Talking Out The Dead: “Self Help”

Kelen Conley: I don’t even know where to begin with this episode. I guess the best place to begin is to start crap with Thomas.

I don’t like Abraham. In fact, I hate him. Maybe even more than I ever hated Andrea’s dumbass.

I think it’s because there’s not much to his character for me. Sure, we learned that his family ran off from him (I guess because he defended them by any means necessary and it scared them) and they got eaten by walkers. I don’t really feel sympathetic. Obviously, his family couldn’t understand the gravity of their situation if they couldn’t handle his brutality to protect them. They were bound to die anyway.

I guessing the fact that his hand keeps bleeding is supposed to symbolize old wounds that keep reopening (pretty sure he busted his knuckles from beating that dude to death with the can). Good symbolism but again, does nothing for me.

I’ll give him points for being a colorful character. I wouldn’t mind having a few beers with him from one time to another. But I think the part that really makes me hate him (even though I suspected it from the start) is that Eugene was lying the whole time and he never doubted him for a second. Sure, there could have been quiet moments between the two from Texas to Georgia where Abraham questioned the authenticity of Eugene’s mission. Sure, maybe he wanted to have some hope left in the world after his family (stupidly) ran off and got killed. Hell, maybe he knew the whole time Eugene was a lying sack and went along with it because it gave him something to do or a reason to go on. But that makes him responsible for all those innocent people that died that Rosita mentioned, if not more responsible than Eugene. And I’m really thinking they might go the route of him being aware that Eugene was lying.

I just can’t back Abraham up if that’s the truth. I’m hoping the writers go another way.

Eugene had some nice moments in this episode by killing a walker (his first?) and saving Abraham and the Glennians from the walkers they accidentally freed with fire truck hose. But they managed to stomp all those good things to nothing by having him creep on Rosita and Abraham, then having him reveal that he sabotaged the bus, and then by having him reveal that he was a liar about knowing how to save the world. But the dude is so ass backwards to begin with, I’m not even mad at him. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares now that he’s been outed. I figure he go out in some kind of sacrifice to save Tara’s life, so that he did the right thing in the end. Ugh.

Can we take a moment and talk about that herd of walkers that Abraham was determined to fight his way through though? This is the biggest herd ever seen on the show, right? I guess the previous amount would’ve been the herd that took down Herschel’s farm. Also, major kudos to the special effects crew because even from a distance, you could tell that you were looking at maybe 500 or so walkers. I can understand them not wanting to attempt to put 500 people out there for one shot as well. Easily one of the scariest walker moments in a while I think. Mostly because we see them in packs of 10 or less mostly, so for the writers to pull back and show us the big picture of just how many walkers can be in one place was great.

It’ll be interesting to see Rosita’s take on her relationships with Eugene and Abraham going forward. She privately disagreed with Abraham in the book store only to back him when the others arrived. Now that she knows Eugene is a liar and Abraham might be A) an idiot for believing him and convincing her to believe him or B) someone who’d rather follow a liar than deal with his family’s deaths, she might be dragging Glenn, Maggie, and Tara herself to go back to Rick and the Daryls (I guess they’d be Rick and the Michonnes since Daryl isn’t with the group right now). I have a feeling a lot of things will be addressed from her perspective.

Seeing what Tara does intrigues me too because since she’s met up with Eugene, she’s been his only “friend”. She thought the bus sabotage was just him being an antisocial idiot but lying about everything is a whole different can of worms. I did like that even she took a quick peek at Rosita and Abraham too though. She was probably looking at Rosita but human nature can be a bitch sometimes.

And again, Maggie and Glenn are nothing more than window dressing. Abraham pretty much looked to Glenn for permission to continue the mission, probably because Glenn was able to persuade the group to look for Maggie before and he didn’t want to lose control again. Maggie had a quiet moment with Glenn and then talked to Eugene before the herd reveal but that was it. However, they both got to kill some walkers. I guess that’s the price you pay when the group gets this big. As a fan of both, I’d like to see more done with them, just like I would with Michonne.

There wasn’t too much progress made in this episode other than the bus being taken out, we learned about Abraham’s past and how he met Eugene, and then Eugene finally coming clean. I do want to note that while the flashbacks got the main point across (that Abraham’s family died and how he learned of Eugene’s mission) I wish they had been done better. Why was Abraham killing unturned people? What didn’t click in his wife’s head that he was trying to save their lives? I get the kids being scared by his level of violence but why her? I know what happened in the comics and what Michael Cudlitz said on Talking Dead but why not do a little bit more?

And one more random stray thought: the camera lingered on Abraham’s wedding ring at least twice. I could just write this off as they were trying to make the connection that Abraham misses his family dearly and it’s deeply affected him. But… what if there’s more to those flashbacks that we hadn’t seen? What if Abraham was like Carol’s husband Ed and was abusing her prior  to the outbreak? What if she took the opportunity to flee because it was her first chance in a long time? I’m probably overthinking it.

Thomas Crawford: Ah, now you are just trying to start shit Kelen.  It’s cool, you do make some valid points about why you don’t like Abraham.  The fact is I will give you points for the episode, because it wasn’t the most enthralling of episodes to begin with.  Did I like the episode?  Yes I did.  Would I watch it again?  Probably not.

As for Abraham, or Big Red as Rosita calls him in their quiet moments, something about him just makes me like the guy.  Is he an idiot for falling for Eugene’s lies?  I’d say for the average person, yes.  They have supposedly been together for months, yet he hasn’t even questioned him about DC or the mission.  You would think at some point he would want details.

All we saw in the flashback was him standing over his dead wife and kids.   This I sort of blame on the writers, because they left a lot up in the air.  Did he watch them die?  Did he have to put them down?  Did he just find them like that after they left him?  The flashbacks left a lot to be desired, mostly because they are meant to illuminate someone’s past.  These… really didn’t do much of that.  All we know for sure is that he had a family, they are dead, and he blames himself.

However, there are some reasons I can sort of get behind and understand Abraham a little.  I am going to try and put myself in a situation, where everything seems out of control.  Everything, and I mean everything is going wrong.  The worst things possible just seem to mount up, and everything you touch turns to shit.  What do most people do in this situation?  What comes to mind is you grab for anything that helps you keep your sanity.

In every day life, a lot of people do this.  They bury themselves in their work.  They rely on their friends or try to get closer with their family.  Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to try and cope.  This is just for normal life and the problems that arise.  Take that to the nth power in TWD world, and having your life and your family ripped away from you.  What stops a person from taking that sidearm, which he had in the final flashback, and turning it on yourself?  How about a mission?  It is a mission that seems far fetched, crazy, and completely unrealistic.  However, in that instant, when you have the gun in your hand, the world is at its darkest, perhaps you grasp that one strand of hope?

Does this make Abraham an idiot?  I would have to agree, yes it does.  However, that is what I got from the final flashback.  Eugene came at the exact time needed when Abraham needed something, anything to believe in.  In a way, I think Eugene saved Abraham’s life.  Was it a lie?  Yes it was.  Did it get a lot of people killed?  Yes it did.  However, I will say that without Eugene, Abraham would have turned the gun on himself.

Getting off the philosophical soapbox, there is another reason Abraham believed Eugene.  It is apparent that Abraham does have past military experience.  I am assuming he does just by how he handles himself and talks.  That being said, think of what Eugene said in the final flashback.  He had a “mission”.  You could see something click, that old soldier mentality kick in.  I haven’t read much of the comics, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Abraham’s back story included a lot of heavy action, and possibly he was part of a special forces unit.

Telling a former military man that there is a mission would probably have a different effect than it would on just a regular person.  It is a task, something that needs to be completed at any cost.  Think of things Abraham has said since entering the show.  He is “fighting” for the world.  It is a “war” to save the world.  He has totally immersed himself in this mission.  Partly because he has too, and partly due to past experience and training that has conditioned him to complete a mission at any cost.  This will probably not be brought up in the show, although I wish they would have spent some time delving into that aspect of Abraham’s personality.

Overall, I can just get behind the mentality of a character like Abraham.  He is brash, rude, and seems to just love to fight and kill with no remorse.  However, there are layers that the show probably can’t really get too much into, as they have a limited number of episodes.  I’ll just say, he is probably one of those characters that you either like or hate.

Moving on to the big announcement, say it isn’t so Eugene!  Was anyone really surprised by this?  The people who read the comics really weren’t.  However, the regular viewers probably weren’t all that surprised by the admission that the mission was a hoax.  The viewers have watched this show long enough to know that anything good can’t last.  That means that if there is any hope for the world to be saved, it will probably fall to pieces.  The actions of Eugene and just his general demeanor have lead most to believe he is full of it since the first time he appeared.

One more thing, who taught Eugene to run?  The man was in an open parking lot, running from two walkers who were hardly moving.  However, they were catching up to him?  What was he doing, the super slow half jog diagonal fake out technique?  I would have to agree with him, without help, he surely wouldn’t have survived long in TWD world.

I would like to point out one more thing.  What is up with Rosita?  Hopefully we get some back story on her and soon.  I remember her giving Glenn an earful when Tara was hurt, and he wanted to keep going to look for Maggie.  All of a sudden, she is nice and obedient and agrees with anything Abraham says when the group is around?  That relationship seems weird to me, but hopefully they will elaborate on it further.  I’m going to kick it over to Kelen, any thoughts?

KC: I think Rosita just loves Abraham. You’re supposed to have your significant other’s back when they’re the unpopular opinion, so that’s all this was. She had said a few seconds before that she thought they should stay but Abraham was all “the mission, the mission”, so she dropped it. What’s really surprising has been her and Tara’s staying power so far. I would’ve thought they wouldn’t have made it out of the season premier and now it’s almost midseason.

Eugene is a terrible runner. I think I could watch a prequel of sorts just showing Eugene evading walkers until he meets Abraham as long as he runs just like that for 90% of the episode.

I think the main tip that Eugene was lying is the entire premise of the show. Sure, it’s season 5 and maybe AMC and everybody that works on TWD are sick of making tons of money and want to wrap up the show. But solving the outbreak ends the show and with a spinoff coming and the viewers tuning in by the millions every week, there’s no resolution in sight. Hell, I don’t think Kirkman even has a resolution for his comic book. He just plans on putting his characters through the ringer until Image says they don’t want any more. And if I know the comic industry, we’ll see a rebooted The Walking Dead #1 on stands before there’s no more stories to be told. Eugene was simply a carrot to dangle in front of the characters faces for a several episodes. Now they’re carrot-less and still hungry.

Back to Abraham. First… Big Red? You’re ridiculous. That’s also odd timing now that WWE is trying to call Erick Harper Big Red all the time.

From the flashback, it looked like Abraham had fallen asleep and as soon as he did, his wife and kids ran. They didn’t get very far before they were devoured by walkers. So he didn’t see it happen. This brings up something though I hadn’t noticed: there’s a huge difference between walkers when the outbreak first happened to now. When the series first started (and we saw some of this in this episode), walkers were everywhere. Now (and I know that they’ve stayed out of the cities for the most part), the walkers seem more spread apart. Point being, if his family had ran now, they might have had half a chance of living for a day or so. Wasn’t happening back then.

Your points about Abraham make me reconsider all the venom I had for the guy before. I was looking for a fall guy in this whole “mission” thing being a hoax, regardless of what I just said about the show not having an ending. It certainly couldn’t be Eugene since I view him as more of a genius for thinking of a way to survive when he should’ve been among the first to die. Rosita is clearly in love with Abraham so her blindness to the situation wasn’t too far-fetched for me. So that leaves ol’… Big Red.

I have to admit, Abraham has gone through a lot since the outbreak began and we only got a small glimpse of what’s happened to him. That’s not even considering any prior emotional scars he may have been through as a solider. The guy certainly has baggage. To put the shoe on the other foot truly, what if the series had followed Abraham from the beginning and then Rick showed up halfway through season 4? I can’t say I’d be a big fan of him either, with his shoot first, ask questions later approach he’s been using this season. Killing the people of Terminus was a no-brainer, but what if our first introduction to him was when he ripped Joe’s throat out with his teeth and we didn’t know why he was doing it? I can’t say I’d be a Rick Grimes fan then. So that makes me a bit more accepting of Abraham’s plight.

The key now is to see what they do with him next. He’s obviously back where he started after his family was murdered before, this time with the extra pain of being lied to. It’ll be interesting to see if he can bounce back from this new trauma, or if he chooses to opt out. While opting out would be a mistake, there could be ways to make it happen without Abraham having to pull the trigger himself. Now that you’ve talked me into caring about him again, it’ll be a shame to see him go if that’s the route the writers are going.

So good job Thomas, you win again. Now I’ll go find another character to hate. Hey there Noah…

In all seriousness though, I need more Maggie and Glenn in this season. They deserve better than being supporting characters every time they’re on the screen! Maybe if they start thinning the group out soon.

TC: Come on Kelen. Don’t let me be that persuasive.  Seriously though, I do like Abraham, or Big Red, for reasons I mentioned, I just can’t help it.  Sidenote, I haven’t had time to watch the WWE, the Big Red thing was just off the top of my head.  That aside, I will give it to you as well.  Perhaps I am a bit too harsh with my judgements about Rosita.  This is one of the things that makes this show so damned hard.  They introduce characters, show some insight, and then they seem to be the backdrop for rest of the half season. 

That being said, she obviously loves Abraham, it isn’t just a coupling for convenience for those two.  The  first impression of Rosita was that of a warrior woman, perhaps even in the Michonne or Carol cut.  She seemed to be a kick ass, bad ass, knock em down and take no prisoners type.  I agree, I really didn’t think she was going to make it out of last season either.  She just seemed to be the perfect character, quick interest grab turned fodder (the pigtails and tiny shorts were bit of a hint).

This points me to my recent thoughts of the show and what you mentioned, the thinning of the cast.  The fans of TWD have their favorites, but in reality, it is based on almost real life situations in the worst possible conditions.  People that we grow to love die, turn, or just fade away.  That is one of the best things about this show.  Aside from the core of Rick, Carl, Michonne and Daryl, everyone is up on the chopping block.  The fact is that people across the board probably loved Bob, where is he now?

That is the second hardest thing to accept with this show, and probably the hardest with the creators.  How do you build a character up, just for a death?  How do you replace a character with another, and at the same time pay homage to those that have come before?  It is probably one of the things I like best about this show.  Aside from the above mentioned, the characters are changing, evolving, coming and leaving, giving a certain realism to the situation.

As for Glenn and Maggie, I hate to admit it, but I am on the train of thought that they are not long for TWD world.  Maybe this half or the next half of the season, one is going to bite the dust.  I know, they are sort of a staple, sort of a symbol if you will.  They are a representation of “true love” in a world gone mad.  I wish I could take credit but that’s a quote from somewhere else.  The fact is, this is a different world.  When these two come back to a forefront, one is going to be gone.  It isn’t a prediction per se, just a thought that has entered my mind on more then a few occasions.

That being said, the fact that they are on the back burner is because the writers are trying to push new characters.  Is it possible that they are pushing for replacements for this couple?  I think it is possible.  I hate to be a downer, and in some ways I hope I am wrong.  However, in the end of the show whenever that may be, I don’t see the couple of Maggie and Glenn together.

Finally, getting to Eugene.  Kelen, you are right, the whole ending of the show on the basis of a “cure” isn’t going to happen.  Every fan of TWD knows this by now.  This show isn’t about a cure, or bringing the world back to what it once was.  It is about a new world.  It is about survivors, “the strong” if you will.  It is about those that can carve a place in a world destroyed by a virus which we still don’t know anything about.  That is what TWD is about.

I think that is the most interesting part of the show.  The zombie kills and character development aside, it is about the interactions and what they do to survive.  It is about the characters finding out who and what they are in this world that none of us can truly imagine. Try to imagine a world without running water, toilet paper, and cell service.  I doubt you can.

This show is a post apocalyptic show in the truest sense.  The “walking dead” are the ultimate backdrop.  The true story are those that the characters create in their effort to find their place and survive.  The fact is that people are people, regardless of the context.  There are good, bad, and those in between.  This show, and even this episode shows that with utter realism.

It shows a man, Big Red, with a mission.  When his mission is taken away, he reacts violently.  It shows the love of a woman, Rosita, her willingness to support her lover regardless of her personal thoughts.  It shows hope with the couple of Glenn and Maggie.  They didn’t get a lot of air time, but the moments they go, they made it count.  It showed the wanderer Tara, trying to find her own way.  It also showed Eugene, a man with a brilliant mind and quick with words, just trying to find a way to survive.  There was a little something for everyone in this episode if you looked close enough.

I probably wouldn’t watch this episode a second time, still.  However, the overall storytelling, as part of the big picture of the series is compelling.  These are the type of shows that you watch, don’t think much of, and think about later on.  This is what TWD series is about when you get to the bare bones.  This episode encompassed most of those ideals.  It was about hope, dreams, love, schemes, manipulation, struggling for survival, and in the end, no real redemption.  This is one reason I love this show.

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