to DC. “You’re not taking the bus,” says Rick. They need to wait for Carol and Daryl; they need to get their vengeance. Abraham agrees to stick around for twelve hours, but only on the promise that Glenn and Maggie will come with them. “Come high noon, we’re tail lights,” he explains.
NEXT: High Noon, The Prequel
And so begins the Long Death of Bob. Set up on a comfy couch in a back room of the church, he tries to play the old Find A Good Thing About Our Miserable Lives game. Getting kicked in the face made the pain in his shoulder and non-leg go away: That’s an improvement! In the church, Rick is trying to find his own bright side. The cannibals outside think they have the upper hand; a perfect time for the Grimes Gang to strike, with the clear heads that can only come from a badass supersquad of zombie hunters who’ve already survived a few different personal cosmic apocalypses. Sasha wants in; she’s craving vengeance. Tyreese begs her to stay: Doesn’t she want more time with the one she loves? Wouldn’t Bob want that? Sasha hands him a knife. “If he stops breathing, you put it through his temple,” she says. “That’s what Bob would want.”
The Grimes Gang sets off into the evening. In an awesomely long, leisurely shot, we see them disappear into the forest—and then, in the distance, we see the final Terminans appear, walking towards a church that is currently populated by the very few people in the Grimes Gang who aren’t hunter-killer badasses. Chatty Gareth asks the stragglers to show themselves. He tells the priest that they will let him go; they’ll even let him take Judith. (Probably a lie; as everyone who saw this summer’s Snowpiercer knows, babies taste the best.)
Judith starts crying. The cannibals flock outside the door…and then, from out of the shadows steps Colt Grimes, followed by his father/holder Rick. Colt Grimes has a couple of counterarguments for Gareth, and one of those counterarguments blows a couple of Gareth’s fingers clean off. Yes, it was the old double-cross: The Grimes Gang only wanted the cannibals to think they were attacking their base.
(ASIDE: Readers of the comic will recognize what a delicate double-twist this was. In the comic book, Rick actually does lead his fellow survivors on a successful surprise attack. So, if you were a comic book reader, you were first surprised that the cannibals attacked the church, and then you were re-unsurprised to discover this was part of Rick’s plan. Further evidence that the Walking Dead writers are getting more confident in the whole narrative-remixing thing as the show goes on. END OF ASIDE.)
Gareth tries to talk his way out of it. Surely there was a reason that Rick didn’t just shoot them where they stood? Rick, tough, terse, straightforward: “We didn’t want to waste the bullets.” Gareth tries to offer up some personal history. At Terminus, they tried to save people. Then it all went wrong. “I know you’ve been out there,” Gareth says. “But you don’t know…what it is…to be hungry.” It’s an interesting thing for someone to say, this far into the perpetual horror of The Walking Dead: That even though Rick has gone through every kind of hell we can think of, there are hells we haven’t even dreamed of yet, and terrors that he has never had to face. Gareth asks for mercy. They’ll never bother Rick again, not ever.
“But I already made you a promise,” Rick says.
And then Rick slices Gareth into a couple dozen pieces, and Abraham and Sasha and Michonne kill the other cannibals in the bloodiest way possible. A few members of the Grimes Gang turn away in horror. Gabriel looks on, helpless, the horror outside his church finally making its way inside. For a second after the massacre, the camera lingers on that shot: The four living people standing over the people they just killed. Compare this to the last time The Walking Dead visited a church, back in the season 2 premiere, when the sight of Christ on the Cross was an opportunity for the characters to have a long chat with a higher power. How things have changed; how little faith anyone has in any higher power at this point. “This is the Lord’s house!” says Gabriel. “No,” says Maggie. “It’s just four walls and a roof.”
Or maybe it’s more than that. As brutally cynical as this hour of television was—as much as it seemed to imply that the Grimes Gang have descended a half-step further down the Lord of the Flies ladder, no longer worrying too much about killing prisoners in cold blood—the final sequence begins with a lovely shot of the whole assembled Grimes Gang, watching over the dying Bob. They say goodbye. Bob thanks Rick for saving him, and tells him that he still believes in some kind of better world—his thoughts haven’t changed, even in light of the whole leg-devoured-by-cannibals thing. “That’s just this dead man’s opinion,” says Bob.
(ASIDE: Part of the dissonance of The Walking Dead is that characters frequently talk about hope as if goodness is an absolute, even if the show itself constantly seems to be denying the possibility of hope. So it’s worth pointing out that Bob’s description of Rick—”You took people in”—was a weird echo of how Gareth described Terminus—”We saved people.” Is Rick a hero because he is somehow fundamentally different from the Terminans? Or is he a hero because he got lucky with the people he saved? END OF ASIDE.)
Bob is still. But then he smiles. Sasha, alone with him, asks what he could possibly be smiling about. He had a dream; she was there, smiling. And now she smiles IRL. “What is it?” she asks him. “The good that comes out of this bad?” He has no answer, of course. Just like that, Bob’s not there anymore. Sasha cries, produces a knife. Her brother appears, takes the knife from her. And so it fell to Tyreese to kill the dead man. Quietly, painlessly: Bob doesn’t have it so bad, in the end. (There are worse ways to die than fulfilling the dreams of a generation of Wire viewers who always wished Cutty could’ve hung out with D’Angelo.)
After that, the Grimes Gang have yet another Breaking of the Fellowship moment. Maggie and Glenn join the Mullet, the Midriff, and the Mustache on their journey to DC. Abraham leaves a map of their pathway, along with a message: “The New World’s Gonna Need Rick Grimes.” I’m gobsmacked that they actually parted ways with the main Grimes Gang—how many times do we need to stress that more people is more power in the zombie apocalypse? (Also: Does anyone else think Maggie has been pretty serene with regards to the whole “Your dead sister is actually alive but she was kidnapped by mysterious people” thing?)
But I loved the little moment that followed their leave-taking. Tyreese is digging a grave. Rick’s digging next to him. “How was it for you, getting to Terminus?” he asks Tyreese. “It killed me,” Tyreese says. End of conversation.
Later, in the evening, Michonne sits outside the church, reunited with her sword, chatting with Gabriel. “I can’t sleep,” says the priest. “I hear them.” “That won’t stop,” says Michonne. “But it won’t be all the time.” (The screams of the dead will only bother you some of the time: This is optimism in the Walking Deadverse.) Then Michonne hears a sound in the forest. Gabriel races inside, of course; she investigates and finds Daryl, frowning. “Where’s Carol?” she asks. “Come on out,” says Daryl—to whom, precisely, we don’t know.
Our own Dalton Ross has a post speculating on who, precisely, is in the woods with Daryl in that final scene—and don’t miss Dalton’s chat with Andrew West, who essayed the short-but-memorable role of Gareth the Cannibal Leader.
Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich