So after Beth and a pair of scissors ruined a perfectly good standoff and exchange, let’s see how our walker killing group picks up right after. “What Happened and What’s Going On” is a strong return for the rest of Season Five and, like “The Grove,” shows the price of optimism in a world filled with so much loss and danger. It has the benefit of focusing primarily on one group and, as such, feels like a more cohesive story.
Let’s return to The Walking Dead.
The episode begins with…lens flare. But really, we get a series of flashes to various things going on: Gabriel delivering a eulogy, Maggie crying, and escaping from the hospital.
Noah tells Rick that Beth planned to come with him to just outside of Richmond, Virginia. He believes it’s secure. Rick talks this over with the rest of the group. They plan to check it out, but if no one’s around, they just keep on moving until they find a new place.
Oh, hi Lizzie and Mika…wait a second, what the hell?
So we’re following Rick, Glenn, Michonne, Tyreese, and Noah. Rick radios into Carol, whose group plans to follow if they don’t hear back from Rick in 20 minutes. Noah still believes that the trade was the right play, but it just didn’t go the way everyone had hoped. Tyreese speaks of the many times his father listened to the radio to keep up with what happened around him. As a child, Tyreese heard of horrible atrocities, but his father kept on listening. It’s good to keep your eyes and ears open, you know. That and we’re all paying the high cost of living.
The five pull into a clearing and decide to continue on foot. Noah leads them to a gated community where he remained, but there are no spotters this time. After scaling the walls, the group finds the area burned out and remains all around. Noah collapses in horror- in a manner very similar to how Rick did upon learning Lori died, I noticed- and cries. Tyreese remains with Noah while Rick, Glenn, and Michonne do a sweep of the community.
The three consider whether they even believed this place would be here, though Rick reflects on the standoff at the hospital. He could tell that Dawn didn’t mean to shoot Beth, but as soon as it happened, Rick wanted nothing more than to kill her himself. However, that wouldn’t have been about Beth. Sure, Rick may not have thought that this place still stood, but the fact remains that Beth wanted to get Noah there. She wanted to do this for him. Hell, it could have been for the group’s benefit, too.
Tyreese tells Noah that he once wanted to die as a result of losing people around him. He considered throwing himself into a group of walkers until they took him, but he kept on going. He was there for Judith. That would not have happened if he gave up. He chose to live, so this is not the end. In response, Noah gets up and runs off. You know, Tyreese probably worked on that speech, Noah. You could at least thank him.
Glenn thinks back to the crazy man freed from the boxcar back at Terminus, how they almost died at Gareth’s hands, how he managed to find Maggie after leaving the prison- a trip down- a not so fun memory lane, really. Things were okay for a while, but with Eugene’s admission, they’ve lost both Washington and Beth as well. Michonne tells the two that they need to stop where they are since they’ve been out too long.
Noah arrives at his home and wants to enter, but Tyreese goes first. They first find the body of Noah’s mother, which he promptly covers to conceal the hole in her head. Tyreese goes deeper and hears one walker behind a door. In another room, he finds the body of Noah’s brother on a bed.
As Tyreese observes the photos on the wall…
…the walker springs to life and manages to bite him on his left arm. Noah enters and kills it, and then runs off to get help.
While we hear on the radio about a group taking part in a campaign of random violence, Tyreese tries to stem the flow of blood gushing from his arm. But then he starts seeing things. No, he starts seeing people, namely Martin, who did tell Tyreese that he would be next. Maybe things would be better, but they aren’t. Hell, Bob knows that, and even tells Tyreese himself. He was bitten. It had to happen like that.
Then the Governor himself reminds Tyreese that he would do whatever was necessary to get his keep.
And then Lizzie and Mika show up to let Tyreese know that it’s all better now.
Another walker enters the room and Tyreese tries to fight it off. He ends up letting the walker clamp down on his arm, giving him just enough time to knock it away.
Rick, Glenn, and Michonne have done their fair share of scavenging. In a rare show of optimism, Michonne suggests staying where they are. However, Rick notes that the area is surrounded by the forest, so they could easily be taken by surprise, just as the previous group had. Michonne doesn’t let up. She thinks they could cut down the trees and build up walls, but they soon find a batch of decapitated bodies and a wrecked fence. Even if they set up here, someone could break it down with little trouble.
However, Michonne sets her eyes on Washington. Sure, Eugene lied about a cure, but Michonne figures that Eugene said Washington for a reason. There could be people there. It’s possible. If they go, they would have a chance instead of just making it, step by step, day by day. Wouldn’t they want just one more day with a chance? After some thought, Rick settles on going to Washington.
Noah must not be a fast runner, because only now does he call out for help and the three eventually rescue him, with a bit of difficulty. Though Glenn does put his new bat to use.
Now Ghost Beth appears, with a bullet still in her head, and plays a song about a struggling man who’s gotta move on. Tyreese has to know that now. Tyreese never wanted to be a part of it, but, as Martin says, being part of it is being. The Governor tells Tyreese that he never changed or adapted, but Tyreese disagrees. He’s forgiven Carol for killing Karen. He knows very well who he is. He did not know the Governor, who didn’t show him a damn thing. This isn’t over for Tyreese. He’s not giving up! Just when it looks like it’s all over, Lizzie and Mika come to take Tyreese to the other side.
Wait, never mind.
Everyone arrives at the gate just as the walkers arrive. Noah drops Tyreese on the way out, but Rick, Glenn, and Michonne manage to cut down all of the incoming roamers. Rick contacts Daryl via radio and the five head off.
Well, he eventually does. Damn it, Rick, your driving is as bad as Lori’s.
On the drive back, we hear radio reports of cannibalism, but also some brutality from the rebel forces, including the mutilation of children. Tyreese wants the radio off. Bob, Beth, Lizzie, and Mika- no longer sporting their death wounds- all comply. It’s okay, Tyreese.
Rick stops the car and Tyreese’s body is removed.
We then cut to the very first scene of Father Gabriel delivering a eulogy, which turned out to be Tyreese’s all along. Clever. And that was “What Happened and What’s Going On.”
Let’s start with the episode’s writer: Scott Gimple, who also wrote “Clear” and “The Grove.” What those two episodes had that this one also has is a focused plot. Aside from the shot of Gabriel delivering the eulogy, this episode had the advantage of only dealing specific members of the group and only them. For the most part, as we do briefly see the others at the start and end of the episode. At the same time, we know that the others are still active because Rick keeps in communication with them.
Like “The Grove,” the opening to this episode is very deceptive, and I think that worked to this episode’s advantage. Given how “Coda” ended, you would expect that the group had been burying Beth. After all, they did still have her body, so it’s not too far of a stretch and wouldn’t be unexpected. But once we got the quick shots of Lizzie and Mika, something felt…off. And instead of getting flashbacks, we got flash forwards of what was to come. Though I wasn’t a fan of the quick cuts, they were put to effective use. They trick the viewer into thinking that the group is saying goodbye to Beth, but how wrong some of us were. Or I was, at least.
As the show examined in the first half of the season, one of the main points of The Walking Dead is finding your survival instinct. Who has the will to live in the face of adversity? Do you keep on moving forward, as these people do every day, or, as Tyreese suggested, throw yourself to the dead? Or go back further to the first season- do you stay in the CDC and accept that things won’t get any better or move on in the vain attempt of finding some hope and salvation? This show never leans one way or the other, but lets you come to your own conclusion.
It’s fitting that Lizzie and Mika were two of the dead who appeared to Tyreese, as this episode shared similar messages with “The Grove.” Carol told Mika that she had to kill in order to survive in this world. It may not always be right, but it’s necessary. Being too nice and not having a taste for murder doesn’t mark you for death all the time, but it does show that you lack the drives other characters like Carol or Daryl- they kill because they have to survive. Instead of wavering on indecision, they made a choice.
But there’s the question of whether those choices even matter anymore. At the end of the day, all they’re doing is making it to the next day. The group never stays in one place because they either need to keep moving or their current location ends up overrun or attacked. It’s possible that, if they remained in one place for too long, they would lull themselves into a false sense of security where they become desensitized to violence. As Martin told Tyreese, being part of it is being, but there’s more to it than that.
While it’s great to make it to the next day when so many others aren’t so fortunate, it would be nice to have something to live for that’s more than just surviving. That’s the point Michonne got at when she asked Rick and Glenn if they ever wanted one more day with a chance. Fight for a bit of optimism in your life, even if it ends up being hopeless, as was the case when they located the community and found it desolate.
However, even with Beth and Tyreese gone, even with all that happened with at Terminus or dealing with The Hunters, even with the reveal that Eugene lied all along about not being a scientist, Michonne still refuses to give up hope. Heading to Washington gives the group something to fight for instead of just wandering in hopes of finding a safe place for the night.
It’s interesting for the originally stoic Michonne to show more optimism than Rick and Glenn, but that’s because she knows what it’s like to be dead inside and have little to live for. After all, she kept Mike and Terry when they had reanimated, but doing so, in a sense, turned her into one of them and she remained adrift until running into Andrea. Now, however, she chooses to have hope.
But let’s move onto the man himself, Mr. Tyreese. First off, it goes without saying that Chad Coleman was excellent in his performance this week. As this episode asked, was it always going to end this way for him? Consider two things: he didn’t kill Martin. He told Carol that he took care of it, but never specified what he did. You could argue that not killing Martin is what led him to lead Gareth and the rest of The Hunters to kidnapping Bob. Plus, he wasn’t the one to kill Lizzie during “The Grove.” That was all Carol. Sure, he made sure to take care of Bob so Sasha wouldn’t have to, but Bob had been bitten. He was on his way out anyway.
Tyreese had the will to live, yes. He wanted to die and even had to deal with the fact that Carol killed Karen and David. He lived in Woodbury despite not knowing who and what the Governor really was. Even after all of that, he still chose to live. As we learned through the backstory of his father listening to the radio about horrific events, he helped people because it was in his nature. Tyreese is a good man and the apocalypse did change him, but, like Mika, it didn’t turn him into a hardened killer.
By the way, I liked the radio commentary provided on the evolution of the group- or maybe even the walkers themselves- and how it talked about the group’s tactics becoming more brutal through acts like cannibalism and the mutilation of children. Yes, the group has become more visceral and violent as they move on, but much of that has to do with changing their tactics due to dealing with the likes of the Governor and The Hunters. They must kill or be killed, by any means.
Having past characters appear to Tyreese was a good way to show the effect his actions had on them…well, except for Beth, whose just here to play guitar. Emily Kinney does play it well, I’ll give her that. But think about it- Tyreese lived in Woodbury under the Governor’s rule, he didn’t kill Lizzie, he left Martin alive and may have led The Hunters to their location, which led to Bob losing his leg. These are all reminders that a nice man like Tyreese does not get to survive long in this world.
On a side-note, the sight of seeing these characters with their wounds intact, particularly Beth with a bullet in her head, was a bit haunting, but appropriate for this kind of show.
This felt like Tyreese’s acceptance of his fate. He forgave Carol for killing Karen and David- strange that those two don’t appear, by the way- and refused to give up. However, in the end, he would not be in this world much longer.
When the ghosts of Lizzie, Mika, Bob, and Beth appeared in the car without their wounds, it was clear that Tyreese was gone. It felt reminiscent of Richard Harrow’s final scene on Boardwalk Empire where we saw his complete face, only for the show to reveal that he had already died.
Also, Beth’s not keeping her eyes on the road when she’s driving! What hell?
The final shot with his cap on the cross was a nice touch.
“What Happened and What’s Going On” was a very effective episode and continuation of Season Five. Like “The Grove,” it showed that no one is safe and everyone can and will eventually make mistakes. The optimist does not survive in this world for long. The writers of The Walking Dead managed to throw me for a loop in a well written episode that had good action, direction, and character development.
And it’s a bold move, too. We just lost Beth and we’ve already lost Tyreese not too long after. Even worse, Tyreese didn’t even get a goodbye scene with Sasha. Killing off two main characters back-to-back is pretty gutsy, but I would expect nothing less from The Walking Dead. Plus, if the past is any indication, if a character has some long, drawn out and optimistic speech, chances are they’ve got a target on their back. And that’s just what happened with Tyreese.
From here, though, it appears that we’re headed for Washington, so the group, despite two major losses, keeps on moving forward.