Review: The Walking Dead ‘What Happened and What’s Going On’

Returning to The Walking Dead after a 2-month hiatus, I have to wonder what the show is going to offer me that feels different than previous seasons. We’d fallen into a little bit of a pattern with the survivors finding shelter, losing that shelter due to attacks from zombies or other humans, and losing human lives (supporting characters) along the way. So, now halfway through its fifth season, what are they going to show me that I haven’t already seen before?

It’s not that I’m not in to The Walking Dead, but I do need to be coaxed back into the routine after a bit of a break. Right at the start, though, “What Happened and What’s Going On,” gave me what I was craving.

There was a new sense of camerawork at play – complete with lens flare and flashbacks – that gave a fresh perspective as the survivors bury the recently departed Beth and weep over their loss (or so we think). It bounces back and forth from old locations to new ones and speaks to those who have gone before (Lizzie and Mika making a cameo) – sort of a visual memory play – as the survivors decide what steps to take next. It’s as artistic a sequence in the series as I’ve ever seen and a good sign of new things to come.

What you don’t realize, watching this for the first time, is that it’s foreshadowing many of the episode’s signature events.

Now on the road in two vehicles using walkie-talkies to communicate, the survivors are headed for a safe location they’ve heard about somewhere outside of Richmond. This macabre road trip gives us the opportunity to see some new scenery at least, no matter how much the new, burned-out and broken down scenery looks like the old, burned-out and broken down scenery.

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One group eventually pulls over and parks in the woods, choosing to proceed on foot. They quickly reach their destination – a walled and gated community that held a personal connection to Noah, the young man they rescued from Grady Memorial. Unfortunately, every house appears burned out and its inhabitants dead save a handful of staggering zombies.

This setback leaves a few moments of thoughtful recollection as Rick, Noah, Tyreese, and Glenn start to process their previous setbacks (the loss of “Washington,” Beth’s death). Noah returns to his apparent home and covers what appears to be the corpse of his mauled mother.

It’s all this pausing for reflection that brings down their collective guard, and it’s Tyreese who pays the price. Stopping to look at pictures of young children (Noah’s brother? It’s never clear.), Tyreese is attacked and bitten by a young zombie. Dying from infection, Tyreese begins to hallucinate and is visited by ghosts from his past – the Governor, Lizzie, Mika, Bob, and the Terminus member who held him captive with Judith in a cabin. This being The Walking Dead, one of the ghosts turns out to be a zombie that attacks (and bites) Tyreese again. If he wasn’t dead before, then he’s surely dead now…

Outside, desperate for shelter and safety, Michonne pleads to Rick and Glenn for a chance at Washington, DC, after all. With Washington only 100 miles away, Rick agrees. Couldn’t hurt, right? That’s TBD.

Tyreese continues to hallucinate further, this time with Beth serenading him in a morbidly bizarre sequence somewhere out of Stephen King literature. Still, this is the kind of new work I wanted out of Dead. It’s a game-changing, chance-taking artistic achievement that grounded the best episode of last season – “The Grove.” While this one isn’t nearly as gut wrenching as that classic, it still gets points for not letting Tyreese go quietly into that bad night. He tries to rage against dying, struggles to survive against the very real threat of a zombie infection in his bloodstream.

It also gets points for setting up a brilliant shock cut of Lizzie and Mika holding Tyreese’s hand into death that jumps to Rick and gang holds Tyreese in place long enough to slice off his arm.

As Tyreese finally succumbs to the blood loss, Beth sings him into death in a very touching eulogy of sorts. I’d wanted something new from The Walking Dead and, even though they continue to drop favorites, they’re at least doing it with a higher degree of difficulty. This kind of artistic achievement is difficult to pull off reliably, but, when it’s done right, it’s done well.

Few watchers of The Walking Dead will soon forget Tyreese’s face as he stares into the light – the last thing he sees on Earth. And the last thing we see is Tyreese’s trademark knit cap atop his makeshift cross.

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