The latest episode of “The Walking Dead,” “Four Walls and a Roof,” was very much a transitional episode. The climax occurred midway through, with the final wrap-up of the Terminus storyline, but what lies ahead looks every bit as grim as what came before.
So were there any surprises here? Yes, but not the kind we’ve come to expect.
The episode took place almost entirely in Father Gabriel’s church and featured the final confrontation between Rick’s crew and Gareth and his band of cannibals from Terminus. Guess who wins?
But though Gareth and company are gone forever, the real losers may have been Rick, Sasha, Michonne and Abraham. Because while Gareth and his people lost their lives, the others lost a little bit more of their humanity.
After outsmarting Gareth’s ruse to split up the group (not a very clever or effective one), Rick cornered Gareth in the church and proceeded to hack him to death, along with his party.
Father Gabriel whispered, aghast, “This is the Lord’s house.”
“No,” Maggie responded, “It’s just four walls and a roof.”
As far as this crew is concerned, God has left the building.
Which brings us to the episode’s most surprising development: the sudden importance of Father Gabriel.
When he was introduced last week, Gabriel was an enigma. Clearly, he had a few secrets, but now that we’ve learned that he’s a complete and utter coward, barely worth trusting -- we’d normally write him off as zombie chow. But with Maggie’s chilling words, it’s become immediately apparent that this crew needs a man of faith, no matter how tenuous his grasp of decent behavior may be.
So, suddenly, a character who last week appeared to be nothing more than an extended guest looks like he could become an important voice on the show. Of course, this could just be a lot of wishful thinking. But one thing “The Walking Dead” desperately needs is a variety of characters beyond the steely tough guy and gal. There are plenty of those to go around, but it’s the softer characters, the ones who aren’t afraid to laugh and cry and act like the rest of us, that are just as important.
We saw that Gareth and the people of Terminus were once kind and helpful, but that they were betrayed once too often before they snapped and became cannibals. It looks as though Rick may be headed down that same heartless path. If that’s the case, then it might be that Gabriel could become the one to stop him. Because as whiny as the priest seemed in his first appearance, it would be amazing to see him turn it around and become strong.
Meanwhile, another good guy departed the series this week: Bob. As predicted last week, Bob did indeed get bit by a walker in the food bank basement. Then he was abducted by the cannibals, who ate his leg. The joke was on them, though, because Bob was infected meat through and through. Luckily, Bob’s death was not treated as just another plot twist. As he lay dying on the couch in Gabriel’s office, he reminded us all that despite all the horrific inhumanity on display, some people could retain their soul.
Poor Bob. At least his exit was classy.
And, once again, we were treated to another one of those “Walking Dead” “breaking of the Fellowship” scenes, with Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, Maggie and Glenn headed off to Washington and Rick and the rest staying behind at the church to wait for Daryl and Carol.
Writing for a big ensemble together must be tricky, because this group has rarely remained together. But here’s hoping they don’t spend the rest of the season wandering along to their next destination, as they did last season. It worked then, but the speed of this season’s opening made us appreciate a change in the sometimes languid pace of this series.
Luckily, Rick didn’t have to wait long for his hoped-for reunion. Daryl is back, and Carol too, presumably -- though it looks as if this reunion won’t be as happy as expected.
But, hey, at least we’ll finally learn what happened to Beth. Unfortunately, it looks like it’ll be as unpleasant an experience as everyone else has been having. No easy rides for anyone around here.
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