NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of The Walking Dead are present in this review.
The separate story arcs of the past few weeks came together in “Crossed”, which is setting the stage for next week’s Fall finale. Overall, “Crossed” was an entertaining lead-in to 2014’s final episode, even if it felt a bit convoluted and over-stuffed, due to suddenly trying to unite all of the story arcs that Season Five has semi-clumsily tried to juggle.
The main plot of the episode, and one of the only ones of note, was Rick’s group finally coming to Atlanta to retrieve Carol from Grady Memorial. Daryl being back with Rick meant that we got more awesome tactics and action again, with the living yet again being a far more dangerous threat than the dead. That said, some great moments were had with the Walkers this week, particularly when Daryl rips off the skull of a Walker to beat down someone who is trying to get him killed. That was awesome!
Rick seems as unhinged and trigger-happy as ever, to the point where even Daryl, the group’s former hothead, had to try and keep him in line. Rick’s become a far darker character than he was at the start of the show, and is perhaps the lead personality that best illustrates the toll of the apocalypse, even moreso than Carol, who has become a badass in her own right.
Speaking of Carol, she spent the entire episode unconscious, with Beth having to look after her after Dawn gives the order to not waste resources on keeping her alive. This initially seemed like a callous moment, but Dawn later giving Beth secret instructions to sneak medicine to Carol kept the character nicely ambiguous. As with “Slabtown”, Dawn seems to be wanting to do the right thing as she understands it, making her a complex and interesting antagonist that easily elevates her above the more one-note Terminus cannibals from earlier in the season. Maybe it was for the best that said cannibals ended up dead so early then, especially when the showrunners decided to make them incredibly incompetent for whatever reason.
Nonetheless, Rick interacting with Dawn’s cops throughout the episode led to more cool, nicely ambiguous moments. They brought up recognizing that Rick was a cop before the zombie apocalypse went down, and seemed to want to remind him of who he was before he became an uncompromising survivor. Dawn’s cops also seemed willing to negotiate, and surprisingly, it was Dawn’s forces that sometimes proved to be more reasonable than Rick’s, which made for a cool irony. Some of this was lost at the episode’s conclusion, when Noah vouches for some captured cops, only to have one overpower Sasha and escape right during the final minutes, but for the most part, it was cool how the episode raised the question of who are the instigators and who are the victims between Rick’s crew and Grady Memorial.
Sadly, the episode’s other plots didn’t leave nearly as much of an impact as the highlight portions of Rick’s story though. It was a bit cool to see how much Beth has toughened up since being held in Grady Memorial once again, with Beth seeming to be single-handedly responsible for keeping Carol alive, and able to be secured in the end. She’s more distant than ever from her initial wallflower debut in Season Two, and it’s great to see the fighter that Andrea always knew was inside her is starting to come out. Unfortunately though, a lot of this material just felt recycled and prolonged from “Slabtown”, and the episode didn’t offer much in the way of novelty for Beth’s arc.
Similarly disappointing was the aftermath of “Self Help”, with Abraham still staring, broken into the distance, unmoving and defeated. Glenn, Rosita and Tara decide to screw around getting water, but that’s literally all they did. The episode tried to use this arc to add some levity to the otherwise hefty proceedings, but it sort of failed, with this end of the story just feeling like it was eating up runtime. There were a couple of decent moments, specifically when Maggie pulled a gun on Abraham to calm him down after Rosita confronts him, and when Eugene finally wakes up at the end of the episode, confirming that he’s not dead. Everything else on Abraham’s end though didn’t really gel with the rest of what was going on, once again begging the question of why the show felt the need to split up the characters, as there’s been absolutely no payoff beyond the quest for D.C. ending up being a sham, and that’s not a real payoff.
Lastly, Michonne, Carl and Judith remained holed up in the church with Gabriel, whom Carl stressed the importance of fighting to. Even Michonne appeared to be unusually comforting to Gabriel, who had trouble with the idea of having to kill Walkers, even though the elimination of Walkers is often seen as an act of mercy. Predictably, all of this compassion was for nothing however, as Gabriel used the machete that Carl lent him to sneak out of the church and run away. He got a nail in the foot on the way though, which will obviously be bad for him, even if it merely leaves a trail for Michonne and Carl as to where he fled.
Gabriel’s character was a coward before, but now he officially seems to be a terrible person. Again, it’s amazing that he’s somehow survived as long as he has, by himself, and with zero ability to adapt to combat. Why hasn’t this character been killed off yet? It seems like he’s only around to force a conflict with Carl and Michonne, while everyone else in Rick’s crew is trying to grab Carol from Atlanta.
“Crossed” was generally good, even if it’s now more evident than ever that stretching the show this thin is probably not to its advantage. The pieces may all come together for an amazing Fall finale next week, but for now, we’ll have to settle for a merely good penultimate offering for 2014.
"Crossed" offered a reasonably entertaining, but over-stuffed and uneven lead-in to the Fall finale, with Rick and Daryl easily being the best of the many juggled story arcs.