A rare episode where the show was simultaneously at its best and its worst. They caught me by surprise in bouncing a well-liked character like Tyreese so soon into the second half of the season. I remember grumbling after the mid-season finale that, for a program famed for killing off major players, the best TWD could do this year was to cashier a nobody like Beth. Turns out that lollipop curveball was setting us up for the high heater this week. If you’ve watched this show for even five minutes in seasons past, you know that a “traumatic” cliffhanger with lots of action and a core character’s death typically means seven or eight episodes of slow, ponderous nonsense to follow as Rick and the gang plot their next move. Not this time. As the Atlantic notes, even the opening shot of a grave being dug was a big fake-out designed to heighten the shock. We all assumed it was Beth’s grave. It wasn’t. Well done.
Not so good: The oddly unemotional visitations with Tyreese from now-dead characters like Beth, Bob, and the Governor, which Time mag says felt like “low-nutrition filler”. It did, but I doubt that was deliberate. My hunch is that the writers were going for High Emotion and couldn’t pull it off. There’s no easier tearjerking scene to write than the ghost of a loved one appearing to a character, particularly when that character’s near death himself. Instead we got the equivalent of little angels and devils on Tyreese’s shoulder, some of them blandly assuring him that death is better than life in the Zompocalypse and the Governor vacantly insisting that he needs to pay the bill/earn his keep/fight on. I understand what they were going for — the “apparitions” are Tyreese’s way of personifying his decision on whether to resist death or not — but why write a scene like that if you’re not prepared to trowel on the schmaltz? If ever there’s a time to do that, the man-getting-ready-to-cross-over scene is it.
They redeemed themselves a bit with the actual death scene, though. The temptation in offing a well-liked character like Tyreese is to give him a hero’s send-off by having him die valiantly in combat with zombies, or in an act of tragic self-sacrifice (e.g., shooting himself to prevent himself from turning). Not here. He slipped away quietly in the back seat, the sort of death you don’t see much of on TWD but which you’d see lots and lots and lots of in a real world overrun by zombies where people gradually succumb to bites. The fact that Tyreese’s death is a sort of suicide, a choice to give up rather than fight for life, was unusual too. Suicide would be a daily fact of life in this universe but it almost never happens on the show. (Has it happened even once?) This may be as close as they get.
Exit question: What was with all those zombie heads and torsos they discovered when they were leaving Noah’s neighborhood?