Season: 5 / Episode: 9 / AMC
The stars aligned and allowed for me to start recapping The Walking Dead with the very episode that’s effected me the most. “What Happened and What’s Going On” takes place right after the mid-season finale that included Beth’s very unnecessary death by the hands of a police officer losing her grip on reality. The episode opens up with some of the rollover mourning you’d expect after a member of the family passes. But the show took a turn towards the abstract, showing us a series of unrelated images that we’d have to put together like a puzzle.
Rick, Michonne, Glenn and Tyrese take a drive up to Virginia to check out what could be their next safe haven from the zombie apocalypse. This is also their way of granting Beth’s final wish, fulfilling her promise to get Noah back home. Once they get to Noah’s walled off subdivision, things don’t quite add up. There’s no noise, no “spotters” watching the perimeter, nothing. They should’ve known what was up before they crossed the street.
After they climb the wall, they see what was once a small town of a few dozen people left with nothing to show except for a busted fence, a couple of wandering walkers and a crying Noah, now in the fetal position. Tyrese volunteers to stay behind and counsel Noah as Rick, Michonne and Glenn go to scavenge for supplies.
I’ve given Tyrese a hard time for a while now. I lost some respect for him when I realized that he was capable of taking on 30 walkers with nothing but a hammer but couldn’t take care of a single person that threatened everyone he cared about. The zombie apocalypse is no place for a gentle giant. Nah. That gets people killed ’round here. I’ll also admit that I lost a little more respect for Tyrese when he, a former NFL player, got outrun by an emotionally distraught teenager with a bad limp. The kid ran for a good two blocks. Are you trying to tell me that in all that time you couldn’t stop him? Come on, bruh. I need to check your time in the 40-yard dash after that one.
Noah enters the house to find the dead body of his zombified mother. Tyrese lets him get some time alone with her as he checks out the rest of the house, which includes the bodies of Noah’s younger twin brothers, both dead. Tyrese sees pictures of the boys on their bedroom wall, one of them laid on the bed with his torso ripped open, and gets caught up in accepting “what happened.” Then the dead, but still moving, brother comes up behind him and bites him on the forearm. Noah comes in, stabs him in the head and runs for help. (Not closing the door behind him, I might add.)
While Noah’s off running for help (and inevitably ending up in another helpless situation) Tyrese is left on his own, blood pouring out of his wound. This is when I realized that even if you die on this show, they’ll find a way to bring you back. Similar to Rick’s series of phone calls in season 3′ “Hounded,” Tyrese is then faced with visions of his past. These visions help him come to terms with what his life has become, “what happened and what’s going on.” Meanwhile another walker attacks him in the guise of an hallucination (Thanks, Noah….) and he uses his already-bitten arm as a means to get a weapon and kill it.
Meanwhile, Michonne pleads to Rick that the group should head to Washington D.C. just to have somewhere to go and hope for better. Glenn is now the designated group pessimist after Beth’s death and finding out Eugene was lying. (Side note: I’m actually surprised to see “Mr. Mullet” conscious after that Superman punch he got from Abraham.)
The group hears Noah scream for help and save him from a walker ambush he somehow got himself caught in.
Then they go to find Tyrese, now having lost a lot of blood, and cut off the part of his arm that was bitten. They struggle to carry him back to their car a couple of miles off where they throw Tyrese in the back seat. While there, he sees the visions from his past one last time and they let him know that it’s time to let go. He looks outside of the window one last time and takes his last breath. It’s then revealed that the funeral that we saw at the beginning of the episode was his. Everything that we’d seen in the beginning of the episode was leading up to the farewell of one of the group’s key members.
Now, after spending a whole weekend reading volumes 3-5 of The Walking Dead and gaining some much-earned respect for Tyrese’s character, I’m devastated. Like, this death is one notch below Opie from Sons of Anarchy for me, and I was a wreck over that. The only solace I can really get in this is Tyrese’s “I know who I am” moment of revelation before he died where he came to terms with everything. Was this death as meaningless and unnecessary as Beth’s? Not by any means. Sometimes characters have to go away for us to realize how needed they actually are. R.I.P. Ty.