After last week’s explosive season premiere, I was a little curious as to whether The Walking Dead would maintain that same level of quality and energy throughout the next couple of episodes. Seeing as “No Sanctuary” was possibly one of the best episodes of the entire series, I knew that it would be extremely difficult for this episode to compare. “Strangers”, while much lighter on the action, still managed to keep me on the edge of the seat with its excellent plot development and nail-biting suspense. (spoilers ahead!)
As we saw on the last episode, the main cast (sans Beth) has been reunited after escaping from Terminus. Now the gang is on the road, looking for shelter and possibly planning their route to D.C. I tend to enjoy the show better when the group is on the move. I feel like the episodes where they are sitting at a location like Hershel’s farm or the prison tend to fall on the boring side. It seems like there’s less conflict. When there isn’t a conflict, the plot slugs along slowly. Since they are on the road, you get a sense of the nervousness and anxiety that the gang is feeling, thus adding to the tension and the suspense. Will they find food and shelter? Will they be surrounded by a horde of walkers? Thankfully, this episode was split evenly between the group traveling and the group resting at a (supposedly) safe haven. Overall, the pacing was well done.
Rick and co. encounter a pastor named Father Gabriel, played by Seth Gilliam, who offers shelter and kindness, but seems to have a hidden, more sinister, agenda. When I first started watching The Walking Dead, I was a little curious about the religious take on the premise. What would various religions have to say about the dead coming back to life and feasting on flesh? Of course, this could be an entire show in itself, but it would’ve been neat to see how it played out on The Walking Dead because of the show’s deep storytelling and attention to the changes in cultural practices after the zombie apocalypse. Despite the opportunity to investigate this matter more thoroughly with the introduction of Father Gabriel, the show almost completely glosses over it. However, Gabriel is due to return for a few more episodes so maybe I’ll get my wish soon enough.
Father Gabriel’s presence is interesting to say the least. Like I mentioned, he is definitely hiding something, and Rick knows it. As Rick questions him on what he’s done, Gabriel plays it off saying that he only confesses his sins to God. I’m guessing that he has done some pretty brutal stuff in his past (this is only made clearer when Carl and Rick discover a disturbing message carved into the side of the pastor’s church).
“Strangers” puts a lot of emphasis on Bob. During a small quarrel with walkers, Bob is pulled underwater but is then saved at the last minute. Though it’s not shown on screen, I strongly believe that he was bitten and he’s simply hiding it from everyone else. Later on in the episode, he asks Sasha for a kiss before walking outside. We see him crying to himself, and then he’s knocked out by an unknown assailant.
The episode’s intensity and suspense soars through the roof in the last ten minutes. While Daryl and Carol are outside, they see a car speed past them with a white cross on the back windshield – it’s the same car that abducted Beth last season! Daryl and Carol get in their own car and chase after them.
Elsewhere, Bob wakes up tied to a post, surrounded by familiar faces (I won’t spoil who his captors are, but you can probably guess). The episode ends with a dramatic revelation that will either make you squirm in your seat or make you very hungry. Either way, it’s pretty shocking and a great way to leave the episode on a cliffhanger.
I think the episode was a proper follow-up after “No Sanctuary”. After setting the bar so high, the show definitely knew how to stay on track and keep the audience entertained. My only gripe was that so much was going on. It was a lot to absorb within an hour of television (or 43 minutes with commercials). With everything that was happening, I thought that it could’ve been split up into two episodes. But that wasn’t enough to detract from the overall quality of the episode. “Strangers” was fantastic and a worthy continuation of Season 5’s premier.
Final Grade: A-
+ This episode’s excellent plot development made it a worthy successor to last week’s episode.
+ The last ten minutes were intense and concluded the episode on an amazing cliffhanger.
+ Seth Gilliam does a great job as Father Gabriel.
– There was a lot going on within one episode. It could’ve been split up into two.
– I feel like the religious aspect of Father Gabriel’s presence could’ve been better emphasized.
– Most people would be turned off by the lack of action this week compared to last week’s action-packed season premiere.
– Michonne’s sword was never retrieved from Terminus. However, I think she will be getting it back very soon.
What did you think of this episode? Was it just as good as the season premiere or was it a huge disappointment? Give us a shout in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!