THE WALKING DEAD Debriefing: Fine Young Cannibals

the walking dead season 5

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Previously, on The Walking Dead—Our People went from one seemingly utopian haven with a deadly secret to another seemingly utopian haven with a deadly secret, because apparently seeming utopian havens with deadly secrets are the new Starbucks of the zombie apocalypse—they’re freaking everywhere. Will Our People be able to take destroy yet another makeshift society with their own bare hands? Do you really have to ask?

But first we get a flashback to how Terminus, the train depot where cannibal hipsters lure unsuspected survivors, came to be, as we see the lead Hipster Cannibal, Gareth, and his people being held captive by marauders. Hardened by the experience, the survivors will somehow overtake the marauders and in turn adopt their “kill or be killed” policy, with a little cannibalism thrown in, because why not? You gotta eat, so might as well kill two birds with one stone (or baseball bat. Whichever.)

Back in the Now, Our People, very confident in their ability to take down the Hipster Cannibals, are preparing for a rumble once said Hipster Cannibals come for them, as they create impromptu weapons out of pieces of wood, belt buckles, nails, and anything else just lying about the box car they’re imprisoned in. This is pretty badass, but would be so much more badass if “Eye of the Tiger” were playing all the while. Hearing the hipster cannibals approaching, Our People get into their action poses, “Eye of the Tiger” undoubtedly playing in their heads, ready to pounce, when the Hipster Cannibals prove they’re one step ahead of them by throwing a smoke bomb (or some type of super-condensed gas, since it’s able to knock everyone out, apparently) in from the top of the car. Which makes sense, considering the Hipster Cannibals seem to have this down to a science and have undoubtedly been bum-rushed by future dinners in the past. Wearing gas masks, they enter the boxcar and drag out Rick, Glen, Daryl, and Bob (also very practical, as they get rid of the strongest members of the group first and are obviously unaware that Michonne is a fucking killing machine).

After being dragged into a makeshift abattoir, Rick, Daryl, Glenn, Bob and four other men, now bound and gagged are lined up in front of a metal trough. They watch as two goons disinfect Gareth’s brother, who’d been killed in the season four finale. Because, again, can’t let good meat go to waste, right? Everyone is freaking out, as well they should be, if the meat hooks and butcher’s equipment is any indication. Looking past Glenn and three extras, Rick recognizes Sam, the blond hippie Rick and Carol met briefly in season four. Instead of being all like, “OH HEY SAM! Fancy meeting you here! Got any fruit left?”, Rick doesn’t much react, although Sam is looking to him imploringly for help and guidance, which is really, genuinely sad. The two goons mosey on over to Sam and, while making inane small talk amongst themselves, one brains him with a baseball bat while the other slits his throat, rather efficiently, and pushes him head-first into the metal trough to drain the blood. The next three extras are dispatched in this same manner, chatting blandly with the newly-arrived Gareth about how many shell counts they’ve performed this week. No fucking idea what that means, but you get the point: the Hipster Cannibals have become so inured to killing that they’re cool with talking about bureaucratic nonsense as they butcher people.
So, this is probably the most disturbing thing this show has ever given us. Horrible-looking zombies and increasingly gruesome deaths are scary, sure, but there’s still an emotional disassociation between them and the viewer. Because, when all is said and done, it’s made-up creatures attacking humans. But it’s when you have this cold-hearted barbarity inflicted upon humans by humans, stripped of melodrama and any dramatic context, really—that’s when it unnerves you. Because while we may have been given this situation in the context of a zombie apocalypse, we instantly associate it with our own history as humans—the Nazis’ cold and calculated systematic murder of millions of people only eighty years ago, the current murdering of hostages in Syria, and the killings of kidnapped victims by serial killers throughout history. It’s an on-going reminder from the show that we should really fear not the zombies, but ourselves.

Glenn is next in line to get slaughtered—and is obviously shitting himself at the prospect—when, after some discussion between Gareth and the goons, Bob is able to get his gag off to ask, you know, whatever happened to peace, love, and understanding? Gareth doesn’t seem too interested, but he enjoys playing with his food, so he lets him continue. Sweet, naïve baby Bob tells him that they have a guy in their group who knows how to stop the zombie apocalypse and can fix everything that’s happened, if they can just get him to Washington, DC. Gareth still isn’t sold on the idea of not eating them, because, understandably, it would be pretty hard to return to life as normal after you’ve seen all the people you’ve ever cared about viciously raped and murdered. And there’s also the whole human-eating thing. Instead, he decides to question Rick about the weapons they’ve hidden somewhere outside Terminus. Either because Gareth has been around the block and the woods are a veritable minefield of weapons hidden by Terminus victims, or because he sees that Rick is smarter than the average bear and probably hid an arsenal nearby in case he needed it. After Gareth threatens to stab Bob in the eye, Rick tells him that he’ll led him to the weapons, giving him a run-down of everything they’ve stashed, including a machete with a red handle, which, he adds, “That’s the one I’m going to use to kill you.” Damn it, Rick, you were so close to making that sale! You fumbled at the 10-yard line! Gareth is like, “Yeah, I doubt that, considering you’re the one bound and gagged in an abattoir,” and Rick is like, “Uh, I just tore out a guy’s throat with my own bare teeth only a few days ago, so you have no fucking idea, mate.” Gareth, in any case, orders the goons to resume slaughtering. Glenn starts shitting his pants again, probably, when suddenly the building is rocked by a huge explosion. Gareth, concerned with how this will affect shell counts, races out, leaving everyone else to look at each other and ask “Wha’ appa’?”

Some time before, Carol, Tyreese, and Baby Judith are walking down the tracks toward Terminus, debating whether the place is all it’s cracked up to be (spoiler alert: it isn’t). Carol, still heeding the outcast’s call after being expelled from the group by Rick, tells Tyreese that once she’s reunited him with the rest of the group, she’ll be on her merry way against (although, honestly, no way Daryl would go anywhere without her once he sees she’s still alive.) As they walk, a walker appears. He holds out a magical sword to them as he says “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this!” Just kidding, he wants to eat them. Nonchalantly (because this is the world they live in now), Carol asks if Tyreese wants to kill this one. Tyreese says he’s not ready to start killing again. Carol gives his that “I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to do but I’m also not going to hold your hand the rest of your life” look that only the best moms can pull off, and effortlessly kills the walker.

Unfortunately, that walker was apparently performing reconnaissance for a herd of other walkers, all of whom are now drunkenly staggering toward Carol and Tyreese. As Tyreese and Carol duck into the woods on the opposite side of the tracks, the walkers inch ever closer. (Might I add that Judith is adorable in this scene, engulfed in Tyreese’s arms). Before you can say, “Phew, that was close!”, gunfire erupts in the distance—the shoot-out between Our People and the Hipster Cannibals in the season four finale has begun. Lured by the sweet, sexy siren call of violence and potential food, the walkers divert their attention from Tyreese and Carole and instead make their way down the tracks, toward Terminus. Tyreese and Carol take the long route through the forest to find their friends, which actually probably what saves them.

As they near Terminus, Tyreese and Carol happen upon a cabin in the woods. Martin, a Terminus lackey, is outside, rigging fireworks and chewing the fat with another Terminus lackey over his walkie-talkie. I don’t know if the guy playing Martin is a local actor, but he has a great, believable Southern accent. Unfortunately for him, Carol and Tyreese overhear him mentioning Michonne—with her samurai sword—and Carl—with his sheriff’s hat—so they know that Terminus isn’t the haven it’s cracked up to be. They stick a gun to Martin’s head and, unfortunately for everyone involved, don’t pull the trigger then and there. Martin goes into the “Come to Terminus, friends, and we’ll help you,” spiel, and then tells them that if he doesn’t set off these fireworks to distract some portion of the walker then they’ll all attack Terminus en masse. Tyreese and Carol are actually okay with this, and since Tyreese is still on his “I don’t want to kill any more people” kick, he stays in the cabin to watch Judith and their new hostage while Carol takes Martin’s fireworks and rifle to find out what the hell is going on at Terminus. Tyreese has problems of his own in Martin, who spends the rest of the episode trying to mind-fuck Tyreese, telling him his life story—he used to watch football and go to church every Sunday, along with 90% of the Georgia population—and yeah, he’s a good guy for trying to protect Judith, but he’s totally going to die because of it. It’s actually a lot like Luke Skywalker and the Emperor’s scenes together in The Return of the Jedi, with Martin telling Tyreese that his faith in his friends is his weakness and Tyreese trying to stay calm and stick to his “No Killing” policy. Despite Martin’s obvious intentions to psyche Tyreese out, there’s some truth to what he says, and Tyreese knows it. And it troubles him.

From her safe viewpoint in the forest above Terminus, Carol uses the scope on her rifle to watch as Rick, Daryl, Glenn, and Bob are dragged from their box car and into the depot. She also watches as the Hipster Cannibals rather lamely ward off the walkers beyond the fence, as more walkers ascend upon the compound. I’m thinking that Gareth spent more time and resources on luring, capturing, and butchering humans than on killing walkers, because the hipsters guarding the fence are severely lacking in hand-to-hand combat skills (or maybe Gareth thought it would be a quiet day and sent out Terminus’ B squad? I don’t know.) She also sees a large gas tank beside the fence. Carol sees the perfect opportunity to get all MacGuyver-y and, after shooting the gas tank, she sticks a firework into the barrel of her rifle, points it in the general direction of the gas tank, and sets the firework off. The firework makes contact with the tank and it explodes, scattering walkers all over the place and explaining the big boom that shook Rick and the others before they could be killed. It’s a bit unbelievable that the firework could hit the gas tank on Carol’s first try, but whatever, that’s for “Mythbusters” to figure out, I guess.

Let it be known that Carol is a total bad-ass—maybe even as bad-ass as Michonne in terms of bad-assery. Despite the trauma of losing a (albeit abusive) husband and her daughter, killing innocent people for what she considered the greater good, and shooting a psychotic little girl point blank in the head, Carol is still led by a strong moral compass, I think. Much like Rick, Daryl, and the others in the group, really. Carol’s gotten to the point where she’ll sacrifice degrees of righteousness to make sure that she and her people survive, but without killing in altogether cold blood. It’s interesting to wonder which members of Our People would go to the lengths that those at Terminus did in order to survive. Carol just might revert to cannibalism if it meant feeding the people she cared about. In any case, Carol’s use of MacGuyvery destroys the nearby fence, allowing the walker (and Carol) access to Terminus. Taking a page from Rick’s book, she covers herself in the blood and guts of a freshly-killed walker and hopes it doesn’t rain, I guess.

While the goons freak out over the explosion, Rick is able to use a shank of wood he’d hidden in his show to cut through the ropes binding his hands, then frees Daryl, Glenn, and Bob. Goon #1 is losing his shit as Goon #2 tells him to calm the fuck down. “Look at me,” he tells him, and is probably about to impart some homespun wisdom a la Danny Tanner of “Full House” when Rick attacks him and slashes his throat. Daryl and the others soon kill Goon #1. Remembering how well it worked last season, Rick tells them to let Goon #1 turn, because who doesn’t like walkers, right? This is sort of Rick’s trademark now, I guess.

Having successfully being welcomed into the herd of walkers thanks to her spiffy disguise, Carol enters the Terminus compound and tries not to point and laugh as cannibal hipsters are attacked and eaten. It’s sort of satisfying to watch, not only because they were all consciously party to the killing and eating of innocent people, but also because these people totally suck at fighting walkers. As Carol walks she takes out hipster cannibal guards with her rifle and is able to get inside the train depot undetected.

Rick and the others take a tour of Terminus, and butchered, skinned, and gutted bodies hanging by meat hooks, ready to be cooked an eaten, I guess. You know, I get the whole “You’re either the butcher or the cattle” adage that’s been pounded into our heads throughout this episode, but I don’t think the marauders meant for it to be taken literally. Because self-preservation is one thing—I can maybe understand (but not condone) the murder of innocent people in order to keep your own people on top—but to go from that to “We should kill people—and eat them” is unfathomable to me. Because there actually are other resources still available to the Hipster Cannibals. Did they just really miss the taste of fresh meat? Are they too lazy to leave Terminus to find canned food? I also understand that, after being raped and murdered by the marauders back when they were still a happy little hippie commune, they would be left hyper-paranoid and really fucked up psychologically, but still. I imagine that Gareth’s conversation with the other hipsters went like this:

Gareth: You’re either the butcher or the cattle, guy! And we’re not going to be treated like cattle anymore!
Others: Right!
Gareth: You’re going to kill anyone who comes to Terminus!
Others: Right!
Gareth: We’re going to lure everyone who’s around and kill them before they kill us!
Others: Right!
Gareth: And then we’re going to eat them!
Others: Ri—wait, what?

Maybe, in time, the show will explain the hipsters’ cannibal origins, or maybe we’ll just have to cough it up to being the kind of psychosis that only manifests itself in extreme, prolonged situations, like zombie apocalypses. Much like with Lizzie, the psychotic little girl from season four. Would Lizzie have exhibited psychosis in the normal, non-apocalyptic world? Yeah, maybe. But she would have probably gotten treatment (or even been incarcerated or institutionalized) for it. As it is, in a post-apocalyptic world, it was able to go unchecked and was exacerbated by all the high-stress and traumatic situations she was forced into. So maybe Gareth always had a bit of cannibal in him, but in a non-apocalyptic world it would have never been able to manifest itself, and he would have spent his entire life selling organic vegetables at hipster farmer’s markets and ironically listening to Tiny Tim records on the record player he bought at Urban Outfitters. Who knows? Zombies, man.

Rick, Glenn, Daryl and Bob make their way through the compound, killing Hipster Cannibals and walkers all the while. Goon #1 makes his debut performance as a walker and attacks an old Hipster Cannibal friend, because irony. Rick & Company decide to unlock the box cars and release the other prisoners—which doesn’t work out too well, as the first prisoner is bat-shit insane, attacking them and yelling, “Don’t you see?! They’re just like us!” before being killed by a walker. It’s important to note that this guy’s face is covered in the same symbol that is carved on some of the trees in the forest, as well as the symbol painted on the car that took Beth away last season. Which doesn’t bode well for Beth, really.

(I like Beth. Not all of the characters can have superhuman strengths, and it’s been interesting to watch a fragile character become inured to their hardship. Beth’s victories have quieter than Carol’s and Michonne’s, but they’re still intriguing to me. That being said, I do fast-forward through her singing scenes. Because come on, no one has time for that.)

Carol winds through the train depot, unable to find Rick and Company but instead finding the possessions of the hundreds of people the Hipster Cannibals have killed. There’s a room filled with weapons, jewelry, and children’s toys, and if your soul didn’t die at the sight of that last table, then you’re a stronger person than I am. Carol finds the watch that she’d given Rick (and that Rick had given Sam), as well as Daryl’s crossbow. I don’t know if Michonne’s samurai sword was in the mix and Carol just didn’t see it, but I really wish she’d taken that too, because Michonne without her sword is like Thor without his Mjolnir or Iron Man without his smarmy smugness. In any case, Carol takes Daryl’s crossbow, because her pookie feels naked without it, I bet.

Anyway, Rick and Co. continue towards their group’s box car, not bothering to release any other prisoners, having learned their lesson (so, are the other prisoners just…hanging out? Are they still there? What rotten luck.) I must say that the battle scenes—because it is in fact a battle, with three sides: walkers, Hipster Cannibals, and Our People—are really, really well-directed, or choreographed, or what have you. Our People are, at this point, a very well-trained strategic force, and it’s really fun to watch a ragtag group of ordinary (or relatively ordinary—hi, Daryl!) people be molded into a team like this. This is one of the many reasons why I genuinely like this version of Our People, and really am not looking too forward to seeing any of them killed. Many past characters have been dispensable. Maybe because this show’s been on for five years now and I’ve gotten used to them all, or maybe they’ve all proven themselves in one way or another, but for once I’m happy with all of our protagonists.

Carol finds the previously-seen memorial room, with the names of dead Hipster Cannibals scrawled on the floor. Flowers and candles are strewn about, because who cares about fire safety in the zombie apocalypse? On the walls are peppy phrases like “Never again!” and “Don’t be the cattle—be the butcher” and “Monday Monkey lives for the weekend!”, probably. Mary, one of the lead Hipster Cannibals seen in the previous season, approaches Carol, telling her to drop her weapons. She also gives Carol the old spiel about how it wasn’t always this way, and Terminus used to be a utopian haven much like Starbucks or whatever, but then the marauders came and killed and raped their people, so they had to adapt. And, again, I get it, but where does the cannibalism fit in? Carol drops Daryl’s crossbow to the floor, but surprises Mary with the rifle hidden in her duster. There’s a pretty awesome fight scene, but ultimately Carol gets the upper hand—because she’s Carol, that’s why—and Carol shoots her in the leg. Crying, Mary tells Carol that she totally could have joined their Hipster Cannibal club if she hadn’t, you know, destroyed it. Carol doesn’t seem too ashamed of what she’s done. Mary pleads with her to shoot her in the head and get it over with, but instead Carol walks away, letting a handful of zombies get her, because, again, fuck these assholes. Live by the sword, die by the swords, as I always say.

(I don’t always say that. What is it I always say? Oh, right—“Keep your fingers off of my Butterfingers”. That’s right.)

Back at the cabin in the woods, Tyreese in continuing his Jedi battle of the wills with Martin. Unfortunately, Martin gets the upper hand while Tyreese is distracted by a group of walkers approaching the cabin, and lunges toward Judith. He gets a good choke hold around Judith and threatens to break her neck. Maybe it’s because I have a niece who’s roughly the same age as Judith, or maybe it’s because the baby who plays Judith is adorable and seems genuinely distressed by some guy putting her into a chokehold, but ugh, this was hard to watch. Tyreese pleads with him to not kill Judith, and Martin orders him to get out of the cabin, which is now surrounded by walkers. Tyreese doesn’t really have much of a choice here. If he stays, then Martin will kill Judith. If he leaves, he’ll probably be eaten by walkers, and Martin might not kill Judith (but probably will, because come on.) It’s a sticky wicket.

Or there’s Option Three, in which Tyreese leave the cabin, turns into the Hulk, and kills all the walkers while Martin makes the decision to kill a poor defenseless baby (because, again, these guys are assholes), but Hulk Tyreese bursts through the cabin door in time to save Judith and beat Martin’s brains out. Did you choose Option Three? Because that’s what happens. It’s actually a really great scene; we’ve seen Tyreese struggle between the last remnants of his humanity and the reality of the situation. In the end, he sacrifices not all, but some of that humanity to save someone else. It’s not that he caves and kills another human being; it’s that he adapts to the situation and kills a very bad guy who was going to kill the people he cared about. He’s adapting, like Carol and Rick have.

Alerted to the fracas outside, Our People try to figure out a way to get the fuck out of the box car and join the hipster cannibal-killing party. For some reason they think that this is a good time to question Eugene (who I always want to call “Guillaume”, for some reason) about his credentials as Savior of the Human Race. Which, I mean, is a valid concern, because dude is hella sketchy, but maybe not where you’re seconds away from joining a war zone. Everyone’s like, “Yeah, Guillaume, tell us your story,” while Abraham and Rosita virulently defend him, telling that it’s okay, honey, you don’t have to talk if you don’t want to. I always wondered why Abraham and Rosita were such avid believers in Eugene’s story—I can sort of expect it from Abraham, since he’s a gung-ho military man who needs a mission—and mission—to survive. But Rosita seems more rational to me. I would think that, if she had to choose between going to D.C. and staying with Our People, she might just want to go with the latter. Anyway, who cares—I like Guillaume; he amuses me, even if he’s probably full of shit. Eugene tells Our People that he belonged to a special team of scientists specializing in the use of biological weapons that could theoretically be used to kill the walkers. This would be more believable to me if it weren’t coming from a guy who looks like a gamer in his seventh hour of playing World of Warcraft, but whatever, the zombie apocalypse does weird things to people. His explanation seems good enough for Our People, and they watch as he tries to make a detonator to blow off the box car door using the empty canister of a smoke bomb, because everyone’s MacGuyver on this show now! We’ll never know if it works, however, because Rick’s group opens the door for them! Hooray! The gang’s back together again!

They get the fuck out of Terminus and return to the woods where they’d hidden their bag o’ weapons the previous season. Rick wants to go back and kill the rest of the Hipster Cannibals, including Gareth, who was only winged in the recent fire fight. Everyone tells him to let it go and instead get the fuck away from this hell-hole. Despite the fact that Rick has apparently watched the last four seasons of The Walking Dead and has cottoned to the fact that bad guys never die the first time you think you’ve killed them, instead only surviving and killing more of the people you love, he acquiesces. Because we need to fill out the rest of this season, I guess, so we might as well throw some lame Hipster Cannibals into the mix, what the hell. Carol sneaks up behind the group and is like, “Hey, guys, what’s shaking? Did you notice that I totally just saved your asses? Because I did.” Daryl looks so fucking happy to see her—he runs into her arms, cries, and Daryl gets his crossbow back, so it’s probably like Christmas for him. Next Rick tearfully embraces Carol, and it’s all really sweet. Carol leads Our People back to the cabin in the woods, and probably has a flash of concern at seeing all the dead zombies strewn about the place, because it’d be really awkward to take them all the way there and be like, “And here’s your beloved baby daughter, Jud—oh. Wait. They’re all dead.” But Tyreese walks, beaming, out of the cabin with baby Judith in his arms. And if you weren’t crying before, then you’re certainly crying now, as Rick and Carl rush over, shocked and elated to find the little girl they’d thought was dead actually alive and adorable. Carol and Michone, two mothers who have lost children of their own, tearfully look on. Carol asks Tyreese about what went down with Martin, and Tyreese answers that he did what he had to do. Which is good, because apparently Tyreese is an unstoppable killing machine deep down.

Our People make their way down the train tracks. Rick walks up to a sign for Terminus (which should probably be pointing the other way, since they’re walking away from Terminus, but whatever), and smears it with mud and writes “No” above the “Sanctuary” bit, because every post-apocalyptic wasteland needs a Banksy, I guess. Rick follows the others as they head off the tracks, into the woods. There’s one last flashback, as we see a marauder—actually, the same crazy bearded guy Glenn tried to save from the box car—pulling another Pre-Cannibal Hipster out of the box car where Gareth, Mary, and the others are being held. Gareth tells Mary that they’re going to get their revenge, because, for the millionth time, “You’re either the butcher or the cattle.”

And if your DVR recorded the show all the way to the end of the credits (mine didn’t), you would have seen a masked figure walking through a forest as well, following the symbols previously seen on the crazy bearded guy face earlier in the episode (as well as on the car that kidnapped Beth). The man pulls down his mask to reveal himself as—Morgan, the same guy who saved Rick in the very first episode, and who’d gone crazy after the death of his son in Season Three! But what does it all mean, you ask? Fuck if I know, man. We’ll just have to watch and find out.

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