Season 5 Episode 9 “What Happened and What’s Going On”
If there’s one word of advice I could give about The Walking Dead it would be don’t binge watch season 5 without taking a break between 5.8 and 5.9. It will destroy you. I made this mistake once re-watching with my mother and after this episode was over we both were in tears and wondering what to do with our lives. Even a week in between seems to not be enough for me as I try to write this.
What I find peculiar about my reaction to this episode is that Tyreese is not one of my favorite characters. He’s an excellent character but I just have never felt any real connection to him. But I find his final episode here, one of the most beautiful farewell tributes to ever be given a character. The entire episode is just dedicated to what has happened through Tyreese’s journey on this show. No one else has gotten that and no one else will until season 9. Tyreese’s goodbye draws you in slowly and then surprisingly and heartbreakingly ends that it is just overwhelming to the soul. So even those of us who haven’t connected with Tyreese are so overcome with emotion that we shed a sea of tears over losing him.
Let’s talk about some of the beauty of this episode. The opening is a string of moments in no particular order. It starts with a burial that we all assume is Beth’s. Photo of a house. Maggie crying. People running. Pictures of twins. The prison. Bones in the forest. And then Lizzie and Mika. That’s the weirdest part of all. What are they doing here? But all of these scenes begin to unravel through the episode and it starts making sense. And it all winds back up at the burial which we now realize is Tyreese’s. It’s a strange way of preparing us but still allowing us to be surprised later on in the episode.
Tyreese’s final moments in the bedroom after he gets bit is also quite riveting. We find ourselves in Richmond, Virginia inside Noah’s family home. The group has trekked 500 miles to get Noah here, which on its own is a beautiful tribute to Beth. But we find the community destroyed and Noah’s family is dead. While Tyreese is distracted by pictures on the wall of Noah’s twin brothers, he is surprised by one of those twins who bites him on the arm. Noah runs off to get the others and while he is gone Tyreese experiences some hallucinations. The first hallucination is Martin. Martin is his usual pessimistic self. Then Bob shows up to counteract him and call bullshit to what he is saying. Then The Governor and Lizzie and Mika.
What these people all have in common is that Tyreese feels guilt over their deaths. He’s been carrying them all through his journey. That gentle giant has never wanted to kill people without it being completely necessary. Martin says if Tyreese had killed him then Gareth would never have been able to find them and kill Bob. Or put Rick’s group in the position of having to kill all of Gareth’s group. Tyreese blames himself for The Governor because he joined up with them at first and maybe if he hadn’t or done more against The Governor then just say he wasn’t going to fight that Woodbury wouldn’t have come crashing down. And there’s not much explaining to do when it comes to Lizzie and Mika. From the outside looking in, there’s no way Tyreese could have known all the maybes and what ifs. But that doesn’t make it any easier for the individual. He carries the guilt of what happened to these people like any thoughtful and caring human being would.
Through most of this hallucinating, it feels like maybe there’s still a chance that Tyreese may live. If the others come cut off his arm soon then he could make it out of this. There’s that optimistic side of me coming through again. I think it is when Beth shows up in his hallucinations that I start to realize this isn’t going to turn out well. Nothing in particular about her says “this is the end for Tyreese”. It just feels more like a goodbye then the others. Maybe it’s the music she plays on the guitar. Tyreese does seem to start fighting to live more after Beth which is another way this becomes absolutely devastating. He is fighting to live but its just been too long now. He stands up to yell at The Governor but he just gets knocked back down.
The final rescue attempt cements the utter sadness of this episode. Tyreese is hallucinating that Lizzie and Mika are holding his arm, but it turns into Rick holding it while Glenn and Michonne cut his arm off. It turns into a race against time to get him back to the vehicle and then back to the others to cauterize his arm before he bleeds to death. Just like Tyreese was trying so hard to fight to live, so are Rick and the group in trying to get him back. You could tell on their faces that they all wanted to save Tyreese desperately. But with walkers attacking them, fences in their way and Tyreese’s size alone they struggle and fail to save him. We know it’s over when we see Tyreese riding in the car with Beth driving, Bob in the front passenger seat and Lizzie and Mika beside him. They are shepherding him to what’s next. And he simply says to turn off the radio. He’s done listening now, he has no need anymore.
Sasha wasn’t in this episode until we see her at the funeral. Sasha just lost Bob and now her big brother is gone. She has no one left. I think that’s when it gets harder for most on this show. When you’ve got no family left, no blood relatives, these characters really go through some stuff. Carol lost Ed and then Sophia and now she’s not even close to resembling her former self. Daryl lost Merle twice and its very clear that Daryl is a much better person without his brother around. Now we will see what happens to Sasha. I worried for her a lot after this loss of Tyreese but I think we really get some of the best of her going forward.
This episode brought some foreshadowing with it. At Noah’s community, one of the brick walls has “Wolves Not Far” written on it. This would make absolutely no sense to anyone at the time. The Wolves don’t come up for a while on the show and weren’t in the comics. But we get to see their handy work. It looks like they are the ones who destroyed Noah’s community and Michonne finds a field of human legs. Bodies just from the waist down. We see the top halves at the end of the episode where the truck is parked. Who on earth would cut bodies in half and just take the tops? Super weird. Another bit of foreshadowing is Glenn holds a bat. Glenn’s already had one close call with a bat back at Terminus, now he holds one in his hands. Strike three is next.
Our poor friends are in a real low point right now. They’ve lost Washington, they’ve lost Beth and Tyreese and they are losing hope on finding a place to live. This journey to Richmond was in hopes of finding a place to start over again. Michonne’s reaction to this latest setback is the most telling of where our groups is mentally. Michonne is visibly upset they find Noah’s community destroyed. She’s even more upset when she hears Glenn talking about killing Dawn if he had been there. That’s not like Glenn at all and Michonne doesn’t like it. She wants them to stay here and fix it up even though it doesn’t make sense. She warns Rick and Glenn you can be “out here” too long. We’ve seen that happen before and it certainly does feel like with all of the fails lately that if they don’t get a win soon then this may all be over. But they decide to go to Washington. Even though a cure may not be there, it may still be the best possibility of a life they once knew.
Best of the Episode
Tyreese’s words of wisdom. There wasn’t really a bad part of this episode but Tyreese gives one last gift to Noah with some kind words to help him pick himself up off the ground after finding out his family was gone. He tells Noah to choose to live. Choose to live because you might be there to do some good that will make up for the pain now. Even as he nears death, Tyreese tried to choose life. Tyreese has always been kind-hearted but we don’t get a lot of the wisdom it seems he holds inside. He did this a little bit with Sasha after she lost Bob and now he’s trying to help Noah. This kindness was really unique to Tyreese and it will leave a gap in our group for sure.
Tyreese twice bit. The first bite was a surprise. But then Tyreese is forced to fight another walker while he waits for rescue. It’s not going well and the walker has him up against a wall. Tyreese is weaponless and is forced to use his bitten arm to hold off the walker so he can grab something to kill it with. It’s one of those cringe-worthy moments. Imagine the pain of having to use an open wound as your defense. It gives me shivers.