Sunday night's winter premiere of The Walking Dead began with the possibility of hope, which is the one thing keeping everyone alive and sane, but I already had a feeling how this would end.
The Walking Dead is a grim show to begin with, but this was the most existential episode of season five so far, with all the visions of ghosts, the false optimism, confusion on the purpose of life and the impending fear/reality of death—all the best things about this series. Really, there was only one WWJD question to consider: Would we go to Washington?
With all the faith that's constantly gained and lost in this life, the post-apocalyptic psychological toll is unthinkable. Every death is untimely, and the only alive thing is hope, the chance that maybe you'll live long enough, beyond your assumptions. So it makes sense that much of the episode is devoted to Tyreese wrestling with his conscience about whether his non-sadistic approach was the way to go, which is something we'd all ask: Did I live the way I wanted?
AMC's preview clips prior to the premiere made it seem like the group was burying Beth, but that was typical Walking Dead trickery. It turns out that the opening burial scene was for Tyreese. The intro also flashes a photo of two young boys—Noah's brothers. Another major question driving this series is: Would I still have hope? Noah still has hope that his mom and brothers are alive, so he, Rick, Michonne, Tyreese and Glenn head to the area outside of Richmond, Virginia that he had originally planned on going to with Beth.
They get there and it's in ruins, overrun by walkers. "You didn't think it would still be here," Rick later tells Glenn, who responds, "Did you?" (Me: Nope.) Noah collapses.
Rick says they should survey the area and do a sweep while Tyreese stays with Noah. Rick seemed to have a sliver of a pipe dream that VA would be someplace for them to settle, but his intention was more to follow through with Beth's desire. "This was for her. And it could've been for us, too," says Rick.
Noah knows there's only a slight chance that his family survived. Still, he needs proof for the sake of closure, which I would, too, so it wouldn't eat at me. Noah runs into his house to see what's left of it and Tyreese runs after him. There's a body on the ground that he covers with a blanket. As Tyreese checks out the rest of the home, he ends up in a room where one of the boys is on the bed, gone. As Tyreese is staring at that photo of the two kids, the other boy, a walker now, attacks him from behind and Tyreese gets bitten in the arm.
Noah has to come and stab his brother with one of the toys—very grim. It's a well-known fact that children are insufferable. But all these photos and remnants of innocence that was taken really choked me up.
Anyway, Noah leaves to get Rick and everyone else to tend to Tyreese, who's slipping away and keeps seeing visions of the people who've died. When Tyreese speaks to the dead, it's also (or maybe it's just) his conscience questioning his decisions. Is this what it feels like to be almost dead?
The ghosts of Bob, the Governor, Beth (WHO SINGS), Lizzie and Mika are his sensible side, assuring Tyreese that he's made the right choices. The devils on his shoulder are the Governor and the cannibal dude Tyreese let free who says, "I tried to tell you, man. It was gonna be you. You're the kinda guy who saves babies." It's true. Before Tyreese dies, he just wants to know that he's alright:
"It went the way it had to. The way it was always going to," says Bob.
"The bill has to be paid. You have to earn your keep," says the Governor.
"It's better now, Tyreese," says Lizzie.
"It's okay that you didn't wanna be part of it anymore," says Bob.
"It's better now," says Mika.
In the midst of these visions, Tyreese gets attacked by a second walker, which is like further evidence that his righteous indecisiveness is deadly.
Cut to Michonne and the others out in the open, deciding what to do next. Michonne suggests they head to Washington because although Eugene was a mark-ass liar, he might've been onto something. Washington is where there's a chance. It's 100 miles away. "Don't you want one more day with a chance?" she asks. He agrees. Would we go to Washington? Of course. Right now that's the new land of opportunity.
Since Tyreese was bitten on the arm, the group has to chop it off just like they did with Hershel's leg. Tyreese already predicted the ending earlier when he said, "People like me, they can't live." The episode ends with him dead on the road. Another one gone and another dream takes its place.
Louis CK did a bit about death at his Madison Square Garden show that got to me. It was something about how you'll never really know how long you lived. Even if your last thought before dying is "This is it! This is it!" you don't really know, and I love that this show constantly touches on that idea of agnosticism in life. Tyreese's survival instincts were constantly grating, but as an admittedly indecisive person, his character made so much more sense to me after this episode.