That’s more like it. Before watching this week’s episode, “Alone,” I had to explain to a friend what happened on the previous week’s episode, “Still,” because she missed it. Fortunately that took all of five seconds. It is not that exclusively character-focused episodes are bad, as at least two of them are among the best in this series, but it is hard for me to praise an episode that feels like it is spinning its wheels by telling us things that are basically already assumed. Daryl used to be a jerk little brother, next to the man in charge. Beth is sad about her dad dying, among other things. I get it. “Alone” finds a way to explore additional characters that we do not know much about, while also moving the actual story along. With only a few episodes left, I am much more satisfied with this approach.
This episode begins and ends with one of the show’s more mysterious characters, Bob Stookey, in an episode that could easily be titled, “What About Bob?” The vagueness of what groups Bob was involved with before he met up with Rick’s group and the fact that he is played by Lawrence Gillard, Jr., make him inherently interesting, but the show is still leaving much of that mystery intact for the time being, in favor of providing some simple, but effective bookends. It makes sense for the episode as a whole, as it revolves around what it is to be in this kind of world as a lone survivor versus what it means to have someone with you in some respect. We see Daryl deal with it, as he continues to bond with Beth, loses Beth, and then opts to join another group (for the time being). Sasha finds herself building up to admitting she is scared of being alone. Maggie is on a quest to find the one man she has found who “completes her” in a sense, after the world has changed. With Bob, we get an extended look, as the show opens on a montage of sad loneliness (much better than “The Chronicles of The Governor’s Beard) and closes with him walking alone again, until he meets back up with new “family.”
Moving away from Bob’s side of the plot, for now, the other half of this episode deals with Beth and Daryl. If last week’s episode was an example of how I would not like this show to deal with these characters, than “Alone” is a fantastic example of how it could effectively deal with them. Each post-Governor week of this season has been focused on providing the audience with looks at the various characters in this series on a more individual level. Even if these episodes have not all been amazing, it has been a good approach overall. The reason I found “Alone” to be a much more effective use of Daryl and Beth is due to the progression of some sort of story, while giving them some nice interplay throughout. One can argue this comes as a result of the previous week’s episode, but regardless, the two are more comfortable around each other at this point, and it leads to some nice moments between the two, without slowing the entire series down to show it.
Make no mistake, these two are still going to have their differences, as one could note in the scene where they discover the dead bodies being cared for in the funeral parlor, but it is a relationship that proved to be far more interesting this week, given that it dealt with a lot of the same ideas from the previous week, while also instilling more push into the proceedings. All of that and their story came to a shocking head when all hell broke loose and Beth was then kidnapped by some random car. Given that the show tends to follow some contrived routes at times, I was especially happy to be surprised by this occurrence.
Okay, so enough about Beth and Daryl, let’s get back to Bob and his female friends, Sasha and Maggie. Following a foggy battle with walkers, the trio continues their search for Glenn. They find the train tracks and the same kind of sign most of the other cast members have ran into at this point, indicating the place where this season is bound to end at, Terminus. Some debate occurs, which eventually finds Maggie heading out on her own, while Sasha and Bob squabble over what to do. This half of the story has inevitability to its outcome, as I never expected Sasha to head a different direction or anyone to die this episode, but at the same time, it allowed for Sasha and Bob to be explored a bit as characters.
Maggie is not all that necessary in this episode and it wisely does not cut back to her too often, as we know Maggie and what she is after. Sasha and Bob have not been all that developed and the episode, once again, does a good job of keeping them moving, while also delving into who they are and what they are about. As stated, this episode is basically dealing with coming to terms with having people with you, as opposed to going it alone. This concept is yet another string off the long-running series mantra that involves dealing with the dire nature of the world having ended and how to move on in a life filled with so many dead, but it is met with the idea of hope, which springs up every so often. Sure, not every episode of The Walking Dead has a dour conclusion, but seeing the show embrace the idea that things could be alright is nice to see clearly expressed once and a while, and given how scattered and lost most of these characters are, it is nice to see some tiny victories for our heroes; especially when they don’t involve massive fires.
From an action standpoint, The Walking Dead continues to deliver, but I should point out two sequences in particular. Daryl opening a door to find a pack of walkers was an effectively creepy and thrilling sequence. The claustrophobic hallways and a dead end in the basement amped up the tension, only to end on Daryl discovering the whole kidnapping scenario. Sasha ruining Maggie’s ice cream truck hiding spot was another fine sequence, as it comes on the heels of Sasha’s deep thoughts about what to do next. Seeing two strong female characters handle a group of walkers is fine (and it looked great and nasty), but finding a way to balance that with their development as characters, which is evidenced in Maggie’s well written speech about asking for help, was an even better conclusion.
It does not seem to matter much at this point whether next week will be another limited character episode or not, as it has been a good shift for the series as a whole. What will matter is if the next couple episodes can proceed down a similar path, before it likely unites them in the finale. Despite being effectively portrayed, walker violence is not something I necessarily crave and while this episode featured a good amount of it, it came along with some nice character work and advancement of the story. Sure, we are still stuck with a lot of dirty people walking through the woods, avoiding walkers, but again, it’s sometimes nice to just appreciate the tiny victories in this life.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Mainly because the practical thinking, but Maggie taking down the zombie and then using its blood to leave a note (“always leave a note”) was a good play.
- Additional titles for this episode: “When Daryl Met Bobby”, “Zombies in the Mist”, and “My Girl Beth”
- I really loved the shot of the walker not quite being able to reach Bob through his makeshift fence, while Bob stares back in the most emo moment of this episode.
- So I am aware that some are finding a lot more “sexual tension” between Daryl and Beth than I am. I am holding onto the thought that this is more a “brother-sister” vibe between them, but if you think AMC is all about shipping these two (separated by nearly 20 years) than so be it.
- “Toughest Person I’ve ever met” – Really Bob? Have you seen Michonne…or Daryl…or even Carl?
- What about Bob? Personally, I think Bob is bound to sacrifice himself for the greater good at the end of this season.
- “Why hurt yourself, when you can hurt other people?” – As I figured, we have not seen the last of the marauders that invaded Rick’s shelter a few weeks ago.
- I probably would watch an episode (or webisode) about the one-eyed dog. He’s probably seen some serious shit.
- Kidnappings, Terminus, and evil on-foot motorcycle gangs? Is it possible for this season to not end all scattered?
- Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what myself and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on the The Walking Dead TV Podcast.