Dear fellow "Walking Dead" fans, I have a surprising confession: I do not like blood and guts, or horror in general. As a child, I was afraid of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" I once sat by myself in a corner, listening to my Walkman, rather than watch "The Blair Witch Project" during a middle school sleepover. And yet, for whatever reason, I find myself coming back to "The Walking Dead" year after year, despite the graphic gore that greets me each and every week. I'll admit that I still cover my eyes and look away from the screen multiple times per episode (yes, I am a huge wuss), but, for the most part, I can tolerate the terror.
But this week I may have reached my limit, guys. That searing image of Bob's foot roasting on the fire actually made me shriek in disgust. I've stood by "The Walking Dead" through Shane almost raping Lori in season one, through the Governor keeping his zombie daughter as a pet, through Lizzie murdering Mika and Carol in turn murdering Lizzie, through the literal bloodbath that was the throat-slitting scene in last week's season premiere. But a person chopping off another person's leg and then gleefully feasting on it in front of him? Seriously, that is some effed up stuff.
Of course, there was plenty more to gross out viewers throughout the rest of the episode, chief among them the rotting, water-logged zombies that Rick, Bob, Michonne, Sasha, and the newly-discovered Gabriel encounter while trying to salvage supplies at an abandoned food bank. Bob's quip, "If a sewer could puke, this is what it'd smell like," was both gag- and LOL-worthy.
Gabriel is still a rather mysterious figure, and Rick knows better than to trust the man the group met (and saved) while he was apparently being chased by a small pack of zombies. The preacher's initial attempts to diffuse the tension with a skeptical Rick and co. go off poorly. "Maybe I'm leading you into a trap so I can steal your squirrels," Gabriel jokes to a less-than-amused Daryl (who's carrying said slain vermin), before admitting, "Members of my flock have told me that my sense of humor leaves much to be desired." No kidding, dude. Later, after the supply run, when everyone is enjoying a canned food feast (and some unconsecrated communion wine – score!), Rick confronts Gabriel and tells the preacher he knows he's hiding something. "These people are my family. And if what you're hiding somehow hurts them in any way, I'll kill you," Rick says, in his patented menacing-but-still-pretty-chill tone.
But for now, at least, it seems Gabriel is the least of anyone's problems, since Gareth and his surviving Terminus henchmen are on the loose and on Rick's group's tail. And then on poor Bob's leg. I had a bad feeling about Bob all throughout this episode, mostly because he got so much screen time, and the majority of it depicted him smiling and cozying up to Sasha. Any time a character is happy on this show, you just know something terrible is about to befall them. But I wasn't prepared for the cannibal fake-out; I thought that perhaps the underwater zombie that attacked him at the food bank had indeed chomped on him, and he was just hiding it from Sasha to protect her. When he wandered off into the woods, I figured he was about to off himself to save anyone else in the group from having to do it. Then enter the mysterious hooded figure who clubs Bob on the head.
When the disoriented man comes to, we see through his blurred vision Gareth's garish visage, as he explains that because Rick and co. took away the Terminites' home, they've been forced into the wild, just like Bob and his friends – and the game is on. "It didn't start that way, eating people," Gareth explains of the group's cannibalistic ways. "It evolved into that, we evolved. ... And now, we've devolved into hunters. ... No matter how much we hate this ugly business, a man's gotta eat." Cut to the rest of Gareth's group (including Martin, the man who we thought Tyreese killed last week, but instead just beat and left for dead, I guess?), chowing down on bits of Bob's severed leg. Excuse me, but I think I'm going to make like that aforementioned sewer and puke now.
So it seems Gareth is out for both a snack and revenge, with the ultimate goal of picking off Rick's gang one by one. Is his crew responsible for that notch in the tree that we saw next to Bob before he was taken? (And the circled "X" etched into the tree near the Terminus sign where Morgan appeared last week?) What does it mean? And is it connected to the marks Carl finds on the church, which appear to have been put there by someone desperate to break in? (Including the chilling inscription, "You'll burn for this.")
I may never get the image of that fire-roasted foot out of my head, but despite my squeamishness, I'm hooked on this show for the long haul.
- "If it makes you feel any better, you taste much better than I thought you would." I'm guessing, Gareth, that Bob is not soothed by that thought.
- Like I said above, Bob's upbeat demeanor made him a marked man from the get-go. The "good out of the bad" game he plays with Sasha is endearing (the itching from mosquito bites reminds you you're alive, the constant threat of danger means there's never a dull moment), as is their PDA. When discussing Abraham and Eugene's desire to continue on to Washington, D.C., he tells Rick the group is living in a nightmare, "And nightmares end." Let's hope for the poor hobbled guy's sake that his personal nightmare is over shortly.
- As for my theory about Bob being bitten, I still think he was acting too strange before for the cannibal kidnapping to be a complete fakeout. Was he really infected? Are Gareth and his gang going to wake up as walkers as punishment for feasting on his plague-filled flesh? Or was Bob just uncomfortable with all that wine that the group was guzzling, a callback to his addiction that nearly cost some members of a search party their lives last season? Guess we'll find out if/when Gareth saved any leftovers for next week.
- Theory about those mysterious scratches in the church: Perhaps put there by disgruntled parishioners, after Gabriel locked them out during the beginning of the apocalypse in order to save himself? (Canned) food for thought.
- Carl continues to explore his morality, coming back from shooting someone point blank last season to questioning Rick's warnings about not trusting anyone and not letting his guard down. "You are not safe," Rick tells him. Listen to your dad, kid.
- For some reason, Carol doesn't want to take credit for her badass actions from the season premiere, telling Daryl that she "got lucky" with her plan to eliminate Terminus and save the others from certain dinnertime doom. Girl, take credit where's it due. She also tries to leave in the middle of the night, using the car she and Daryl found on an earlier scavenging trip, only to be interrupted first by Daryl, then the mysterious vehicle that Daryl saw take off with Beth last season. Looks like we're finally going to find out what happened to her.
- "Stumbling around in three feet of slime for some peas and carrots? That's living." – Michonne, whose deadpan humor is underused and always appreciated.
- Abraham insists that the group stick together and head to D.C., promising that Eugene "will make the dead die, and the living will have this world again." "Come with us," he pleads, " ... Save the world." Too bad it looks like the group is going to need to save itself, first.
Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC