I don't have kids, but I imagine that one of the scariest things in the world must be knowing that you can't always fully protect them. All you can do is lie or tell ugly truths about reality. That dilemma is even more of a palpable stress in zombie-America and especially for Walking Dead's Rick. Having abandoned most of his principles a long time ago, he's compelled in this episode, in the confines of a church, to still remind his son Carl: "You are not safe."
In response to his dad's legitimate paranoia, Carl says, "We're strong enough that we don't have to be afraid and we don't have to hide," reassuring Rick that he'll "stay safe," though we know very well that's impossible. Carl has killed before, so it's a relief that he's maintained some sense of innocence in a place that normalizes murder.
Episode Two, titled "Strangers," finds Rick and the crew going from one false sanctuary to another. After running into the petrified Father Gabriel (aka Carver from The Wire) in the woods and saving him from walkers, Rick's crew holes up in Gabriel's church. Instead of heading straight to D.C., per Abraham's sane recommendation, the group opts for shelter and stocking up on food and supplies. Also sane. But they're not safe there either.
This episode's central burning question is: How did Gabriel stay alive without killing a thing? Meanwhile, Bob the naive optimist becomes a casualty, and Gareth is not only sadistic, but also HANGRY. What Would Jezebel Do?
1. Would we forgive Carol for killing our friends?
One of the major questions at the end of last season was whether the group should and would forgive Carol for burning their people back at the prison. The answer is yes, especially since she just saved their asses. But also, forgiveness is one of the few things left that makes them feel human. A grateful Rick tells an un-exiled Carol a variation of: No prob. I mean you did just rescue us from getting eaten by cannibals and stuff.
2. Do we tell the group what happened with the girls?
No need. Carol killed a little girl (the Lizzie and Mika scene is still the most disturbing ever), but reflecting publicly on that bad thing you did would mean rediscovering morality and giving into conscience. There's no time for postmortems. "We don't need to tell 'em about the girls," Tyreese tells Carol. "I just need to forget it." True. Telling the group wouldn't help or fix anything and might lead to unnecessary judgment. The kids are gone.
3. Should we trust the pastor?
No, but first: a man screams for help in the woods. Do you run toward him or…?
We'd let Rick handle this. The man's screaming would attract walkers anyway, and we're in a group so we can take him on if it turns sour. The man turns out to be Gabriel and he's trapped by a walker, weaponless and protected only by "the word of God." The group saves him, but everyone's rightfully on high alert. As viewers we're just as suspicious. Even in the presence of a man of faith, there's no reason to believe in him, a clear sign of how much they've (we've) unraveled.
Rick offers his usual pleasant greeting: "How many walkers have you killed? How many people have you killed?" None, says Gabriel, "Because the Lord abhors violence," which is a good thing to say, in theory. As they're walking to Gabriel's somehow-still-standing church in the middle of the forest, Gabriel says: "Nowadays, people are just as dangerous as the dead, don't you think?" Daryl: "No. People are worse."
4. Would we stay in the church or take the short bus to D.C.?
We would've preferred to leave and see what this D.C. talk is about... But at this point, Rick is to be trusted. There's a bus at the church, and rather than stick around, Abraham would like to get on with the business of potentially saving the world with the help of Eugene. Rick isn't ready to leave yet. Glenn says they're doing whatever Rick says and definitely not splitting up, which, yeah, this group splits up way too much.
While the group is happily feasting in the church, Abraham interrupts the good times and again tries to convince them. Something along the lines of: You're all incredible survivors, really, and I'll let you finish eating, but… can we go soon? Abraham makes valid points, but it's hard to believe D.C. won't be yet another dead end.
5. Do we really have to wade through the sewer of hungry walkers to get to the food?
Unfortunately, yes. Or maybe, Rick, you go ahead down there and we'll just stay behind... on walker watch.
6. Would we eat Bob?
We'll say it again, for the people all the way in the back: No eating humans. After the Terminus survivors kidnap Bobwhile he's crying alone in the woods, Gareth does a whole monologue justifying the cannibal lifestyle. "We've devolved into hunters," he says. "No matter how much we hate this ugly business, a man's gotta eat." You are not convincing anybody! Gareth is not only noshing on Bob's severed leg, but also relishing in it. Is he a monster? Would Rick ever do this? He's crazy, but not this crazy.
Also, looks like Tyreese didn't kill the cannibal-hostage back at the cabin (we see a glimpse of him in the end), so gold star to the commenter who predicted it last week.
One thing I liked about this episode was how the presence of Gabriel re-introduces the idea of religion as a moral crutch during end times. Is it futile? This was also a great set up to what should be another epic showdown.
Images via AMC