The central thrust of this week’s The Walking Dead is still “get the guys back together so they can hang out again,” and it really does feel like we’re gradually, ever so gradually, working towards that. Characters are starting to meet each others’ orbits, and starting to tread where their friends have trodden earlier on, all working towards reaching this mysterious “terminus,” the Sanctuary that we get one step closer to actualizing in this episode.
The final lingering shot this week is of Carl, Rick and Michonne heading on down those train tracks that we saw Carol, Tyreese and the kids head down last episode, but we don’t need to worry about that right now. The most important thing about this episode is that we get the first glimpse of an actual explanation for everything that’s occurred. It’s easy to forget amongst the excitement of potential zombie babies, Carl losing his shoe and the further adventures of Rick’s beard that we still have absolutely no idea just what the hell happened in the first place. To sustain the show for this long without revealing the cause is impressive in and of itself, and that the audience doesn’t really seem to be that bothered about it is testament to the very human emotions that the writers of the show manage to mine from a set-up that is, let’s face it, well-trodden in contemporary fiction. It seems like there might have been some sort of “Captain Trips”-style biological accident (all the fans of The Stand say “yeah!”), but I’d be surprised if we ever get an in-depth explanation. It’s just not as important to the show as, say, how the island in Lost could travel through time, or who killed Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks.
That said, it was electrifying to be confronted by someone who actually has answers, even if they are classified. Dr. Eugene Porter is going to be an important character, I’m sure. I haven’t read the comics, but didn’t his crew seem a little too easily distracted from their quest to Washington? It didn’t quite ring true for me that they’d abandon that in favor of following Glenn to try and find Maggie. That all happened a bit too quickly for my liking.
The lingering shot on Eugene would suggest that he has other plans in mind, even though they are heading south when they should be heading north. The fact that nobody is picking up the phone in Washington would, to our normal ears, suggest that everyone there is dead, just like everyone was dead at the Center for Disease Control. Maybe they already know this, maybe they just needed a catalyst for survival. It seems like Glenn is actually following Abraham’s advice by desperately trying to find Maggie because if he can find her, then he won’t be alone. He’ll survive. Solidarity has always been a pet theme of The Walking Dead, nowhere more so than in these most recent episodes, but in searching for that one special person Glenn is both inverting that theme and taking it to its logical conclusion – he’s sacrificing being with a group of relative nobodies for the chance of being with that one somebody. Does that make sense?