The Walking Dead makes its long-awaited mid-season return, and it's safe to say that What Happened and What’s Going On is a brilliant return episode for AMC’s famed walker show.
As the title suggests, there’s plenty of recap here, but there’s also a whole lot of reflection. In terms of the reminders, we’re quickly brought up to speed on the demise of Beth (Emily Kinney) and Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) and the whole ‘it was really a load of bollocks’ surrounding Eugene (Josh McDermitt). And no, we don’t mean that his mullet was really a toupee, we’re on about how his great plan to get to Washington and save the world was merely a (not so) cunning ruse that saw his face meet the firsts of Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz).
Venturing forward to new territory, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Tyreese (Chad Coleman) and Noah (Tyler James Williams) are on a mission to go back to Noah’s old neighbourhood, something that Noah had apparently planned to do with Beth. Of course, upon their arrival it’s soon revealed that everything has gone to shit and the locale is strewn with corpses. Whilst the day-to-day life of simply existing is starting to wear thin on Michonne, things take a far more grizzly turn for Tyreese.
When entering Noah’s home (yep, you guessed it, there’s no living sorts there by this point in the game), Tyreese winds up getting bit by the shuffling animated corpse of one of Noah’s younger brothers. As ever with The Walking Dead, when the show needs an episode to hit hard then you can generally rely on somebody being offed, and so Tyreese has a fatal bite on his forearm as he begins to drift in and out of consciousness whilst suffering from hallucinations. And this is where What Happened and What’s Going On delivers something truly unique and special in a show that at times can sometimes feel a little samey.
Using Tyreese’s predicament, The Walking Dead opts to give you a look at things from the perspective of the bitten party of a zombie attack. We get to see elements of Tyreese’s life flash between his eyes, with questions on his own morality, and there’s even appearances from some ‘sadly no longer with us’ characters that almost serve as the angel and devil on Tyreese’s shoulders as he seemingly floats between life and death. The brilliant handling of this element of the episode (which is pretty much the main focus of the entry’s running time) gives audiences the first real time that we’ve seen a walker bite from this angle. And as such, it appears that Tyreese will be okay. We mean, if he was going to die then he’d just have had a relatively quick death scene and there most definitely would not have been the whole introspective, trippy, dream-like hallucinations and questions, right? Right?!?!
Just as Rick et al arrive to lop off Tyreese’s infected arm and save the day, you realise that all is going to be alright for Tyreese. Sure, he’ll be missing a limb for the rest of his days but that never did Hershel (Scott Wilson) any harm? The patriarch of the Greene clan managed to survive for quite a while with only one leg, then when his death came it was down to The Governor (David Morrissey – who also makes a brief return here) being a complete bastard rather than Hersh’s peg leg slowing him down. So life for Tyreese with one arm isn’t the end of the world… apart from the episode then takes another swerve and sees the burly Tyreese succumb and breathe his last breath.
What Happened and What’s Going On is a beautiful episode of The Walking Dead, manipulating the emotions of its audience and delivering a stunning return for the show. Sure, it may not have had some of the hard-hitting actions of other episodes or the all-out backs against the wall element for the larger group, but the showing of Tyreese’s final moments was played out masterfully. The episode as a whole was wonderfully tied together from the beginning to the end, with it revealed that the funeral service that Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) was carrying out during the show’s opening was actually for the fallen Tyreese.
As well as serving as a great return for The Walking Dead, What Happening and What’s Going On was also a timely reminder to the show’s key group and to its audience of just how much the world has gone to shit.
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