"The Walking Dead" has always been a series with a strong current of depression running beneath the hard-driving zombie stomping. As the seasons have worn on, the emotions of the characters have gotten flatter and flatter. The highs are never that high and the lows are only sometimes met with tears.
But the depths of that depression have rarely been as artfully depicted as in the mid-season opener, "What Happened and What's Going On."
We'll just hit the bad news right away: Tyreese is a goner. The lovable bear of a guy, whose care for baby Judith last season showed just how tender a tough guy could be, met his maker. And he didn't go quick, either. Not like Beth in the previous episode, struck by a bullet. Tyreese got bit, lost an arm to a hurried amputation and still died.
But as shocking as the moment of the bite was to both himself and the viewers, what happened after was as sad and thoughtful a farewell as any character has had on the series. If you're gonna go, and everyone's gonna go sometime, might as well go out the way Tyreese did.
Lying on the floor of a bedroom in a former housing development-turned-settlement near Richmond, Va., that had been overrun with walkers, Tyreese hallucinated visits from those who have passed into the great beyond ahead of him. That means quite a few surprising cameos, including Lizzie and her sister, Mika, Bob Stookey, Martin the cannibal and even the Governor himself.
Together, these spirits of Tyreese's past helped him sort out his feelings about impending death while welcoming him slowly toward the other side, allowing him to cast off his worries and fears and slowly detach from his mortal frame.
Cable series tend to have a rhythm these days, with major deaths usually reserved for mid-season or season finales. But "The Walking Dead" has always been dedicated to changing up the rules of what is expected and what is necessary to keep things compelling.
For awhile, it's felt like the series has sacrificed "softer" characters, such as Beth and Bob, in order to keep the various fan favorite tough guys and gals, such as Michonne and Abraham. And usually, a major death comes after a period of transition and build up. But not with "The Walking Dead."
In an unexpected one-two punch, we lost Beth and immediately lost Tyreese. And while it's admirable that the show was willing to get rid of one of the tough guys, it does seem especially hard on black males. Back in Season 3, T-Dog died, only to be replaced almost immediately by Tyreese. Now that he's gone, will anyone come along to replace him? And is there a limit on how many strong black men can be in the group?
Perhaps it's time for Noah to step up and start wielding a machete.
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