Season 5, Episode 5: "Self Help"
Plot: Alright, so I’m way behind schedule on this, so let’s all try to refrain from turning this into one of those long and meandering recaps that takes about the same time to read as it would to actually watch the episode, yeah? I’m looking at you people, it’s not my fault. I’m usually nothing if not brief. See there you go, distracting me already.
Luckily, this week’s episode of “The Walking Dead,” contains about 1/90 of the story that was crammed into this past week’s Beth episode like ground up people parts into an intestine casing which Gareth would then have eaten for breakfast had he still been with us.
On Sunday, we learned: a terrible secret from Abraham’s past, a terrible secret from Eugene’s past/present, an awesome secret from Abraham’s present (from his POV) and, AND, Rosita (formerly Latina Sarah Connor), Glenn, Maggie and Fist-Bump Girl all get to be mildly-functioning people. In the case of Rosita, for the first time!
- Good: Fun with small groups. There’s no two ways about it. “The Walking Dead” has too many characters. That calls to mind another wildly popular and wildly overpopulated show: “Game of Thrones.” Now, the writing team for “The Walking Dead” doesn’t even come close to being able to match the “Game of Thrones” team’s still-suspect character-juggling abilities. “The Walking Dead” loves Rick, it loves Daryl and Carol and Beth, it’ll usually rotate in a featured minority (Michonne, Ty, Fr. Gabe, Bob) and then everyone else gets tossed a broken pool cue to fight over the remaining screen time. This is why these small group episodes are so good. Rosita is still a nothing character, but she got to talk this week. And not just as part of a big group conversation either. She had personal, one-on-one conversations with other people. Former writer-fav Maggie even got lifted out of cold storage to participate in a sort of meaningful way. I’m coming to the conclusion that the writers either need to go on a massive killing spree or they should just never have the entire group in the same place at the same time. It’s the only way this show, as currently constructed, is going to not embarrassingly shortchange its characters.
- Bad: Although, speaking of Maggie, she’s really given up on Beth, huh? This feels like a great episode for her to have been all “God I hope my sister is OK” to someone. Just to remind us that they are in fact sisters.
- Bad: Did anyone else know Abraham and Rosita were together? Did this just happen or have they been together all along? If so, was that relationship ever referenced in any way other than TV fans going “Well, if she’s sleeping with either one of the guys in her old group, it’s definitely not Eugene.” This is more of a big picture problem and not a bad part about this particular episode.
- Good: I like having Rosita be a person now and not just a hot chick in short shorts and piggy tails.
- Bad: Crashing a car on a perfectly straight, nearly deserted road. I guess Abraham went to the Lori school of driving.
- Good: Look at Abraham, he’s making sweet Library love to Rosita AND the man’s got some backstory. I dug the gradual reveal of his history throughout the episode: he was traveling with his wife and kids, he started getting a little intense, then he killed a bunch of dudes in a grocery store, so his wife took the kids and bounced. Then, he found them all dead and eaten outside, had a breakdown and was about to kill himself when lo and behold Eugene came running in out of nowhere, being chased by walkers and screaming for help. Abraham saves Eugene and then Eugene tells him about how he can save the world, thus giving Abraham a new mission now that he failed that whole, “keeping your family alive” thing.
- Good: More good for Abraham. This reveal pretty well fits perfectly into what I always suspected of Abe: He’s a guy who needs a mission. It’s like in “Terminator 3” when Claire Danes asks the Terminator if he cares whether or not he succeeds in his mission to protect her. He says yes because otherwise he would become obsolete. There’d be no reason for him to exist. I like to think of Abraham as being the Terminator in that scenario. All his life in the military he just followed orders and completed important missions. Without that, he’s just some schmuck with anger to burn who ends up scaring away his family and nearly killing himself until some mulleted weirdo shows up and gives him something seemingly very significant to do.
- Bad: Thank you, “Talking Dead” for confirming that was indeed Abraham’s family. I mean, I guessed that, but a “honey” or a “junior” might have been nice.
- Good: Oh never mind, sorry Abraham. You’re a good driver after all.
- Good: Eugene’s big reveal. So Eugene is full of crap. He isn’t really a scientist, he doesn’t have a cure or the ability to create a walker-destroying virus, he’s been lying to everyone the entire time and lately he’s also been sabotaging any efforts to get him to DC, like by putting crushed gas in their vehicle’s fuel lines. He knew he couldn’t protect himself, so he came up with a way to get others to do that for him. This makes so much sense and yet it’s still a great twist.
- Good: Eugene, after telling Abraham he’d been using him literally since the second they met, still has the balls to say “I am smarter than you.” That’s not even balls. That’s some previously undiscovered source of either masculinity or stupidity or both.
- Bad: Did we really need all the hair talk in this episode? Was Herbal Essences a sponsor? Cut out one five-minute hair monologue and you could have easily filled the time with Maggie showing some sisterly concern.