I would never have guessed that the most memorably repulsive scene in five seasons of this endless splatter porn wouldn’t involve zombies, but it did. And it makes sense. There’s no way to keep the gross-out impact of the zombies themselves from diminishing over time. The audience, like the characters, gets used to images of people with their guts hanging out; we’re literally years past the point where this was shocking, the occasional master stroke aside (remember the zombie who was torn in half at Herschel’s farm, exposing all of his viscera?). Plus, as the show wears on, the make-up people naturally feel pressure to keep one-upping themselves, which leads to increasingly cartoonish gore. Nowadays we’re all but guaranteed a close-up in each episode of a zombie’s skull exploding when one of our heroes smashes it with a rifle butt. The CGI nature of the blood spatter effects during group fight scenes seems increasingly obvious too, as if the producers have accepted that this stuff doesn’t bother the audience anymore (if it ever did) and therefore aren’t going to sweat the details. They’ll give you the exploding-skull shot, they’ll give you 20 seconds of Michonne chopping heads and Daryl shooting zombies in the eye, and then we’re on to the next scene. They’re checking the box.
Not that scene with Bob and Gareth, though, huh? For the past year, I couldn’t figure out why the writers kept Bob around. Now I know: This scene. And it was worth it. They did a nifty job concealing the reveal while Bob was listening to Gareth give his speech too; the shot of him without his leg caught me completely by surprise. Since the theme of the season, per last week’s episode, is good people being driven to madness by the brutality of other survivors, I can only assume this means Rick will end up eating Gareth’s head before the mid-season finale. There have been other shocking moments on the show — Shane turning zombie, Sophia turning zombie, Judith’s impromptu C-section delivery, Rick slaughtering the pigs — but none of them combined surprise and gore as well as this one. Too bad the Gareth character is so implausible, though. How does that guy keep his hair so. darned. perfect. while he’s amputating a human leg and eating it?
Two grumbles. One: Remind me again why and how Rick is still de facto leader of this group, to the point where other characters would tell Abraham Ford that they’re sticking with Team Grimes even when Ford’s promising them a cure for the zombie apocalypse. Rick’s good at kicking ass but really no better at it than Daryl or Michonne or even Carol at this point. His best-laid plans of setting up base on the farm and then the prison and then Terminus have uniformly gone to hell. I feel like he’s still the leader for no better reason than that the writers have decreed “this is our alpha male” and all the other characters must therefore observe it. Two: How is it that this group just unanimously approved a highly dangerous mission to Washington D.C. to find the zombie cure without demanding to know how, exactly, Ford and Eugene can be sure that it exists? They quizzed Eugene about it in the last episode for maybe 30 seconds and he ended up babbling about his resume, which, inexplicably, seemed to satisfy them. Aren’t they curious to know how, even if the cure exists, it can be deployed globally given that the country’s infrastructure has collapsed? How will they find the resources to mass-produce and disperse it? Why aren’t they insisting that Eugene give them precise details about the cure, on pain of torture if necessary, so that this information survives in case he ends up as zombie chow? It’s beyond stupid that Rick is suspicious of Gabriel the priest but not suspicious of Eugene the germ specialist who wants them to fight their way into a major city to find a cure that may not exist and probably can’t be widely deployed anyway.
By the way: My prediction about Gabriel is that he’s not really a priest but rather some stranger who killed the local priest (and other congregants) and stole his identity hoping that other survivors wouldn’t victimize someone posing as a man of the cloth. We’ll see!