Heading into the fifth season of The Walking Dead the viewer should now have a keen understanding of the constants that the show delivers. Start with the group thinking they are safe, introduce or reintroduce a human threat, sew seeds of discontent throughout the group to play out moral decisions, have group come together over adversity to live another day. Oh right, sprinkle some zombies in there for good measure. The recipe is near sacrosanct at this point (telling from the 15 million viewers a week ago) and there is no reason to change it up now. Sometimes it works better than others but either way the show knows what it is going to be week in and week out. “Four Walls And A Roof” is no different.
After the elation at the end of “Strangers” we were given a stark realization that the survivors from the Terminus camp that bookended the past and current seasons are now tracking Rick’s group and craving the taste of human flesh. Opening with the tainted Bob-Kabob (patent pending) and Gareth’s cannibals serves as an introduction to the threat of the week. Step one complete. Next, in order to get moving onto Washington the group must find their three missing compadres and finish off the threat of Gareth once and for all. We are moving right on down the checklist.
As for the third step in our Walking Dead Casserole the moral question of the episode resides once again in the push and pull that has been the Abraham v. Rick relationship. Abraham wants to push on through and get the hell out of Dodge while Rick has his self-induced duty to protect his own. This all gets settled pretty easily with a Gleggie-backed solution for the couple to go north with Abraham if the situation has not been resolved by high noon. Now it is time to go cannibal hunting.
The solution is simple. Gareth and his crew of ragtag hunters need to die. There is no getting around this fact and even Gareth’s promise that they will leave them alone serves as only lip service. The problem with this episode, and its one that I admit is mainly a personal problem with the show, is the brutal nature of the murder scene. Sure, Rick and his group have been pushed to the edge yet again and the sheer emotion that they are going through allows for a heated machete on skull interaction but the escapism of the show has become ungrounded. The ability for the viewer to escape once centered on the world that these people were forced to inhabit, how they would handle the crumbling of society and culture and the brutalities that awaited them. Now though it is only the latter. The brutality of the murder scene does nothing other than exhibit they have been pushed too far yet again, making them less than human, only hard killing machines. This is where the show has started to become unhinged. Unfortunately this heavy handed attempt at shock takes all of the bright spots that could have been and dulls them. It makes Maggie’s response to Gabriel all the less effective and ultimately leaves us with the Beth subplot now as a less than fulfilling focal point.
There are many bright spots that highlight the good in The Walking Dead throughout the episode however. The farewell to Bob was surprising emotional for a character that only recently came into his own. Tyreese still stands out as a model of sanity and humanity in this world and Gabriel continues to shine. Overall, the fifth season has started out attempting to right the ship after a lackluster season four while still delivering the recipe for its success. Now only if they can get back trying to live in this world and not simply surviving in it.