This week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Alone,” was written by Curtis Gwinn and directed by Ernest Dickerson. The episode once again focused on two groups of survivors but wonderfully weaved the same theme of what it means to be alone through both story threads. This was another wonderfully written and acted episode that still featured plenty of action, gore, and horror.
The episode begins in flashback and picks up the story of Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.). Gillard is fantastic in this episode, and it was great to finally get some real insight into his character. It looks more and more like those animals being tortured back at the prison were the handiwork of Lizzie – Bob was really the only other viable candidate.
In flashback, we see Bob wandering alone, looking emotionally shut off and pretty much shell-shocked. At one point he barricades himself into a safe enclosure so he can further distance himself from reality by downing an entire bottle of what looked like NyQuil. Eventually, he is overtaken by Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Daryl (Norman Reedus). It was amazing how relatively clean Glenn and Daryl look here in comparison to how bedraggled they all look in the present. We get to see Daryl ask the sequence of three questions that the counsel had devised to ask anyone they were considering letting in. It was great to see the questions actually in context and see how they really do reveal something about the person being asked.
Daryl asks Bob how many walkers he’s killed, and he answers that he hasn’t counted but that it must be a couple dozen. This proves that he’s a good defender and potential asset to the group, and not hung up on walkers being “people.” To the second question of how many people he’s killed, Bob answers only one. This question is a good indication of whether they need to be worried about the individual, but doesn’t mean a whole lot without the third question, “Why?” Bob answers, “because she asked me to.” In this new reality, this is a fairly common act of mercy. Daryl doesn’t hesitate to ask Bob if he wants to join them. Daryl asks Bob if he has any questions for them. Bob answers that it doesn’t matter who they are. For Bob, they are better than being alone.
In flashing forward to the present, we find Bob, Maggie (Lauren Cohen) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) battling walkers back-to-back in a dense fog. The fog, of course is symbolic of them being “in the fog” about where the rest of the survivors are too. It’s also symbolic of them being unable to see their path forward at this time – whether to seek the first shelter they come to in order to survive or risk continuing to look for the others who may be dead anyway – whether to be alone or try to re-form the group. The fog also cranks up the horror of that attack by taking away their ability to see the walkers until they are almost upon them. Both Maggie and Bob have close calls.
It was a bit jarring to see Bob being the optimist, and this contrast was made even greater by the first scene. When they find the sign for Terminus, Bob reminds us of the earlier episode, “Isolation” when they heard “sanctuary...those who arrive... surv..” over the radio on the way to scavenge the Veterinary College for medicine. I loved that this was the second reference in this episode to a fall episode – nicely done Gwinn! Sasha expresses concern that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Sasha has totally gone into isolate and protect mode. She is afraid to hope. Bob points out that it says sanctuary, and this is a nice tie in to the other story line.
Daryl has been teaching Beth (Emily Kinney) to hunt, and in the process, she steps on a trap and hurts her ankle. They look for somewhere safe, and find a funeral home or church – the ultimate and traditional sanctuary. There is a lovely scene in which Beth sees a tombstone that reminds her of Hershel and pauses to offer her respect. Rather than make fun of her, Daryl grabs some nearby flowers and places them reverently on the tombstone. Beth takes his hand and leans into him, seeking comfort. Daryl’s expression is inscrutable. Beth clearly thinks of him as a protector, but it is more difficult to determine Daryl’s exact feelings for her. Is she simply the last of his charges? Does she remind him of the other girl he was unable to save – Sophia?
There is also a great moment when Beth wonders if there are people at the church. Daryl states that if there are, he will “handle” them. Beth points out that they could be “good.” Daryl remarks, darkly, that he doesn’t think the good ones survive. What does that say about them? Daryl has desperately been trying to prove that he’s a good guy, and it’s clear that he thinks Beth is good. Daryl also advocates keeping to themselves rather than risking being part of a group.
Maggie leaves her group because she doesn’t want to ask them to risk their lives for her, so she strikes out on her own. In the beginning, Bob is alone; he’s surviving but he’s not really living – he is just as much one of the walking dead as the zombies he encounters. It’s symbolic that Maggie is attacked by a single walker at the first crossroads that she comes to. Crossroads, of course, symbolize a decision or a choice. Maggie kills the walker and uses its blood to leave a note for Glenn, telling him where to find her. She chooses life and she chooses to believe he is alive. She tells Sasha before she leaves that she knows Glenn will go to Terminus because she knows him. Even when they are apart, they aren’t alone because they know each other so well. So Maggie signals that she is alive with the walker blood, she’s not one of the walking dead.
Sasha is puzzled by Bob’s sudden optimism and asks him why he’s smiling all the time. Bob tells her it’s because “I’m not alone.” People from the prison got away. He’s not the only survivor for the first time. He tells Sasha that he broke his streak and that self-awareness is a beautiful thing. When faced with a choice, Bob can’t stand the thought of Maggie being alone and won’t stop when Sasha wants to. Sasha says that Maggie made her own choice to be on her own. Bob explains that he had been afraid. When he first joined the group, he wondered how long until they were all dead too. Bob doesn’t say that he drank because he was scared, but that comes through clearly when he says that bad things happened because he was scared and they didn’t need to. He’d cut himself off emotionally from the group so that he was alone even though he was in the middle of a crowd.
Bob tells Sasha not to be afraid. She clearly doesn’t want to hope that Tyreese is alive and then find out he’s not. Bob tells her that she’s the bravest person he knows, which is weird because she’s also the sweetest. Before he leaves her, he tries to bring her back to the land of the living, to break her out of her isolation by kissing her. She is still too afraid to live though and opts for the relative safety of the town. She tells him that he doesn’t have to be alone again, and he tells her that he won’t be. He has faith that he’ll join back up with Maggie. In fact, with Sasha being cut off emotionally, he’d be essentially alone even with her.
Martin-Green is fantastic in the scene in which she finds herself alone in the building. She begins to break down and covers her face with her hands. You can see her physically stop herself from indulging in despair. Right after that she sees Maggie out the window and alerts the walkers. She goes to Maggie’s aide. One of the great things about this show is that there really are strong, capable women, and they defeat all the walkers. I loved that Maggie’s new weapon is a street sign!
Sasha finally admits that she’s scared; she’s scared Tyreese is dead, and she’s scared of being alone. Maggie came back for them because she realized that she couldn’t find Glenn or get to Terminus on her own. She also realized that she wasn’t asking them to risk their lives, she was saving them by making them part of a larger group. There is a beautiful close up shot of Bob’s smiling face when Maggie and Sasha catch back up with him that nicely mirrors the opening shot of Bob’s bleak despair.
Meanwhile, the church provides some interesting surprises for Daryl and Beth. They find a horde of food that has no dust on it and Daryl assumes that it is somebody’s stash. In fact the whole house is suspiciously clean. Daryl suggests that they take what they need but leave the rest. Beth gleefully points out that she knew that Daryl was one of the good people who are left.
Daryl himself has never thought of himself as anything more than white trash. He even refers to the food they find as “white trash brunch.” He fundamentally doesn’t think he is as good as or as worthy as Beth, and he is both happy and confused by her attention and faith in him.
Kinney has a beautiful voice, and we’re treated to her singing once again in this episode. Instead of telling her to stop this time, Daryl encourages her to keep playing. Daryl actually crawls into the coffin, declaring it the most comfortable bed he’d had in years. It’s possibly an indication of Daryl’s desire for rest from the constant vigilance and fighting, but it’s also a symbol of a kind of re-birth for him. He looks thoughtful as Beth continues to play.
The next day there’s a noise outside the house, and Daryl tells Beth to stay back while he investigates. It’s a white dog, not walkers, and Daryl attempts to make friends with it, but it runs away. I see this as a symbol for Daryl’s attempts to be good, to be civilized. Beth shows up and Daryl scolds her for not staying back. She responds, “but you said there was a dog.” There’s a child-like desire on her part to see the dog.
Daryl finds Beth leaving a thank you note later that night and tells her maybe she doesn’t have to. He suggests they might be able to stick around and make it work with the people who live there if they come back – even if they’re crazy. Beth looks at him and is pleased, remarking that he does think there are still good people in the world. She presses him to know what changed his mind, and he evades answering her directly. Kinney and Reedus are outstanding in this scene as so much of it is done with only their expressions. Beth finally realizes that she is the one who has convinced Daryl. Is Daryl starting to feel more for her? We are left to wonder how that would turn out as there is another noise at the door.
Daryl has let his guard down, he’s let himself believe in good things, and he assumes that the noise is the dog coming back. He wants to give Beth the small comforts he can so he goes unarmed to the door and doesn’t even check before flinging it open to see a herd of walkers. He yells at Beth to run, to grab her shit and get out the window. Unlike the panicked escape from the prison though, Daryl has the foresight to tell her a rendezvous spot on the road. Daryl then risks himself by leading the walkers into the basement. There is an absolutely claustrophobic and epic fight as Daryl uses an exam table to slow them down enough for him to be able to kill them. It is an horrific scene as he is swarmed. I loved him grabbing an arrow out of one as he finally makes his escape.
Daryl is too late, however, to save Beth. He finds her bag, with the journal peeking out of it and is in time to see a car peeling away. Beth has been kidnapped and we can only assume they are not good people or they would have let her keep her things and waited for or even gone back for Daryl. Daryl starts to run after Beth. He runs well into the next day until he arrives at a crossroads – just as Maggie has before him. He loses the trail and is exhausted, finally sinking down on the road in seemingly utter despair.
It seems that he is asleep or past caring what happens to himself when he lets Joe (Jeff Kober) and his thugs surround him. It was really interesting to see them cross to Daryl’s storyline from Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln). Joe and company are, of course, exactly what we know now Daryl was before. I loved how Daryl goes from complete stillness to utter motion in one fluid gesture, punching Joe and laying him out. Such a show of force was really the only way to impress these thugs that Daryl might have some value past his clothes and crossbow. Joe proves why he is their leader by his astute assessment of Daryl. The crossbow marks him as one of them. Joe sees Daryl as one of them, someone to whom suicide is stupid. “Why hurt yourself when you can hurt other people.” Joe’s words mark them as the bad guys – in case there was any doubt.
Daryl has no choice here. If he doesn’t choose to go with them, they will kill him. But he also seems to accept his fate that he’s not a good guy, he’s destined to be one of the bad guys. Perhaps he even sees this as a punishment for losing Beth? Will he escape from them at the first opportunity or will he choose not to be alone and stay with them? In many ways, he will be alone in this group. He’s already chosen to be a good guy, and I’m betting he won’t be able to sit by and watch these guys hurt people. I’m really excited to see what Daryl does next.
This was another fantastic episode with a lot of character development in addition to the great gory fights. Reedus, Kinney, Gilliard, and Martin-Green all delivered powerful performances. Cohen was excellent as well but her character didn’t really have as much to do in this episode. What did you think of the episode? Do you think terminus will be a good place? Are you looking forward to the majority of the group being reunited soon? What do you think happened to Beth? How long do you think Daryl will stay with this new group? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!