Culture

“The Walking Dead” review: “Us”

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“Us,” the penultimate episode in this, the fourth season of The Walking Dead, proved to be a good representation of where the show is at right now as a whole. That is to say, it indicated that things are happening, that the story is moving, but not necessarily that it’s moving in a different direction than it has before.

As most of the episodes in the second half of this season have done, “Us” divided its attention between several different groups of people. The least time was given to Rick, Carl, and Michonne, who only got one scene. Glenn and Tara received the most, along with their new friends Sgt. Ford, Dr. Porter, and Rosita. At the beginning of the episode, Glenn finds the sign Maggie left along the tracks encouraging him to head for Terminus. He immediately takes off in that direction, refusing to stop for rest, even when Tara hurts her leg. Eventually, they come to a tunnel, where Glenn and Tara part with the other three. But this doesn’t sit well with Eugene (Dr. Porter), and once they find an old minivan, he helps steer Rosita toward where he believes the tunnel will end. Inside the tunnel, however, Glenn and Tara aren’t having such an easy time. A few walkers have been trapped under some debris, but another swarm is waiting for them on the other side. Tara gets her foot stuck in the rubble, and when Glenn won’t leave without her, it looks like the end of them both. Then, just in the nick of time, a shadowy posse of people show up and fire on the ensuing walkers. When the smoke clears, it turns out to be Maggie, Sasha, and Bob, who ran into Eugene, Rosita, and Sgt. Ford outside the tunnel. After an emotional reunion, they make the decision to all go on to Terminus together, before Sgt. Ford and Rosita proceed with taking Eugene to Washington. The episode ends with all of them arriving at a large building; this is Terminus. It looks peaceful, plants grow outside, and a kindly woman greets them when they get there.

The rest of “Us” followed Daryl as he got to know his new “friends.” Although one of the men, Len, doesn’t like him, their leader Joe has taken a shine to his style. Joe tells Daryl that in their group, there are only a few rules. If you want something, you claim it, and no lies. He also tells Daryl that this world, the world of the walkers, was meant for men like the two of them, and that he doesn’t think everything “came apart,” he thinks things are finally coming together. Later, when they’re camped out in an abandoned car garage, Len accuses Daryl of stealing part of a dead rabbit they shot earlier in the episode. Daryl rebukes this, insisting Len must’ve planted it with his stuff. Joe asks Len if he’s being honest, and Len tells him he is without hesitation. Then, without warning, Joe punches Len and tells the rest of the men to beat him for lying. He tells Daryl he saw Len do it. As Daryl is leaving the next morning, he sees Len’s body with an arrow through his head lying outside. The men continue down the railroad tracks, where Daryl learns they too are going to Terminus. But Joe doesn’t seem too hopeful about it, telling him they don’t take men like “us” there. Daryl asks why they’re going, and Joe tells him they’re tracking a man who killed one of their guys a few miles back while they were staying in a house. We know that man was Rick. As Daryl continues down the tracks, he spots a strawberry, and calls “claimed.”

Right off the bat, in case you were thinking the phrase sounded familiar, “Claimed” was in fact the name of the episode where Daryl’s pals were introduced. As for the rest of what’s going on with Mr. Dixon, I think it’s fair to say that we know him well enough at this point that it seems likely that he won’t be with these guys for long, and if he does run into Rick and company, he’ll be on their side when it comes time to fight. There was no direct mention of Beth this week, only Daryl’s angry reaction when Len said he was pining for some girl, but I can only imagine what’s going on with her. And assuming she really was abducted by someone who had been living in that morgue from a few episodes ago, what I’m imagining isn’t too happy.

Halfway through “Us,” I began to suspect that maybe, just maybe, we would actually see Glenn get back to Maggie this week, rather than having to wait till the season finale; I guess even The Walking Dead can only have so many episodes where people don’t do anything but walk down railroad tracks. Speaking of Glenn, Glenn is terrible. I can’t even express how annoying it was to see him break into a run when he found Maggie’s sign. We get it dude, you miss her, but those extra few minutes you’re going to spend burning that energy aren’t going to help. And while he redeemed himself by sticking with her in the end, the fact that he wouldn’t take one night to rest when Tara got hurt was absurd. Oh, and shall we talk about his decision to then take his injured comrade, with limited ammo, into a dark tunnel with him? And going off that, why exactly couldn’t he go around it anyway? Because the tracks went through? Ever think that maybe your wife was smart enough not to go into the dank, zombie-infested darkness, and to just pick up the tracks on the other side instead (to be fair, she wasn’t)? I understand that Glenn’s overwhelming love for Maggie made him do all this, and that that overwhelming love is also what’s supposed to make him compelling. But for most characters to be compelling, they have to have a semblance of reality attached to them as well, and in reality most people, even the most irrationally lovesick people, would act smarter than this.

While I may have suspected that Glenn and Maggie would find each other in this episode, I don’t think I had any inkling that they would actually reach Terminus until the comforting music came on in the last scene. And of course, now that they’re at Terminus, I don’t know what to make of it. Part of me was afraid everybody would get there and see it had been abandoned or wiped out by walkers. Now, knowing that’s not the case, none of us can really know what awaits them there. The real question is going to be what makes this place different from Woodbury, or the prison, or the farm, and how long the ensemble will stay there (if at all)?

In many ways, it feels like we’re going in circles. The characters settle, bad stuff happens, people die, some get separated, and they set out in search of a new place to call home, before having to do it all over again. Maybe this isn’t the worst pattern ever, but the show still needs to find a way to throw in enough variables where the pattern deviates and changes slightly each time. Last week’s episode certainly deviated, so it made sense that things went back to normal this week. But in any case, the less time the characters spend walking around the woods or down those stupid railroad tracks, the more things can only get better. In that sense, “Us” showed a glimmer of promise for next week’s season finale and the future of The Walking Dead.