Editor’s note: this review will contain some spoilers. I will try to keep them to a minimum, but they’re be there nonetheless. You’ve been warned.
…and then the bus caught on fire.
That’s this episode in a microcosm. We spend the whole episode moving toward the common goal of getting Eugene to Washington, DC, but are stymied at every point. In the end, they don’t make it terribly far. They’re still very much in Georgia, probably only a short distance from the church. Fortunately, this might end up being a good thing, because of a bombshell Eugene drops in the final act.
But let’s step back a minute, shall we? The Walking Dead has stacked quite a few cliffhangers on top of one another here. First, we see Daryl arrive back at the church with some sort of big reveal. We haven’t found out what that is yet, but I’m guessing that he’s coming back with Noah from the hospital, having lost Carol. And then there’s Beth, who is still stuck in the hospital. That’s a lot of balls in the air, and it was pretty strange jumping away from the hospital plot line to check in with Abe and Eugene.
It might end up making sense, though, if the a hospital rescue is the big plot movement for the first half of the season, and it’s looking more and more likely that that’s going to be the case. In order for that to work, however, we have to get the gang back together. And that’s setup for “Self Help”.
There’s a fair bit happening in this episode, but the most interesting bits from my perspective revolve around Abe. Sprinkled throughout the episode are flashbacks from Abe’s past, showing how he lost his family. I really liked the way these were structured. They just gave brief flashes that slowly built up to give us the whole story, and what a story it was. Abe was hiding out with his family in a grocery store, and had to kill something to keep his family safe. It’s never made explicitly clear whether that was a zombie or a living person, but considering the abject horror of his family, it’s a good bet that he killed a living person. They end up fleeing, afraid of their husband and father. They don’t make it far, and leave Abe a tragically broken figure. It’s only through meeting Eugene and learning of his “special mission” that Abe is able to continue.
That’s a fantastic back story, and it’s made all the better by Eugene’s dark secret. As I’m sure most of us have guessed at this point, there is no cure. Eugene isn’t even a scientist, he’s just a guy who wants to survive and figures that his best chance of doing so is by manipulating more capable people around him. The trouble is, he pulled in a few people who were just a little too capable, and they were slowly but surely getting closer to the ultimate goal of Washington DC.
He tries to stall, even sabotaging vehicles to keep the group from moving forward. Unfortunately for him, nothing can stand in the way of Abe’s single-minded focus on his goal, so every monkey wrench Eugene quietly throws in the works only slows the group temporarily; it never stops them. Nothing, it seems, can stop them. And that’s how we end up with Abe insisting on a suicide run through a horde of what appears to be thousands of zombies. He is a man that is completely worn down, and unable to process another setback. The only way, in his mind, is forward, even if that means going through more zombies than the group has any hope of surviving.
It’s a fantastic setup. While the rest of the group is united against Abe’s plan, he refuses the listen to reason. In the end, he decides to press forward with only Eugene in tow, and it’s time to drop that big bombshell: there is no cure. Eugene is no scientist.
Most of us knew it was coming, but The Walking Dead manages to make what was an obvious plot device absolutely devastating to Abe. Eugene’s cure was the only thing holding him together. He managed to suppress the trauma of losing his wife and children by focusing completely on a single goal. That got him across multiple states, helped him cope with the loss of a number of people in his group, and gave him the strength to keep pressing on when it would be far easier to just dig in and try to survive. And in the matter of a moment, it all disappeared.
It was a powerful moment, and I really bought Abe’s reaction, even his violent attack on the man he’d spent the last god-knows-how-long protecting.
I mentioned above that The Walking Dead has a lot of balls in the air right now, and that’s true. We’ve got a lot of outstanding plot devices to worry about, and several major characters are in danger. But I don’t care about any of that in light of this episode. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to seeing Carol and Beth rescued and the group to be reunited, but the real driving force of the show right now is to see how Abe deals with his life now that he no longer has a greater purpose. I hope the writers continue handling this as adeptly as they have so far, because it’s one of the show’s stronger moments.
It was so good, in fact, that I’m not even going to dwell on that ridiculous bus crash that opened the episode. Or that weird sex scene.
Firehose versus zombie sure was cool though.
Now I really think that Season 5 is probably the best season out of all of them…
Abraham was a character that was really well developed in this episode. I actually thought the writers were gonna change the fact that Eugene didn’t know the cure, but I guess it wouldn’t fit the whole The Walking Dead them: everybody’s doomed. But if we think about it, Eugene kinda saved Abraham. If he hadn’t come along, Abe would be lying on the side of the road, with his brains splattered across the ground.
Also, I’m dying to see when they will introduce the Alexandria safe-zone and Negan.
Also forgot to say, I hope Eugene becomes a badass. In the comics he becomes so badass that he *Tiny spoilers* nearly bites Dwight’s balls off. Ridiculous but still…
Oh man, I need to get caught up on the comics.
Kirkman’s a mastermind when it comes to zombie story-telling.
I’ve definitely enjoyed what I’ve read so far, but I’m several years behind at this point.
This was definitely Abe’s episode, but it also got me to come around on Eugene. Even though he was a complete asshole, I’ve come to really like the guy.
Wow 5/5 Dave? We really are differing on the more recent episodes.
The last 2 episodes have stank of mid (mid) season filler and cliff hanger build up. In my eyes after the best series start yet they have reverted back to there old dragging things out ways.
What did we really get from this episode? A dodgy bus crash, Abe’s zombie origin story (the short n sweet approach to this was about the only thing in the episode I appreciated), Eugene’s not a scientist and 15 miles from the main group (thats right they have only made it 15 miles) there is a huge hoard of zombies. Other than that it was all gumppff!
Seriously this show seems to want 10 mins of content and 30 mins of innovative zombie kills, or cool looking backdrops.
This whole plot line has made no sense since 3 episodes ago. The cannibals are dead, but we’re leaving anyway, we can’t possibly stay a night longer to see if Darryl and Carol return (so we can all leave in together), and we’re dragging to lead characters away with us. If these guys end up back at the church with the main group what was the point?
Perhaps the writers will go outside the box and they’ll arrive at the hospital just i time to save the day – wait, that sounds just like Carol and Terminus….
Personally I would have preferred to see a Rick and Abe fight in the church and have Eugene cave and tells everyone he’ a liar. Yes we would miss out on fire-hose zed killing, but we’d also have another episode free which they could put in some content.
I’m going to predict right now that next weeks and last weeks episodes could be combined to make a faster flowing, all-round better Hospital episode.
Hah, we’re definitely seeing things differently, although I can definitely understand your perspective.
I would offer one nit-pick though. They were 15 miles away from the church when the bus crashed; they did keep going until the fire truck died. I have no idea how far that is, though. I suspect not terribly far.
I wish they would have told more about the humans that Abe killed in front of his family but they were moving on. Eugene is left jacked up but I like this season so far much better than the last (the worst). I think Carol is playing it up for the hospital, Daryl is not burning anyone we know in the preview and Noah is in the next for sure. Only 3 episodes left this year so it’s time to wrap it up.
Last season the worst? Worse than season two?
I feel the same way about the people Abe kills; I really hope we revisit that in the near future.
I have been really enjoying the past couple of seasons of TWD and season 2 has been the worst so far. It wasn’t bad, but there was WAY too much of nothing happening. When Carol’s zombie daughter walked out of the shed I was totally underwhelmed. That whole season could probably have been half as long and been better paced for it. The comic suffers from this as well. There are entire issues that are a bit too talky and the art ends up hidden behind a wall of speech balloons. Remember it’s a comic not a novel LOL.
In the comics there is a reason Abe went bat shit crazy and that was because when he was out on a supply run the rest of the group made use of his wife! Needless to say he wasn’t a happy camper.
Love the comic all it needs is a musical bit with a song Everyone’s A Zombie to the tune everything is awesome.
“Made us of”… good lord is that a creepy euphemism.