Last week, the Beth-centric installment of The Walking Dead ended on a gut punch of a cliffhanger… so of course this week’s episode isn’t going to follow that storyline.

Instead, we get to learn how a group consisting of the two best looking women and two most intriguingly hair-styled men in the post-zombie apocalypse world are doing (along with Glenn and Tara). Is it good?

Business in the Front, Difficulty Identifying Social Cues in the Back

The episode opens on happy note (which is always a bad sign for the people involved) as Abe’s group rides the bus towards Washington D.C. Rosita and Abraham flirt with each other (yeah Abe!), while Tara tries to talk to Eugene/The Mullet. After he blocks her inquiries about his world saving knowledge by deeming it “classified,” Glenn dares to ask him why he’s chosen the world’s most ridiculed haircut.

The universe responds to Glenn’s blasphemy against the Kentucky Waterfall by flipping the bus over near a group of walkers.

Ginger Snap

After successfully escaping the bus (which later pulls a Michael Bay by randomly exploding) and clearing out the walkers, Abraham insists that they keep moving. When everyone else (including Eugene) suggests that they head back to the church instead, he flips out and demands even more emphatically that they continue marching on. This might seem like a bit of an overreaction, but it’s coming from a man who is more dedicated to successfully completing his mission than anything else, including his own survival.

Throughout the entire episode, Abraham’s single-minded focus and potential for brutality is shown through a series of flashbacks to a horrible moment in his life before the Mullet Mission to D.C. It’s not explicitly shown to play out just how it did in the comics, but actor Michael Cudlitz said it went down the same way, so that’s how I’m going to explain it.

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Stringing the flashback sequences together, we see Abraham beating the crap out of a man with a can of beans. Turns out that was too kind of a punishment; the man he was killing was from a group of trusted neighbors (who he also beat to death) who’d just raped his wife and daughter while making his son watch (now you see why they didn’t show it).

After Abe’s family watches him slaughter their attackers, however, they flee in terror from him. Abe goes after them, but only finds their remains after they are chased down and eaten by walkers. At that moment, Abe realizes that he has not only lost what was most important to him, but that he’d also doubly failed in his self-charged mission to protect his family at all costs.

With no mission to keep going and nothing else to live for, Abe decides to commit suicide. But before he can pull the trigger, the screaming of a giant turd with a bad haircut stops him. Up ahead is Eugene, staggering away from a group of walkers like the first girl to get killed in an 80’s horror movie and pleading for help. Abe goes back into full soldier mode, saves Eugene’s life, and finds his new mission in life.

Love Stacks

The group finds a library to hole up in for the night. Unfortunately, Eugene can’t seem to find the National Geographic magazines, so he decides to watch Abraham and Rosita get it on (YEAH ABE!). Tara catches him, tells him it’s gross, and then starts going into a speech about how he’s braver than he thinks he is.

Okay, let’s pause it right here. First of all, there’s just something oddly hilarious about Eugene getting a pep talk from Tara while he’s still in a state of arousal and coupled with crushing embarrassment. Secondly, Tara might be the only girl in the world who would still talk to a guy who she just caught pleasuring himself inside of a library.

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To make things even worse, Eugene then admits to her that he messed with the bus’s fuel line so that they would be forced to stay at the church (which obviously didn’t work out like he expected). This results in her giving him another pep talk (ugh), followed by a promise to keep his secret (WHAT?) and a sealing of their grotesquely forged friendship with a fist bump (AARGGH), which I guess is sort of becoming her thing. It makes me hope that “her thing” will eventually be bumping flesh with a walker’s teeth.

Wet Decaying Skin Challenge

The next day, Rosita suggests to Abe that they stay in the library for one day to recover and regroup. Abe snaps back at her, causing the two to argue. I like this change from Rosita in the comics, who (to me, at least), seemed a little too passive before.

When the rest of the group enters the room, however, Rosita acquiesces to Abe’s plan. They then head out to snag a fire truck sitting across the street. When it breaks down, Abe starts to hulk out in a ginger rage before Rosita shows him how they might be able to fix the vehicle (good lord this woman is attractive).

The brief and enjoyable moment of Abe being humbled is interrupted by a horde of walkers, who pile out from the fire station towards our group. Fortunately, Eugene is there with a fire hose (which somehow works without pressure), killing the zombies in what might be the most expensive, ridiculous, and nonsensical way possible.

The Truth Shall Get Your Ass Kicked

After cracking up a bit over how stupid all of that was, Abe makes the group continue moving forward towards D.C. on foot. After a short distance, they find the road blocked by a distant horde of walkers.

Instead of doing something sensible, like heading back or just going around, Abe decides for the sake of dramatic tension that they must go through them. As you can imagine, the group doesn’t agree with his suicidal plan of action.

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As the heated exchange turns into a physical confrontation, Eugene finally snaps and admits that he’s a fraud. It’s something us comic book readers have known for a long time, and we are all so happy that you folks who only watch the television show can now fully participate in the depths of loathing which are necessary for this character.

Eugene helps everyone get an early head start by adding a coda onto his confession with a joke about his hair cut and saying things like “I know I’m smarter then you” before Abe bashes him in the face. After being pulled off Eugene by the rest of the group, Abe collapses in the middle of the road, a horrible realization washing over him: The mission that had defined his current existence…and even saved his life…was all a lie.

The Verdict

I really should hate this episode…and I guess you technically should, as well. There were so many things wrong with it, including:

  • Yet another one car accident/bus flip in the middle of the road.
  • The fact that Abraham keeps punching zombies with the hand that he busted up during the flash back. Yeah I know, metaphor for his wound reopening, blah, blah, blah… he still shouldn’t be swinging around an open pathway to infection around the undead.
  • Tara’s pep talk and acceptance of Eugene almost getting the rest of them killed.
  • Tara’s willingness to accept that Eugene sabotaged their ride and almost got everyone killed.
  • Tara’s fist bump. In fact, just Tara in general. It’s like she’s trying to take Andrea’s place as the character we all want to see die.
  • Killing walkers with magical water pressure. I mean seriously, why didn’t they just get back up?
  • Abraham’s refusal to go in a slight circle around a horde of walkers.

But honestly, the acting and character work on this one was so good that I just can’t write it off completely. Michael Cudlitz’s performance as Abraham in particular was fantastic, showing a man so broken by his perceived failure that he’s turned it into another flaw of single-minded, unflinching, and unquestioning focus.

Eugene was also great this time, showing a lot more of the weakness and treachery that had been simmering underneath for some time. I also like the fact that Rosita seems to be taking a more vocal role rather than just being eye candy. She helps to balance Abe, not just by bringing out his softer side, but also being willing to stand by him and stand up to him when others are afraid to.

The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 5 "Self Help" Review
Great individual performances, particularly with regards to the characters of Eugene and Abraham.Rosita is moving away from eye candy territory and into a potentially better character than she even was/is in the comics.We finally learn what drives Abraham's laser-like focus on getting to D.C....and why everyone should hate Eugene.
The fact that Abraham keeps punching zombies with the hand that he busted up during the flash back. Yeah I know, metaphor for his wound reopening, blah, blah, blah…he still shouldn’t be swinging around an open pathway to infection around the undead.Tara’s fist bump. In fact, just Tara in general. It’s like she’s trying to take Andrea’s place as the character we all want to see die.Killing walkers with magical water pressure. I mean seriously, why didn’t they just get back up?
7Overall Score
Reader Rating 7 Votes
6.4