The Walking Dead checks in with Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Co. as they continue off to DC. How does yet another episode without Rick (Andrew Lincoln) fare?
Let’s bitch it out…
Well it had to happen. With one great episode after another this season, it was inevitable that we’d get just an okay offering. That’s definitely how I felt about ‘Self-Help’- it just doesn’t have the momentum and intrigue that the preceding episodes had. We get a glimpse into Abraham’s past – but it literally is just a glimpse. I give props to the writers/producers etc. in conveying quite a bit of information to us in only a handful of moments via flashbacks. We know that Abraham lost his temper (to put it mildly) killing three-four people with only a can of beans and his bare hands – much to the horror of his wife and kids – who ultimately flee from him in the night only to be eaten by zombies just a few miles out. The problem with this story – though tactfully told- is that we’ve seen it before. It’s no longer interesting and we don’t know enough about Abraham for it to elicit any kind of sympathy. It also gives us only an incremental bit of character development, making his attack on Eugene (Josh McDermitt) at episode’s end seem only slightly less barbaric. I couldn’t help but compare it to the flashbacks we got concerning Michonne (Danai Gurira). That also showed excellent economy, but I felt like we got much more in terms of understanding her hardened character than we did in this case. That series of flashbacks felt fresh, showing us a very different Michonne. With these flashbacks, Abraham functions much like we know him in the present, so it ends up feeling redundant.
The revelation that Eugene is just a big fraud is also a huge letdown because it’s so predictable. How awesome would it have been if Eugene had actually had/been the cure? I think it would have been quite the game-changer, further setting apart S5 as the best of the series. But alas, Eugene turns out to be exactly what he seems to be. Granted, it is mildly interesting to see yet another mode of survival (balls out lying) but perhaps I’m still hung up on what could have been with Eugene carrying the antibodies that would save humanity. Wouldn’t that be a tale for the ages? Can’t you picture Eugene as our saviour with mullet flapping gloriously in the wind? We don’t even know if he manages to survive Abraham’s beat down, but so far Eugene hasn’t offered anything interesting aside from the possibility that he might have the cure. Now that that’s dead in the water, I kinda don’t want him to survive. If Eugene dies that might propel Abraham into further character development as he finally has to deal with the consequences of his rage. But even then, I don’t see myself anxiously awaiting that plot development.
I’m struggling to find much more to say about this episode, primarily because it was just ‘ho hum’ for me. The information garnered from ‘Self-Help’ seems so common place considering all the other balls the series has up in the air. I’m antsy waiting to see what will happen when Beth (Emily Kinney) and Carol (Melissa McBride) decimate that hospital (‘cuz you know it’s gonna happen) and who the heck is Daryl (Norman Reedus) with in those bushes? And when do we get more Morgan (Lennie James)?! Looks like The Walking Dead is relishing in these sustained cliff-hangers, but I’m hoping that’s because it’s giving the writers adequate time to sketch out some really interesting story arcs rather than rushing things through. The payoff after finally witnessing what happened to Beth last week is a reminder that we have to trust in those working behind the scenes to deliver. I’m willing to brush off ‘Self-Help’ as a transition episode, paving the way for more intrigue to come.
- I did appreciate the ‘survival’ montage we got when the group first arrived at the bookstore. So much time has passed since things have ‘changed’ – it’s nice to see the practical reasons why our gang has made it this far that goes beyond stabbing zombies. Using book-bindings as make-shift stitches and boiling toilet water is interesting to witness and it brings a kind of reality to the situation that I appreciated.
- Although it didn’t make the episode for me, I did notice the concerted effort that this episode made in terms of setting mood. Many of the more expository scenes took place in unsettling darkness or partial shadow, emulating the inner darkness that many of the characters are dealing with. It was a nice touch, but wasn’t enough to make this episode a standout.
What did you think viewers? Did you think this episode was on par with the others we’ve had this season? Will Abraham be able to deal with his inner demons? Do you think Eugene will live another day? Will this group head back to the church? Sound off in the comments below.
A gentle reminder that we adhere to a SPOILER FREE zone. Please keep any plot points from the graphic novel that may potential spoil the direction of the show to yourself.
The Walking Dead airs at 9pm EST, Sundays on AMC.