So Bob did get the last laugh after all. Last week’s “Strangers” introduced us to both Father Gabriel and The Hunters, ripped right from the pages of The Walking Dead comic. The group is split apart for the moment, but no time to relax now that they’re about to have a reunion with their old pals from Terminus.
The episode begins right where we left off with Bob and The Hunters. The continued threat of walkers threatening to break through the glass of the school behind them is enough to make them tense, but at least they have food for the time being. Gareth is ready to head out, but there’s nothing to head back to. He tells Bob of how bears survive: the bigger ones eat their cubs. That way, if they survive, they can just have another cub. Bob, however, finds this entire situation pretty damn hilarious. But he hasn’t lost his mind.
He’s just been bitten! Oh, the poor bastards are feasting on tainted meat.
Back at the church, concern grows over the disappearance of Bob, Carol and Daryl. Sasha goes inside and throws the blame on Gabriel. After all, he just showed up- technically, they found him- and now three of their people are missing. Rick asks if he’s working with someone. Also, what’s with the foreboding message of “You’ll Burn for This?”
Gabriel swears that he has no connection with the recent disappearances, but he does reveal something he’s not proud of: since the breakout, he continued to lock the church doors. Yes, this kept him safe inside, but it also kept the congregation goers outside. Night after night they would beg Gabriel for shelter. Even as the dead approached, the people continued to scream and beg for mercy. They damned him all while being consumed by walkers. When the screaming stopped, Gabriel buried them all. Now he feels that these people have come to exact revenge as a punishment from God.
A noise from outside grabs everyone’s attention. They find Bob sprawled out in the grass, but more than that, an “A” has been painted on the congregation wall.
Inside, Bob tells the others about The Hunters feasting on his leg like they were proud of it. No sign of Carol or Daryl, though, but he remembers that The Hunters camp near a school. He also finally reveals his bite mark that he did, indeed, get while at the food bank.
Rick asks Gabriel about the location. The closest would be an elementary school that’s about a 10 minute walk from the church. The others discuss Bob’s condition and how soon it could be until he turns. After all, Jim lasted two days before everyone left him.
But, of course, Abraham wants to just leave for Washington. Now. There’s a threat to Eugene and he needs to be extracted. Rick isn’t about to leave and the two almost come to blows until Glenn intervenes. Everyone needs to stay together, he says, and he suggests that Abraham, Eugene and Rosita remain one more day. Tara even offers to leave with him if they stay and help them fight. No dice. He wants to head out right this second by using the bus they fixed up. Rick isn’t about to let Abraham take the bus, but Abraham challenges Rick to stop him. For a moment, Rick does nothing, but he soon approaches and the two almost clash again. When Glenn stops another fight from breaking out, Abraham eventually agrees to stay and help them fight, but only for 12 hours.
Bob attempts to humor Sasha by telling her that getting kicked in the face by Gareth made him forget about the pain in his leg. He didn’t tell her about his bite because he knew that she would focus more on his final moments. Bob wants to focus on the middle.
The others prepare for their confrontation with The Hunters. Rick wants to make a move before they do. Sasha wants to be a part of the battle, though Tyreese advises her to stay with Bob in his final moments since she won’t get that time back- the same time that Tyreese didn’t get to spend with Karen. Sasha reminds Tyreese of how he reacted when he learned what happened. In spite of that, Tyreese found forgiveness. Sasha is clearly insulted at the idea of forgiving someone for what they did to Bob, but the decision is hers. She hands Tyreese a knife and tells him to put it through his temple when he stops breathing. Yup, that’s it. Not even a final goodbye or anything.
Later, while one group leaves, The Hunters approach the church, which they find almost empty. Gareth isn’t taking any chances, though. He knows who is inside and who left. No need to hide, he says. As The Hunters get close to the altar, they have two choices on which door to enter. They don’t know which one everyone is hiding behind, but they get a pretty good clue when Judith begins to cry.
Shots are fired as the other members of the group enter the church. They force The Hunters to their knees. The Hunters are only alive because the others didn’t want to waste the bullets. Gareth is outmatched and knows it, but he tells everyone that Terminus used to be a good place. They used to help people until ‘they’ came in. People like Rick have no idea what it means to be hungry. The Hunters can just walk away, but Rick is certain that The Hunters would just eat anyone else they meet. Plus, he made Gareth a promise, so everyone goes to town on The Hunters. Well, that was painfully short.
Everyone says their goodbyes to Bob, though he asks Rick to remain for a moment so he can thank him. Before the prison, Bob didn’t know if there were any good people left in the world. But Rick took him in.
Sasha then enters and asks why Bob is smiling. He just had a quick dream where she smiled back at him. All of a sudden, he goes silent. She removes her blade, but Tyreese enters and demands she hand over the knife. She does and then leaves so Tyreese can do the deed himself.
Abraham hands Rick a map of the route to D.C. that they’ll be taking. They’ll stick to it as long as they can. If not, Rick at least has their destination. So after the groups split up again, Rick finds that Abraham has written a note on the map, telling him that the world needs more Rick Grimes’. He then goes to help Tyreese with digging holes.
That night, Michonne sits alone on the church steps until Gabriel joins her. He’s still hearing the voices of the congregation. The voices won’t stop, Michonne says, but they won’t be calling for him all the time. She hears a noise and heads out to investigate.
Luckily, it’s Daryl. When asked about Carol’s whereabouts, Daryl just motions for the person behind him to come on out.
So after all the talk of not splitting up, the group is even more divided than they were last week. I can’t say I was disappointed in this episode, but I will say I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. Maybe that’s because I had such expectations based on last week’s episode.
I did not expect The Hunters to be dispatched of so quickly. It doesn’t help that the Terminus folks aren’t all that competent. I wonder how they managed to round up as many victims as they did back at Terminus. But after last week’s episode officially introduced us to this group as The Hunters, I thought they would be around for at least another full episode or two. They make rookie mistakes like sending their entire group to the church all at once. If Rick’s group has one advantage from being so big, it’s that they can divide tasks and people while still making sure each batch of people has muscle. Not so with The Hunters. At least, these versions of them. They’re small, disorganized and live to feast. Had they not even had a vendetta against Rick and company, chances are they would still be alive.
Look, I know that the “Fear the Hunters” arc in the comic book wasn’t long, but we at least got to learn more about them and what they did to survive. Here, it’s all told through Gareth’s perspective for the sake of just explaining how they became hunters. In the comics, we learned what these people went through, who they ate and how they did feel some level of remorse. They also seemed a tad bit smarter. In the comics, Dale is left out as bait while The Hunters watch from the woods. The same could apply here since Gareth did know who was and wasn’t at the church, but I just find the television version of The Hunters to be less cunning or ruthless as their comic book counterparts. Plus, given how we got brief flashbacks of them being imprisoned, coupled with Gareth’s speech about what they must do to survive, I figured they would stick around for longer than they did.
I was also surprised at how they were killed. In the comic, Rick threatens to eat them. Of course, he doesn’t, but The Hunters are still butchered and burned. The bludgeoning is still cool to see, but not as visceral as I would have liked.
The Hunters aside, I did enjoy a lot of the group interactions this week. We got a taste of Rick and Abraham’s warring relationship, which was very prominent in the comics since Abraham pretty much served as the second-in-command. He’s still new to the group, but is under no obligation to remain. His priority is still getting Eugene to Washington, so he feels no need to fall in line with Rick’s orders, the way most of the group does. And when Glenn told Rick that choosing who gets to leave isn’t Rick’s call to make, you see that not everyone feels that Rick always makes the best choices. Rick is used to people challenging his decisions, yes, but I doubt he’s used to being dared to fight another person’s decision. The standoff between the two was well done.
Speaking of tense moments, I also loved Seth Gilliam’s performance when he confesses to letting his congregation die while he listened to them condemn him to damnation. Gabriel is a man with a lot of inner demons that eat away at him. He tries to hold onto his faith, but his resolve isn’t as strong as it once used to be. We watched him unravel as he let go of the guilt he’d been holding onto and it was a great scene to watch. I do wish the writers found a better way for Maggie to say the episode’s title, though. I hate when television shows do that.
With Bob gone, we’re one character short, but at least he got to go out peacefully. Ever the optimist and even when facing death, Bob managed to make the most out of a horrible situation. Not everyone can be an optimist during a zombie apocalypse. But with Gabriel on the scene, that’s probably one Negro character too many, if the past is any indication. Seriously, The Walking Dead, it’s all right to let a few live at a time. Plus, Bob did get to say the “Tainted meat” line, which just made me smile.
My favorite sequence in the episode had to be The Hunters entering the church. It was well-paced, Gareth said just the right things to get under your skin and it had a great payoff when Rick and company revealed themselves. I did notice a slight nod to the comic books during this scene. Gareth’s finger is shot off, the same way one of The Hunters loses their finger when Rick reveals he did not come to confront them alone and has Andrea shoot off his finger from a distance. Again, I’m disappointed that The Hunters are already gone, given that we just got to know them as this group at the end of the previous episode, but now the door is open to find out what happened with Daryl and Carol in their search for Beth.
So The Hunters are through, Bob is gone and the group is divided once again. There was a lot of tension throughout this episode as the group tried to determine their next and hopefully best move. Again, while I like the action sequences and walker killing moments, The Walking Dead can be just as strong during character interactions where people are just talking about their situations. With the group’s resident optimism now dead, spirits won’t be as occasionally high as they were before. Despite being separated, I’m certain that everyone will find their way back to each other soon. For now, though, we’re left to find out next week just what in the world happened to Beth.