The Walking Dead does it again!
Season 5 is turning out to be a fantastic season so far. Many people may not have been satisfied with the slow-down in the amount of action, but I think that the show has finally cracked the formula for good programming. “Four Walls and a Roof” was able to leave us both satisfied yet hungry for more. (No pun intended; also, spoilers ahead!)
Last week’s episode ended with Bob at the mercy of a handful of survivors from Terminus who have been following Rick’s group. We find out that these people (calling themselves Hunters and being led by Gareth) are cannibals who have severed and eaten Bob’s leg. Bob begins to moan and cry, possibly after feeling the effect of his amputation, but it soon turns into maniacal laughter. He then reveals that he was previously bitten by a walker and that the Hunters have just eaten his tainted meat. Bob begins laughing and shouting “TAINTED MEAT!” before one of the Hunters knocks him unconscious. Roll opening credits.
One of the many things that The Walking Dead has done exceptionally well this season is opening up each episode with a fantastic scene right before the credits. Although we’ve seen this in prior seasons, it’s now becoming more consistent. Every episode hooks us in right away, pushing our excitement over the edge before the opening credits can even roll. With this episode, the opening scene was epic in two ways. On one hand, we got to see Bob get some epic revenge on his captors by covertly feeding them tainted meat, and on the other hand, we delve a little more into the psychology of the Hunters, especially Gareth.
Gareth is an interesting character, just as Andrew J. West is an interesting actor. I believe that the key to crafting a great villain is making them as relatable and as human-like as possible, no matter how vile he or she is. The Governor, while sadistic and menacing as he turned out to be, was still a human who cared for others and went to great lengths for those he loved. As we saw in the Season 5 premier, Gareth cared for the people of Terminus, especially his mother and brother. Now that his family has been taken away from him, we see Gareth seeking revenge and justice. In his warped mind, justice comes in the form of capturing a man, tying him up, and then eating his own leg in front of him while taunting him.
West flexes his acting muscle in the opening scene as he psychologically tortures Bob. This makes him a terrifying villain capable of sending chills up your backbone. Added to this terrifying aura is the fact that he was very charismatic and charming the first time we met him in Season 4. With the flip of a switch, he goes from a sweet, homely country boy, to a vile, despicable cannibal. Not everyone can pull off what actors like West have achieved. His performance was very reminiscent of Christian Bale in American Psycho or Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs.
Don’t worry – there were plenty of other great parts to the episode besides the opening scene. Rick’s group notices how Daryl, Carol, and Bob are all missing, so they start to become suspicious of their host, Father Gabriel. This is when emotions and paranoia break through the flood gates and Rick confronts the priest about the scratch marks outside the church that read, “You’ll burn for this!”
In addition to West’s performance, Seth Gilliam portrayal as Father Gabriel was one of the best parts of the episode. He breaks down into uncontrollable sobbing as he admits that he was responsible for the deaths of countless citizens when he locked them out of his church and refused to provide sanctuary in the earlier days of the apocalypse. Watching Gilliam’s tearful confession was heart-breaking; you could truly feel his anguish and inner torture as he realizes the atrocities that he’s committed. You want to hate him for being so selfish, but his confession makes you feel sorry for him. Having to bear that burden on his mind must be a fate worse than being bit by a walker.
The episode’s intensity peaks after the half-hour mark. The Hunters leave Bob on the doorstep of the church, and when Rick’s group see what’s been done to him, they decide to go looking for the cannibals. The group splits up so that one team goes after the Hunters while the rest stay at the church. Little do they know that the Hunters are hiding nearby and are able to sneak into the church.
Gareth and his team swarm into the building, searching for the inhabitants. Just as they are about to bust down a door to a room containing Carl, Judith, and several others, Rick and company come back to save the day. As it turns out, they intentionally left in order to set up a trap for the intruders. Gareth and the Hunters drop their weapons and beg to be let go, promising that they’ll never cross paths again. At first, it seems like Rick is going to comply with this request. But then he unsheathes a machete and hacks Gareth to pieces while his companions finish off the rest of the Hunters.
Here is what I loved about what I call “the butchering scene”. In the past, Rick and his group have tried to stress the fact that they are not like other hordes of survivors in the zombie apocalypse. They’re different because they retain their humanity. They try to help those in need and show mercy. This episode proved that Rick might no longer believes in this system. Now, it’s a matter of survival of the fittest. Rick knew that he couldn’t let the Hunters go free. He had to have them killed.
Also worth noting is a quote that was mentioned back in the first episode of the season. We heard both Gareth and his mother say “Either you’re the butcher, or the cattle”, which represented the general belief of the Terminus inhabitants. In “Four Walls and a Roof”, we see Rick adhering to that same concept as he slaughters Gareth.
Other people who deserved recognition in this episode include Lawrence Gilliard Jr. for his performance as Bob, and Sonequa Martin-Green for her work as Sasha. As mentioned earlier, Bob was bitten by a walker and would soon succumb to his wounds. The last few minutes of the episode revolve around Bob’s final hours with Sasha by his side. Though they were not the most prominent characters, I thought that Sasha and Bob had great chemistry, and it was a very emotional scene when they said their last few words to one another.
Overall, it was another great episode for the series. The Walking Dead is continuing on the right track, and as long as it retains its solid story-telling, amazing performances, and impressive plot development, then we don’t have to worry about the show becoming stale anytime soon.
Final Grade: A-
+ Andrew J. West and Seth Gilliam both did a phenomenal job with their performances.
+ Once again, the opening scene was an excellent hook into the episode.
+ The episode left us on yet another brutal cliff-hanger, which makes us extremely anxious and excited for next week.
– I wouldn’t consider this a negative, but I hope that The Walking Dead doesn’t become too formulaic with its episode endings. The last three episodes had strong conclusions with jaw-dropping cliffhangers. While this is good, it needs to be done sparingly, or else the audience might start to lose interest.
– I’m hoping next episode sheds light on what happened with Daryl and Carol.
What did you think of this episode of The Walking Dead? Is the show still showing some momentum or are you losing your interest? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!