This episode was interesting and somewhat unique as it seemed to take what has been an increasingly dark time for the characters involved and give them a brief glimpse of what could perhaps turn out to be a proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" for their harrowing journey. As is typically par for the course with this show, however, there's a much bigger and more important question being asked through the thread of the narrative. Honestly, that very fact is the reason this program is among my very favorite things being offered by the entertainment world these days; despite all of the shambling and moaning window dressing walking through the world, this isn't really a show about zombies, but rather the focus is almost always on human nature when survival is at stake – for better or worse.
So, with the possibility of a sanctuary being offered to them yet again, the question is are these characters either capable or willing to trust in the intentions of those attempting to welcome them in? So far, they have personal experience with a town that appeared to be a safe and happy place, only to discover it was being administered by a psychopath. Then, we watched as they desperately followed signs toward another promised safe zone in Terminus after being run out of their own stronghold at the prison, only to find that the outward veneer of welcoming behavior was hiding a lair full of cannibals. We must ask ourselves if trust is possible in such a world or even strictly advisable? Being safe rather than sorry would seem to dictate that the answer would be in the negative, but then we must also consider the unlikelihood that this group can continue to survive the way they have been struggling up to now. There is even a baby to worry about. Honestly, trying to put myself in their shoes, I'm not sure what I would do, and truthfully neither is Rick right up until the final moment of this episode.
If you and I were to suddenly find ourselves in the midst of an apocalyptic societal collapse scenario like the one in which these characters are living, we can definitely expect that and intense distrust of strangers will be the new normal and rightly so. You simply can never be sure of another person's intentions until you know them better, so operating in any other way would be very likely to get you and likely those depending on you killed. Exhibiting sensible caution and proper operational security or OPSEC would need to become more of a way of life, rather than just something people like me advise in books and on Internet sites. Extreme caution will need to come into play, and that will likely mean training oneself to always be eyes up and weapons ready, just in case.
There's an interesting exchange early on in the episode when Glenn is advising that anyone they meet coming from the perceived direction of danger is a threat. Other characters are surprised by his seeming intention to shoot first and ask questions later, and it is argued that a person they come across might be someone just like them. His reply is important, despite perhaps being lost in the tempo of the narrative: he answers with something along the lines of "If they're like us, then we should be afraid of them." He is clearly able to see what being on the road and living the way they have had to live is doing to them as people, and he desperately wants a better life. This is something I would advise all of us to keep in mind in a concerted effort to hold on to our humanity. While caution and distrust are definitely the height of wisdom in a world like the one portrayed in the show, it would be important to keep from adopting a policy of shooting first and asking questions later. It is also important to note that, in this kind of TEOTWAWKI societal collapse scenario where pretty much everybody is walking around with PTSD symptoms, maintaining that kind of discipline might be increasingly difficult and would require that we train ourselves now, while the world still resembles something with which we can find some comfort.
There's also another point in the story that resonated for me to the point that I wanted to share it here. During the early part of the episode when they are interrogating the bound newcomer, he's attempting to let them know that – if he had wanted to do them any harm – he could have simply set fire to the barn as they slept and picked them off one-by-one as they ran out of the building. This struck a chord with me, because what he is describing is a method known as Hall Burning that was often used by Scandinavian warriors in centuries past (often erroneously referred to as Vikings). A Lord would sleep together in his Hall with his entire family and most, if not all, of the warriors sworn to his service. So, if another Lord had a feud against them, this method of attack was utilized as an efficient way of wiping all of them out in one swift stroke. Needless to say, it wasn't considered a particularly honorable way to fight. In fact, the perpetrator would usually deny responsibility for such a cowardly action, despite benefiting from it. I thought that worth mentioning, however, because if you or I were to find ourselves faced by the future threat of an actual societal collapse, you had better believe the world we would be living in would resemble those times far more than it does the current times we all know now. These kinds of attacks would, no doubt, occur once again in that type of setting, so I would definitely advise setting up some kind of a guard rotation as part of all of our future plans.
The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray] --- [DVD]
The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season [Blu-ray] --- [DVD]
The Walking Dead: The Complete Third Season [Blu-ray] --- [DVD]
The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season [Blu-ray] --- [DVD]
My previous reviews for this series can be accessed by clicking the links below: