by Thom Yee
So here we are at the penultimate episode of this long and dreary season, and I can’t help but ask, “… Is that it?”
“Us” is a slow episode where everyone catches up with everyone else and the story for the back half of the season finally takes shape. That’s all fine, it’s just not something we should’ve had to wait till the second last episode of the season for. We should’ve been here maybe two episodes in rather than two episodes out. Basically, right now everyone’s on the way to Terminus at various speeds. Rick, Carl and Michonne are slowly sauntering their way over as they try to keep their balance on the train tracks while eating chocolate bars. Glenn’s still insisting that his group of Tara, Abraham, Rosita and Eugene hurry up — especially now that he’s seen some of Maggie’s written-in-zombie-blood messages — even though nobody else in his group really cares about Maggie, and Tara’s still limping along on her perpetually sprained ankle. Daryl’s still stuck with the hunters, finding out that they may be a bunch of Jerks, but at least they’re Jerks with rules (like yelling “claimed” to lay claim to whatever it is they’re looking at, even though breaking that rule four episodes ago is what caused me to call the whole group a bunch of Jerks in the first place. Jerks.). We’re left to assume that Carol and Tyrese are also still making their way to Terminus as they don’t appear in “Us”, a fair assumption considering that the only reason we saw a momentary glimpse of Rick’s group at all this episode was because we haven’t seen them in a while and we had to be reminded they exist before next episode.
The centre-piece of the episode would probably have to be the tunnel, in which Glenn’s foolish insistence to follow Maggie’s messages into a dark, menacing cave of a train overpass with clearly audible walker moans causes he and Tara to split with Abraham, Rosita and Eugene. Seriously, walking into a zero-visibility enclosed space that’s clearly full of zombies? Worst plan ever, and I don’t need Abraham’s tactical, military mind to figure that out. It almost felt like Maggie’s messages were a trap, except that wouldn’t make any sense (plus what would be the point?). So Glenn and Tara head into the blackest-night cave of death, Glenn checking out every walker to see if they’re Maggie, until limping Tara gets her leg trapped underneath the rubble where the roof gave in and they’re trapped. Then Maggie, Sasha and Bob, with Abraham, Rosita and Eugene show up and save them, proving how stupid and waste-of-time it was to head into the blackest-night cave of death. And of course now Maggie, Glenn et al. are freed to proceed to Terminus without a care in the world. Y’know, like “I wonder if my younger sister Beth is okay?”
Meanwhile, Daryl gets one of the Jerks killed in a storyline that’s not really worth reviewing but proves how serious the Jerks are about their codes around things like lying or claiming things (even though they’re not that serious about them like I reminded you two paragraphs ago). Turns out the Jerks are also on their way to Terminus (instead of just wandering around), not to find salvation, but because they’re tracking Rick for killing one of them in that episode I’ve now twice alluded to. “Uh oh, conflicting group motivations will lead to inevitable conflict”, we’re led to think.
In the end, “Us” in and of itself isn’t that bad so much as it’s nearing the last straw for this season. It’s a serviceable episode that finally puts some pieces together, but it’s way too late in the season for the show to just be putting pieces together. What were the last six episodes about then? Basic face value? Slice of life stories after the zombies came? Letting go of your inner demons by burning houses down? Proving why some kids are crazy, beyond help, and just need to be killed?
Ultimately, I think we can blame it all on the producers holding on to the Governor story for too long. Instead of ending it all last season, they dragged his story into the middle of this one, truncating the possibility of a coherent overall seasonal arc, and the writers weren’t up to fitting wherever it is they’re trying to go into just the back half. The one potential saving grace for this season comes from watching the preview for next week:
There’s a seriously f*cked up Logan’s Run vibe to that promo, something that not only did I not see (Nazi?) coming, but would represent a huge departure from the comic. And it would really tie up the whole Sanctuary thing (i.e., “there is no Sanctuary.”) in a manner that’s way more out there than I thought the writers were capable of.
The Walking Dead “Us” final score: 6
Items of Note:
-They’re really going full-on Sheldon Cooper with Eugene.
-I’d be remiss if I didn’t try to remind readers that you may remember the leader of the Jerks from his turn in New Girl as the lonely landlord who tried to sleep with Jessica and Nick.