★★★☆☆ – Hits home straight away but can be argued as difficult to follow. Enough blood and gore to satisfy the episode as a true Walking Dead opener!
The following review will contain spoilers on Season 5, Episode 9 of The Walking Dead.
In the mid-season premiere of its fifth series, The Walking Dead gives no remorse after the painful loss of Beth during the last episode – plunging viewers in at the deep end of the series’ vast pool of emotional trauma. A programme renowned for its depiction of post-apocalyptic Earth taken over by the ever hungry undead; fans of the show are well versed in the nail-biting hour a week where it’s unclear who will live or die – though this episode tries, occasionally confusingly, to take that to the next level.
After a brief opening of a funeral and some interspersed, seemingly disconnected images; we start this week following the group as they head out to fulfill Beth’s last intentions before she was killed. This was to aid Noah in finding his family and previous home again, whether its inhabitants are alive or dead – unsurprisingly, they’re the latter. Rick, Michonne, Glenn, Tyreese and Noah are the central characters for this episode, but the focus falls heavily on Tyreese as the narrative progresses – exploring his inner conscience and morals as he battles for his life against a double ‘walker’ bite on his arm. Similar to the episode exploring Carol’s background and the development of her character throughout the seriess; the timeline of this weeks The Walking Dead jumps from past to present dizzyingly – even confusing the two together in parts, with visits from deceased characters.
The exploration of Tyreese is an interesting one – as the pacifist member of the group that’s ‘the kind of guy that saves babies’, he has had some trouble with fitting in as the others hack and slash their way through the world. Caught up in a whirlwind of violence and death, there simply isn’t a place for his nurturing personality, which is further reinforced by the cause of his death. As he stops to observe Noah and his twin in old photographs, he becomes emotional at the loss of young life (again), but this time instead of saving it as he did with Judith – it’s the very thing that sneaks in and kills him. The following hallucinations and blurring of time within the narrative give way to his feelings on the subject, and the knowledge that he wasn’t cut out for this new world any more anyway. The haunting repetition of ‘it’s better now’ symbolises Tyreese’s acceptance of his fate – and the peace he can take in knowing that he did his part in saving Rick’s baby at least – her innocence to the brutal world around her, and Tyreese’s efforts to preserve and protect this, was the one thing that kept him going – with his task complete he appeared lost and troubled; death was the only real way out for him.
Whilst the ghosts of episodes’ past in the form of the Governor, Bob, Lizzie and Mika are a strangely pleasant throw back to the ‘old times’ of The Walking Dead, the return of Beth in such circumstances is a shock – seeing her again is a little bit too much like opening up old wounds before they’ve healed. Whilst it’s nice to see the character again, it does reinforce the knowledge that she’s dead and gone – which sparked outrage amongst The Walking Dead‘s hoarde of fans. Perhaps her addition will help soothe the sting of her loss to the many that were petitioning for her return – and who knows, maybe we will hear more of her hauntingly appropriate (‘I’m a struggling man’) campfire songs in the remainder of the series.
As the first episode to bring us back into the world of the undead, Greg Nicotero’s direction is full of interesting, if not sometimes odd, choices. As previously mentioned, the timeline of events can be tricky to unfold – especially as we are following Tyreese’s hallucinogenic vision of what’s going on around him and inside his head. Whilst the transition from reality to mentality was well executed, the opening and ending scenes could have been clearer – though in truth this leniancy towards a more artistic or interpretive version of events was an interesting reintroduction to the programme that we all know and love. This opening was a strong shove back into the heartbreak of being a fan of The Walking Dead – the beginning and ending on death in this episode can only be a dark symbol of what is to come: let’s hope it’s as enthralling, exciting and bloody as the previous series.
The Walking Dead is broadcast on Mondays at 9:00pm on FOX UK.
This article was originally posted to The Edge.