HomeTelevisionRecap: The Walking Dead, 'Strangers'

Recap: The Walking Dead, ‘Strangers’

The Walking Dead Season 5 poster.

Plot: With Terminus burning in the distance, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) takes his group out into the unknown wilderness. Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) is adamant about traveling to Washington DC but quickly finds that the others are not easily convinced. And who exactly is Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam)?

When it comes to filling the gaps between point A and point B, The Walking Dead occasionally has a some trouble. There simply isn’t always interesting content to fill time that’s mainly walking around the backwoods of Georgia. For many, that was the biggest complaint of Season 4.5, AKA the time between The Governor and Gareth (Andrew J. West). Our group was spread out over eight episodes and a lot of that time was aimless wandering with one-off conflicts. Remember Joe? Sure, how he died was freaking awesome, but looking back on it he clearly existed to make the interim a little more interesting. Once Terminus actually appeared, he was promptly dispatched. Simple as that.

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

I bring this up because most of “Strangers” was this interim traveling that needed to be spiced up. Terminus is in ruins and the group fervently believes that they’re in the clear. So what’s next? Travel to DC or keep wandering for something potentially better? Regardless of what they pick, there’s still that frustrating traveling we have to deal with. The introduction of comic staple Father Gabriel Stokes, played by another alum of The Wire, only changed this up a little bit. How this pacifist priest has survived for so long is an appropriate mystery for Rick to be concerned about, and it’s an investigation I can really see myself getting behind, but when you occupy most of the time with another supply run, it’s easy to lose some interest. Especially if you’re one of the people who believes that Terminus really is gone for good and you’re in store for another season of traveling before the truly exciting bits come back. At the very least, Gilliam was the perfect choice to play Gabriel. Gabriel has never been super integral to the overall story, but he does fulfill the need of a moral center for the group to turn to. He might have a bigger role in the show, but even if he doesn’t, I’m glad to have him around.

Thankfully the Terminus story really isn’t over, and the interim traveling to whatever is over after only an episode. Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) are the only ones to actually suspect the group is being followed, but it’s not until Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) is captured do we see the Terminus survivors, including Gareth and Martin (Chris Coy). Clearly the “No Body, No Death” rule rings true as Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) didn’t actually kill Martin despite his claims, though I’m sure we all wished he did. In an exceptionally wise move, the show has officially transformed these television exclusive characters into the villainous Hunters that terrorized Rick and his group as they stayed in Gabriel’s church in the comics. Gareth even directly stated that they have “evolved” to eating people, in case anyone was actually holding out for a verbal confirmation of his cannibalism. I don’t know about anyone else, but being hunted down by blood thirsty cannibals is a great way to dispel the traveling doldrums.

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

It’s worth noting that this segment, and likely most of this half of the season, is being ripped almost directly from the comic books. Normally this wouldn’t be a point of interest with an adaptation, but considering how much the show deviates, it’s nice to see the source material fall into place so neatly. The Hunters are here in both person and in name. Gabriel and his church is being used as a sanctuary for Rick’s broken group before they travel up north. There are even suitable substitutions for deceased characters who played major roles in the comic version of these events. Bob and Carol are perfectly filling those voids that were originally occupied by Dale and Andrea. We even got a subtle confirmation that Bob’s accident while scavenging left him with a bite (if the crying wasn’t a dead giveaway, it was the extended look at the tree when he got hit), further making him the new “Dale” of the show. This should delight fans of the comics because we all know how that played out (awesomely).

As for Carol, her comparison with Andrea primarily stems from her being one of the first to actually believe they’re being followed (along with Daryl). That’s nothing compared to the real message of the episode: Carol is unlike anyone in the group. She’s the biggest loner of them all, and I’m glad the show played that up. Daryl kept asking to talk about what happened but she refused to say anything out of pain, despite Daryl’s insistence that anyone can get a fresh start again. Clearly, going all Terminator on Terminus has messed with her. To further prove her inherent strangeness, Rick even goes out of his way to thank her, apologize for the exile, and then ask to join her out in the world. It’s almost as if she’s not really a member of their close knit group anymore. Most likely, Carol was prepping that car to leave on her own again.

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

“Strangers” did do an excellent job at balancing this sizable cast. Now that the group is almost completely back together and on the road, it’s not easy to get characters away to only focus on small bunches. “Strangers” was able to do this with a deft hand. The scavenging groups were divided up and each small section worked well enough to warrant the screentime. When everyone was together, like during Abraham’s impassioned speech about going to DC, you didn’t get lost in the clutter. You paid attention to those that necessitated it and simply enjoyed the fact that everyone else was having a good time. Of course, all good times have to end. Bob lost his leg to cannibals and both Daryl and Carol are tracking down the car that took Beth (Emily Kinney). While “No Sanctuary” did an amazing job at starting us off with an explosive premiere, “Strangers” really gave us an idea of what to expect this season. Hunt or be hunted is right.

Rating: 8.5/10

Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.


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