This week’s episode shifts focus again and brings us back to a different splinter of the group: Abraham, Rosita, Eugene, Glenn, Maggie, and Tara. As they juggernaut to Washington D.C. on Abraham’s church bus, Glenn and Maggie wonder how Rick’s group is doing, and whether or not Daryl and Carol have returned. They share my personal hopes that Rick and the rest of the gang will be following the trail sooner rather than later. It’s a nice moment of downtime for the group, one that they use to ponder Eugene’s hairstyle choices. Eugene claims that his old boss, the director of the Human Genome Project, T. Brooks Ellis, liked it and it said it made him look like “a fun guy.” Eugene’s oddball deadpan humor has been a strange but welcome presence on the show. Really, Eugene’s whole group was a stark contrast to the motif of the show when they first arrived. Abraham and Rosita, along with Eugene, approached Glenn and Tara last season like early 90s action heroes. Now that they’ve been through some things with the core cast of characters, they’re starting to fit in seamlessly despite the fact that their garish appearances have not changed – besides maybe looking grimier and bloodier.
The laid-back fun of the bus ride is, without warning, tossed into chaos when the bus flips over onto the side of the road. Thought The Walking Dead would hand us a few laughs for free? Nah. But they all survive the crash and fight their way out of the zombie horde surrounding the overturned vehicle. It’s a good moment for Glenn and Abraham to show off their tactical prowess together, and serves to form a bond between Tara and Eugene as they watch each other’s backs (Since the two of them are arguably the least formidable of the crew against walkers.) My ears might have deceived me, but I think Abraham pulled a Bill O’Reilly and shouted “We’ll do it live!” before they jumped out of the bus. Abraham’s lines have always been golden, but in an episode that largely revolves around him, it’s nonstop dicks, damns, and goat rodeos. The episode showed a personal side to Abraham as well. We’re teased with flashbacks of Abraham near the start of the zombie apocalypse, and shown that his wife ran away with their children in fear after he murdered people who were probably going to do them harm. Like, okay lady, RUN AWAY from the guy who just saved your life, into the arms of FLESH EATING ZOMBIES. With your kids in tow. Smart move. So I fault the writers there for not thinking of a better back-story for Abraham, preferably one that made sense. His dark past is literally “My wife was a stupid asshole and now my family is dead.”
The episode featured a lot of intimate conversations throughout the middle of the hour. Abraham and Glenn discussed what it takes to survive in this new world, and how killing has become the easiest thing nowadays. Eugene gets caught spying on Abraham and Rosita having sex, which is something that could have been very creepy if it hadn’t been handled so humorously. Rosita points it out to Abraham that Eugene is watching, and they just laugh. When Tara catches him, Eugene says “Cards on the table, I was watching them.” That sort of self-admission really lets him own up to how weak, weird, and lonely he is, and just acknowledge it like “Yeah, I messed up, sorry I’m a freak.” And then after Eugene confesses that he sabotaged the bus to break down, Tara sneaks a peak herself. It was a light moment for what could have been a very disturbing sequence.
Zombie action was also at a high for this episode. I’ve been watching this show since the beginning, and I admit I can kind of space out during the zombie scenes because it’s so routine these days. Oh, hey, walkers, let’s walk over there and kill them. There’s very little sense of danger now, because we’re used to it. The Walking Dead has moved into an era of relative security where we know which characters are “safe” and which ones are expendable. The last time I truly feared for a character’s safety was just before Glenn and Maggie’s reunion. I feared one of them might bite the dust before they found each other. However, instead of employing a terror tactic with the action this episode, the writers treated us to some innovative combat tactics. When the group tries to revive and malfunctioning firetruck, they inadvertently unleash a building full of walkers. Eugene uses the fire hose on the truck to take out the entire horde before they’re able to overwhelm Abraham, Glenn, and the ladies. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a walker have its head totally chunked apart in the way Abraham’s rifle stock did.
Let’s back to that thing I mentioned about Eugene sabotaging the bus though. This episode delivers a huge revelation. Abraham has been on this furious mission to get Eugene safely to D.C., right? And it gets so intense, that Abraham is prepared to lead all of them through the mile-wide horde of walkers covering the road ahead of them. It begs the question, WHY is Abraham so bull-headed? Why does he refuses to stop for more than a day, why does he not allow everyone to properly rest and restock? It seems like his determination is obviously skewed somehow and deeply motivated by what happened to his family. He’s SO determined, that when the rest of the group refuses to follow him into the jaws of death, he takes Eugene by the coat and walks him forward. The rest try to stop him, particularly Glenn. Glenn, who has gone along with Abraham this whole way, tolerating him and agreeing with him. Now, Glenn is putting his foot down, and Abraham starts beating the shit out of him. In order to stop the fight, Eugene confesses that he’s not a scientist. He doesn’t know how to cure the infection. He can’t stop any of this. He just figured that if he lied to make himself seem important, he could find people to protect him. And he did. He lists names of everyone who died for his sake. It was a logical survival plan. And it got him pretty far, but as they moved onward Eugene felt more and more nervous at the thought of having to reveal his lie. No doubt, having people die to protect him started to gnaw at his conscious too. Throughout the episode, you can see the regret in his face as he shares moments with Tara and Maggie. And to save Glenn from a beating, he tells the truth.
Abraham punches him, and punches him again, knocking him out. Eugene falls to the ground with a squishy sound effect we’re used to hearing when a zombie’s head gets stabbed. So. That’s probably not good. Eugene’s fate is left up in the air as Abraham walks off, kneels, and begins to cry. Through the final flashback, we see Abraham about to commit suicide after finding his family, then – shouts from a scared stranger. Eugene is being chased by walkers and Abraham comes to his rescue, killing the walkers and then leaving Eugene to finish what he started. Eugene cries after him, trying to get him to stay, and then invents the lie that he’s on a very important mission.
Then, it hits you. Eugene’s mission gave Abraham a purpose in life. He had just lost everything. He was ready to die. And then Eugene, in an effort to save his own skin, handed him a chance to save the world. Now it’s crystal clear why Abraham was so obsessed with the mission. And now that it’s gone, what kind of character is he going to become? There’s still merit in continuing on the D.C., as Eugene did say he still wholeheartedly believes there’s safety there, if anywhere. But the mission that seemed to be driving this season’s story-arc appears to be dead. My guess is, we’ll have to wait for Rick to catch up and take charge again. Judging by the comics, we know they’ll all end up in Washington eventually, by seeing how they get there will be the fun part.