The Walking Dead returns to its multiple storylines in this week’s “Alone” as characters strive to stay together. It’s all slow buildup to the entire group reuniting, but this one ramped up the action compared to last week, while still allowing for character development and reasons to invest in their individual struggles.
The episode begins in the past. Before he ended up at the prison, Bob just wandered on his own from place to place. He no longer had companions except for his trusty machete. Whether resting atop trucks or under bridges, he did what was necessary to survive.
One day, though, he’s approached by Daryl and Glenn. The two ask his name and if he ever killed people before. He did, but only because the woman he killed had asked him to. They give Bob an offer to join their group, and he does so without asking for the men’s names, saying it doesn’t matter who they are.
In the present day, Bob, Sasha and Maggie remain close in a thick layer of fog. The murmurs and growls of walkers echo all around until the sounds grow closer. One by one, the walkers approach. The three are able to take them all out at the loss of some bullets. Bob wounds up bleeding, but luckily, the walker bit his bandage.
Sasha suggests waiting until the fog clears up to continue traveling. Not that they’d go in any clear direction since their compass is broken.
They eventually arrive at one of the Terminus signs, something that Bob had heard about before. Bob and Maggie are all for exploring this option, and since Sasha is outnumbered, they decide to head for Terminus.
Later on, while Maggie collects firewood, Bob asks Sasha whether she believes they should stop looking. She says they should, if only so they don’t die. The reality of the situation is that they will all die anyway, so the best plan should be to follow the train tracks into a nearby town so they can set up in a building. If need be, they can talk Maggie into it.
The B storyline involves the continuing adventures of Daryl and Beth, who’s still learning how to properly use a crossbow. She tries to kill one walker, but steps on a trap that ensnares her leg in the process. Daryl takes her on his back for a serious piggyback- his words, not mine- and they arrive at a cemetery.
After paying their respects, they investigate the nearby funeral home, which looks a lot like the house that belongs to Sookie’s grandmother in True Blood, but that’s just me. The home is unnaturally clean, as if someone had just cleaned it. While Daryl’s not too fond of the corpses dressed nicely, Beth points out that someone still cared for these people after they died. Well, someone had to, anyway.
They explore the cupboards for food and find what Daryl refers to as white trash brunch: peanut butter and jelly, diet soda and pig’s feet. Problem is the food isn’t dusty, meaning someone just recently put it there. So Beth and Daryl, being the considerate people that they are, only decide to take some of the food and leave the rest for whoever found it.
That evening, Beth plays the funeral home’s piano and in a nice bit of morbid humor from The Walking Dead, Daryl decides to make his bed in a coffin. After all, it’s probably the most comfortable bed he’s had in years. I’d think the CDC from Season One may come close, but yeah, prison cots don’t compare to the luxury that is a coffin. He asks that Beth keep singing. Even if it’s annoying, there’s no jukebox, so he may as well try and enjoy it.
Back to the A storyline, Sasha and Bob awaken to find a farewell note written in the dirt by Maggie: “Don’t risk your lives for me. Good luck.” Bob says nuts to this and figures that the two can still follow Maggie’s tracks.
Maggie, though, approaches a railroad crossing and sees another sign for Terminus. Before she can carve directions into a wall with her knife, a walker approaches and Maggie makes quick work of it before also carving it open and sticking her hand deep into the walker’s corpse. Why? Keep reading.
Sasha questions Bob’s constant optimism. He’s just happy to be alive, but even more so, he’s not alone. That’s how it was for him when he lost his first and second group. Self-awareness is a beautiful thing.
You know what else is beautiful: handwritten notes. The two stumble upon a cut open walker and a sign that reads “Glenn, go to Terminus. Maggie.” But it’s written in blood. Guess Maggie’s not a fan of knife writing.
That evening, Bob and Sasha are unable to sleep due to the constant sound of walkers throughout. Sure, there’s a lot of noise at night from creatures or insects, but the sound of a walker is very distinguished. Doesn’t bother Bob all that much. When he was on his own, he didn’t sleep much.
Bob asks Sasha why she thinks that Tyreese is dead. Isn’t it possible that, if he knew about Terminus, he’d go for it? Or is Sasha just afraid to find out if he’s alive. Sasha’s really disappointed Bob. He once thought she was the toughest woman around. Now, not so much.
Elsewhere, Beth and Daryl prepare to enjoy their makeshift breakfast before a noise at the door distracts them. It turns out to be a dog.
Later on, Beth plans to leave a thank you note for whoever currently occupies the funeral home. Daryl decides against it, stating that all of them could work out living under the same roof. Beth asks what changed his mind and I guess the walkers were as sick of these attempted romantic moments between Beth and Daryl as I am because they’re soon breaking through the door.
The walkers rush through the home and surround Daryl, but he’s able to fight his way through them all in an impressive show before fleeing the funeral home. Problem is that as he’s leaving, he sees a car take off and Beth is nowhere to be found.
Bob and Sasha find more blood written signs from Maggie until they arrive at a clearing. They find a high up and secure building, but Bob’s not about to stop looking for Maggie. So this is where the two part ways. Bob continues along the tracks while Sasha heads into a building. As she scouts her surrounds, coincidentally enough, she finds Maggie resting between two walkers in front of an ice cream truck.
Why she’s resting between two walkers in plain sight as opposed to bringing them inside a building, I don’t know.
But anyway, Sasha calls out Maggie’s name. That, coupled with a window shattering, alerts nearby walkers. The two manage to take them out before talking. Maggie had been looking for another walker. She heard everything that Sasha said about giving up the search for Glenn.
How she heard Bob and Sasha’s conversation without them noticing, given how good they were able to hear almost every single sound at night, I don’t know.
But whatever. Maggie waited at that spot for Bob and Sasha. The two then decide to catch up to Bob, which they manage to do rather quickly. How they managed to do that in such a short amount of time, I don’t know. They’re both pretty ragged from all the walking and walker killing.
Daryl, however, looks to have been running all night. He stops to rest at a railroad crossing before being surrounded by a group of men. One of them approaches and Daryl strikes with a punch to the face. The man, who is someone that we’ve seen before and who I’m guessing is the leader, is impressed with Daryl’s prowess and weaponry. However, Daryl is easily outnumbered and outmatched by the group. Why hurt himself? The leader introduces himself as Joe.
Meanwhile, Glenn approaches a sign for Terminus.
While The Walking Dead isn’t exactly what you’d call subtle with its attempts at themes, this week’s focus on loneliness and faith felt a bit too obvious and heavy-handed, as if the viewers couldn’t come to their own conclusions. The episode dealt with the fear of abandonment and confronting the possibility that, after so much time spent together, characters would find themselves traveling the woods by themselves. That fear, ultimately, is what keeps them together.
And it’s when the characters all have their backs to a corner that we got some of this week’s more enjoyable moments. The opening sequence in the fog was well staged and very tense. Seeing walkers just pop out from the thick fog before being taken out was a nice way to start the episode. Much of it involved the characters, knowing that something’s out there, waiting for a walker to make the first move. While not as strong as Beth and Daryl hiding in the trunk last week, I still found it an effective way to begin the episode.
Everything’s leading up to a reunion at Terminus. Whether this will turn out to be a safe haven or highway to the danger zone, we don’t know yet, but the season would pretty much have to end with the entire group reuniting. Otherwise, why spend so much time on individual storylines where the goal in mind is to have everyone reconnect?
But as far as this week’s episode goes, Bob’s backstory helped fill in some gaps as far as how he got to the prison. Therein lays one minor issue: it was established that Daryl was the one who found Bob, not Daryl and Glenn. It’s not a gigantic problem, but it did strike me as contradictory. I’ll admit that it was a little annoying to have Bob constantly refer to his past. With each time we cut to him and Sasha, something triggered a memory of when he was alone and fended for himself. We saw him doing that during the flashback, so I didn’t think it was necessary that he spend so much time talking about things we’d seen play out on screen.
That’s not to downplay Bob, though. Lawrence Gilliard Jr. turns in a great performance as the eternal optimist. He’s looking at the brighter side and is the counterbalance to the pessimistic Sasha. He represents hope and isn’t willing to sit around and wait for death to arrive. More than that, he doesn’t accept Sasha’s narrative that everyone they ever knew from the prison is dead. That drive to find his friends is what fuels his passion to keep moving forward.
Additionally, Bob already knows what it feels like to be alone and without hope. During the flashback, Bob appeared aimless and just living to survive another day. Now he’s living not just to survive, but get back to the family he’d become a part of. He’s cautious, but hopeful.
Sasha, however, is more realistic than that. Her motivation is just to stay alive, but as Bob asked her before: what happens after that? After you realize that you’ve survived another day, what do you do? Sasha’s priority is to find somewhere safe. Even if it means traveling the world alone, despite the obvious dangers, Sasha’s priority is safety and security. Given the world she lives in, I can’t say I blame her. She wants to move forward, but will do so even if that means having to drop others along the way.
Bob had Sasha pegged down when he called out for being afraid. Only when she admitted to Maggie that she was afraid did Sasha accept the idea of sticking together to find the others instead of just finding another place to stay. To me, Sasha comes off as the most careful of the three: she wants to take things slowly, she’s always keeping track of how many bullets they have and instead of just planning on the spot, she prefers to find a safe location so she can plan things out. I can’t get angry at Sasha for wanting to be careful. It’s clear that she cares for the group as much as the others, but, being the rational thinker, she believes the worst case scenario that everyone else is dead. As such, her drive is to keep moving to keep herself alive. It’s at this point where, although she and Bob travel a similar path, their roads split. The train track metaphor could not have been any heavier handed.
Maggie doesn’t really do much different than when we last saw her. She’s out to find Glenn no matter what and…that’s about it, really. Odd as this may sound, Lauren Cohan certainly looks great in blood and it’s undeniable that Maggie takes great satisfaction in killing walkers.
The look on her face when she sinks her hand into the walker’s stomach was chilling. Maggie doesn’t seem like she’s going down a dark path yet, but being without her boyfriend and having to scour the woods to find him has definitely brought out a darker, survivalist type in her. I just wish there was more to her character other than writing notes in blood.
Before switching to the B storyline, I want to address some of the conveniences involving these three. Now, The Walking Dead isn’t without its contrivances, but this one just had a few too many. For example, why was Maggie hiding out among two walkers in plain sight? I understand that it could possibly mask her scent, but Rick and Glenn had to be covered in walkers’ blood and remains to pass safely through a mob of walkers. Michonne had the advantage of always having two walkers with her. Maggie, however, is on the ground outside when any walker could see her. Why not just kill the walkers and take them inside the building? She could mask her scent and be hidden at the same time?
Then Bob and Sasha spent an evening just listening to the sounds around them. Bob commented on how many creatures other than walkers they could hear. And yet, somehow, Maggie got close enough to hear their entire conversation? How? She must have been as quiet as a mouse or ducked behind a tree.
And this one isn’t that big of a deal, but Bob had to have walked a considerable length of time when he parted ways with Sasha. None of the three appear to be in any condition to do a marathon, but somehow Maggie and Sasha caught up to him in a short amount of time? Again, this doesn’t irk me as much since it’s possible they jogged or Bob just walked slowly, but it did stand out.
For the B storyline, Beth and Daryl had a chance to build on their bond from last week, and for the most part, I much preferred how the writers handled it. Their interaction felt natural and unforced, though I cringed when Daryl hesitated to say Beth was the reason he changed his mind about seeing good in people. I get that Daryl is becoming more open, but it felt forced. I’m not in the camp of people who sees these two as having any sort of relationship or view their bond as a threat to whatever people perceive Daryl has with Carol, but I appreciate the connection the two have this week more than last week.
I did like the little moments: Daryl describing white trash food, Beth playing the piano and Daryl wanting her to continue, and Daryl chastising Beth for not staying put when he checks the funeral home door. Little things like that I like more than a forced game of “Never Have I Ever.” Plus, Daryl did still have a chance to kick serious walker butt when the walkers invaded the home.
What happened to Beth, I have no idea. It’d be easy to assume she’s in the car that drove off, but as of now, it’s just speculation.
As for Daryl, it’d appear that he could be headed down a darker path thanks to the group that found him. Odd that he’d find himself connecting with the same men that invaded the home that Rick, Carl and Michonne stayed in, but it at least connected the two storylines together. Part of me wonders if these men are a particular group of antagonists that are introduced around this point in the comic book, but, again, it’s too soon to speculate. All I know is that Daryl’s not the only guy out there with a crossbow.
Like previous episodes, “Alone” is pushing the characters toward Terminus. There was a lot of good in this episode: both with the horror elements and the character moments. Beth going missing, Daryl moving with a new group and Glenn finding the Terminus sign do shake things up and should make for an interesting couple of plotlines as the season progresses. The episode reminded us about the importance of being optimistic in the constant face of loneliness and abandonment. As far as both storylines, it showed that despite living in a constant hell, there’s still plenty good in people who haven’t lost their humanity. There were some contrivances and moments that felt too convenient, but they weren’t enough to detract from a solid episode.