Spoiler Warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen “The Walking Dead” season five, episode seven, titled “Crossed.”
Compared to the streamlined narratives of the past few episodes, which focused on small groups of characters to achieve maximum dramatic impact, “Crossed” revisited all of our scattered survivors in an attempt to weave the disparate story threads back together ahead of next week’s midseason finale.
While it was good to check back in with Rick and Michonne after several episodes spent elsewhere, the hour had many masters to serve, and ended up feeling somewhat disjointed as a result. It succeeded in moving the chess pieces into their necessary places for next week’s dramatic showdown, but lacked the tension and urgency of “Slabtown” or “Consumed,” which was probably something of an inevitability when the season has been moving at such a brisk pace.
So far, season five has been strongest in its quietest moments, excavating moments of humanity and pathos between its characters, and that held true in “Crossed.” When we rejoined Sasha and Tyreese at the church, it was readily apparent that Sasha was still reeling from the loss of Bob — she had even taken to wearing his shirt — and despite Tyreese’s best attempts to draw her out from behind her defensive walls, she remained hardened and focused for much of the hour, shutting down any discussion of Bob until she accidentally ripped his shirt and almost had a meltdown in response. This moment of vulnerability allowed Tyreese to reach out and remind her that it’s not a weakness to accept help, and to reassure her that he knew full well that she could’ve stepped up and performed the gruesome task of preventing Bob from becoming a walker if she’d had to, but that being part of a family — whether related by ties of blood or brotherhood — means not having to face such hardships alone.
Sadly (and as has been a recurring theme this season), by reclaiming her humanity and trying to believe the best in people, Sasha was more easily double-crossed by one of Dawn’s duplicitous cops in Atlanta; she offered to help him put a zombiefied friend out of his misery, and he repaid her kindness by knocking her out and taking off, presumably to warn Dawn and the other cops at Grady that Rick’s gang was heading towards them to free Beth and Carol. No good deed goes unpunished in “The Walking Dead.”
Likewise, after last week’s developments — which seemed to see Carol slipping further away from any semblance of hope even as Daryl fought to forge a new, more humane path for himself — we saw further evidence of Daryl putting the lessons he learned while on the road with Beth into practice. He sided with Tyreese’s plan to try and trade some captured Grady cops for Beth and Carol, rather than Rick’s plan to sneak in and take the hospital by force (risking much more bloodshed), and when Rick came close to shooting one of the cops who had attacked Daryl (and almost succeeded in killing him), Daryl advocated mercy through logic, telling Rick that three hostages would be a better bargaining chip than two. This segment also provided the most nail-biting moment of the episode — almost a literal nail-biter, as Daryl fumbled to tear the head off one of the zombies to beat the cop with it, and almost got his fingers bitten as a result. The deliciously gory visual of Daryl poking out the walker’s eyes and tugging out the walker’s head and spinal cord in order to use its skull as a weapon provided a moment of absurd levity in an hour that was otherwise fairly utilitarian in setting up next week’s confrontation at Grady.
It’s been a long road for Daryl to get to this point from the shoot first, ask questions later mentality that kept him alive in the early days. In last week’s episode when Carol asked if Daryl had saved Beth and he responded, “she saved herself,” it’s becoming increasingly evident that it would’ve been just as accurate for him to say “she saved me” — perhaps not physically, but certainly emotionally. Now Daryl needs to pay it forward to Carol, and help her to recapture the belief that there are still things worth fighting for, even in such a broken world. We saw a spark of that faith restored when Daryl took care of the zombie mother and child in the shelter for her last week, but I’m not sure she believes that she’s worth saving at this point, any more than Eugene does.
Carol undoubtedly still has a lot to offer the group, but Eugene’s keen intellect is also a valuable resource, so it was nice to see the majority of Team “GREATM” rally around the lying genius — who spent the entirety of the episode continuing to lie (on the ground) after Abraham knocked him out. Maggie sheltered him from the harsh sunlight while Glenn, Rosita and Tara went to find water, and that allowed Maggie to talk some sense into Abraham, who remained near catatonic after Eugene’s betrayal in “Self Help.” After telling him to get over himself and reminding him that they had all lost something after discovering that there was no cure in Washington, Maggie finally got Abraham to admit that he still wanted to live, despite no longer having anything to live for (beyond simply living, at least) — and that’s pretty momentous progress for a man whose entire sense of identity and self-worth had been inextricably tied to the goal of getting Eugene to D.C. for a mission that never actually existed. The episode also allowed some vague character development for Rosita, as she and Glenn and Tara went fishing in a nearby creek, but she remains the least defined character in the gang so far, and aside from a vague mention that she was traveling with another group and met Abraham and Eugene in Dallas, her backstory (and much of her personality) remains a mystery.
The season’s biggest question mark continues to be Father Gabriel, who definitely isn’t handling the sudden influx of violence and bloodshed into his life very well. After watching Sasha, Tyreese and Daryl dismantling the church around him earlier in the hour, his mental state continued to unravel, and the episode laid the religious allegory on pretty thick in his scenes. First, he seemed disturbed when Carl and Michonne nailed the church doors shut, evoking the imagery of Jesus being nailed to the cross; then he began compulsively scrubbing at the bloodstained wood of the church floor with his hand and wrist, seemingly unable to bear seeing the House of God so tainted. Later, just to hammer the crucifixion imagery home (pun intended), he pried up the floorboards in his office to sneak out of the church unbeknownst to Michonne and Carl, only to find his progress hindered when he stepped on another nail outside, which drove up through his foot. Preferring to ignore that fairly blatant sign that he was probably straying off course, he limped into the wood, where he was set upon by a walker. Though he impaled her on a broken tree stump (or a spear through the side, if we want to labor our metaphor further), he found himself unable to bash her head in once he caught sight of the cross necklace around her throat — was she another congregant he doomed to such a hellish fate?
It seems as though it’s not Gabriel’s faith that’s being tested, its his conscience, and it would appear that God is pretty eager to convict him for turning a blind eye to the suffering of his neighbors, even while extending the olive branch of the group, who could offer him a form of salvation if he’d just let them in. While Michonne initially tried to reach out to him (after Carl traumatized him by trying to teach him about defending himself with a fairly graphic description of the best way to handle a machete), it looked like Gabriel wasn’t ready to accept her help, but if he survives his ill-conceived jaunt in the woods, perhaps he’ll be a little more amenable to accepting the kindness of strangers.
And even as Rick and the others plotted to overthrow Dawn, the cop showed her own spark of humanity by giving Beth the key to the medicine cabinet so that she could try and save Carol’s life, even after one of the other cops declared the need to take her off life support. Is Dawn just a good person trapped in a bad situation like everyone else (Dr. Edwards doesn’t seem to think so), or does she have an ulterior motive for her Good Samaritan routine? We’ll find out next week, when Rick and Daryl launch their rescue attempt.
“The Walking Dead” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.
Do you think Dawn is just misunderstood? Is Father Gabriel more of a hindrance than a help? Do you believe all our survivors will make it through the midseason finale alive? Share your predictions below.