Just about every episode of The Walking Dead can be viewed as a study in parallel universes. In “Alone,” Bob, Maggie, and Sasha go on walkabout then split up due to go their own way, while Daryl and Beth decide to set down roots in the funeral home and eat pickled pigs feet together. Bob makes a failed romantic gesture toward Sasha, and who knows what’s going on between Daryl and Beth—Is it a deepening platonic bond? Are they becoming a close-knit family? Or do they just wanna bone?—while Glenn and Maggie are wrapped up in what they believe to be the greatest love story ever told. Daryl teaches Beth how to track walkers and hunt with a crossbow in a way that doesn’t involve drunkenly manhandling her, while Maggie hunts Glenn and Bob and Sasha track Maggie. Maggie, Bob, and Sasha break up and reunite by choice, while Daryl and Beth are forced apart by terrible, mysterious circumstances. The trio reunite with hope overflowing, while Daryl is conscripted into joining up with Jeff Kober and the Creeper Gang, and Beth is presumably being trafficked by an ex-preacher driving a Cadillac.
Huh. They’re really aiming to give everyone a personality and backstory, eh? Like I said last week with Daryl and Beth, none of what they’re revealing is all that revelatory. I’d already assumed Bob was wandering around being a drunk before he met up with the group, and sure enough. But it still works, somehow. Not very well, or at least not very subtly, but it works. The personalities the writers have chosen for these characters aren’t novel, creative, or especially deep, but there’s just enough there for the audience to latch on to.
I don’t particularly care whether Bob or Sasha are alone or together, nor does the prospect of their possible romance do anything for me. Sasha’s gotten the least screen time of just about anyone this season, save maybe Judith, and her character has suffered for it. Maggie and Glenn still vacillate between being insufferable and relatable, and will continue to do so until the writers decide to give them something to outside of pining for each other. If Beth had been kidnapped a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have cared except for how it affected Daryl. Now I actually fretted out loud about her whereabouts when Daryl found her bag on the ground. Same with Bob almost getting bit; I was mildly concerned for his well being in a way I wasn’t during the whole prison/Governor nonsense. Maybe I’m just more attached to Daryl and Beth because they’ve been around longer. Or maybe it’s just that Norman Reedus and Larry Gilliard Jr. continue to work miracles above and beyond the script handed to them and who make everyone else seem more interesting simply by virtue of their presence.
Jeff Kober—ahem, Joe—could make for an interesting Big Bad. Unlike the Governor, he isn’t a villain playing at being a hero or a psychotic control freak who really needs to learn when to walk away. Joe’s a run-of-the-mill asshole enjoying the sudden and profound lack of rules and regulations. He doesn’t care about restarting civilization or protecting a community. He’s the kind of guy who plucked the wings off flies and burned anthills as a kid. He’s the guy who got into fights at bars just because he was bored. He’s reveling in anarchy and apocalypse like a pig in mud. It makes him a different kind of threat, one much more threatening in both the short and long term.
The longer this End!verse ticks on, the more gangs like Joe’s will crop up. Roving bands of unaffiliated, uncontrolled assholes preying on the weak and vulnerable. In a way, they’re just as bad as the walkers. At least the Governor could be challenged and fought. His type of Big Bad is few and far between. You couldn’t reason with him, but at least you have a chance to come out victorious. But there’s a whole world of low-grade menaces like Joe out there. (Remember that group Brian’s crew came across that were slaughtered off camera? Could’ve been done by Joe as easily as anyone else.) Here’s hoping they don’t reduce him to Merle 2.0.
The three clichés TWD relies on most are “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” “hope springs eternal,” and “bad things happen to good people.” We get all three mantras with this episode. Sasha’s right to be worried about Terminus. The last time she sought refuge with a group of self-proclaimed good guys, the prison got blown up by a tank. The time before that, she and Tyrese wandered into Woodbury. Daryl and Beth find a place to crash that belongs to someone else and suffer the consequences of it. Bob and Beth have taken up Hershel’s hope-filled mantle, thus inspiring Daryl and Sasha enough to aim higher than survival. I guess you could see Maggie as hopeful, but to me it comes off more like desperate determination. She won’t accept that Glenn could be dead because without him she doesn’t have any family left. Beth is the walking definition of good people undeservedly suffering, but pretty much everyone not Shane, the Governor, Merle, or Joe and the Creeper Gang are decent people who experience varying degrees of terrible things. The zombie apocalypse leaves no soul unstained.
- “How many people have you killed?” “One.” “Why?” “She asked me to.”
- “Peanut butter and jelly, diet soda, and pig’s feet. That’s a white trash brunch right there.”
- “There are still good people.” “I don’t think the good ones survive.” Foreshadowing!
- Last week I was a little unnerved by what appears to be a budding attraction between Beth and Daryl. Now I want them to kidnap Judith and settle down in the funeral home with their one-eyed dog and spend the rest of their long lives eating white trash brunches together. Le sigh.
- Speaking of which, while I don’t think Joe was behind Beth’s kidnapping, I do think whoever took her lead the zombies to the cemetery. Why is the bigger question, and I’m pretty sure I won’t like the answer.
- I’m a little put off and confused by Maggie’s lack of interest in Beth’s whereabouts. She hasn’t so much as even mentioned her sister since the prison break that I can recall. So much for blood being thicker than water. She repeatedly almost dies as she goes after her husband, but can’t even be bothered to add Beth’s name to her bloody missives?
- The mortuary brings up a good point. Why did the dead come back but those that were already buried didn’t? Was a switch flipped in our genetic code or a mass infection? Where’s the delineation in death?
- The show finally made it clear Terminus has been around for a while. Which makes our heroes’ inability to find it sooner all the more inexcusable. What would solve all of this confusion is if the writers would define the amount of time that’s passed since the attack and the geography the groups are traversing. I’d be thrilled if someone would say “Oh yeah, Terminus! Down in south Georgia, all the way on the other side of the state from where we were in the prison. Gosh, I wish we had journeyed this far all those months ago when we were foraging for supplies so we could’ve seen these signs.”
- The backhalf of season 4 could be viewed as a testing ground of sorts for the long-delayed pseudo-spinoff, as in crafting a show more about characters than gore with only a tenuous link to the Kirkman brand.
Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.