The Walking Dead "Us" Review: Terminus or Bust (Mostly Bust)
If you like the "Walking" part of The Walking Dead, then boy were you in luck during this week's episode! "Us" had even more walking than usual as the ambling second half of the show's fourth season continued following the railroad tracks and making a beeline for Terminus and the Season 4 finale. Watching the characters walk and talk hasn't always translated to bored viewers—the bumper-sticker mantra of "it's the journey, not the destination" certainly rang true for the Daryl-and-Beth-centric "Still" and last week's incredibly dark "The Grove"—but "Us" was all about the destination, journey be damned. Although at least Maggie and Glenn were reunited, if that's your thing.
So far, each episode of Season 4B has done one of two things: 1.) followed one group intensely to foster character development, or 2.) moved things along with check-ins on multiple groups. "Us" was very much the latter. Lately I've been enjoying the slower episodes that focus on a single group, because the alternative has been to just inch everyone toward Terminus, which is, uhhh, kind of not that exciting. We've always known the main cast will make it there eventually, and those who don't (rest in peace, Mika; burn in hell, Lizzie) are just the casualties of spring cleaning as the show trims some extraneous characters. So as we've said before, Season 4B isn't going to be anything more than eight episodes of getting the gang together after splitting them up, with some character development mixed in. And while the character development has been great, "Us" unfortunately didn't have much of it, because the episode was more about pushing a handful of characters toward Terminus—specifically Glenn's gang and Daryl's merry bunch of assholes.
We'll start with Glenn since he's rollin' with a redneck supergenius and a redhead supersoldier and they're way cooler than the trailer trash Daryl is stuck with. I know I said Abraham was the show's coolest new character a few episodes back, but I'd like to backtrack and hand the title to Dr. Eugene because he name-checked my favorite dinosaur (the club-tailed and prickly ankylosaurus) when he posited that this whole mess was what also killed the thunder lizards. I like that Eugene and Abraham have such a simple relationship; Eugene is the important scientist (haha Dr. Mullet) who needs to get to Washington, and Abraham is the soldier who's taking orders to make sure he gets there. I mean, no one else on this show has any ambition or purpose other than to not die, so seeing a couple people with a goal adds some weight to all this walking. Plus, even though he's overwritten to the point of parody, Eugene is a total perv who talks funny, and I like that.
But this week's main arc was all about Glenn finding Maggie, and the poor guy was so determined to catch up with his gal that he was totally fine with making a dumb life-threatening decision in order to reunite with her a few hours sooner. Glenn was willing to give Eugene his riot gear—the very same protection that's saved his life several times, and one of the best things to have in a zombie apocalypse—in exchange for the group's willingness to continue on instead of resting. And when he made it into the tunnel, why did he think it was a good idea to try to sneak past a whole swarm of zombies? (And since when are zombies attracted to light like moths? What happened to their sense of smell?) I've done stupid things for love before, but only stuff like buying tampons at the grocery store, not risking my life. And while we're at it, Glenn probably should have left Tara behind when she asked him to, because them's the breaks, lady. You got your dumb foot stuck in rubble, you should pay the consequences. Instead, Glenn started shooting at more zombies than he had bullets to kill, which is always a bad idea.
But hey, Maggie showed up at the perfect time with Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, Bob, and Sasha, and they all saved Glenn from making more bad decisions inside that tunnel. I wish I felt more moved by Maggie and Glenn's grand reunion, but it was never really in doubt, and Glenn and Maggie hardly even feel like real characters; they're just a lovesick couple that has no identity away from each other. Glenn's the kind of guy you'd invite over for guys' poker night and he'd bring Maggie and then she'd make him leave at 9:30pm. Lately, neither of these two characters has had a story that didn't involve the other, so they've kinda merged into one monster named Maglenn.
The biggest development in "Us" was that Maggie, Glenn, Abraham, Eugene, and their boring tagalongs finally made it to Terminus. And it was practically empty! The gate wasn't even locked. You call this a sanctuary? After a bit of wandering around, they came upon one lady named Mary who welcomed them and offered to cook 'em up a plate of grub. And there's your cliffhanger to entice you to come back for the finale, folks! Until then, we'll just have to speculate about Terminus, and if The Walking Dead has taught me anything, it's that everything is terrible and that anything that seems great is really terrible. Obviously Terminus is some crazy trap for cannibals to stock their food supply, right? Or people are suckered in and end up as bait for zombies, right? Or Terminus is some weird swingers club for old people with mandatory participation, right? Something ain't right with this place, right?
Elsewhere, things definitely weren't right with Daryl, who was stuck with Joe and his group of morons. These buffoons had the worst bro-code ever. Their law of possession was the apocalyptic equivalent of calling "shotgun," with "claimed" being the magic word. Joe told Daryl that all he had to do was follow the rules—no lying, no stealing—and he'd be fine. But why is Joe so obsessed with Daryl? If I didn't know any better, I'd say he's got a little crush on Daryl,and who can blame him? Daryl Dixon, MEOW! The only thing we really got out of spending time with these guys is that they really, really hate liars, and that they're after Rick for killing one of their buddies even though they don't seem to care about each other one bit. These guys are a total drag not only because they're jerks, but because their philosophy doesn't make much sense. They'll choke each other out over a bed (and didn't they shoot one of their own back at that house?) and kill someone for lying, but if one of their guys bites it while sitting on the toilet barefoot, it's an all-out manhunt for the guy who did it. These guys are weird. I don't know why Daryl didn't just leave them during any one of the billion chances he had.
That brings up one of my biggest complaints about "Us." These new characters were burdened with convincing Glenn and Daryl (and us) that it was better to stick together than be apart... until it was no longer convenient to the story. Why didn't Glenn just leave Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene and keep his riot gear? Staying with them only got him an escort to that tunnel—where they abandoned him—and it cost him some really cool clothes. Why didn't Daryl leave those psychos when he could have? There's really no reason for a man with Daryl's skills to risk his life with these guys. It all felt strained.
"Us" reinforced what has worked and what hasn't worked in these last seven episodes. Oddly enough, the most interesting stories have occurred when The Walking Dead has stepped back and looked at single character instead of moving toward Season 4's goal of getting everyone to Terminus. Getting to Terminus has proven to be a long, arduous journey not just for the survivors, but for us as well.
– There weren't many good zombie kills in "Us," so here's Mika shooting a zombie from last week, one more time!
– The song that closed out the episode was a cover of Bill Fay's truly excellent "Be Not So Fearful." I now urge you to scrub that inferior cover version from your ears and take in the original, which is one of my favorite songs.
– Hey, we saw Rick, Carl, and Michonne for like 30 seconds! And it was probably the most Rick has ever smiled in his entire life.
– Ugh, Rosita is terrible. Mind your own beeswax, ponytails! Leave Glenn alone!
– Who thinks that walking through a dark tunnel full of zombies is the best time to speak up about your guilt? Dumb Tara, that's who! Girl, it can wait until AFTER you're done with the scariest thing you've ever experienced.
– Joe is played by actor Jeff Kober, who also plays Jacob Hale in Sons of Anarchy. And Remy the landlord on New Girl.
– If Maggie shot at the top of the tunnel to cave it in and then made it out the other side, wouldn't she have run into those walkers who were on the other side? If she was just trying to get away from the walkers that ended up trapped under the rubble, couldn't she have just outrun them? I don't understand why Maggie would collapse a tunnel behind her when running would've been the best option. The only way that scenario makes sense to me is if she collapsed the tunnel in front of her to kill zombies that were in her way, and then climbed over the rubble and continued on, which would mean all the zombies that Glenn ran into had since filled up the tunnel, I think?
– That was kind of a stupid way for Tara to get hurt, wasn't it? Abraham bumped into her and knocked her over. Do we need Tara sticking around anymore? (Answer: no.)
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