AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead,’ now in its fifth season, is an undeniable television achievement. The exceptional part 2 premiere of ‘The Walking Dead’ elevates the show to new artistic heights with its juxtaposition of beauty and pain.
Directed by Co-Executive Producer/ Special FX Makeup Designer, Greg Nicotero, “What Happened and What’s Going On,” brings the viewer into uncharted territory in the most beautiful fashion. No doubt that the show’s success affords the series some creative risks.
Seventeen days after Grimes’ group lays Beth Green to rest, it must once again say goodby to a truly humane, quietly conflicted character. What’s interesting, though, is viewers are forced to actively experience Tyreese’s grief.
The episode opens with seemingly disjointed placid natural images, flashes of grieving characters, still shots of settings gone by, and a quick cut to a carefully placed skeleton . It is a disturbingly beautiful sequence.
The initial lack of context for these images is unsettling. By the end of the episode, though, they makes sense. It is viewer’s movement from confusion to clarity and acceptance that allows them to empathize with Tyreese’s peaceful resolve and enduring humanity.
Images of Lizzie and Mika are especially effective in achieving this. The two sisters trigger a sense of doubt and horror, simultaneously chilling viewers and Tyreese with their presences while comforting us with their soothing message.
During ‘The Talking Dead,’ Nicotero explained that the skeleton lies intentionally by wildflowers. Its strategic placement echos the horrific events of Season 4, Episode 14 “The Grove.” ‘TWD’ viewers will never look at flowers the same and the skeleton makes it clear that those events haunt our protagonist’s conscience, too.
The events of “The Grove” haunt Tyreese twofold. He questions his decisions to allow Lizzie’s execution and to forgive Carol for killing his girlfriend. Tyreese never fully recovered from trauma of the grove.
The choice of setting for the pervading internal conflict, the bedroom of young twin boys situated in a gated community, is subtly beautiful as well. In this intimate setting occurs a battle of dual natures, good and evil. Ghosts of the Governor and Martin battle Beth, Bob, and the sisters as the protagonists questions if the humane path is a path to destruction.
A bedroom, a place of privacy,sleep, and dreams encloses the cathartic journey, but the fact that this room is in a home located within a besieged gated community shows the frailty of psychological walls. Blood spills on a framed painting of an idyllic house, hinting that after a long, harrowing journey, our Tyreese will head home.
When external crisis mode is on pause, his internal walls are breached.Did this breach leave him vulnerable to the bite or give him strength to deal with the inevitable? Regardless, the vulnerability moves him to heal and accept his path, an irony that makes the final scene, a car loaded with loved ones driving on a clear road, all the more poetic.
Losing a loved one, fictional or real, is emotionally tasking, but ‘The Walking Dead’ leaves viewers in a place of peace– “It’s better now.” The protagonist does not give up– he fights for his humanity until the end and his group fights for him, even when it’s clear that life is fleeting.
This calm acceptance is a far cry from the constant tension and violence of ‘The Walking Dead’s’ S5, part 1. This peace rejuvenates the series and pushes the characters to their next encounter.
The people in Grimes’ group will fight for each other and be better for it, no matter the outcome. The audience is left knowing yes-perseverance is painful and remains the context of humanity, but pain does not define a character’s (or person’s) legacy.
For more on the ‘The Walking Dead’ Mid-season 5 premiere, you can visit “Ghosts Haunt Tyreese In ‘The Walking Dead’ S5 2nd-Half Premiere.”
Who do you think will be the group’s next moral compass? Will s/he suffer the same fate as characters who previously filled the role? And why does ‘TWD’ consistently butcher characters who fill this trope?