Last week’s season opener was a smorgasbord of drama, gore, and action, capped off with a heartfelt reunion for (most of) the main cast while the cannibal town of Terminus burned.

Now we get to see where our newly enlarged group of survivors goes from here. Is it good?

So…we’re good?

Rick makes up with Carol, Carol makes up with Tyrese, Tara makes up with Rick (with the most cringe-worthy fist bump in history), and everyone continues to not give a crap about Beth. Tyrese also tells Carol that he doesn’t want to talk about the messy business with Lizzy and Mika, setting us up for some smooth and conflict-free sailing the rest of the way, right?

Of course not.

For starters, something is stalking our group in the woods. This may not seem like that big a deal in a show about zombies, but the fact that it has Daryl spooked was enough to raise my hackles slightly.

Vomit Gospel

The next day, our merry band of survivors heads through the woods to hunt food, gather supplies, and makes sure we can all see how happy they are. Bob shows more courage than any man in history by repeatedly kissing Sasha in full view of her massive brother, Tyrese. Fortunately, he seems okay with it.

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In fact, everybody seems okay with everything… except for the guy they hear screaming for help in the distance. Carl convinces his dad to check things out, where they find a most unlikely sight:

A clean cut, well dressed preacher… who somehow managed to survive for years in a post-zombie apocalypse world despite being stupid enough to get himself cornered by walkers.

After being rescued, the man promptly barfs everywhere (once again, not something you’d expect a world wary survivor to do) and introduces himself as Gabriel. Rick greets him as he does with everyone: Asking how many walkers and humans they’ve killed, what he’s done to survive, and glaring at him with smoldering intensity.

Gabriel claims he hasn’t killed any zombies or people, which makes his dapper and timid appearance even more suspect and unsettling. He also claims that the word of God is the only protection that he needed to survive (which had apparently stopped working right before Rick and the calvary showed up).

But he does have a church, which Gabriel kindly offers as a shelter for his new, untrusting friends.

Something Stinks

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After getting settled in (and a healthy, long-awaited dose of Carol/Daryl flirting), Rick takes a group out for a supply run. He brings a protesting Gabriel along as well, where they find a stash of food near a cluster of rain soaked and rotted zombies. As they deftly gather the supplies, Gabriel proves to be completely useless, once again getting himself cornered and almost killed.

Bob also nearly finds himself bitten by a walker, but he is rescued by Sasha and escapes completely, totally, 100% unscathed. Yep, absolutely no doubt about that, so let’s move on.

After they get back to the church, Rick discovers that his son has been doing a little detective work of his own. The exteriors of the building have been cut by and torn by knives, meaning that people were at one point trying to get inside. Also, the words ‘You Will Burn For This’ carved into the side of the building serve as a pretty good indicator of the human element.

Man Up with The Mullet

As our group survivors celebrate their new home with canned food and communion wine (and continue to not give a crap about Beth), Abraham shuts it all down with a challenge: Stop simply surviving, go to Washington D.C., and help Eugene the Redneck Savant save the world.

Unlike most decisions on the show, which involve endless debates and long, penetrating stares, Rick and the others happily agree to undertake the dubious mission.

Finally Someone Notices

Meanwhile, Carol must have thought the party was lame, because she left and went to a secret getaway car that she and Daryl found…which of course means that Daryl followed her. Before we can find out what she was doing, though, a car with the same symbol on the back as the one that took Beth zooms by.

It might have been a good idea to send someone to tell Maggie what they were doing, but that probably would have elicited little more than a blank stare.

So Meaty

Bob and Sasha canoodle a bit before he ominously asks her for one last kiss. He then heads outside by himself (a big horror movie/television show no-no). As he looks and listens to the group inside the church, he starts to cry… which may or may not be because he actually did get bitten by a zombie back at the food bank.

But we never get a definite answer on that, because poor Bob gets whacked over the head by someone. When we wakes up, we see that Gareth, the sociopathic douchebag from Terminus, is still alive and well. He’s joined by the jerk with the Detroit Tigers hat (that that Tyrese really should have killed in the last episode) and a few others who presumably survived Carol’s awesome rescue operation from the season opener.

Gareth reintroduces himself to Bob, then goes on to talk about how none of this is personal, you took our home, blah blah blah…and oh yeah, WE’RE EATING YOU! Gareth takes a healthy bite of some roasted Bob leg, comments on how good he tastes, and all of us watching at home immediately considered becoming vegetarians.

The Verdict

So let’s talk about that ending first. Unlike the Terminus diversion, this story seems to be closely mirroring The Hunters story arc from the comics. If that’s the case, then things are about to get a whole lot more gory and brutal over the next few weeks.

Also, the show deserves a lot of credit for still being able to deliver such a visceral shock in a universe populated by walking corpses and people who’d already been established as cannibals. Something about seeing Gareth casually bite into that piece of Bob (followed by the shot of Bob himself, de-limbed as his foot continued to cook over an open fire in the background) was more chilling than anything I’ve seen on network or basic cable television in a long time.

Unfortunately, the rest of the episode had some pretty major missteps. For starters, Eugene’s all too brief explanation of what they would find in the magical land of Washington D.C. really shouldn’t be enough to make the entire group unanimously agree to such a long and dangerous road trip.

And while the character of Gabriel presents an interesting dynamic (someone still scared of zombies like the world used to be), it doesn’t seem plausible in the time frame of the television show. No matter how much food and water he had stockpiled in that church, I find it hard to believe that years went by without Gabriel developing at least some sort of survival stasis with his surroundings.

It was nice to see that we’re finally going to start chasing down the cause and perpetrators of Beth’s abduction, though. The fact that it’s going to be done by the post-apocalyptic Mulder/Scully team of Carol and Daryl makes that potential plot thread even more enticing.

I also have to admit that as much as I can’t believe they all want to follow The Mullet to D.C., the journey there should provide plenty of good fodder for fresh and interesting stories. Maybe they’ll even find a operating barber shop where Eugene can get a new haircut.

Watch The Walking Dead: S05E02, “Strangers” on Amazon.

The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 2 "Strangers" Review
That ending was impressively effective. I'm not sure I will be able to eat meat for a few days.Daryl and Carol are back, as adorable as ever, and FINALLY GOING TO TRY AND FIND BETHDespite some logical fallacies in his continued existence, Gabriel offers a fascinating view of how a much less hardened survivor in this world reacts to the walkers.
Eugene's explanation for what they'll find in Washington D.C. wreaks worse than the zombies at the food bank. There's no way a the group would undertake a mission like that on just his word and Abraham's fervent endorsement.There's no way that Gabriel survived all those years being such an idiot/pansy.The beginning of the episode was a bit too warm and cuddly, especially that cringe-worthy fist bump between Tara and Rick.
7Overall Score
Reader Rating 8 Votes
7.6