If you haven’t seen this week’s episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead, be forewarned. With an episode this jam-packed, you’re going to want to bring a pen and paper to take some notes.
With numbers already low from the departure of Team GREATM (that’s Glenn, Rosita, Eugene, Abraham, Tara, and Maggie–thank you for the clever acronym, Tara), Team Rick is thrown into a maelstrom that threatens to divide their numbers even further. Upon Daryl’s sudden return to the church (with new recruit Noah in tow), Rick and the others scurry to put together a plan to rescue Carol and Beth. As the group squabbles over details, it seems that Father Gabriel is slowly going insane, digging up holes and scraping at the bloody floorboards with his fingernails when he gets the itch to break down and cry. Carl does his best to help by offering to teach him how to defend himself with knives and rifles and machetes–you know, like any normal teenager would do in a similar situation–but Father Gabriel is having none of it. Rather than risk being taught how to handle a weapon, his only logical choice is to flee and be eaten by walkers, naturally.
Also on her way to Crazytown is Sasha, who is still grieving over the loss of Bob. “I should have been the one to do it,” she says to Tyreese, despairing over her self-perceived failure in not being able to put a knife through her boyfriend’s head. Throughout their rescue mission, Sasha becomes more and more frustrated with her shortcomings, leading Tyreese to chastise her for it and indicating that he’ll be ready to talk with her when she feels the need. “You got to say goodbye,” he reminds her gently, contrasting her situation with his own loss from last season. “Remember that.”
Meanwhile on the road, the tension between the GREATM team is tangible. With Abraham in a catatonic state after Eugene’s unfortunate reveal, the crew is left leaderless until Rosita, Tara, and Glenn take initiative to gather more water from the stream nearby. Back at the stranded truck, Maggie, who had pulled her gun on Abraham earlier during a sudden and aggressive outburst, assumes charge and scolds Abraham for being selfish. “You’re not the only one who lost something today,” she chides. In a surprisingly sweet moment, Maggie even takes the time to construct a shade over Eugene, still down for the count, to keep him cool in the hot sun. Call it motherly instinct or simply a friendly gesture, but all of this keeps adding up to one very interesting prospect: could Maggie be GREATM’s next leader?
Cutting to Grady Memorial, Beth has seemingly impressed the right people, despite launching an all-out mutiny on the hospital only a few days earlier. After watching Beth dismantle an officer’s argument against keeping Carol on life support (because “reasons”), Dawn gives her the key to the medicine locker. If she wants to save Carol, this is the way to do it: “You’re stronger than I thought. I thought you were weak. You proved me wrong,” Dawn explains hurriedly when Beth (rightly) gives her the side-eye. Wary, Beth agrees to take it, but like the audience, is nearly sure it’s a set-up.
The parallels of Maggie and Beth in “Crossed” were quiet but very present (after all, it’s difficult to spotlight any one storyline in an exploratory episode). Both women have finally seized control of their destiny and cemented their places in this new, grotesque world where it is assumed that people like them–people too gentle and kindhearted who just want to live normal–don’t exist anymore. In one moving scene, after administering medication to a still unconscious Carol, Beth holds her hand and says, “I just wanted you to know I was here.” It’s a simple reminder: “Yes, I’m still here. You all thought I would die three weeks into all of this apocalypse business, but I’m still here. I’m walking and talking and breathing, and I’ll fight and claw and raise hell if necessary.” Beth and Maggie Greene are more than pretty faces. They’re survivors in every sense of the word.
As usual, the episode upped the gross-factor once again, piling mounds of napalmed walkers in the streets outside the hospital, their skin melted to the pavement like … alright, I’ll avoid food analogies. In one tense scene, Daryl has been tackled to the ground by one of Dawn’s officers and rips a head and spine from one such melted walker, poking through its eyes to kill it and using the skull and vertebrae to thwack the living daylights out of the burly officer.
All in all, “Crossed” being the in-betweener episode it was, it still made for entertaining television. With all of the storylines about to intersect and tension at a feverish high, next week’s mid-season finale is bound to be a good one.