Everyone’s back together, so that means tons of walking around and looking for nothing, right? Not quite. After last week’s fast paced action, we slow things down with “Strangers.” The group has beaten one nightmare, but now they’ve got to deal with multiple situations on multiple fronts.
The episode begins with everyone regrouping before getting ready to head out. Rick lets Tara know that he’s aware of her saving Glenn’s life, after he saved hers. That’s just the way it works with Rick and pals. Oh, and Tara wants to pound it out. Why? I have no idea. The plan is to head out at sun-up.
Tyreese asks Carol if she talked to Rick more about what she did at the prison. She hasn’t, and Tyreese feels that she should since the others will accept her for what she did. Carol feels that they don’t have to, though. What Tyreese isn’t ready to discuss is Lizzie and Mika. That, he’d rather forget. Well, all right, I guess. Later that evening, Rick does admit that he owes Carol everything. I guess Karen and David are behind them for now.
Then it’s Daryl’s turn to talk to Carol. In fact, he does most of the talking since Carol doesn’t want to talk about what happened. She can’t. Not just yet. She just needs to forget.
Later on, Daryl returns to the group with food in tow, but he can’t shake the feeling that someone may be watching them. Everyone will keep moving forward until they find a vehicle to commandeer. But the sound of a man’s scream grabs their attention. They eventually head to his aide.
We cut to a Negro preacher atop a rock as he tries to fend off some walkers. Rick and pals arrive and make quick work of the roamers before bringing down the preacher. This is Father Gabriel Stokes, played by Seth Gilliam. Rick immediately begins questioning the man: does he have any weapons? How many people has he killed? How many walkers has he killed? But, Gabriel says, the good Lord abhors violence and he apologizes for his sins every day. Though Rick still has his suspicious, Gabriel takes the group to his church.
They arrive and check inside, but find little out of the ordinary. Abraham found a short bus around back that doesn’t work, but could still be fixed. Supplies are necessary, but Rick isn’t about to split everyone up, and the others follows in line behind him.
Back to being questioned, Gabriel tells Rick that his supply of can foods came from a local can food drive. When he ran low, he began scavenging at most nearby locations except for one that has been overrun by roamers. Gabriel offers to draw up a map, but Rick forces him to come along.
Rick then speaks to Carl alone. If it wasn’t obvious already, Rick doesn’t trust Gabriel. But then again, Rick doesn’t trust a lot of people. He wants Carl to stay on his guard, but Carl doesn’t think that every single person they run into is going to turn out bad. They don’t have to be afraid or hide. More than that, they can still help people in need. Regardless, Rick advises his son to stay alert, protect Judith and- this is important- keep in mind that he is not safe, no matter how clear things may appear to be.
So Gabriel leads the group of Rick, Bob, Sasha and Michonne to the food bank. Bob is optimistic that Abraham’s plan to get to Washington will pay off and the world will return to the way it was. They may be living in a nightmare, but nightmares end. Rick is more cynical, accepting that the world around them is their reality. He also hasn’t decided on whether to go along with Abraham’s proposal yet.
Daryl again tries to pry Carol open, but she’s still not looking to talk. Daryl tells her that everyone can start over. After all, she saved their lives, but Carol tells him that she just got lucky. As the two check their surroundings, they spot an empty car and decide to leave it alone for backup. For now.
Glenn, Tara and Maggie do their own exploring. After tripping over some boxes and a mop, Glenn manages to find some silencers in a mini-fridge. That’s one way to hide them, I suppose. Why didn’t they take the mini-fridge? Surely it couldn’t be that heavy.
Gabriel and company arrive at the food bank and find a swarm of walkers wading around in water. Surrounding them are shelves filled with canned goods. Probably not good canned goods, but they’ll take what they can get. There are holes in the ceiling as well, meaning water has been leaking in for quite a long time.
They wade in and use shelves to block the walkers while grabbing supplies. One particular walker spooks Gabriel to the point where he backs up against a wall. Bob is dragged underwater by one walker, but Sasha quickly kills it.
As they head back, we learn from a quick talk between Rick and Michonne that she never even owned her former sword. She just found it and got plenty of practice when it was just her and the walkers. She still misses Andrea and Hershel, though.
Back at the church, Rick finds Carl observing scratch marks and cuts on the walls, as if someone was desperately trying to get in. Oh, and a not so cryptic message of “You’ll Burn for This.” Someone had plenty of time to carve that in.
That evening, the group feasts upon the food. Abraham toasts to them: the survivors…but he asks: is this all they want to be? Living day by day? They have plenty of strength, but just living as they are is another form of surrendering in Abraham’s eyes. If they get to Washington, they’ll find infrastructure and refuge. They can restart their lives and be safe. By Judith’s motion for unanimous consent, everyone is on board for Washington.
Oh, and Tara tells Maggie who she really is and how she was in cahoots with the Governor.
Rick thanks Gabriel for his hospitality, but then quickly says that he knows Gabriel is hiding something and that if he puts Rick and his folk in danger, he’ll kill him. Rick, quit being an asshole for one night, huh?
Carol is back at the car with Daryl not too far behind. A car rushes by and Daryl immediately recognizes it as the one that apparently made off with Beth. The two hop into the car and take pursuit.
Bob takes a moment to weep outside, but that moment is short lived, as he’s soon knocked out.
He awakens to find himself surrounded by Gareth and other familiar faces from Terminus. Gareth tells Bob that he didn’t want to hurt him, but Rick and the others took away their home. Now they’re out on their own and trying to survive. Essentially, they’ve devolved into hunters. What they did isn’t personal, though. They would have done it to anyone. At the end of the day, they have to eat. If it’s any consolation to Bob, however…
…he tastes a lot better than Gareth imagined.
Hell yes! Enter The Hunters!
This was a damn good follow-up to “No Sanctuary.” While I enjoyed the fast, frantic paced action, The Walking Dead, I feel, is stronger during its more human moments. With the group almost completely reunited, this episode could have easily settled into the groove of everyone just wandering around and exploring. Luckily, this episode doesn’t do that and there are a lot of elements of “Strangers” that I enjoyed.
Robert Kirkman himself wrote this episode and his influence is apparent in the dialogue. Like the comic, we got some very brief moments of character development and growth through brief conversations. They never dragged on too long and while there were some I enjoyed more than others, we got the gist of what characters felt through their exchanges, such as Daryl trying to get Carol to open up or Rick asking Michonne about her sword. By the way, I did get a chuckle out of Michonne instinctively reaching for her sword and not having it anymore.
This episode was about second chances, a fresh start, hitting a reset button, so to speak. Everyone has spent so much time apart that the main priority is to stay together. Sure, they want to move forward, but they don’t want to split up again, even though, by episode’s end, that’s exactly what happens anyway.
After everything they’ve been through, I will admit it’s nice to see everyone just interacting. Sure, some of these moments I find a tad bit sappy, but it’s a change of pace from the carnage and walkers.
One constant theme of the show is trust, and the group has constantly been tested on that. Who can they trust? How suspicious should they be? Who can’t be trusted? And is everyone bad? This came through in Rick’s conversation with Carl. Rick has every reason in the world to be suspicious of every new person he meets. Hell, in the pilot, Morgan didn’t even trust Rick at first, even though Rick knew absolutely nothing about the zombie apocalypse at the time. Trust is not something that comes naturally for anyone in this world. It’s earned, and in Rick’s eyes, it’s a hell of an uphill climb to earn his trust not just because he’s naturally suspicious, but because he wants to protect his family. You can never be too careful.
And Carl knows this, but he’s more optimistic and doesn’t immediately label everyone as a target or threat. Plus, even though he knows Gabriel may be hiding something, he’s more willing to give people a chance.
The world has hardened Rick. When Bob talks about the world returning to the way it was, he speaks to Bob as if he were delusional. At the same time, it doesn’t hurt to hold onto some memory of the world before the apocalypse.
That’s what Gabriel has managed to retain with his faith. Sure, everyone else may not fly that way, but he has something to hold onto. The fact that he’s such a straight arrow gives Rick even more reason to suspect him.
In fact, Rick seems to have comfortably settled back into the role of leader after questioning it in previous seasons. He asks Gabriel question after question even though, for the moment, Gabriel has nothing to hide. He never lets his guard down, even when he thanks Gabriel for letting everyone stay in the church. Again, Rick has a reason to be suspicious. He analyzes a situation, assesses it and, when he’s ready, he’ll make his move- making him an ideal choice for the leader. But perhaps he’s a bit too distrusting. He wants to protect everyone, but they’ve proven more than capable of handling themselves. I just wish he wasn’t so quick to assume the worst of Gabriel. He’s not always cold, though, as evidenced when we see him playing with Julia.
By the way, I call foul on both Rick and Maggie accepting Tara as quickly as they did. Sure, Tara saved Glenn’s life, but she was still part of a group that was responsible for Hershel’s death. Given how big of a deal it was when the Governor cut off Hershel’s head, I would think Rick and Hershel’s daughter would show some sort of reaction other than welcoming them with open arms. I mean, they didn’t even hesitate.
It is strange how Tara chose this moment to talk to Maggie about what she did. I would think Maggie, knowing little about Tara, would have questions for her. Similar to Tyreese forgiving Carol for killing Karen and David, I think Maggie forgiving Tara came too quickly. She doesn’t know Tara that well, but she does know that she spent a lot of time with Glenn while they tried to find her. Wouldn’t that warrant questions as to where she came from? It just seemed like a convenient way to put Tara on good terms with everyone else. Also, I question how she blindly falls in line with the others and follows Rick’s orders to stay together, even though she barely knows him.
I appreciate Daryl trying to get Carol to talk about what she’s been through. Ever since Daryl went out of his way to look for Sophia, it’s clear that Carol is the one person he cares the most for. It makes sense that he’d want to know what she’s endured, but he isn’t being forceful, either. He’s taking his time because Carol isn’t quick to let people in. But at least the two have a hopeful shot at finding Beth.
And speaking of hope, if The Walking Dead- whether comic or television show- has shown anything, it’s that optimism means something bad is about to happen. Bob was a lot happier than usual in this episode.
He has lovey dovey moments with Sasha and talks of the world going back to the way it was. And now he’s lost a leg. Now, given how this all played in the comics, I get the feeling that Bob may end up getting the last laugh against Gareth and company, but I won’t spoil anything. Let’s save that for next time.
Meanwhile, I’m so happy to finally see The Hunters take center stage as the current antagonists on the show. I thought Joe and the marauders from last season would turn out to be The Hunters, but given the cannibalism witnessed at Terminus, this makes a lot of sense.
And Gareth’s dialogue to Bob about him tasting good is pretty much ripped from the comic. We know how big of a threat the Terminus folks are and we know what they lost as a result of the group’s actions, so I’m interested to see how the show will handle them. And I’ll admit, it was damn gruesome sight watching The Hunters feast on Bob’s leg. Oh, but we’ve only just started with these people. And it looks like Tyreese didn’t turn into a killer after all…
All in all, this was a very good episode penned by the series’ creator. It had its share of tense moments and times where the characters could just be people. The introduction of Father Gabriel is a welcome addition, though he seems a bit more timid than his comic book counterpart. With Bob’s fate left in the balance while Carol and Daryl leave to find Beth, the group is once again scattered while The Hunters prepare to feast. Color me excited.