So that red machete did come in handy after all. Three weeks ago I confidently stated that The Walking Dead wouldn’t go down the rather clichéd route of having Rick fulfil his threat to Gareth, the leader of the cannibal crew, but here we are. And what an interestingly queasy resolution it is too.
There was an undeniable thrill of satisfaction at seeing Gareth get his comeuppance. After luring, trapping and killing other survivors (not to mention eating bits of Bob!), the Termites have quickly become the show’s biggest menace. The Governor? Pfft. Sure, he caused more actual carnage, but at least he could be reasoned with occasionally. There was something truly terrifying and merciless about Gareth’s lot and the gleeful way they embraced their own degeneration. In killing them so brutally the question is, is that’s what’s happening to Rick too?
Personally, I don’t think so. In a civilised society, the survivors’ actions would be abhorrent, but as we’re regularly reminded, The Walking Dead does not take place in a civilised world. What other option did they have? If they let them go then the Termites would simply kidnap and kill more passers-by. It’s murky territory, for sure, but then that’s exactly what this show should be examining. The show certainly doesn’t go as far as the comic, where our heroes torture the cannibals for a longer time before killing them.
The “Fear The Hunters” arc ran in issues 61-66 of the comic, and is collected in the 11th trade paperback. Gareth is called Chris in the comic and it’s Dale not Bob who dies. Creator Robert Kirkman has often cited this arc as his personal favourite.
And so we move on again, to new threats and new locations. There will be no Bob, however, as he died a dignified death after saying his goodbyes. It was a gentle and restrained scene, all the more powerful for coming so soon after the violence. Lawrence Gilliard Jr’s not always had the most memorable material, but this episode was a great showcase for his talents. And who didn’t get a kick out of his manic cry of “TAINTED MEAT!” Ha! Still hungry, Gareth?
In contrast, the reveal of Gabriel’s dark secret proves a little underwhelming. He let others die so that he might live. It’s another example of a character breaking their moral code for the sake of survival. Yep, that’s terrible and it’s natural that he’s wracked with guilt, but compared to everything else that’s happened over the last three weeks, it feels rather minor.
The episode concludes with the survivors breaking up once more, just a few episodes after they came together. Things are certainly barrelling along on The Walking Dead now and it’s all the better for it. Three episodes in, this is shaping up to be an excellent season.
Fine Dumb Cannibals
It has to be said, Gareth and his mates aren’t spectacularly bright. Their plan is to wait until Rick and co have left the church undefended and then sneak in and kill Car-Rul (sorry, Lincoln’s accent is catching), Eugene and so on. Even though that means taking an eye off their most dangerous opponents? Shout out to Andrew J West, however, for bringing Gareth so memorably to life. I’m gonna kinda miss him.
One of the sweeter moments in the episode is the letter left for Rick. “Sorry, I was an asshole. Come to Washington. The new world’s gonna need Rick Grimes.” It’s touching, but after this episode’s events, is it true? Rick has adapted to live on this zombie-ridden planet extremely well. But if the world changed again and require less dangerous men, would he still have a place or is he too far gone?
Bob’s revenge on the cannibals is a glorious moment. You really feel for the guy, and it’s hugely satisfying to see his kidnappers panic. That said, you kinda wonder if him being “tainted meat” actually matters. As we know from the season one finale, everyone on the planet is already infected. It’s ambiguous then if having eaten Bob’s ankle would have had any effect other than maybe a bit of indigestion.
The Walking Dead airs on AMC on Sunday nights in the US and Fox in the UK on Monday nights.