[This is a review of The Walking Dead season 4, episode 15. There will be SPOILERS.]
When a show creates a goal for its characters, and then leaves it on the horizon for as long as The Walking Dead managed to do during this second half of season 4, it's generally going to be a toss-up as to which way the reality of achieving that goal is going to pan out – both for the characters and the audience. Outside the mystery surrounding it, the truth of Terminus isn't nearly as significant as what it has represented. On one hand, the destination was simply the way to drive the past seven episodes, and to funnel the core survivors into a convenient situation wherein characters like Glenn and Maggie could be happily reunited – so when the joy of the moment is inevitably flipped, there'll be an extra talking point across the Internet the following morning.
In keeping with that idea of the importance of bringing these characters back together, the penultimate episode of season 4 finds itself underlining again and again the different ways in which people can be thought of as "together," and the actions and reactions that serve to keep them that way. As 'Us' suggests, there're many different reasons why groups gravitate toward, eventually cling to, and sometimes refuse to abandon one another. Sometimes, like with dinosaur/gaming enthusiast Dr. Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt), the reasons for refusing to abandon members of his group don't need to be made explicit; his reaction is like Glenn's decision to stick by Tara in a tunnel that's crawling with walkers: it's just a reflection of who he is. So, in that regard, questions as to whether he actually knows what caused the zombie outbreak aside, Eugene has become incredibly important to this show; he seems to inherently be a good guy and, like Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), he brings a great deal of personality that The Walking Dead desperately needs at the moment.
Within the context of the narrative, Ford and Porter may ultimately wind up being on a fool's errand, but outside of whatever the story has planned for them, the duo (and to a certain extent, Tara, Bob, and even Tyreese) represent the potential for the series to take a significant step forward in how the show thinks of its characters, and how it might begin building stories around them that add up to something more than mere survival.
In keeping with that line of thought, the secondary plot thread of 'Us' features Daryl and the Sons of Anarchy, as a representation of the very outmoded, every-man-for-himself philosophy that works in fundamental opposition to where characters like Ford and Porter could potentially take the show. Joe and his ragtag band of claimers outwardly exist as a unit, while inwardly they continue to live by that rule of survival of the fittest – which, ironically, is the one overarching viewpoint the show has done to death. In Joe's eyes, this line of thinking is intended to simplify things, make it easier for men like him and Daryl to get by in the world, to coexist without surrendering that lone wolf spirit that drives them. But that sort of thinking only leads to grown men arguing over half a rabbit carcass and, eventually, more dead bodies. In this instance, the idea of a culture or a group or even a single person clinging to the idea of survival of the fittest only brings diminishing returns.
The Walking Dead's writers are further developing this notion by fixating on the core differences between these two groups. So far, it's proven to be far more compelling to watch characters come together, and struggle to achieve something worthwhile and meaningful, than it is to watch them bicker and fight, so they can claim objects made intrinsically worthless by the simple fact that, if they keep going at the rate they're going, there'll be no one left to share these coveted objects with anyway.
The Walking Dead will conclude season 4 next Sunday with 'A' @9pm on AMC. Check out a sneak peek below:
Photos: Gene Page/AMC