I know I probably say this a lot about various episodes of The Walking Dead, but, man what a punch to the gut. At least the episode’s director, Greg Nicotero, made the misery that was happening onscreen look incredible. The whole thing was a series of misdirects (starting with the funeral at the top) with flashbacks interspersed to keep us unsure of what we, as experienced Walking Dead viewers, knew was inevitable. It was heartbreaking but not really surprising when you think about it.
It went the way it had to. The way it was always going to.
The gang has traveled 500 miles over about 17 days to reach Noah’s walled and gated subdivison in Virginia. They are hopeful that they’ve reached a safe haven, but once they scale the wall, it is immediately clear the whole thing is lost. Rick, Glenn, Michonne and Tyreese go right back into survival mode, wondering if they can make a sweep for supplies before they set back out. Noah collapses to the ground, and Tyreese, ever the gentle giant, offers to stay with him as the others scatter to assess things. Noah makes a run for his house and Tyreese has no choice but to follow. Inside, there are even more clues that the takedown of this place may not have been strictly walker related.
Tyreese walks past one closed door where a walker is clearly inside, knowing it must be one of Noah’s twin brothers that he’s heard about on the trip. He clearly can’t bear to end him while Noah is still lying over his mother’s rotting corpse. He wanders into another bedroom and gets lost in the pictures taped to the wall of happier times. His guard down, he doesn’t hear the walker he spared come in and take a big old bite out of his arm. Once Noah puts his brother down with a toy hanging from the ceiling, he runs off for help as Ty begins seeing visions.
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, Michonne wants to make it work there, but Rick explains that they’re surrounded by forest with no sightlines. Michonne discovers headless torsos everywhere and torn down walls showing that Rick is right. Glenn and Rick agree it doesn’t matter that he killed Dawn at this point, both men growing more cynical. Michonne brings up Washington D.C., and says that despite Eugene’s lie, his supposition that there might be safety there is not a bad one. And it’s now only 100 miles away. Rick and Glenn agree to make the trip. But they are jarred by Noah’s screams for help.
Back at Noahs house, Lizzie and Mika tell Tyreese “It’s better now.” That creeper Martin from Terminus tells Ty that he should have killed him when he had the chance and maybe the whole chain of events that was set in motion never would have occurred. Bob and his leg stump perch on the kid’s bed to tell Tyreese this is how it was always going to be. The Governor shows up, menacing as ever, to remind Tyreese that he said he’d earn his keep at Woodbrook, which seems so long ago now. He scolds Ty for not adapting and changing. He also can’t believe Tyreese forgave Carol for killing Karen.
Woven in with these dead people, there is imagery of the train tracks leading to Terminus, Tyreese’s blood dripping on a framed painting of a house that resembles the one immortalized in “The Grove” and Beth singing the lyrics, “I’m a struggling man, and I gotta move on”, all emblematic of Tyreese’s experience on his journey through life and towards death. He’s struggled in adjusting to this difficult new world and he’s now struggling with whether he wants to fight anymore to stay in it.
In his weakened state, he has to fend off another walker and offers his already bitten arm to distract him while he beans him with a geode from the kid’s bookshelf. The hallucinations are stronger now, but Tyreese is as strong as they come. He tells The Governor that it’s not over, through sobs. Beth and her guitar repeat the mantra “it went the way it had to, the way it was always going to.” Having lost so much blood, things look bleak, especially when Ty envisions Lizzie gently tugging on his injured arm, as if to guide him her way. But, she suddenly turns into Rick and just like that, they’re hacking it off. We are reminded that Herschel was saved in this fashion, the offending limb discarded. It takes a Herculean effort to get a lifeless Tyreese all the way to the car, and Noah stumbles along the way.
Rick radios Carol to get Sasha and Carl away as he explains Tyreese’s condition, and he is further waylaid when the car gets stuck. Eventually, they get free, but bump into a truck that bursts open and disembodied walker heads (each with a “W” carved in them) spill out. They would seem to pair nicely with the torsos Michonne found. We’ll be seeing more on this later on in the season, rest assured.
As we’ve been hearing bits of all hour, unsettling radio reports of the carnage continue playing, read in a vaguley familiar voice (it’s Andrew Lincoln speaking in his real British accent), Tyreese reminds us again that his father taught he and Sasha to always do what you can to help heal the world. He then asks for it to be turned off. In his ongoing vision, Beth is driving. Back in the grim reality, the car pulls over and everyone gets out to help drag a now dead Tyreese. We don’t see him get a knife through his skull, but a white sheet is placed over him as he is buried. Father Gabriel handles the prayers, doing the one thing he’s good for in this world. We now see everyone at the service and watch Sasha weakly pour dirt on his grave. Rick finishes the task, poetically placing Tyreese’s iconic wool cap on the cross marking his grave.
It’s another stunning loss for our group, who are still reeling from the very recent losses of Bob and Beth, as well as their prolonged lack of shelter and any real plan of what to do or where to go next. As strong as these people are, human beings can only take so much pain and deprivation before they lose it, as we’ve seen more than once on this show. Who’s going to lose it next?