It's interesting; the skipping around, quicker editing and action-heavy nature of tonight's episode of AMC's "The Walking Dead," titled "Alone," actually makes it a bit quicker and easier to recap.
That might seem a bit contradictory, when the last couple of weeks have drawn "nothing happened" critiques from viewers at home, but when there is a lot of dialogue and character development, you have to really think about and analyze it to get at what's special about each moment.
When the show is very action-driven, all you really need to say is "and then they killed 30 walkers."
That said, there's plenty to discuss this week!
Check out 15 highlights from the episode "Alone," which aired on Sunday, March 9. Warning: Spoilers ahead!
1. When you're alone, you're alone.
Over the last few weeks, the observation that Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.) just can't stop smiling has come up a few times. As the episode opens over "Blackbird Song" by "American Idol" season 9 winner Lee DeWyze, he's not smiling. Any concerns we had that it could be a flash-forward are soon put to rest when Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) show up, driving the vehicles they had before the fall of the prison and invite Bob to join their group.
We learn not long after this that the reason he's smiling now is that he wasn't stranded on the road alone again. In the world of "The Walking Dead," people who are left completely on their own seem to snap and wander through the world blessed with some odd invincibility, whether they fortify their location and go to war with the undead like Morgan Jones (Lennie James) or wander, seemingly unconcerned about your potential death at the hands of the snarling hordes, like Stookey here or The Governor (David Morrissey) in his solo episodes.
Getting back with a group, and then more importantly retaining a portion of that group after the catastrophic fall of the prison rather than being on his own again, is important to Bob and it explains his smiling in a manner far less menacing than what a lot of people (particularly readers of the comics, who know that he was an ally of The Governor in the source material) suspected.
2. Three Questions
If those three questions sound familiar, they ought to. When Daryl and Glenn ask him, "How many walkers have you killed?," "How many people have you killed?" and "Why?" those questions are the same ones Rick (Andrew Lincoln) asked Clara (Kerry Condon) in "30 Days Without an Accident," the season's premiere.
Nearly every episode since the fall of the prison has had an explicit reference back to "30 Days Without an Accident," making it clear that the episode is important to the development of the series as a whole (and why not? It was the first under a new showrunner, but also, one could cynically argue, pointing out that everything from The Governor's first attack on the prison last season until his attack in "Too Far Gone" was basically treading water and that you could more or less go from the season premiere to the midseason finale and not miss a whole lot that's "important" in between.
3. The walkers as a threat
At San Diego Comic-Con International last summer, executive producer Scott Gimple and his fellow executive producer Robert Kirkman, who created the comic books on which the show is based, both said that they had devised a plan to make the zombies more menacing. The idea was that the relative safety of the farm and then the prison had given the audience a sense that as long as the threat was only walkers and not something "serious" like a guy in a tank, you could just grab a shovel and take them out by the dozens.
They've done a fair job with it -- certainly being on the road and without shelter means the walkers have to be taken more seriously, and some not-so-lucky shots like Rick's in the restaurant in "After," Carl's trouble with the bedroom walker in that same episode, Abraham's weapons malfunction in "Claimed" or Maggie's here, have resulted in a sense that maybe they're harder to kill. I'm not sure this quite qualifies as making them a bigger threat, but between these things and the sheer numbers we've been seeing this year (see Daryl's difficulty later), they're making some headway.
And, yes, using local elements like fog to play this up is not only smart thinking but a classic horror movie trope.
4. Beth and Daryl
The Beth/Daryl relationship started out very distant and worked its way straight to "strained" last week, but they've settled into a nice groove come the start of this episode. It works well because then it doesn't seem quite so implausible how adorable they seem together when they find their momentary domesticity at the caretaker's house.
It's likely that by the time you're reading this, the phrase "serious piggyback" is already trending on Twitter.
And of course, there's the trap. That's bad luck for Beth ... but can you really call it luck? A lot seems to come together this episode. More on that later.
5. Should I Stay or Should I Go?
The Maggie (Lauren Cohan)/Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) disagreement about how to proceed -- look for true, long-term sanctuary or stake out someplace that's easily defensible in the short term -- is another common horror movie trope. It's just this side of that old idea that when you're stuck out in the woods in a storm with a car that won't start and a killer on the loose, there's always somebody saying that you just lock yourselves in a room and defend that turf, and somebody else who wants to make a break for town and look for somebody who can swoop in to save the day.
Ultimately, depending on the movie you're watching, either one of them could go horribly wrong.
6. "There's still good people"
Daryl and Beth have seemed to have the most harrowing experience of all of our survivors since the fall of the prison; while Glenn is functionally alone with a caravan of not-too-friendly strangers, that group all found common cause of a sort pretty quickly. It took a few episodes for Daryl and Beth to do the same, during which time they were largely surviving, not living.
It's a testament to the season's theme of faith (passed down by Hershel) that Beth still believes there are good people in the world ... but of course, once she says it, the pair are bound to find some pretty awful ones by the end of the night.
7. Living, not surviving
Another theme of the series as a whole is the difference between just surviving and actually having something of a life. We see Daryl and Beth trying to act really human here and it's something that Beth has been attempting since the beginning of last week's episode. But when Daryl joins her in the act, it seems almost peaceful.
Stopping at the grave to leave flowers for someone they've never known was a gesture that's contradicted by Daryl's later words that it's pointless to give the infected something resembling a "normal" burial, and is perfect in keeping with Beth's comments that she's inspired by the kindness of the caretaker.
But where is the caretaker? Again, more on that later.
8. Terminus, again (and more secrets)
Here, we learn that Bob and company never told the rest of the group about the "Those who arrive, survive" message that he heard in the car earlier in the season. This isn't the first time that's happened, as last week saw Daryl tell Beth that he and Michonne (Danai Gurira) had found the moonshiner's house while on a supply run, but apparently not thought to head that way once the prison fell and they were looking for shelter.
We also see that Maggie has faith in Glenn to figure out the Terminus thing and that her mission to reunite with her husband will also likely bring her together with all or most of the survivors as everyone heads to Terminus for their own reasons.
Since Terminus is in Macon, GA, though, heading that way might not do much to ingratiate Glenn to Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and his group. They want to head to Washington, D.C. and since our group has always been characterized as being within an hour or so of Atlanta, that means they're heading in the wrong direction if they're going to Macon.
Not that Maggie knows that. She will, however, leave him some helpful clues to get home.
9. "Where's Maggie?"
Bob wakes up and immediately wonders where one of his companions is, even when he's not truly alone. In spite of the fact that he clearly has feelings for Sasha, he has chosen sides with Maggie here, and he feels alone without her. Maybe it's because he admires her fierce loyalty and senses that Sasha would abandon him if it meant the difference between risking her life or not ... which seems to be true, until we later see it's not because she risks herself to save Maggie.
The next time he finds himself asking that question, the answer is "gone." So he's a pretty astute guy.
10. That smile ...
Maggie's little grin when the walker was headed toward her, followed by eviscerating it to leave a bloody love note on the railroad switch box, is an interesting creative choice. That's the third week in a row that somebody, always in slightly different circumstances, has taken entirely too much pleasure in taking a walker out (previous examples included Abraham and Glenn, both of whom had audiences and both of whom got called on it).
11. Everybody's dead
The "everyone's already dead and everything is pointless" mentality is a coping device that it seems at least one person per group is expected to have in this world. It makes enough sense, I guess, but here it seems particularly artificial to pit the optimist and pessimist against each other because we've already seen it play out more subtly a few times this year.
That's why, arguably, they added the wrinkle of Bob seeing through Sasha's pessimism and calling her on it. It differentiates this relationship somewhat from the others who are having the same conversation.
12. Do you believe in coincidence?
Okay, so here's the thing.
There's the trap in the woods. The perfectly maintained house with the well-stocked pantry that's totally abandoned, except for warm and inviting furnishings (and, yeah, some walker bodies made to look like people, so maybe not entirely appealing). The dog that leaves and comes back. The rush of walkers. And then the car.
Is there really such a thing as coincidence in the world of "The Walking Dead?" Or is this an incredibly elaborate trap set specifically to take people hostage for some reason?
Consider this: both times the dog showed up, Daryl and Beth were eating. It's not totally insane to think that whoever's driving that car could have staked out the rooms where the well-stocked pantry is, in the hopes of finding someone whose defenses are down.
All of this seems like very bad news for Beth. Check out the speculation below for why.
13. Everybody needs somebody
Daryl is alone and he's almost as miserable about it as Stookey was. And, like Stookey, the first group who come along and offer him a shot at survival get a de facto "it doesn't matter who you are." He agrees, it's better to hurt others than to be hurt.
That's his old follower-self speaking, of course, and it's hard to believe that won't become a conflict with the man he's since become in the episodes to follow.
It's worth noting that after she left Bob and just before she found Maggie, Sasha had what she kept saying she wanted -- shelter and relative safety in a seemingly-perfect place -- and still seemed ready to cry because she had no one to share it with.
And then Maggie's whole speech openly admits she needs people, so they go find Bob, whose dedication to not leaving a friend alone has him stuck on the road, alone and miserable again.
14. Oh, no, not you again
Backtracking for a second, the group who come to terrorize and then recruit Daryl seem to be the home invaders from two episodes prior. In case you'd forgotten, one of them even tries to "claim" Daryl's vest, a reminder that in the episode "Claimed," it was so named after one of these jerks choked out his buddy over who got to sleep in the comfy bed. The dark-skinned survivor with the do-rag is still alive and pointing a gun at Daryl here, in case there was any doubt he didn't actually get killed over sleeping arrangements.
15. Happy thoughts
This was a pretty dire episode, but if there's anything that made us grin like idiots, it's the Maggie/Glenn stuff. Seeing Glenn start on his path to really reconnect with Maggie was just what the third act of this episode needed after giving us a couple of real gut-punches in the form of Beth's kidnapping and Daryl's apparent defection to the Dark Side.
Some speculation ...
Their most notable victim in the comics was Dale, who died from the effects of a zombie bite only after revealing to the Hunters that they had just, for all intents and purposes, eaten poisoned food. It was a moment that fans of the comics were really hoping to see, and when Dale died far earlier and much differently in the TV series, Robert Kirkman said that he had another character in mind for whom that ending could still happen. If that's Beth, it would track with fan theories that she's only been getting these development episodes to build her up before she dies.