The Walking Dead Review: “Strangers” (Season 5, Episode 2)


I didn’t get a chance to address this in last week’s review, but let’s consider for a minute Eugene’s weak explanation of this “cure.” This is The Walking Dead, and as Rick reminded Carl and the audience this week, everything and everybody needs to be handled suspiciously. So last week, when Eugene was asked about his cure, he started with “You wouldn’t understand,” and went to “You wouldn’t have the resources to do anything with it,” before saying, “We’re going to fight ‘fire with fire,’ and adjust some superbugs slightly to kill the dead.”

Not helping the fact is that Eugene (and his portrayer Josh McDermitt) sort of reminds me of Danny McBride, thus making it even more unlikely that I can take what he has to say at face value, but the whether or not the survivors would follow Eugene to Washington and a New New World Order was the question of the week. But first, what’s the story of this priest left all alone in the woods?

After last week’s action-packed premiere where the gang was sprung from Terminus by Carol the Killing Machine, it should come as no surprise that this week’s entry leaned largely on the idea of the characters taking a breath, and taking stalk. They were all together again for the first time since the prison, and there was so much to tell. Or not tell. Or try to forget.

Can Tara tell Maggie about how she was at the prison with The Governor the day her father was killed? Can Carol share her experiences and choices with Daryl, or even the group at large without being outcast again? Can Abraham trust this group with the extremely important mission he’s been charged with? But as much as the dynamics inside are complicated, there’s still outside concerns to worry about: food, supplies, ammunition, and there’s something in the woods that’s not a walker, that’s shadowing the group…

This week we meet Father Gabriel, played by Seth Gilliam. Gabriel is a priest with no flock, left alone in his church in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by walkers with no weapons (if being able to pray to God doesn’t count as a weapon and there’s some debate about that), he’s saved by the group, who are then taken back to his church.

Rick, perhaps still feeling the sting from Terminus, is suspicious, but Carl is the voice of compassion, telling his father that not everyone out in the world is bad. Rick begs to differ and tells his son to be on his guard as the others go into town to get supplies. Gabriel certainly seems to be on the level, but Carl plays boy detective and discovers a message carved into the side of the church with a knife saying, “You’ll burn for this.” Gabriel says he only confesses his sins to God, but what are those sins exactly. Ultimately, I think Gabriel’s sins may turn out unremarkable. It will likely come down to something along the lines of refusing entry to people, perhaps some of his parishioners, in the midst of an attack by the local walkers.

The imagery in Gabriel’s church was certainly telling, and more than a little obvious. Children’s drawings and artwork of the Burning Bush, references to Exodus and the Hebrews’ 40 years of wandering in the desert before entering the Promised Land. Is there a message implied there? Are our survivors doomed to wander for decades in the desert of the old world? And on top of it all, Abraham sells Washington as a promised land, Eugene assures the group that not only is D.C. the place to put his cure plan into action, but it’s got the infrastructure built to survive a pandemic like the one they’re living through. Even if they can’t rebuild the world in short order, the group will at least find safety. Promises, promises. Another reason, perhaps, not to trust Eugene.