A Closer Look: The Walking Dead – “Strangers”

Coming off its insane Season 5 premier, The Walking Dead kept this season going with another powerful episode. Is everyone out there truly too far gone or are there still some good people left? With powerful religious imagery and beautiful parallels to the comics, let’s take a closer look at this week’s episode “Strangers”.

To Err Is Human; To Forgive, Divine:

A huge theme this episode was forgiven and coming to terms with what happened in the past. As Michonne put it, it’s not the pre-apocalypse stuff that you miss or effects you anymore; but rather what’s happened in this new world – the loss of Andrea, Herschel, her sword, etc – and this group has had a lot of losses that they need to come to terms with. The two focal points of reconciliation come from Carol and Tara.

Carol Walking Dead

Carol has already made her peace with Tyreese about killing and burning those flu victims; but Tyreese wants everyone else to be ok with it too. When she discusses it with Rick, he even admits that he was wrong and she probably knew things she didn’t. Considering everything that’s happened, Rick realizes that Carol path was the right way and even asks for them to join her. This is huge because it’s pretty much been a Rick-tatership ever since the end of Season 2; but here he is asking for them to join one, rather than accept one into the group.

Though there seems to still be one aspect of Carol that they can’t yet come to terms with: the deaths of Lizzie and Mika. They had no other course of option; but it still weighs so heavily on their hearts that they can’t even bring themselves to bring it up. All the group knows is that the girls didn’t make it; but the effects on Carol and Tyreese are still visible. Tyreese refuses to kill anymore; and Carol is trying to banish herself, which makes me think that Daryl will be the first to learn of the kids’ fate when he asks why she was getting ready to leave.

Maggie forgives Tara

The other side of the forgiveness theme concerns Tara. Though she herself did nothing wrong, she feels guilty for being with the Governor when he attacked the Prison and killed Herschel. So in her case, it’s less about what she did and more about what she didn’t do/let happen. Though when she confronts Rick about it, he admits that he knew she and most of the other people didn’t want to be there. Whatever happened in her past, its where she is now; and by her and Glen mutually saving each other, she is now part of the group.

Though this would be enough to let it go, seeing Glen and Maggie together made her feel guilty about her past and how she isn’t really part of the group until she’s come clean. So while in the church Tara confesses her identity to Maggie. Despite this being a hard truth to hear, Maggie forgives Tara for her association; and once again mirrors Rick’s words by saying that she’s there with them now, which is all that matters. Wherever our heroes have found themselves, they’re together now; and that’s all that counts. As Darryl said, it’s time for them all to start over; but does that include their latest recruit too?

Father Gabriel – Sinner Or Saint?:

It’s been approximately 2 years since the world fell apart. So how would you feel if you found a man that still cowered and threw up at the sight of a single zombie? In a world where only the strong survive and sanctuary doesn’t exist, the odds of their being someone untouched by reality is slim to none, so how do you explain Father Gabriel? This question puzzles the group as a whole, which even results in Rick adding a 4th Question to his usual Three Questions – which btw was an excellent choice in continuity to bring in.

Despite Rick asking, “What have you done? We’ve all done something.”, Father Gabriel remains silent and maintains that only God may know his sins. Though as the episode progresses we get some clues as to why he might feel so guilty. The knife marks and carvings on the outer door “You’ll burn for this” suggest that he locked the doors to someone(s) seeking sanctuary from the apocalypse – which is a fair and human response to a frightening situation. Though this matter becomes even more guilt inducing once we put together some other clues.

Father Gabriel

The photo of the woman he was standing with could be someone he was seeing romantically – which is a breaking of his priestly vows. Though you’d have to wonder why he didn’t open the doors to her and why she was in that soup kitchen basement; but then it all makes sense. The cans in the church were heading to that soup kitchen, so if a group of people were blocked from the Church the next best bet would be to head to that soup kitchen. So right now it seems as though Father Gabriel’s sin was locking the doors of his church not only to those in need; but also to the woman he loved.

This is why he broke down when he saw the zombified version of that woman; and why he accepted death so easily. So Gabriel’s not really a bad man, just a scared one. Though if anyone from that group remains alive and seeks vengeance, Rick wants no part of it and will kill Gabriel if he has to. Though the danger might not be from Gabriel himself; but just the fact that they’re waiting around in the first place.

Take A Breather Or Keep Moving To DC:

Remember that time Abraham suggested that everyone should head to DC; but the others opted to take a breather at sanctuary turned hellhole called Terminus? Well he hasn’t; and that is exactly why Abraham is pushing the group to keep pushing forward and not find a new place to set up camp. Whereas there’s good points on both ends, their situation seems to be once again rapidly deteriorating into Abraham’s worst fears.

Church group

On the Pro DC side of the argument, Eugene says that DC has food, shelters and places to restock and resupply on various types of ammunition. Additionally, DC also makes sense for long term since this apocalypse doesn’t seem to be something that you can just wait out – which seems true considering we met an almost purely skeletal walker this episode. On the other side of the argument, the group needs to find transport, weapons and a few more supplies to make the trek a successful one. Rick also feels that what the world is now IS real life; and no miracle cure can change it back so fast. Ultimately, the crew decides to head to DC; but is it already too late? Has something already found them?

The Termite Hunters & Tainted Meat – Comic Parallels:

“You are not safe… It only takes one second and it’s over. Never let your guard down.” – Rick

Rick might as well have been talking about The Walking Dead as a whole in this quote from this episode. Just when everything seems to be going well and ending on a happy note, you realize that there’s still 12 minutes left and something terrible is probably going to happen. We should have seen it coming too! Last episode Rick wanted to go back and kill every last Termite; but then they just moved on instead. Now Darryl feels like they’re being followed. Add in the fact that Bob – still happy go lucky – and Sasha had FINALLY gotten together; and we already know the intended target and perpetrators.

Though as shocking an “NOOOO” a closing as this was, it actually set up a possibly beautiful parallel to the original comics. In the comics, a similar situation happened after meeting Father Gabriel with Dale – still alive at the time in the comics – who was abducted by a small pack of cannibals calling themselves “The Hunters”. Gareth’s speech to Bob about this “not being personal” mirrors the words of the Hunters in the comics. Additionally, since the Hunter’s origin was never fully flushed out in the comics, the whole Terminus situation adds a much greater depth to this dark tale. Though there is still more to this parallel to be seen.

Termites Hunters Bob's Leg

Judging from how Bob was acting after the soup kitchen raid and the fact that he was crying before being abducted makes it seem as though he actually WAS in fact bitten. He was saying goodbye to Sasha and going off into the woods to turn before hurting anyone. Gareth and his hunters wouldn’t have known this, so they probably just ate tainted flesh. The almost exact sane situation happens in the comics – again, with Dale – but the Hunters reason that the food was safe because it was cooked and he was unturned. This theory is never shown to be true or false in the comics due to the Hunter’s swift demise by Rick and the group; but it’ll be interesting to see how the show adapts this. Perhaps we’ll find out if the theory was true or not.

Other Noticeable Points/Easter Eggs:

  • So rather than shoot the walkers in the collapsed soup kitchen – or fashion a long skewer – Rick and the gang decide to climb down and try to block them off. REALLY?!?!?! Did they forget what happened the last time they tried an overly elaborate plan to deal with Walkers in water *cough* Season 2 Glen & the Well Walker *cough*
  • As I mentioned last week, the walkers are continuously decaying and thus becoming more skeletal. This week we saw a walker – the one that grabbed and possibly bit Bob – that was basically all bones. As always, massive kudos to the special effects department.
  • Just as we saw Morgan following strange X-shaped tree markers last episode, this episode we saw strange markers around the Hunters that looked like sideways L’s.
  • When Father Gabriel noticed the zombified version of the woman in the photo, the pose he takes is eerily similar to the one of Christ during the crucifixion. This not only furthers the religious imagery of the episode; but also shows that Gabriel is ready to accept his death.
  • Is it weird that Tyreese is a better parent than Lori? Ok, that was mean; but let’s take a moment to appreciate how The Walking Dead plays with gender roles. As a big strong man, Tyreese would be typecast into ‘the big guy who hits stuff’; and even though he started there, he’s evolved into the man who refuses to kill and stays back with a baby. This adds layer upon layer of depth to his character. Now some might call this weakness; but there is nothing nobler than a man protecting a child. #InTyreeseWeTrust

Follow that Car Walking Dead white cross

With Carol and Daryl off chasing the car with the white cross in order to find Beth, Rick and the other will have to deal with the Termites – now Hunters. In the preview we hear that “3 are missing”; but does this mean more will go? Since Bob was kidnapped and Carol and Daryl went off without telling anyone, this could account for the 3 missing – meaning that no one else will fall victim to the Hunters. It’s just as Carl said earlier in the episode. They “don’t have to hide or be afraid”. I’m sure Rick and the group will take the fight to the Hunters and finish the job they started at Terminus – no let’s just hope they can circle back to Terminus and salvage all that loot/weapons for the long journey ahead.

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