Spoilers for “The Walking Season,” Season 5, Episode 3, “Four Walls and a Roof”
“Tainted meat!” Bob (RIP) telling the Terminans just what they’ve been eating echoes a famous moment from Robert Kirkman’s comics, and provides a fitting moment of catharsis for viewers who’ve been waiting for the cannibals to get their comeuppance. But if, as we learned in “The Walking Dead’s” second season, everyone is infected — if there is no longer such a thing as a natural death, or at least not one that lasts — no one is free from taint.
“The Walking Dead’s” fifth season has moved faster than anyone suspected: The threat of Terminus was effectively ended at the end of the first episode, and with the third, “Four Walls and a Roof,” the stragglers have been dealt with, brutally, as well. For all the carnage spread over the previous 53 episodes, we’ve rarely seen the until-recently living presented as Gareth’s body is here, like a side of beef recently hacked from a cow’s living body. Two episodes ago, Rick was very nearly cattle; now, he’s a butcher.
After briefly reuniting the survivors — minus Beth, who I don’t think anyone outside the world of the show much misses — “Four Walls” ends with them split up again: Glen and Maggie join Abraham and Eugene on their trip to D.C., while Daryl returns with… who, exactly? Kind of a weak cliffhanger, really, even if Morgan —last glimpsed checking out the Terminans’ tree-bark carvings in the season premiere’s uncharacteristic post-credits tag — is hiding in the shadows with Carol and Beth. But after several seasons devoted to the survivors’ attempt to make camp — at Hershel’s farm, at the prison, at the Governor’s Woodbury — it feels as if the fifth is going to be about movement rather than digging in. If even a church is just “four walls and a roof,” then one place is as good as any other, and they’ve got plenty of experience teaching them to suspect any group larger than you can fit in a room.
Perhaps it’s just that previous seasons have depressed my expectations, but I’m finding the start to the fifth as strong, if not moreseo, than any I can remember. It helps that rather than casting Rick as a law-and-order type whose principles have to be ground down by harsh reality, the show has effectively flipped the script: Now it’s Rick who needs to be reminded that people aren’t all bad, and that whatever good is left must be nurtured if humanity — not just human beings — is to survive the plague. Symbols, like his forgotten sheriff’s hat or the church’s crucifix, no longer hold meaning. Only actions, or the lack of action, matters
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix
Overall, though, this was another effective, pulpy episode, and a good illustration of the ways “The Walking Dead” has improved itself over time. At one point, Glenn references how long it took Jim to die after he was bitten when a zombie herd wandered into the quarry hideout in season 1. Jim was one of a long list of “Walking Dead” supporting characters who existed entirely as cannon fodder, and his lingering death had absolutely no weight. But the creative team put in the time to make Bob into someone worth caring about over the past season-plus, and to make us care about the relationships he had with others, so the prospect of losing his relentless optimism hit just as hard as Tyreese stepping in to relief his sister of the burden of preventing Bob’s zombie transformation
Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly
Compare this to the last time “The Walking Dead” visited a church, back in the season 2 premiere, when the sight of Christ on the Cross was an opportunity for the characters to have a long chat with a higher power. How things have changed; how little faith anyone has in any higher power at this point. “This is the Lord’s house!” says Gabriel. “No,” says Maggie. “It’s just four walls and a roof.”
Matt Fowler, IGN
“Four Walls and a Roof” once again showed us what a powerful force Rick’s group can be by having them pretty much annihilate Gareth’s posse on one fell swoop. Everyone’s on the same page, morality wise, and their fighting skills are, for far, unrivaled. Which is why it’s frustrating to see them get cut in half and split off into two separate storylines at the end. I do understand that the show can’t realistically handled such a giant ensemble always being together in one spot, but I just wish I’d bought more into the reasons for the split.
John Saveedra, Den of Geek
This episode is all about mercy. Gabriel begs the Lord for forgiveness, Tyreese tries to appease Sasha, the utterly defeated Gareth pleas his case, and Bob could turn at any minute. None of them show or are shown mercy. Except Bob, who seems at peace with the end. Everyone else just walks into the chaos and the episode plays out. Gareth got what was coming to him this week, but at least he went out giving the best performance of the episode. Andrew J. West was just brilliant in the role. While the comic books portrayed the Hunters’ leader as a vicious man, West brings a lot more complexity to the character. And in that final moment on screen, although his acts were evil, we’re not sure if we should feel bad for him. Who are we to judge? He’s probably gone through as much loss and trauma as Rick has. The difference is that Gareth eats people.
Richard Rys, Vulture
I’ll admit, I got a little misty as Rick held Judith in one hand and Bob’s hand in the other. In a particularly depressing moment, Sasha asks Bob what good will come of his fate. There’s no reply — Bob is gone. Tyreese puts him out of his misery permanently with a quick slip of a blade and an awful sound. You had your issues, Bob Barksdale — namely, the bottle and a bad sense of zombie radar — but you will be missed.
Zack Handler, A.V. Club
The execution is arguably necessary, and it means avoiding a nightmare like when the Governor came back to the prison. At the same time, this is violence in (comparatively) cold blood, and there’s a viciousness to Rick and the others that’s troubling. Not troubling in a definitive way, or a way that you could argue against. It’s definitely bad-ass to watch, and there’s no small satisfaction in watching Rick pull out that machete.
Rebecca Hawkes, Telegraph
Overall, the episode felt like an attempt to sever ties, cut loose and move the story on, with Glenn and Maggie’s decision to leave with Abraham, and Daryl and Carol’s absence (Daryl returned right at the very end of the episode) heralding a return to a separated group and splintered plot lines. But while it may have made narrative sense to round off the Terminus plot, it was difficult not to feel a little cheated.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, Screencrush
The series seems to have developed a tendency to split its group apart, if only to keep a reasonably level of threats and challenges in play. Gareth’s group only moved in with Daryl and Carol taken out of the equation, and then again with Rick and the others seemingly splintering off. It can be understandably difficult to service so many characters in one location, though at least it seems that next week will fill us in on what Beth’s been up to all this time, and allow us to get our bearings before the back half of the fall season. There wouldn’t have been very much story to be had by Gareth and Rick trading threats back and forth for more than a few episodes, so the group’s dispatch at least keeps the momentum of season 5 moving along nicely.