Last week, we left a passed-out Glenn and a panicked Tara in the clutches of a muscular ginger in military fatigues. This week’s episode opens on Tara riding in the back of the Army truck, writing directions in Sharpie on her hand. When the motley crew encounters walkers, the military gent climbs out and stabs two of the undead through the head, leaving one to smash with the butt of Tara’s gun. He isn’t particularly efficient, but he’s cheerful. When Tara comments on his smile, he tells her, “Well, I’m the luckiest man in the world.”
Back in the suburbs (it’s notable that Rick keeps gravitating toward familiarity), Carl and Michonne joke over breakfast. Just as the laughter is in full swing, Carl says he’d rather drink Judith’s formula than Michonne’s hippie soy milk! Womp womp. Every time these characters begin to find solace in each other, they find new emotional stumbling blocks, raw spots that surprise them. The house in which Michonne, Carl, and Rick are situated is lily-white: Michonne stands in an impeccable, colorless kitchen in a starched men’s dress shirt. The color (or lack thereof, depending on your level of nerd) looks immensely out of place in this apocalypse, especially with these wounded warriors wandering around in it. Rick decides they should just stay here while they figure it out; it feels like home, and it’s as safe a space as any.
When Michonne and Carl decide to go on a food run, Rick offers to come along. Michonne isn’t having that; he’s in no shape to travel after his long bout with unconsciousness. He says goodbye on the front porch of the house, asking how long Carl and Michonne think they’ll be. Rick tells his teenage son to “follow her lead.” The scene, positioned on a comfortable, well-furnished patio, plays very much like a proud/nervous dad sending his kid out on his first date. Rick is both proud of his son’s ability to handle himself, and nervous that he’ll lose him forever, so it works well.
On their food exploration, Michonne tries to cheer Carl up with little success. She squirts her new-found treasure “Crazy Cheez” directly into her mouth and plays zombie, stumbling a few steps, groaning as the neon yellow faux food product sits in her open mouth…Carl isn’t entertained. She says morosely that she isn’t very good at making boys his age laugh, but she remembers being good with toddlers. In an important moment for Michonne, she tells Carl she had a son. When he barrages her with questions, she tells him she’ll answer one question at a time, one room at a time, and only after they’ve cleared the room of anything useful. This approach piques Carl’s interest. Michonne tells him her baby’s name was Andre. I don’t know that we in the audience had that information prior to this episode; she’s letting her guard down, letting him (and us) in.
Michonne gazes attentively at the art on the walls of their chosen house, amateurish oils and watercolors. Her comfort in beauty, her educated eye, calls back to the scene from a few episodes ago in which she discusses a “pedestrian” art exhibit with her lover and her friend. Carl brings her a painting, and beneath the wrapping Michonne discovers a simplistically rendered woman’s face splattered with blood and black paint. She immediately wonders who could’ve painted such a horrid thing, and decides that if said person is still on premises, they might want to skedaddle sooner than later. She discovers a nursery stocked with playful shelving and owl prints. Behind this cheerful facade, she finds another room, bright, bubble-gum pink. In this one lie four decayed corposes. Suburbia turned upside down and inside out.
Meanwhile back at the white house, Rick is resting peacefully, his guard down, when he hears voices echoing up the hardwood stairs from that brightly clean kitchen. He creeps around corners, barely avoiding the interlopers, who clomp around in blood-spattered combat boots and carry large rifles. Finally Rick slides himself under the bed, and as he watches, breathless, a miscreant checks out the bedroom, the muzzle of his weapon dangling right in front of Rick’s stunned face. Then, suddenly, he jumps on the bed and starts snoring. What a predicament. When another guy tries to take the bed from the first, the dude who sleeps atop Rick strangles the other into submission; the stranger makes startled eye contact with Rick under the bed as he passes out. The marauders find Michonne’s discarded shirt and rejoice: “I call first when she gets here!” one cries. (Cringe.) In his weakened state, Rick is 100% not up for fighting these dudes; luckily, he surprises one on the toilet
and renders him unconscious kills him. (ETA: some eagle-eyed friends pointed out that Rick in fact laid a trap, expecting the dead man to come back and create a ruckus for the marauders, and thus allowing Rick to GTFO.)
On the road, Glenn awakens in the back of the military truck with the sun on his face. Tara tells him everyone on the bus was dead when they passed it three hours ago. Glen smashes the cab window to get the military folks to stop the truck; he’s got to go back. The redhead in the camo advises that the best idea in this situation is to “find some strong, like-minded comrades and stick together like wet on water.” He’s actually talking sense, and Glenn can’t hear it. The military man introduces himself as Sergeant Abraham Ford. Along with his comrade Rosita Espinoza, he’s escorting Dr. Eugene Porter to Washington, D.C. Eugene’s a scientist, Ford says, and he knows exactly what caused this mess. “It’s classified,” says Porter, a rather chunky gentleman with a mullet. I mean, obviously. Eugene does not look like a doctor (not to judge a book by its cover, or anything). Nothing shady here at all, folks. Ford all but begs Tara and Glenn to travel with them; he pragmatically notes that Maggie’s almost certainly gone, that they’ll probably never see each other again. It’s realistic, but it is not what Glenn wants to hear, and Ford gets a punch in the face for his wisdom. A pissed off Ford tackles Glenn, and Rosita and Tara try to pry them off each other while Porter eyes a walker coming out from the woods. The good doctor doesn’t know the first thing about weapons, and the ones who do are not paying attention.
After Porter starts shooting willy-nilly, the five of them take out a herd together…but unfortunately Eugene also takes out the truck. Eugene remarks expressionlessly that he was able to perform such a feat as a result of “a fully amped-up state and an ignorance of rapid-fire weapons.” After he retrieves his picture of Maggie from Espinoza, Glenn stubbornly continues on his way backwards. Tara hands Espinoza the gun and follows him. Shortly thereafter, Espinoza follows Tara and Glenn. Porter agrees, admonishing Ford that they all ought to follow the guy with the experience killing zombies: “Trust me, I’m smarter than you.” Ford, Porter, and Espinoza pick up their stuff and retrace their steps with the people who know how to survive in the world of the undead. Ford tells Tara he appreciates her loyalty; what he doesn’t understand is that it isn’t loyalty keeping her at Glenn’s side. It’s guilt. She was prepared to die for her role in the prison takeover, for trusting the Governor. Now she’s sticking by Glenn because she’s wracked with guilt over his separation from Maggie. These people all have a lot to learn about each other.
In the final scene, Rick escapes from the white house full of marauders, catches Carl and Michonne just in the nick of time, and they all sprint for the hills. So much for staying in one place while they figure things out. The trio passes a hand-written sign on a train car: Santuary for All – Community For All -Those Who Arrive Survive.” This looks awfully familiar: Carol, Tyreese, and the girls saw a similar sign last week.
Our characters are all headed back together again after the prison debacle. Two of our splinter groups are following the signs, while others are following each other. For once, they avoided the bad guys and maybe even found some good ones. This episode was quick, simple, and dynamic. It added some much-needed action to the season. I’m in favor of this tone! But I’m suspicious about the handwritten signs, and I have a feeling Lizzie’s going to go full psycho before the season’s out.
What did you think? What are your predictions? Share in the comments!