Most of the back half of season 4 has been given over to character development. It’s a much needed conceit, although not everyone the writers are workshopping is worth the time or energy. “Us” is yet another foray down this path, and once again I find myself ambivalent about whether or not it succeeded in its mission. Part of that comes from the necessary yet uninspired place setting and piece moving. The entire episode was centered around moving the disparate groups (save Tyrese, Carol, Judith, and Beth) closer to Terminus. The episode was functional and only mildly infuriating. In other words, it was on par with the average episode. At least they’re consistent.
The penultimate episode of season 4 brought back Carl, Michonne, and Rick for the first time in several episodes as they slowly make their way toward Terminus. Rick is being a stick in the mud and insisting they hurry it up and stop screwing around, but Michonne and Carl are too busy seeing who can walk on the rails the longest. Carl wins and he though he claims her favorite candy bar as his prize, he shares half with her. Michonne and Carl have the kind of happy, playful relationship Rick wants so desperately to have with his son. And although there’s a tinge of jealousy in watching them interact while excluding him, he recognizes that his son needs a mother (and, to a lesser extent, that Michonne needs a son). It’s a charming scene, sweet but not sugary or over the top, someone undercut by the later scenes of Daryl and Joe’s Creeper Gang chopping a dead rabbit in half because grown men refuse to share, and the guys walking over the abandoned candy wrapper on the train tracks.
As for Joe, he’s taken an interest in Daryl. Not sure why, as of yet. Perhaps he sees Daryl as a useful tool for pursuing his goal of being the biggest asshole in all of apocalyptic Georgia. More likely he senses in Daryl an innate need to take orders, to have others make the big decisions so he doesn’t have to take responsibility for their consequences. Daryl never takes decisive action. He followed Merle until he was forced to abandon him, then followed Rick until they were scattered to the winds by the Governor. Then he followed Beth, because why the hell not. And then he sat down in the road like a child and waited for someone to come along and tell him what to do. Unfortunately for him, that someone happened to be Joe.
Daryl is right to not mourn the death of the ex-cop who set him up for a frame job, but he is wrong to think he doesn’t need to. Beth’s influence is waning. Joe’s viewpoint has a certain appeal for men like him, men who chafed under society’s rules. I’d like to think Daryl is using Joe and will skip out when the opportunity presents itself—he says just as much when Joe asks him what his plans are—but given Daryl’s personality and past, it seems like he’s going to stick around for a while. Of course, he’ll side with Rick when they eventually reach Terminus, that’s a given. Until then, however, old habits are hard to break, and Joe is full of ‘em.
The show treats Maggie and Glenn like Romeo and Juliet without remembering how violently that story ended, or how their selfish desires destroyed or killed half of Verona. Maggie and Glenn use their exclusive love for each other as an excuse to drag their friends into dangerous and unnecessary situations. Neither take any responsibility for their behavior or for putting their friends’ lives at risk. Yes, Sasha, Bob, Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene are adults capable of making their own decisions, but they’re kind enough people to not want to let Maggie or Glenn go off alone and probably get themselves killed by their own idiocy. Tara is so wrapped up in her guilt over her association with Brian that if Glenn told her to cut off her foot she’d do it. Moreover, she’s like Daryl, she’s a follower and will do anything anyone tells her as long as it means she doesn’t have to be alone.
I get Glenn and Maggie traversing heaven and hell to find each other. I don’t care either way, but I get it. What I don’t like is how neither of them seem at all bothered by how their actions affect others. It’s not a new circumstance for them, but it is obnoxious and taints their whole relationship. We all know that couple, the one who can’t talk about anything except each other, who spend every waking moment making moony eyes and babytalk. But when death is on the line, their romance doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Abraham and Rosita point this out, but none of it penetrates Glenn’s cloud of Maggie obsession. Not that they have any stronger standing, given they’re on a fool’s errand to Washington D.C. with a dude who spent too much time playing video games before the world fell apart.
30 seconds into “Us” and I was already sick to death of Eugene. And it only got worse as time went on. I know guys like that. Hell, I dated a guy like that. Part of you can ignore the silly stuff in favor of the decent, good guy stuff, but at least once an hour you want to smack the crap out of them. We didn’t date for long, but it looks like the show has a deeper commitment to Eugene than I did to my ex. Regardless of how closely to the comics the show plans to stick with this particularly storyline (they have a habit of taking inspiration from Kirkman then veering off in random directions with varying degrees of success), it seems less and less likely that Eugene is who he says he is. He seems like a guy who has bluffed his way through survival by pretending to be someone worth protecting.
As the rabbit-planting cop could attest had he not been beaten to death, the thing about lying is that it doesn’t matter how firmly you insist it’s the truth. A lie is a lie is a lie, and when the truth is revealed there will be hell to pay. I’m pretty sure Rosita and Abraham suspect Eugene’s full of crap, but, like Daryl, what else are they gonna do? It’s either wander around aimlessly or follow the man with the plan. Doesn’t matter how ridiculous or disconcerting the plan, at least it’s something to focus on.
- “An ass end is still an end.”
- “People don’t have to be friendly. We don’t have to be nice. We don’t have to be brothers in arms. We just gotta follow the rules.”
- “That there is a long dark tunnel full of reanimated corpses.”
- Michael Cudlitz and Jeff Kober cannot be given enough praise for taking such poorly written characters and making them intriguing.
- If the show has taught me anything, it’s that if it’s too good to be true it probably is. Terminus gives off the appearance of being a peaceful sanctuary, but so did Woodbury.
- Never thought I’d say this, but I miss Beth. Anybody else bothered by how little anyone seems to care about her? Daryl gave up tracking her almost as soon as he started (it can’t be that hard to follow a Buick in the end!verse), and Maggie still hasn’t said boo about her last bit of family.
- There’s no logical reason not to go around the train tunnel. If Maggie’s at Terminus, then why take a needless risk? Why not make sure they get there safe and sound? And why the hell would Bob, Sasha, and Maggie have gone through the tunnel in the first place? Why not just leave a note at the entrance saying “we went around, dumbass” and then, oh, I dunno, go around? The whole thing is completely stupid, even for The Walking Dead.
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.