‘The Walking Dead’ Review: “Strangers”
‘The Walking Dead’ season 5 brings to life its 2nd episode with “Strangers,” as the group takes shelter with the mysterious Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), before making a decision about Abraham's proposed plan for D.C., while Bob discovers a new horror lurking in the woods from the ashes of Terminus.
Last season’s ‘The Walking Dead’ premiere, “No Sanctuary,” saw Rick and the other survivors learning the true nature of Terminus, while Carol attempted to aid her friends in escaping the villainous compound, and Tyreese came to grips with the brutal reality of a new threat. So, what does the latest episode of season 5 bring? Does Rick show outside world who they're screwing with?
Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘The Walking Dead’ season 5, episode 2, “Strangers!”
There was very little to take away from last week’s premiere, which despite the more immediate questions about Terminus’ nature or some missing characters’ whereabouts, was almost always going to highlight the group’s escape from the compound. To its credit, “No Sanctuary” absolutely kicked things off with a bang, and made for some of the stronger action sequences of the series history, but understandably left little room for any real bits of exposition or character exploration. It isn’t surprising, then, to see “Strangers” shouldering the load of a more quiet, re-focusing hour, albeit with a few new bits of business to introduce.
First on the ‘Walking Dead’’s agenda this week was the long-expected introduction of Seth Gilliam’s Father Gabriel, now at least the third ‘Wire’ alum among the party, between Chad Coleman’s Tyreese and Lawrence Gilliard’s Bob (well, less so of Bob now). Gabriel definitely marks a change of pace for the series, both in highlighting such a clean-cut and specific preacher figure, and one so perpetually softened to the ways of the new world, at that. We’re not given very much to go on just yet, other than a fresh set of eyes with which to see some of our newly-reunited characters, and a few hints of a darker backstory than he lets on, though it was of interest to see Rick’s ever-evolving evaluation of strangers given a bit of a makeover once again.
Gabriel doesn’t present much of an outward threat, but Andrew Lincoln’s work with the character has taken Rick to a place of wary acceptance, not quite the burdened leadership of past seasons, but rather the willingness to see good in people, something Carl takes notice of as well. The same goes for Tara and Carol, as “Strangers” also allowed enough breathing room for a bit of catchup between the necessary parties, giving Rick more time to thank Carol, Carol to make her peace with Tyreese and Daryl, as well for Tara to make clear her role in the Governor’s assault, and ultimately Hershel’s death.
Of course, any good leader needs a quest, and it isn’t of much surprise to see that Rick would ultimately accept Abraham’s vision for Eugene’s cure in Washington. Abraham himself essentially spells out that the group wouldn’t have very much to lose by taking a minor road trip, and it isn’t exactly if Rick or the others had any specific plan for their future survival, nor ever does the series, really. The narrative hasn’t necessarily developed Eugene in such a way that the audience can really invest in the same hope that Abraham sees for the future, or Bob for that matter, but it definitely makes enough ample sense that Rick would willingly lead the group toward a hopeful goal, if only for lack of anything better to do.
And with any goal, there will be setbacks. “Strangers” of course gave us the stock zombie-killing supply run as well, and while it seemed rather glossed-over that the group would so willingly wade into murky waters, given the potential they’ve seen for hidden walkers in the past, the haul proved well worth it, at least for the while. We’re not given to see if Bob was somehow bit by the underwater ghoul, though by now ‘The Walking Dead’ has trafficked in enough stock horror moments that it would make the most sense of his mysterious departure for the group, or at least a karmic payoff for his sunny optimism with Sasha.
It wasn’t any surprise either to see Gareth and his ilk showing up again for a famous comic scene, albeit one that transplants Bob in for the long-deceased Dale. Last week’s premiere made the seemingly odd choice of keeping the cannibalism at Terminus somewhat obscured*, so I’m not sure how much surprise there is to be held in Gareth’s ultimate reveal, though certainly those going in with fresher eyes got a strong confirmation of the hunters’ rather unique villainy. The group makes an intriguing threat for Rick’s pack, now that either have lost the safety of Terminus, though like the abandoned sanctuary however, it remains unclear exactly how much the conflict could sustain the story over the next six episodes. If nothing else, the reveal of eating Bob’s leg remains an effective body horror trope, one that cleverly varies on the same “humans driven mad by power” we’ve seen covered by the series before
*I spoke to Andrew J. West about Gareth last Wednesday, and couldn’t help asking about the continued secrecy behind Terminus, which despite visual evidence never said the word “cannibal” aloud, nor highlighted any flesh being eaten. West admitted that there were more secrets to come from the group, even if producers couldn’t explicitly confirm that Gareth had survived, but it’s continually impressive the tight lid kept on spoilers, even days away from their expected reveal.
Season 4 definitely brought with it a few misfires, between the time-killing zombie flu, redshirt kills and the Governor’s retreaded villainy, so we’re glad to see season 5 keeping on such an effective roll thus far. “Strangers” understandably couldn’t keep up the same action beats as its predecessor, but still gave us plenty of new developments to play with in the meantime and some fairly gruesome walkers/cannibalism to keep the series’ sense of horror afloat. The threat of the hunters might end up exhausted quicker than we think, though the trip to DC and the search for Beth kept enough going on for the season to hum along nicely through its second hour.
AND ANOTHER THING...
- One of the aspects not printed with the actual interview, I also jokingly asked West if he'd turn up with Michonne's sword, given that Carol was only shown rescuing Daryl's crossbow from lockup. West of course couldn't answer, but the fact that its absence was drawn attention to here makes me think we'll see the blade again before long.
- Not everyone caught onto Robin Taylor's return as Sam in last week's opening minutes, given the length of time it'd been since the bit character appeared, and I imagine even less remember the significance of Rick and Carol exchanging watches.
- We'll give a pass for Bob's dire fate being telegraphed by his blissful happiness with Sasha, but come on, guys. Why would anyone wade into that water without at least checking around a few feet for submerged corpses?
- It's definitely a bit convenient that the cross-windowed car would happen to drive by that exact road at that exact moment, but its presence here didn't make much more sense than its initial appearance, so.
- Okay, NOW the cannibalism is confirmed. I will concede this, at last. And yes, that looks to have been Martin (Chris Coy) among the cannibals, who Tyreese claimed to have finished off last week. Not sure how he managed to keep that under wraps exactly, or why Martin doesn't look significantly more beat up.
Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of thrilling zombie killing? Were you surprised by the latest challenges out in the wild? Will Eugene turn out to be the savior of the zombie apocalypse after all? Stay tuned for more coverage of the ‘Walking Dead’ season 5, and join us next week for another all-new episode review of episode 3, "Four Walls and a Roof,” on AMC!