In case you didn't notice, AMC really wants you to watch "Better Call Saul," the new series that's been spun off from the network's dearly-departed drama "Breaking Bad." Promos for "Saul," which debuted directly following this week's midseason premiere of "The Walking Dead," were ubiquitous throughout the broadcast, but it seems that the "TWD" writers aren't ready to let "Breaking Bad" go just yet, judging by all the Walter White-approved symbolism and hallucinations that dominated the episode. Just how successful said imagery was, however, is debatable. (I'm on Team It Wasn't.)
Tyreese took viewers on a long, strange trip, but unfortunately for him – and for viewers – it wasn't the kind favored by Jerry Garcia and co. Instead, Ty was presented with a parade of ghosts from his recent past as he sat dying in Noah's old house, the victim of not one but two zombie bites.
Our late friend had joined Rick, Michonne, and Glenn on a trek back to Noah's old stomping grounds in Virginia, led by the young man. Noah had promised that his people were safe in a walled compound, and that Beth had expressed a desire to join him there before her sudden demise in the midseason finale. Two months have passed for viewers since that episode, and it's clear that some time has passed on the show, too; we overhear the survivors discussing being about 500 miles outside of Atlanta, and they've already made a camp somewhere while the aforementioned search party goes to check things out in Richmond.
Sadly, they don't quite find what they're looking for. All the houses in the gated community have some sort of fire damage; bodies litter the streets – some of them charred – and a few stray walkers wander around. Later, they uncover a trove of random body part – remnants, perhaps, of a roving cannibal band, proving that Gareth and his group of Terminites weren't anomalies but an abhorrent new normal. Noah races to his former home to find (presumably) his mother's body, head bashed in. As Noah reels from that loss, Tyreese ventures further into the house to check for zombies, and winds up distracted by photos of Noah's twin brothers, all smiles in a world before the outbreak.
And then one of them chomps on Tyreese's arm.
Noah comes running, and quickly dispatches of the young walker with a toy airplane to the eye, but it's too late – Ty has been bitten, and he's losing blood fast. Noah runs for help (and gets trapped by some walkers himself; between that and his capture at Grady, how on earth did he survive the long trip from Richmond to Atlanta?), and that's when Tyreese's visions begin. We're meant to assume that these hallucinations represent the zombie virus kicking in, consuming Tyreese's mind before ultimately killing him, though I found them insufferable and heavy-handed. Bob shows up, Martin (the Terminte Tyreese failed to kill) sneers at him, psycho killer Lizzie and her adorable bloodied sister Mika pop by, Beth is singing for some reason, and then The Governor walks in.
It was just...a little much. They're all doing their best to convince him it's time to die (some more nicely than others – way to be a dick in both life AND death, Gov.), but after the girls assured him "It's better now" for the zillionth time, I was kind of over it. The fact that Tyreese fended off yet another zombie, got his arm chopped off, and survived the harrowing trip back to the car, all before these hallucinations stopped, proved that their usefulness was more than worn out by the time Tyreese's life was.
"I wanted to die for what I'd lost ... but I just kept going," Tyreese told Noah earlier in the episode, consoling him after they realize Noah's home is no more. "This isn't the end," Ty insists. The irony of that speech is more than a little cruel, and also drives home one of the central points of the show: Characters can have a change of heart, hope can continue – but the zombie apocalypse almost always wins.
- This week's installment was called "What Happened and What's Going On," which may be one of the worst episode titles ever, for any series. It's sort of reflective of the hallucinations, though, since it's both over-simplified and overly-long.
- I'm stumped, though, by the meaning of the British-accented fellow giving radio broadcast updates about the apocalypse during Ty's fever dream. Just another means of exposition (explaining that there were indeed reports of cannibals loose in Virginia), or foreshadowing that there's more trouble -- and perhaps some English ex-pats -- on the horizon for the group?
- I remarked late last season that it was odd for "The Walking Dead" to leave so many cast members alive after so many episodes, and it seems I may have jinxed the group. My bad.
- What a way for Tyreese to go, though. It was both boring and badass, if that's possible. He lasted for ages after losing A LOT of blood, and even used his wrecked, zombie-chomped arm as a weapon to fend off another walker. If that doesn't go down as one of the most baller moves in "Walking Dead" history, I don't know what will.
- Glenn lets out his feelings about Beth's death by snapping a CD in half. Way to be an emo teenager, dude.
- Speaking of the reaction to Beth's death, we still haven't dealt with how her loss is affecting the group at large. Considering how Maggie and the suddenly-grieving-even-though-he-talked-to-her-maybe-twice Glenn didn't even bat an eyelash the entire time she was missing, I fear there's not much more mourning on the horizon on behalf of the youngest Greene girl. Not even the grave digging and eulogizing teased in the cold open were for her; Tyreese stole both her funeral, and her dying thunder. (To be fair, I'll miss Tyreese more. That closing shot of his beanie hanging off the cross was heartbreaking.)
- Morgan Watch: Week Nine: C'mon – after only two appearances in the span of eight episodes, did you really expect him to show up this week, too? That would be too kind of the writers. We know he thinks Rick and co. are already in Washington, thanks to finding Abraham's helpfully-inscribed map in the church; will he be there to greet our survivors when they finally arrive? After this bummer of an episode, we could all use a win.
Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC