Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Walking Dead Recap, Episode 5.5: Self-Help

Sorry this is so late this week. Crazy week. 

Episode 5: Self-Help


So this episode left out Rick's group back at the church and the Daryl/Carol/Beth story line. (Argh!) It focused on the group that left on the short bus last week. Abraham, Rosita, Eugene, Maggie, Glen and Tara.

We start out with them on the road, and everyone is in pretty good spirits. Rosita quips with Abraham about cutting his hair, and he is obviously glad to be on the move again. Glen and Maggie hope that Daryl and Carol have returned, and the rest of the group is behind them on the road, and will catch up soon. This part was cute. It's like, they know it might be a foolish hope, but they're just trying to be positive, as Maggie and Glen always are. Eugene is the only one who doesn't seem happy. Tara asks him what's wrong--if he's dwelling on what happened at the church the previous night. He says it's that, but also the future.

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Glen starts asking questions about the cure, and Eugene goes back into "that's classified" mode. Glen calls him down for it, but Eugene insists that if the world goes back to how it was, some secrets might need to be kept. Glen also asks why Eugene keeps the mullet. Eugene says simply that he likes it and no one is cutting it. Period.

Just as they drive past some walkers on the side of the road, the bus suddenly blows something (I was sure it was a tire) and swerves, speeding out of control. They drive up over a wrecked car on the shoulder and totally get air before the bus lands on its side. Of course this happened close to walkers, so not only do they have to exit the bus because the engine is on fire, but they have to deal with walkers. Which they do, pretty well. Eugene even gets his first walker kill. Sort of. He's afraid to the leave the bus and fight them, but Tara tells them to be brave. She says their screwed either way, and when that's the case, courage is always a choice. (Profound words, Tara.) Outside the bus, Eugene kind of shoves a walker away from Tara (kind of saving her) which gives her time to whirl around and finish the job. (Go Eugene!)

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At this point, we start seeing short flashbacks of Abraham, but I'll talk about them all together at the end. 

They're only 15 miles from the church, and the others suggest going back, but Abraham freaks out and refuses. Glen assures him that no one will stop or go back if he doesn't want them to. Meanwhile, Abraham has busted open a cut on his hand that he got the night before at the church. It's bleeding again. This ends up being a motif of sorts throughout the episode. 

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They come to the next town and hole up in a bookstore (my kind of refuge; and I totally get that they need to survive first and foremost, but I don't have to be happy about the fact that they were burning books for fuel, especially to boil toilet water. Ugh.). As they hunker down for the night, Glen and Abraham have an interesting conversation about how everyone who is left alive in the world is pretty strong. The weak ones have all been eradicated by now. Abraham says either they're strong and decent, so you help each other, or they're strong and indecent, so you have to kill them to survive.

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Then he and Rosita decide to get it on. There's not much sex in this show, so I'm always a bit surprised to see it. Until now, it was unclear (at least to me) if he and Rosita were actually together. Yeah, question answered. Eugene, being just a little bit creepy, watches them from behind the "self-help" bookshelf. Hence the title. Tara sees that he's watching and pulls him away. She tells him that he saved her today, and that he's doing well.

It's then that he tells her that he sabotaged the bus. He put crushed glass in the fuel line. So not a blown tire after all. He'd hoped the bus would fail long before they got on the road. It took much longer than he'd thought it would and nearly killed them. (This was perhaps why he wasn't as happy as the others during the ride. He'd thought the bus would die long before it did.) Tara gets mad at him, asking why he would do that. His answer is vague. First he says he knows unequivocally that he can't survive on his own. Then he says that, if for any reason he can't cure the virus, he won't have any value, and no one will have any interest in keeping him alive anymore. Tara assures him that that isn't true. Because they're his friends, they'll protect him no matter what. His answer kind of makes sense. It's like people who want something, but sabotage it because they're afraid of success. It's still really vague, though. 

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Meanwhile, Maggie and Glen lay awake and talk. Maggie feels guilty for leaving the group, but Glen tells her not to. They're moving forward, and that's all they can do.

The next day, Abraham and Rosita argue about maybe taking a day to recuperate and stock up on supplies before moving on. Abraham doesn't want to stop because every time they do, something goes wrong and they either lose people or get distracted from the mission. 

Outside they find a fire truck covered in walker gore. At first it starts, but they only drive it a few feet before it dies. Not until they move it does it become obvious that it was holding the door to a building shut. Suddenly walkers are pouring out and a fight ensues. Eugene once again finds his inner hero. He goes to the top of the truck and uses one of the hoses against the walkers. This was all kinds of nasty. Because walkers are just decomposing bags of sludge by now, the water pressure literally took their heads and limbs off. But, Eugene sort of saved everyone. Then they took off in the truck.

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It stalls again down the road, and they have to stop. When they do, Maggie goes to talk to Eugene. She says she likes his hair and that he shouldn't cut it. She says he's not like other scientists. He's not who people think he is, and that's why he wants to keep his hair in the mullet. She then goes into the story of Sampson (who also never cut his hair) and how Sampson kept secrets and came up with riddles that no one else had any hope of solving, because it was just stuff from his own life, out of his own head. It's hard to figure out what the point of this conversation is, or why it's included, at least at this point. Eugene looks somewhat disturbed, though. Maggie is trying to pay him a compliment, saying that he managed to survive this long, and that's something, but Eugene insists that it was due to others, and had nothing to do with him.

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Before they can finish talking, a horrible stench comes on the wind. The group walks up the road, over a slight rise to try and ascertain what it is. Ahead, there are farms covered in walkers for as far as the eye can see. They're far enough away not to be in danger, but, especially with an unreliable vehicle, there's no way they're getting through that way. 

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Glen suggests a detour, and Abraham freaks out again. Glen tries to explain that he doesn't want to go back, just take a detour so they can get through. Abraham is having none of it, though. They all argue, even Rosita telling Abraham that Glen is right, but he's not persuaded. He grabs Eugene's arm and yanks him back down the street as a parent would a disobedient child. It's obvious that Abraham is just going to throw Eugene onto the fire truck and go, whether the others agree or not. As they all struggle, people start shoving and the fight becomes physical. 

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Then comes the big reveal. Eugene shouts that he isn't a scientist. He can't cure the disease. It was all a lie. 

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While the rest of the group look on in utter astonishment, he explains that he knew he couldn't survive on his own, and had no value to anyone. The only way he could think to survive was to con people into protecting him. Now, of course he's smart--chances are his IQ is off the charts--but that just means he thinks fast on his feet and can come up with convincing lies on the spot. He doesn't know anything about pathogens or germ warfare. He can just sound scientific enough to be convincing. He only wanted to go to D.C. because he honestly believes that's the place with the highest chance of survival. Suddenly it makes sense why Eugene didn't want to go to D.C. and kept sabotaging the mission. As well as why he was so uncomfortable when Maggie said he wasn't like other scientists, and compared him to Sampson, a man of secrets. She was hitting a major nerve, though she didn't realize it.

Near the end of this explanation, Abraham punches Eugene in the face, several times. He face-plants hard on the road, and when they turn him over, he's barely conscious. As the episode ends, it's not even clear if he's okay. 

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Abraham walks up the road and falls to his knees, crying. His mission, which has kept him going for so long, was all a lie. 

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Throughout the episode, we've seen short flashbacks of Abraham from before he met Rick and co. First, we saw him killing someone. He was bludgeoning some guy with a can and it was nasty. I just figured it was a walker. Then he went to find his wife--Ellen, apparently--and two children. I noticed the boy had orange hair, like him. When he found them, they were hiding. But they weren't particularly happy to see him. They almost seemed afraid of him. When he awoke the next day, they were gone, leaving a note that said not to come after them. He did, of course, and found them dead at the hands of walkers. When that happened, he pulled out his gun and put it in his own mouth. Before he could pull the trigger, he heard someone calling for help. It's Eugene, running (in the slightly retarded, ineffectual way that only Eugene can) from walkers. Abraham gets to his feet, dispatches the walkers quickly, then, ignoring Eugene completely, walks back toward the bodies of his family. 

Eugene, realizing Abraham can protect him, follows. You can see him coming up with the lie in his head, right there on the spot. He says, "Wait. You can't go. I have a very important mission." And Abraham...turns around.

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A couple of things about this. Whatever happened with his family, that made them flee from him, is unclear in the episode. I always watch The Talking Dead right afterward, in which the actors talk about the episode. Here they explained that his family had been raped by the group they were traveling with. That group consisted of friends and neighbors they'd known before the virus hit; the last people in the world he would have expected to do something like that. So, the dude he was bludgeoning at the beginning wasn't a walker, but had been living before Abraham got to him. His family was afraid, at least in part, because of the violence they saw Abraham do. Now, he's a soldier, and so often has to kill for a living, but it's not a level of brutality his wife or children had ever seen from him. Between that, and being messed up over the rape, the wife obviously just made a bad decision and took off with the kids. Where they all met their deaths at the hands of walkers. Not a good situation (poor Abraham!) and also not one (I mean the rape) that AMC could show in great detail, which is why it was unclear. 

Now, obviously Abraham hasn't dealt with this tragedy emotionally. That's why he needed the mission to keep him going. That's why the symbol of his hand bleeding is so appropriate. He's going to keep bleeding until he reaches emotional catharsis, and decides to live for himself and the group, despite what has happened. It will be interesting to see where his character goes from here. 

I actually felt sympathy for Eugene. Yeah, he lied, and people died trying to protect him, but anyone who has enough of a conscience to finally come clean, no matter when they do it, gets points in my book. Besides, this was the only way he knew to survive. Everyone does what they have to--that's a series theme--and this is what he did. Now, he realizes there are no good options, and maybe he can become a contributing member of the group.

I also thought the end of this was done masterfully. It was almost like watching a full-on prequel that ends with this haunting prophecy of what the viewer already knows is going to happen next. 

Overall, this wasn't my most favorite episode, just because, as I said at the beginning, I'm way more invested in the Daryl/Carol/Beth story line, but I still enjoyed the character development with both Abraham and Eugene, and this was a big reveal that needed to happen sooner rather than later. It will change the set-up for the whole rest of the season, as I'm thinking no one's going to be as gung-ho about going to D.C. now, and that's where everyone assumed they were heading. Now, it's anyone's guess.

What did you think of this episode? Do you have sympathy for Eugene? How about Abraham? Where do you think the group will head next?


4 comments :

  1. I always suspected there was something wrong with Eugene. I don't know where they'll head next, but I'm sure they reunite with Rick's group again :)
    And I can't wait for next episode to find out who's Daryl bringing with him!

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    1. Yeah, I'm hoping Maggie and Glen and co. will reunite with Rick and co pretty quick. My current theory is that Daryl will run into Noah and bring him back to the church to get the rest of the group as backup, and then they'll all go to Atlanta to rescue Carol and Beth. Guess we'll find out, though. I'm super-excited for this week's episode, too! Thanks for stopping by! :D

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  2. They did say in the episode that the church was only 15 miles back. So maybe they turn around and find rick's group before they head off with Daryl to save Beth and Carol. Matt @ JC's Book Haven.

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    1. Yeah, I hope so, Mat. I really want the whole group to be together. They gotta quit splitting up. It never works out well! :D

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