It is a little humorous that this penultimate episode of The Walking Dead’s fourth season was more focused on the five newest characters and introduced one completely new character, while only having one tiny scene with Rick, who is ostensibly the lead of the show. Of course, we also have not seen Rick in about a month either, so it is nice to have the reminder in an episode that wants to remind us where everyone is, as it is basically a large setup for the big finale next week. There are some moments devoted to providing a nice calm before the storm that is bound to hit hard, given the players involved, but “Us” is really more of a table-setting episode than anything. As a result, it at least did enough to strengthen some of these characters, while doing plenty to set up the fireworks bound to go off in a week’s time.
“Us” has two main plotlines that eventually turn into three (Rick, Carl, and Michonne also have a scene, but that matters very little). I’ll begin with Daryl, as he is the least connected to the actions taking place elsewhere. With Beth gone, Daryl has decided to hang with his new scavenger buddies, learning the ways of the dickish, as he contends with one main rule. As Joe puts it, if Daryl wants to get along with the gang, he needs to call out “claimed” in order to have a say on things. Learning this rule is established by the jerkiest of the scavengers antagonizing him in the kind of way that could only lead to an eventual death (which comes quicker than I hoped), but the best aspect of this plotline is how solid actor Jeff Kober is, as Joe seduces Daryl back to the dark side. While Daryl is a grown man and I don’t expect him to turn his back on others he cares about, just because Joe has some fitting sage advice to offer to a fellow badass, I do like the work done by these two in an effort to move things past “Daryl frantically searches for Beth” plotlines that could be here instead.
The later revelation that Joe does have a particular plan in mind, which involves finding the one responsible for killing one of his guys is a bit convenient, but the show has done a fine job of putting these pieces together for me to be accepting of this arrangement of the plot. What helps is the way it puts me into the mind of Joe. I do not expect to have to deal with Joe next season (though I would not be surprised if I did either), but given that Joe and his group seemingly have nothing to live for except the occasional goal, which just so happens to involve The Walking Dead’s lead character this time around, there is a level of intrigue that remains in the man who seems agreeable enough with Daryl, but surely has plenty of ideas on how to handle those he thinks to have wronged him, which I am sure we will learn about next week as well.
Moving on, the main character of this episode must be Glenn, given that he has “the A plot” involving his continued search for Maggie. It is nice to see that come to a close this week, but at the same time, this extended focus on Glenn’s search made me realize how selfish it actually is. Bear with me, but while Glenn and Maggie have been separated for the majority of this season, which has really only amounted to a few days at most. Given the world that these characters live in, sure, not knowing where your loved one is and having that as an only goal (much like Joe’s only goal being revenge) is certainly the best way to stay active, but the search is coming at the cost of other things; namely the safety others and the possibility of saving the world.
I am pointing this out because I can see what this kind of plotting is and while I wouldn’t call it sloppy, I would say it’s more functional than effective, which is what makes this episode, as a whole, fairly average, despite letting its characters have an emotional catharsis, and featuring solid performances in general (save for one, which I’ll get to). If last week’s episode felt average to me, due to a sacrifice of strong and well-thought out writing in favor of a shocking event and two very well-performed scenes at the end, then this episode feels average based on how content it was with doing just enough to movie around the carefully set up puzzle pieces on the game board that is a map to Terminus.
Maybe I have gotten a bit off track here, but getting back to Glenn’s journey this week, he and Tara split off from Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene in favor of the Tunnel O’ Death. They head inside and guess what – this tunnel has a lot of death in it. This does not stop Glenn though, as he has been seeing signs made by Maggie, which are now forcing him to move faster and faster. Things come to a head when Tara gets herself stuck and Glenn is forced to make a key decision. It does help that Glenn ends up staying to help get Tara away from these tunnel walkers. While Glenn has slipped out of the top position as my favorite character on the show a while ago, as his only purpose is now to be head over heels in love with Maggie, he is still the nice and dependable guy at heart, which makes me glad to see him trying to save a character that I am liking more and more.
Getting to Abe, Rosey, and Gene Gene the Asperger machine; I cannot help but continue to like this crew. Even if I believe Christian Serratos to be giving a pretty forced performance as Rosita (though to her credit, she put some pants on for this episode), this crew continues to be made up of people who know exactly who they are and do not seem annoying to me. They may argue and have strong opinions, but they at least have motivation and a much needed sense of humor about things. I could stick with Abraham for an entire episode at this point and would not be surprised if the show gives us that next season. Michael Cudlitz is the kind of thing this show needs; similar to the arrival of Michonne at the end of season two, with the exception of the fact that Abraham is more than just an interesting new dynamic in a show made up of dour people, as he has continued to be fun after his initial appearance.
When this group continues on, in a new minivan, without Glenn and Tara, it is only a matter of time before Eugene reveals that he has led the vehicle to where Glen and Tara should be, if the tunnel thing worked out. It didn’t, but low and behold, they run into Maggie, Sasha, and Bob, only to form a super group, which then saves Glenn and Tara. This leads to that nice moment where Glenn and Maggie finally reunite. It is sweet and even if I think burning Maggie’s photo is a terrible way to symbolize being together forever and all that sappy nonsense, at least these two can work together as one and ideally work with the others in a more cooperative manner, now that the “help save my betrothed” thing is done.
Surprisingly, I was more creeped out by the ending of this episode than the actions of Lizzie in general. Okay, so maybe it is more of a tie, but regardless, despite the sunny song playing on the soundtrack and the friendly nature of this Mary character, nothing at all sat right with me about the arrival at Terminus. The new super group seems to be safe for now, but given that Rick is on the way (and bad things always seem to follow him), this safe feeling is going to be short-lived. It will be up to the finale to show us whether the safety ends because of Rick and Joe, or because Terminus was never all it was hyped up to be to begin with. I am excited to find out, either way.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: One of those drifters killed a morning walker and then promptly took a piss…likely on it.
- Tara has a look on her face, following a long day of talking with Eugene about video games that was priceless. Yes, she is growing on me.
- “Let Mama Be” was written on the minivan windshield, before Abraham got it off, with the wipers. That’s a nice bit of dark visual storytelling in five seconds or less.
- Despite how much I enjoyed the Joe character, “Claimed” has to be one of the dumbest rules fit for this group of dirty drifters.
- Maggie knows she has a sister named Beth, right?
- So obviously Terminus has bad vibes coming from it right? I’m saying they’re cannibals, what do you people think?
- 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.