Recap: The Walking Dead, “What Happened and What’s Going On” (5×09)

The first half of this, the fifth season of The Walking Dead, found our characters trying to hold on to their humanity, to slow down the change this world has had on them. No character fought the depth of that change more than Tyreese. He, like Herschel before him, like Dale before him, is the moral heart of our group, the one trying desperately to pull them all out of the abyss. It’s a fight many think there is no time for in this world but it is one that is quickly rubbing off on Michonne. You could see her, over the course of the episode grasp for something, anything to hold onto, to hope for. She’s trying to rise above but she may be the only one.

The episode is framed much more like an art house film than a traditional episode of The Walking Dead. We see glimpses of dirt, a shovel, a grave. We hear sobbing and useless words from a useless priest – we assume for Beth. We see pictures of a house we don’t recognize, bullet holes, train tracks, the jail; we hear a baby cry.

The group is in the car, driving. They cross into South Carolina and up to Virginia. Noah suggests Richmond, the place was secure.

Another quick cut and we see Lizzie and Mika, “It’s better now.” So much blood. And wait, why is Emily Kinney in the credits?

Ok. Let’s try to find our footing after the credits.

Rick, Tyreese, Michonne, Glen and Noah are driving in the front car, about 5 miles out from Noah’s old community. Noah believes that the trade for Beth was the right play; it worked. But there is no reassuring Tyreese. “It went the way it had to. Went the way it was always going to.”

The group arrives at a gated community. Glenn looks up over the wall and shakes his head. There’s a whole to of fire damage. Noah goes off running, as best he can. He just starts sobbing. Michonne’s not taking it well either. Rick and Glenn, ever the practical ones, suggest a quick sweep. Tyreese will stay with Noah.

Rick and Glenn are still struggling over Dawn’s death. Rick admits that her death didn’t have a thing to do Beth. He knew that Dawn didn’t mean to kill Beth and he killed her anyway. But Beth wanted to get Noah here – that is what this trip was about. She wanted to get Noah home. But Glenn keeps pushing. He’d have killed Dawn too. He wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Michonne, the voice of sanity, the growing voice of humanity, stops them. “We need to stop. We can be out here too long.”

Tyreese is trying to get Noah to pick himself back up after he’s realized that his hope for his family is dead. Noah needs to choose to live. Tyreese had to make the same choice. And it was only because of that choice that he was able to take care of Judith. This isn’t the end.

Noah, sort of missing Tyreese’s point, goes running to his house. Inside, they find the half mummified remains of Noah’s mother. Tyreese looks through the rest of the house. There’s a zombie locked in one room, so he tries the next. Tyreese finds the remains of Noah’s baby brother and realizes he’s a twin, just a bit too late. Baby brother #2 gets on Tyreese too quickly and takes a chunk out of his arm. Noah brains him with a model jet.

Tyreese starts hallucinating as Noah runs off for help. Martin from the shack outside Terminus; Bob; the fucking Governor. The girls start with “It’s better now.” Tyreese is being haunted – by his regrets, by what he’s seen, by what he agreed to without understanding.

Oh look, a zombie! And the award for the grossest defense strategy: Tyreese using his already bitten arm as a weapon to distract the attacking zombie. Yikes. The zombie sits, impaled on a computer chair while Tyreese continues to bleed out.

Michonne is trying to make a play for staying. We can cut down trees! Rebuild the fence! But then there are just pieces of bottom halves of zombies everywhere. And some arms. And what appears to be mortar shells. Ok, then if not staying, what if there are people in Washington? Machine is trying here. Instead of just being out here. Instead of just making it. Don’t you want one more day with a chance? Finally, Rick agrees. They’ll go to Washington.

Noah went to get help and instead got attacked by several zombies. He’s a great addition to the group.

While they’re all working to save Noah, Beth makes her hallucinatory debut.

“It’s ok that you didn’t want to be a part of it. You don’t have to be a part of it. That’s your problem right there. Being part of it is being now.”

The internal struggle Tyreese has had between who he is and how the world is at its apex in this hallucination. Fighting not just whether he should submit to the world as it is, but also if simply existing in this world is submitting in some way to the loss of humanity.

“I know. I know who I am. I know what happened and what’s going on. I know. You didn’t show me shit…I forgave her because it’s not over. I didn’t turn away. I kept listening to the news so I could do what I could. I’m not giving up. People like me, they can live. Nobody’s got to die today.”

A good friend holds your arm. A great friend slices it off clean. The group shows up and through the haze of Tyreese’s hallucination, we see them fight to drag Tyreese through the streets, the woods and into the car. They’ve got him safely into the car and after a brief tire challenge and a truck full of zombie heads, they’re back on the road.

The girls appear in the car, clean and unharmed now. Tyreese is done fighting and the girls reassure him. “It’s ok Tyreese. It’s better now.” Maybe there is a better place after all of this. If anyone deserved it, it would certainly be the poor souls in that car.

Our car with Rick and the gang stops. Tyreese has let go, which means they have to let Tyreese go. They pull him out of the car and the camera, for the first time all night, demurely looks away.

The grave and holy words from the beginning weren’t for Beth. They were for Tyreese. And Rick, ever the farmer, ever the leader, finishes filling the grave.

This was a lovely, long, moving goodbye for a deeply good man. While it’s sad to see him go, his arc really was complete. It went the way it had to, the way it was going to.

Odds & Ends

– Now the question is, where do we go from here? Not only physically (DC, presumably) but emotionally. Who is taking over the moral center? (Michonne?) Can any of them call themselves human still?

– Close shots from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat always makes me think something’s going to t-bone the car. Always.

– Judith better be careful. Siblings are running scare on The Walking Dead.

– Talking to the rest of the group via walkie was a nice way for us to know everyone is still together without worrying about so many characters out on a scouting mission.

– First bad zombie effects? The moving heads from the truck in the woods. I mean, I don’t know what zombie heads are supposed to move like but I feel like that’s not it.

  • Susan Cruickshank Mercier

    As shocking as some of the other character deaths have been, this one really made me cry.I think because you stayed with Tyreese the whole episode and saw the death from his perspective, not from the outside perspective. Damn you, Walking Dead!

    • It was so heartbreaking. I didn’t cry but that was mostly because I find TWD to be so stressful that I have a tough time accessing any other emotion for a while. I usually don’t cry about a death until the characters respond to the death. Even Beth’s last year took me a good minute, watching Darryl carry her body, seeing Maggie… *sniff* Ugh.