Spoiler Warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen “The Walking Dead” season five, episode three, titled “Four Walls and a Roof.”
If you’re still reeling from last week’s gruesome denouement — which gave the Internet a welcome opportunity to coin the phrase “Bob-B-Que” — this week’s “Walking Dead” doesn’t offer much reprieve, picking up right where the last installment left off: with Gareth gloating over the apparent tastiness of Bob’s leg.
To further emphasize the nonexistent line between Gareth’s group and the walkers in the opening minutes, director Jeffrey F. January intercuts shots of the undead, mouths agape in insatiable hunger, with equally animalistic images of the hunters tearing into Bob’s flesh, before pointedly focusing on Gareth’s face, reflected in the glass behind which dozens of walkers are trapped, hungry for his flesh. “The Walking Dead” isn’t being particularly subtle with its imagery this season, but it’s a potent picture nevertheless.
“I’m being a human being here — I’m talking to you,” Gareth snaps at Bob with no trace of irony as Bob descends into hysteria, seemingly failing to grasp that it’s not the zombies’ lack of communication skills that makes them monsters. But Bob isn’t worrying about the walkers anymore, laughing hysterically as he watches the hunters enjoy the taste of him before confirming what many of us suspected last week — he was bitten at the food bank and his days are already numbered — gleefully telling the cannibals, “You idiots, I’m tainted meat.”
It’s a deliciously satisfying moment as Gareth’s posse begins spitting Bob out and panicking about the implications of eating contaminated flesh, though you can’t help but wish he’d given them ample time to digest. Surprisingly, Gareth doesn’t retaliate by killing Bob outright — instead, he delivers him back to the church, where the rest of the gang have noticed his absence, along with the disappearance of Daryl and Carol.
In the meantime, troubled Father Gabriel has finally revealed the sin that resulted in the ominous carvings on the side of the church to the rest of Rick’s group: he locked the doors after the dead rose, and as the congregation tried to get in, making enough noise to draw the walkers to them, they were devoured. “The dead came for them — women, children, entire families calling my name as they were torn apart, begging me for mercy. Damning me to hell,” Gabriel whispers, falling on his knees in front of an unmoved Rick, haunted by his own cowardice.
Since Rick isn’t much for pep talks these days, it’s just as well that they’re soon distracted by the return of Bob (accompanied by a scarlet letter A painted on the side of the church) — whose condition devastates Sasha. She’s determined to go out and seek revenge, despite Tyreese’s wise counsel that she should make the most of what little time she has left with Bob, since he wishes he could’ve spent more time with Karen before the end. He advises her to exercise forgiveness to help her heal.
“I should forgive them? For hurting him? For trying to kill us? What the hell is wrong with you?” Sasha asks incredulously, too close to her grief to fully comprehend his meaning. I don’t believe Tyreese is advocating forgiving the cannibals in the literal sense after their act of sheer barbarism — something wildly different from Carol’s act of mercy in killing Karen — but to forgive herself for failing to protect Bob, and to let go of her anger for her own sake, not for the sake of the hunters, before the rage destroys her as it almost destroyed Tyreese. Tyreese’s wisdom falls on deaf ears, and Sasha gives him a knife and tasks him with killing Bob if he stops breathing.
Abraham wisely wants to get the hell out of dodge with Eugene now that they know the group’s being targeted, but Rick refuses to leave while Daryl and Carol are still missing. Since these two alpha males are used to getting their own way, Rick and Abraham almost come to blows, and it takes Glenn’s calming influence and a promise that he and Maggie will accompany Abraham, Eugene and Rosita to Washington tomorrow if they agree to stay tonight and fight.
Battle lines drawn, they hatch a plan to take the fight to the cannibals, luring them into the church and sneaking up on them from behind. Rick shoots off Gareth’s trigger finger (fancy sharpshootin’, sheriff) and once our gang has the upper hand, Gareth falls upon his knees in front of Rick, with our hero limned in the light from the stained glass window like an avenging angel. There’s no point begging for mercy, Gareth knows, but ever the salesman, he makes his pitch anyway: “We used to help people — we saved people. Things changed, they came in and… I know you’ve been out there, but I can see it; you don’t know what it is to be hungry.”
He promises that they’ll never cross paths again, but Rick wisely points out that the hunters will clearly cross paths with other people. “You’d do this to anyone, right?” Without hesitation, Rick, Sasha and the others kill the cannibals just as brutally as they’d kill any walker, smashing heads and stabbing them again and again, because at this point, there’s no discernible difference. Rick Grimes always keeps his promises.
Maggie, Tyreese and Glenn look particularly shaken by the savagery, but it’s Father Gabriel who is truly horrified, gasping, “This is the Lord’s house.”
“No,” Maggie says, “it’s just four walls and a roof.” God has left the building, and His four walls are painted with bloodstains. But were the brutal acts that Rick and the survivors committed to defend themselves any worse than what Gabriel did in turning away the congregants who needed his help? It seems as if the good Father has a lot of soul-searching to do before he rushes to judge Rick’s violence. It’s said that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, an adage that’s embodied in Gabriel’s inaction.
I’m a little surprised that the show dispatched the cannibals so soon after introducing them, especially after the build-up of the first episode, which took the time to establish the motivation for their heinous acts. Still, this season has displayed a marked sense of momentum and confidence so far, and it’s refreshing that the producers aren’t drawing out the mysteries for too long just to fill time, as it sometimes felt at certain points last season. Would eating Bob’s “tainted meat” have killed them when everyone is technically already infected and capable of reanimating at the moment of their death? We’ll never know.
Another benefit of the showdown with the cannibals? One of them brought Michonne’s katana back, and she retrieves it with all the gravity of King Arthur pulling his sword from the stone.
The group bids a tearful farewell to Bob, who takes the opportunity to reassure Rick that he’s a good man and that he’s on the right path. In a truly gut-wrenching scene, Bob and Sasha share a final moment, but he dies before he can tell her the good that will come out of the bad in this situation. Ever the protective brother, Tyreese comes in to ensure Bob won’t rise as a walker so that Sasha doesn’t have to.
True to their word, Maggie and Glenn pack up to leave with Abraham and his crew, while the rest of the gang resolves to wait for Daryl and Carol to return. Abraham leaves Rick with a map and an unexpectedly poignant note: Sorry, I was an asshole. Come to Washington, the new world’s gonna need Rick Grimes. Shucks, they’ll be BFFs before we know it.
While digging graves later (one of the gang’s recurring hobbies), Rick and Tyreese share a moment to discuss Tyreese’s tumultuous journey to Terminus. Tyreese tells Rick, “It killed me.” Rick disagrees, and so do I. While it’s true that Tyreese has lost a lot of the confidence he had before, his ordeal on the road has arguably also made him more human, and far less like the walkers and the cannibals he’s encountered of late, which can only be a good thing for both him and the group. Rick certainly needs those voices of reason around him, especially with Glenn heading off with Abraham. Still, Tyreese let Martin live back at the cabin after telling Carol that he killed him, so he may have been partially responsible for allowing the hunters to track the group down and snatch Bob (not that killing Martin would’ve altered Bob’s ultimate fate, but it certainly might have avoided more bloodshed).
Elsewhere, Michonne and Father Gabriel reflect on the nature of guilt — Gabriel admits that telling the truth about what happened to his congregation has brought all the memories back, and he can still hear their screams. “That won’t stop,” Michonne tells him. “But it won’t be all the time.” They all have plenty of sins that they’ve learned to live with over time, and Michonne’s past continues to haunt her more than most, so it’s fitting that she’s the one to offer the priest some words of comfort. She hears a noise in the woods and comes across Daryl — he’s not alone, but before we learn who made it back with him, we cut to the credits. Curses!
To tide us over, AMC has released a preview from the opening scene of next week’s episode, which you can watch below. It’ll be a long week…
“The Walking Dead” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.
Will you miss Bob? Did you think that Gareth’s storyline was dealt with too quickly? Who do you think returned with Daryl? Share your reactions and speculation below.