With cigars, RPGs (“Well, howdy, gentlemen”), and what Abraham thinks of lettuce and loose threads, old Sigmund wouldn’t know where to begin. If only the leading characters in last night’s episode had a couch on which to lounge and free associate. More on that in a bit.
Despite how frustrating the first part of this season has been with its major unresolved plot thread, it’s doing some interesting things with overlapping timeframes. And while no one has ever accused me of being an optimist, I think the front end of season six will be an enjoyable binge-watch later on because of the narrative layering.*
The overriding themes of this episode seem to be split between the codes that both constrain and permit us to do what we have justified needs being done, and how the travails we endure while divorced from the responsibilities back home can refuel us.
This episode delivers a nice pair of character studies, and I’m not talking about two of the most ridiculous walker attacks/kills we’ve seen in a long while.
On the one hand, the first walker was pinned behind a rock or something and still manages to get a chunk of Cam’s forearm (luckily, he’s able to “walk it off”).
On the other, those two walkers sheeted in melted glass better be glad Tina’s diabetes had been acting up. Who are Cam and Tina? The answer to that is less important than who they are, respectively, working for, or running away from.
No, I’m talking about Daryl (whom we’ll get to in a minute), and Abraham and Sasha. She’s mostly here as a foil to Abraham, by which I mean a voice of calm reason that gets him to recognize his impulsivity and the thanatos it camouflages behind bravery (or, maybe, he’s just swapped that brand of impulsivity for another). This is exemplified in the cold open after they and Daryl are ambushed by those whom I (and pretty much everyone on the internet) assume are the Saviors:
Abraham (referring to those they shot up in a car): “Just going to give a last little polish.’
Sasha: “What the hell do you got to grin about?”
Abraham (about to walk off): “We won, darling.”
Sasha (grabs his arm): “There could be more.”
Abraham: “Screw it.”
More importantly, it’s Sasha’s foresight and situational awareness which helps them to reunite with Daryl: “Best way to find a tracker is to stay put and let him find you,” she tells him, then steps in what looks either like a lot of mud or manure, and walks off, leaving a trail.
After the ambush, Daryl gets separated from Sasha and Abraham. He eventually takes his motorcycle into the woods to lose the car that’s been tailing him. This patch of forest has been torched, as evidenced by the scorched trees and the barbecued walker whose motorcycle helmet visor has been melted to its face.
Daryl removes his jacket to attend to a cut on his arm, then he hears something. He grabs his trusty crossbow and goes to investigate. He seems to surprise two women, Sherry and Tina, hiding behind a tree. In a tone many mental health providers would label “oppositional,” Sherry says, “You found us, okay. We earned what we took.” Only then does Daryl remember he hasn’t cleared his six, and he gets knocked upside the head.
Later, after waking from his concussion and tied at the wrists, Daryl gets pulled by a trio: Sherry, Tina, and Dwight. Along the way, Sherry is shouldering a large bag that gives new meaning to “carry-on.” Inside of it are an Igloo lunch cooler containing Insulin that Tina will need before too long, Daryl’s crossbow and walkie-talkie, and who knows what else (it’s probably full of secrets—definitely secrets; for all we know Glenn’s in there).
Anyway, it’s during this decidedly unsylvan hike that the idea of the different codes people live by gets brought up. When the trio leads Daryl out of the woods, they spy a fuel depot overrun by walkers. Dwight spits, “Patty’s gone,” and while he, Sherry, and Tina are distracted by their disappointment, Daryl steals that huge bag and escapes.
However, when Daryl sees what’s inside the cooler labelled “Keep Cold,” he returns the bag to the group, minus his crossbow and walkie-talkie. Granted, he confiscates Dwight’s gun and something he’d been carving, because “you put me through too much shit just to give it back. Principle of the thing.” Then he walks away saying, “Good luck. You’re going to need it.”
On cue, the Saviors show up, stalking the trio and Daryl through the woods, and driving a large truck through the saplings.
“We’re not going back, Wade!” Dwight yells. “We’re done kneeling!”
“Don’t change the subject, asshole.” Wade responds.**
Daryl helps the trio find cover, and then he sets up one of the Saviors, the aforementioned Cam, to get bitten. Cam yells for help, specifically for his arm to be amputated, which Wade is only too happy to do. After this bit of field-dressing, Wade calls off the search, telling the person on the other end of his walkie-talkie, “He only wanted to take this so far. And he only wants ass that’s willing.”***
Then, after the forest is seemingly clear, Daryl hears the cocking of a trigger, and gets both his crossbow and ride stolen by the duo. Sherry, the dear, tosses Daryl some gauze and tells him to patch up. Before Dwight and Sherry ride off, he asks Daryl some uncomfortable questions about where his community is, how many people are there, etc. I’m sure that won’t come back up again, but if Abraham starts scratching the seat of his pants, watch out.
Karma has other plans for Daryl as he finds Patty, which turns out to be a fuel truck, then he tracks down Sasha and Abraham.
As for those last two, while he has some chuckle-worthy one-liners, Sasha brings some much needed insight, a super-ego to Abraham’s id, when she tells him:
“You jump out of an airplane. You don’t have any choices after that. Maybe you play some chicken with the ground, but you pull the ripcord. You live. But if you have a roof over your head, you have food, you have walls—you have choices. And without walkers, and bullets, and shit hitting the fan, you’re accountable for them. I mean, hell, you’re always accountable, it’s just, with all that other noise, you know people won’t notice.”
Of course, our ginger grunt is smitten, but first he has to sulk off. During this time, he finds a Humvee on a bridge, in the back of which are a case with three RPG shells, and a box of cigars. There’s also a zombified solider that has been impaled through its right upper chest/shoulder region with the post of a chainlink fence, and is hanging over the edge of a bridge.
On the plus-side, the walker has a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher strapped to his back. On the negative-side, Abraham has to get nearly nose-to-nose as he crawls out onto the fence and reaches for the shoulder-strap of the rocket launcher.
Finally, Abraham engages in some primal scream therapy and gives up this incredibly stupid idea.
While lighting up a cigar, seemingly at peace, Abraham watches the zombie continue to struggle, until its rotten torso slips off the post like an over-grilled tomato on a shish kabob, leaving the rocket launcher hanging by its strap and Abraham feeling purposeful.
Upon his return to their hideout, Abraham admits to Sasha he wants to make the rest of his life matter before he dies, that he has “some plays to make,” and, most importantly:
“I like the way you call bullshit, Sasha. I believe I’d like to get to know you a whole lot better.”
“That one of your plays? What makes you think I want that?”
“A man can tell.”
“Well, you got some stuff to take care of.”****
“Yeah, I do.”*****
By the time Daryl shows up driving Patty, Abraham has put on the jacket of an officer’s dress uniform. So, it’s no subtle piece of symbolism when Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham are finally headed back to Alexandria, one in a new outfit befitting his new outlook on life (we’ll see how long that lasts), and all three in a fuel truck, a machine that both ran on and transported the lifeblood of the old world.
While we still haven’t found out Glenn’s fate (I don’t think the voice we barely hear say, “Help,” on the walkie-talkie is his), you’ll never think about “precious lettuce” and “loose threads” the same way again.******
* “This denial of yours,” Freud lights up yet another cigar, “is intriguing.”
** See below:
“Note the prey’s defiance against adopting... [sustained coughing; Freud grabs a cloth handkerchief and visibly spits viscous phlegm into it before continuing] ...You’ll excuse me. My allergies are growing more and more severe. Where was I? Oh, yes, the prey refusing being coerced into a submissive position. Consider, likewise, the man whose face is not shown, who is nothing more—for now, at least—a pair of boots and pants and an authoritative voice—this man, he relegates his prey to the orifice most people most revile.”
“What’s your point, Sigmund?”
“Which of these rivals is trying to control more than needs to be controlled?”
“Is this your session or mine?”
*** Note: I think Wade said “ass,” but even with the volume cranked I’m still not entirely sure. Because of recent casting news, we all know who that “he” is, and “ass” seems highly likely.
**** I know the zombipocalypse can deaden one’s sense of shock and all, but, girl, that’s an understatement
***** Another understatement. Poor Rosita.
****** God help you if you find any of the latter in the former.