NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of The Walking Dead, including multiple major character deaths, are present in this review!
I find the title to this episode to be kind of amusing, as it perfectly sums up my reaction to most of The Walking Dead’s current season, namely in how it culminated in the infamously upsetting midseason finale. I revisited some of the earlier seasons during the Winter Break, and that simply served to further highlight how disjointed and sloppy Season Five has been for The Walking Dead. The worst offender here is making Andrew J. West a series regular for the current season, only to kill him off after three episodes. It stinks of AMC making up the season as they go along, and refusing to pick a consistent season arc and just stick with it!
Fortunately, “What Happened and What’s Going On” is a very welcome return to form for the show. It finally pulled its head out of its rear end, and went back to a well-told, haunting and genuinely effective storyline, one that was directed beautifully, and had an ending twist that actually made sense, unlike Beth’s heavily contrived death in the midseason finale. In fact, it was a bit surprising to see how little Beth’s death actually affected the episode in the end, with a quick scene of Maggie crying being the only tell that anyone is all that broken up about it. It’s like even the characters think that Beth’s death is too stupid and senseless to take seriously.
Putting all that aside though, this episode mainly focused on Tyreese and Noah, as they try to venture to Noah’s old neighbourhood, said to be a haven from the Walkers. Rick decides it’s worth investigating, for the possibility that it may be the last, “Long trip” that the survivors have to make. Naturally, it’s not, as Walkers have overrun the place, and nobody is left alive. Noah must then contend with the hopelessness of losing his family, and seems to make a fast friend in Tyreese, who is the only one interested in looking out for the young man, while Rick and Michonne are distracted by what their next move is.
Unfortunately though, while trying to investigate Noah’s old house, Tyreese ends up being bitten, and must sit in Noah’s room reflecting while Noah races to get help. Tyreese begins to hallcuinate and interact with the characters that he has witnessed the killing of, including Martin, Lizzie and Mica, Beth, Bob, and even The Governor. Seeing all of these guest stars make a return was very cool, even if it was all the more tragic to see Emily Kinney as a dead person, getting the rude reminder of how the midseason finale panned out. What really made these scenes awesome though is how Tyreese confronts his rapidly approaching death, even if some of the direction was a little heavy-handed and on the nose at times.
Facing his mortality head-on, Tyreese stares down the ghosts of his past, and announces that he is going to fight. He claims that he didn’t kill them, and that he will press on. It’s a very powerful moment, and it’s a very welcome creative hook for a show that has been failing to utilize them lately. It’s been a while since we’ve had a character face their imminent demise in such a brutal, effective way, especially since we know that characters like Hershel have survived being bitten in the past. The group even tries to amputate Tyreese’s arm to try and save him.
As the group tries to race Tyreese out of the neighbourhood, it honestly looks like he’ll live in the end. Alas, after all that work however, Tyreese asks the ghost of Bob to, “Turn off the radio”, and finally closes his eyes for the last time. Yes, Tyreese is dead, ultimately succumbing to the bite, and making him yet another survivor that the group has lost in a very short amount of time. It was an awesome misdirect to see the funeral that Gabriel is presiding over at the start of the episode being that of Tyreese at the episode’s end as well, with the episode effectively making viewers think that it’s Beth’s funeral in the opening moments. Where was this kind of excellent story work earlier in the season?!
Another high point to the episode is the fact that Michonne puts together that Eugene obviously lied about the cure being in Washington for a reason, and that some sort of refuge must be in Washington. Rick then agrees that Washington should be the group’s next stop, as if AMC is admitting that they messed up by trying to just ditch the Washington arc on a dime earlier in the season. Hallelujah! We actually have a season arc, finally! Let’s hope that the group stays on task though. I won’t be very amused if the show finds yet another excuse to prevent the characters from making the journey.
The Walking Dead is demonstrating more sure footing and more clear direction for Season Five’s back half, and that’s fantastic! It was a sad farewell for Tyreese, but Chad L. Coleman delivered his best performance yet in this episode, making the character’s send-off all the more poignant and effective. This episode stands alongside “Strangers” as Season Five’s best to date, and it’s about time that the show once again left me eagerly anticipating what happens next!
- Finally focuses the story and finds a new destination
- Cool to see several of the dead characters again
- Tyreese's death was tragic and effective
- Some direction was a tad overwrought here and there