Pick a cliche: No good deed goes unpunished. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Something from that song in Wicked. You get the point: As much as kindness is one of the only remaining links people have to their pre-apocalypse humanity, it can also make them careless. The Sasha we see in the opening shot of the episode angrily hacking a church pew with an ax wouldn’t have tried to help a prisoner achieve closure. And in the final shot of the episode, we see where that gets her: knocked out on the filthy floor of an abandoned factory.
These characters can be so maddening. Watching that final scene was like watching a horror movie when the next victim is about to open the door and get slashed. Doesn’t he know the killer is standing behind it?! Doesn’t Sasha, a battle-tested survivor, know better than to turn her back to a prisoner like that? Sure, he’s cuffed, but that doesn’t mean anything, as we all see.
It’s another baffling rookie mistake that follows Carol’s “Well, guess I’ll throw my weapon and back into this room that has walkers in it” move in “Consumed.” Still reeling from Bob’s death (and her inability to be the one to prevent him from coming back), Sasha moves from anger and depression and takes a tentative step back from the brink, only to have someone exploit her vulnerability. Emotional vulnerability can be just as dangerous as physical vulnerability in this world.
“Crossed” dutifully sets up the big midseason-finale showdown, and for some viewers, it’ll feel like a filler/transitional episode. The action is limited, the dialogue plentiful, though without any of the “what does it all mean?” philosophizing. All that table-setting is nicely balanced by some of the grossest walkers we’ve seen on The Walking Dead, and that’s saying something.
Where the past three episodes have focused on a particular person or persons, “Crossed” offers a little bit of everything: a look into the trio holding down the church (Gabriel, conflicted as always, Michonne, and Carl, along with baby Judith), GREATM (Glenn, Rosita, Eugene, still out, Abraham, Tara, and Maggie), the hospital (Beth, an unconscious Carol, and their captors), and the strike force (Rick, Daryl, Sasha, Tyreese, and Noah). Again, it’s all in service to set up the climactic finale, but each group’s story carries weight.
The episode opens with the group (minus GREATM) fortifying the church and preparing for battle. Some of the pews in Gabriel’s less-than-holy house of the Lord are being split to barricade the doors, and the pipes from the organ are inverted around the entrance as walker-catchers. (“Are you gonna take the cross too?” Gabriel asks sarcastically. “If we need it,” says Daryl.) Carl wants to join the raiding party, but Rick won’t allow it. Michonne offers to go in his place, but a) Rick is the leader, and b) “I owe Carol.” “We all owe Carol,” Michonne says. Rick won’t have it: “I owe her more.”
Everyone says their good-byes and Gabriel begins obsessively but fruitlessly cleaning the blood on his floor. He reluctantly picks a machete when Carl implores him to take a weapon to defend himself—which he secretly uses to pry up the floorboards in his quarters and escape out the crawlspace at the end of the episode.
The St. Sarah’s gang provides the least interesting parts of the episode: Gabriel is still pissy and resentful, even when Michonne tries to sympathize with him. In the comic, she’s a bit of a libertine, so I wondered if this was a careful step toward a more personal connection with Gabriel. Maybe that’s wrong, but Michonne is especially careful about making any personal connections, so it felt significant. More significant is the look of grave concern that washes across her face as Carl makes an Abraham-esque “You keep moving or die” speech to Gabriel. Add it to the “Will Probably Be a Problem Later” File. What do you mean, there’s no more room?
That’s the acronym Tara bestows on the group per the letters atop their water bottles. The scene opens apparently right after the confrontation that left Eugene unconscious and Abraham homicidal. They can’t move Eugene, because it could exacerbate his injuries; they just have to leave him for the time being. Rosita tries to get Abraham to drink water, though nothing about his intense thousand-yard stare indicates he’s in the mood. When she tries to force it, he knocks the bottle out of her hand and stands up menacingly. “Sit down or I’ll put you down,” Maggie says, gun drawn. Abraham’s face softens; he realizes something, but it’s not clear. Is it that he no longer cares if he lives or dies? Maybe, he’s been there before. Did he not fully grasp how much the group has turned on him until good-hearted Maggie stared him down with a look that backs up her words? Maybe. (“Well, what’s next on the agenda?” asks Tara, this week’s comedian.)
Those two share more than they perhaps realize: Both of them desperately needed this mission. For Abraham, it literally saved his life. For Maggie, it gave her hope for the first time in recent memory. (As she told Glenn in “Self Help“: “It just feels really good having this because it’s now about what was—it’s all about what’s gonna be.”) As Abraham continues kneeling in silence on the highway, a stance that would resemble prayer if he didn’t look like a guy waiting to be shot execution-style, Maggie unloads: “Get over yourself. You’re not the only one who lost something today.” Pause. “It’s never going to get any better than this.”
I mentioned in “Self Help” that Eugene’s hose-down-the-walkers move may have worked, but it also used gallons and gallons of water. Stranded on the highway with a severely injured man, the group has drained the remaining water out of the tank. Glenn, Tara, and Rosita head to a nearby creek to stock up while Maggie keeps an eye on Eugene and Abraham. Along the way, they pass a few walkers pinned down by a fallen telephone pole. “Just stay here, guys,” Tara says. “Don’t get up. There is nothing for you in Washington.”
No one else appreciates her gallows humor, but she’s the most clear-headed of anyone in GREATM. “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?” (“Damn right,” says Glenn.)
We get some background on Rosita and Abraham while they get water at the stream. They met in Dallas, when her group got in trouble with walkers and he swooped in to save them. He saw how Rosita handled herself and asked for her help on his mission. “He was the first person to ask me for that since this all started. Maybe he was lying, too.”
The stream happens to have fish, something the group clearly hasn’t seen in a long time, and they bond while catching fish with an impromptu net from the jackets of the telephone-pole walkers. By the standards of The Walking Dead, they’re having a great day, and it shows in their contented faces as they head back to the truck.
Maggie and Abraham have made progress, too. “You’re thirsty. Don’t say you’re not,” she says as she puts a water bottle next to him. “Did you want me to shoot you?” Abraham responds, and maybe explains why his face changed when Maggie pulled the gun on him: “I thought I did, but I didn’t.” They hear some gurgling noises, a sound viewers have come to associate with walkers—like the thousands of walkers just down the road—but are actually coming from Eugene, perhaps roused by the shade over his head Maggie was able to create using the fire truck’s ladder and tarp.
Abraham reaches for the water bottle for the first time. If Eugene’s alive, he won’t have to punish himself quite as much.
NEXT: Give me 5 milligrams of epinephrine, stat!