The Walking Dead 5.9: “It’s better now”
The Walking Dead season 5 episode 9 recap
The Walking Dead returns with an episode directed by SFX maestro Greg Nicotero that centers largely on Tyrese. Nicotero is a pretty good director, but he’s prone to some film school bullsh*t, the kind of stuff that screams, “Look at me, I know how to use a camera!” People who come to directing by way of other disciplines, like acting, usually indulge in that sort of thing. But he makes some really solid choices, too, especially toward the end of the episode. And he has a great horror moment with a closed door. Sometimes the scariest thing is knowing what’s behind the door and not wanting to open it.
There’s no way to talk around it—this is the end of the road for Tyrese. The artsy-fartsy montage at the top of the show turns out to be things Tyrese sees as he makes his last run with Rick, and for a fair portion of the show, he converses with various dead characters like Beth, Lizzie and Mika, and the Governor (who is somehow scarier in flashback than he ever was alive). Having lost Beth and fled Atlanta (again), Rick & Co. decide to check out the settlement in Richmond, Virginia that Noah tells them about. His family was holed up there, and last he knew it was a safe place with walls. The group decides to go check it out because Beth wanted to get Noah there, so Rick, Tyrese, Noah, Michonne, and Glenn go see how Woodbury II worked out.
In short: Not well. The place—which looks remarkably like suburban Atlanta, by the way—has been overrun, and looks to have been the scene of an attack, too. The gates look like they were rammed, and some of the buildings look bombed-out. While Michonne is trying to talk Rick into rebuilding the site as a compound for them, they find a bunch of legs and arms, but no torsos, and later they find the limbless zombies in the back of a truck with initials carved in their foreheads. So nothing good is going on in Noah’s home town. Thus they decide to leave, though they ultimately do decide to push on to Washington, DC in hopes that maybe the capitol has fared better.
But this episode is really about Tyrese. He and Noah go check out Noah’s family home, which is the first sign of trouble. Any time someone indulges in nostalgia, they pay for it. It looks like Noah’s mother committed murder-suicide after one of her twin sons turned into a zombie, and Noah is understandably upset. Tyrese explores the house and is understandably bitten by a zombie—seriously, nostalgia is a killer. And because this show isn’t subtle, there’s a lot of really obvious imagery, like Noah killing his zombified little brother with a child’s model toy, and blood dripping on a picture of a pretty home. EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE, NO ONE IS HAPPY—we get it.
Similarly, Tyrese keeps having the same imaginary conversation over and over. This episode wants to feel introspective and philosophical, but we’ve already seen that Tyrese is over it and just going through the motions. We’re not surprised he wouldn’t mind checking out. So his conversation with the dead characters, about whether or not it’s “better” to let go, just feel redundant, and it makes the episode as a whole feel like filler. The important thing is that Rick agrees to go to DC, dispensing with Tyrese is just the thing that happens to fill the other 35 minutes of the episode.
And once again, The Walking Dead has not killed off a character we particularly care about. Tyrese has been around for a while, but he’s never been vital. Like Beth, he’s always been defined by another character we care about more (Sasha). Also, I think the writers have developed a tell. This is the third time now that right before being killed off a character has gotten a showcase episode. Bob and Beth both got spotlighted just as they were axed. So maybe I should start to worry that Glenn is finally getting back on track and feeling more central and relevant. Overall this is a solid return for The Walking Dead, but as long as I don’t believe they’re willing to kill off main characters, the stakes really aren’t that high. I’m more invested in how closely Washington, DC resembles Atlanta than I am in who dies next.
Officer Rick – Taking charge like a boss.
Michonne – Tired of just “making it”.
Glenn – Rick’s idea man.
Noah – Missing the hospital, probably.
Tyrese – RIP.
Worst thing seen/heard this episode: The limbless zombie bodies—WTF is that about?
Zombie kill of the week: Tyrese to the head with the geode.