‘The Walking Dead’ Episode 5.3 “Four Walls and a Roof” (8 out of 10) Created by Frank Darabont; Starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Chandler Riggs, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan; Sundays on AMC.
Only a show like “The Walking Dead” can kick off one of its most positive episodes with a conversation about whether men taste better than women.
Undead spoilers ahead!
Bob Gets the Last Laugh
When we last left Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.) he was watching the remaining Termites scarf down his leg.
It was gross.
The scene continues with Bob apparently breaking down into hysterics, only to reveal that he was bitten during the food bank excursion during last week’s episode. It’s a perfectly timed moment of extreme gallows humor as Bob mocks his captors for eating tainted meat. Since Bob was just starting to embrace his more positive side, this morbid moment of victory was a great way to start off the episode.
After Bob reveals that he’s been bitten, it’s a countdown until the inevitable scene in which his loved ones have to make sure he doesn’t rise from the dead—which usually involves head-stabbing. A lot happens in that time, however, and despite its inevitability, Bob’s death left some goodness in its wake. Before we get to that, however, we have to discuss the brutal extermination of the Termites.
As Gareth (Andrew J. West) leads his team into what he thinks is a partially-abandoned church, he falls for Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) trusted “red herring” trick—and man does it go south for the Termites when Rick and crew emerge from the shadows of the church to dispense their own kind of judgment.
This feels like a good segue into the religious undertones that have been set up with the crew’s new surroundings. The fact that they’ve taken refuge within a church typically represents some kind of spiritual re-awakening—but when you take a long, hard look at the blood that has saturated this particular church’s foundations, it’s time to wave goodbye to that metaphor. Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), the man tasked with the stewardship over the church and its congregation, succumbed to his own fears and kept his people locked out during the initial stages of the outbreak. It’s a stark contrast to see Rick Grimes let his enemies in, make them kneel before him and his own “clergy,” only to beat them to death on the floors and pews of this exhausted sanctuary. When Gabriel whispers, “But this is the Lord’s house,” only to get the stone-cold reply, “No. It’s just four walls and a roof,” from Maggie (Lauren Cohan), it’s a stern affirmation that religion might be a privilege reserved for folks who aren’t living in total chaos.
That being said, the church becomes beautiful and reverent during Bob’s last moments with his friends. It’s morning; the light streaming through the windows is illuminating the biblical pictures on the walls, and a good man is spending his last few moments alive with those that he loves. There was a definite funerary vibe present during this scene, and Bob’s final words about nightmares coming to an end remind us how far his character has come. After Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) mercifully administers the obligatory “knife-to-the-head,” there’s something about his face framed next to the woodcut of The Last Supper that implies the existence of some kind of faith.
Thematically, this episode encapsulated this prevalent idea that when the world goes down the pipes, a group needs to figure out their own identities quickly—a difficult process when they’re coming from our world of 24/7 advertising, which never stops telling people what to think or how to act. Gareth and his Termites chose to adopt the philosophy that they were living in an “eat or be eaten” world, The Governor (David Morrissey) thought that order could only be achieved through amoral tyranny, and then there’s Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and his buddies who are desperately clinging to the hope that the virus can be destroyed. The reason Rick and crew have managed to stay alive both physically and morally has to do with their chosen philosophy, which hinges upon the fact that no matter how many nasty things they’ve done to stay alive, they don’t forget about the toll it’s taken on their humanity. Instead, they embrace it. There’s a scene at the end—right before Daryl (Norman Reedus) comes out of the woods with some mystery guest that we have to wait a whole week to identify—where Gabriel is talking to Michonne (Danai Gurira) about the people he let die. He tells her that he can’t stop hearing their screams, to which Michonne replies, “Yeah. That never really stops.” She, along with her crew, are not only strong enough to defend themselves violently when they need to, but they’re also strong enough to endure what it means to end someone else’s life.
Like I said earlier, despite the brutality of this episode, there was a very positive aspect to its final moments. Despite the fact that the group splits up—Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie head off with Tara (Alanna Masterson), Abraham, Rosita (Christian Serratos), and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) while Rick and everyone else hang back to track down Daryl and Carol (Melissa McBride)—there’s still a feeling of solidarity with the group. That damn cliffhanger ending will have me theorizing and pontificating pretty much nonstop until next week, however.
R.I.P., Bob Stookey. You were a good dude.