NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of The Walking Dead are present in this review.
After an entertaining premiere and a standout character-focused episode to follow it, The Walking Dead unfortunately took a pretty considerable slip in quality this week. “Four Walls and a Roof” was still a decent episode overall, with its share of good moments, but compared to Season Five’s two prior episodes, it was also quite flawed and disappointing in several places.
The episode at least started decently, with Gareth continuing to taunt Bob and threaten the rest of the group, which eventually led to Bob revealing that he’s been bitten, and the leftover Terminus goons have been eating, “Tainted meat”, as he kept declaring. The surprise reveal that Bob was bit was done well, though for whatever reason, Lawrence Gilliard Jr. was told to ham up the scene and over-act with a bunch of out-of-character lunatic ravings, until Gareth kicked him unconscious, before conveniently dropping him off back at the church where everyone was hiding out.
Here’s where the flaws start rolling in in full force. To start, why the hell didn’t Gareth and his thugs just kill Bob? Yes, they couldn’t use him for more meat if he was bitten, but why go to all of the trouble of dropping Bob off at the church, and then leaving again? To send some kind of warning message? To torment Bob and the group some more? Why?! Yes, you could argue that Gareth is an overly poetic villain that’s inevitably going to be undone by his own arrogance, but that doesn’t change the fact that Gareth and his posse are incompetent morons, and this episode unfortunately proved that and thensome.
Unfortunately, things only got worse from there, as Abraham started wanting to split from the group and immediately head for Washington, taking several of the other survivors with him, because lazy writing. Didn’t the previous episode get everyone together, secure and having a united front? Why did this episode just suddenly throw that out? Yes, nobody could know when Daryl and Carol may return to the rest of the group, but why is there suddenly a rush on getting Eugene to Washington, especially when everyone knows they have ample supplies and protection while they get a more reliable plan together?
To add insult to injury, Daryl returns to the group at the end of the episode, after only about a few more hours in the show’s time, with Carol’s present state of affairs left mysterious for some reason. You don’t even see Melissa McBride actually appear in this episode, even though Carol is supposed to be right beside Daryl at the end, which is quite unusual for this point in the series.
More frustrating than the forced and unnecessary urgency however is the fact that Abraham’s new plan and heel-turn don’t make any sense in the slightest. Why would Abraham want to split the group up? Wouldn’t Eugene be safer with the entire group there to protect him? What difference does it make if it takes a month or a year to get to Washington in the end? Why would Abraham risk not having enough supplies to make the trip? Can’t more people find supplies easier? On top of this, Abraham snatching away Glenn and Maggie felt kind of arbitrary, and it all just seemed like a very forced way for the writers to split up the characters and cover more ground in future episodes.
Anyhow, it’s around this point that we learn Gabriel’s backstory, and sure enough, he did lock himself alone in his church and allow tons of people in his congregation to get eaten by Walkers at the onset of the outbreak. I already noted during my review of last week’s episode that Gabriel is obviously a coward that betrayed his flock, so this reveal wasn’t at all surprising. It also continues to beg the question of how someone like Gabriel has survived this long, given that he’s a useless weakling that has no allies or affiliations. I wouldn’t be surprised if the character is killed off as soon as next week.
Fortunately, the episode rebounded a bit in its second half, even if it did lead to Gareth’s crew getting axed surprisingly early. Wasn’t Andrew J. West made into a series regular for Season Five? Why did the Terminus cannibals get killed off so early then? You’d think that the “Hunt or be Hunted” line that was even on Season Five’s frackin’ poster would have extended across a few more episodes!
At the very least though, Gareth and his remaining man-eaters were dispatched in style, with Rick fulfilling the violent promise he made. Seeing some of the other survivors visibly bothered by Rick and his allies hacking apart the Terminus baddies was a nice touch, even if the show wisely shied away from bringing up another, “Oh God, what have we become?” conflict that this show has hammered deep into the dirt by now. Sure, it felt like the cannibals were defeated too early, even if they’re obviously not that smart of baddies in the end, and even if the reveal that Tyreese didn’t actually kill Martin during the premiere ultimately went nowhere, but it’s nonetheless difficult to argue that Rick Grimes is one of the coolest heroes on television right now.
Another strength in this episode was the gentle and dramatic handling of Bob’s passing. Bob became calm and good-natured, again, making you wonder why the over-the-top hysteria was necessary in the opening minutes, but still presenting a good exit for the character. It’s easy to feel for Sasha as she watches Bob slowly slip away, and Tyreese taking over the duty of making sure Bob doesn’t turn was handled very well too, taking Sasha’s knife from her and gently pressing it into Bob’s temple. It was a poignant and sad moment that made up for some of the episode’s other issues.
That said, there’s no ignoring that “Four Walls and a Roof” is surprisingly sloppy for a show like The Walking Dead. The episode had some pretty sizeable plot holes with its character motivations, and while it tried to add some interesting content with the cannibals eating tainted human meat and Tyreese not actually killing Martin after taking him prisoner in the premiere, it did nothing with these revelations. Too many events felt contrived, and too much of the episode felt frustratingly disappointing, especially since it now begs the question as to who Season Five’s main enemies are supposed to be.
Hopefully, Daryl and Carol were up to something more interesting and well-realized during these events, since next week’s episode seems to be shifting focus there instead.
- Opening minutes were effectively tense
- Rick's violent butchering of the cannibals
- Bob's death was nicely emotional
- Gareth and his posse were frustratingly incompetent
- Splitting the group makes no sense
- Gabriel's secret was predictable and underwhelming