For the first time in a while, the show didn't focus on one fragment of the group and their immediate vicinity. Gearing up for next week's midseason finale, we got to see a little bit of everyone advance the plot which made the hour zoom.
In tonight's episode, "Crossed," everyone either has a cross to bear or does their best to cross someone else in order to get what they want. And Daryl, well, he gives us a literal portrayal. Now back at the church with Noah, as he and the group dismantle their holy surroundings to make more weapons to aid in Operation Retrieve Beth and Carol, he lets shady Father Gabriel know in no uncertain terms that if the altar's cross can serve a purpose, it isn't immune to their looting.
"GREATM" (Glenn, Rosita, Eugene, Abraham, Tara and Maggie) comes to grips with a new reality
Last seen, Abraham let out every ounce of frustration pent up since the death of his wife and kids into Eugene's skull after Eugene fessed up to his lack of science credentials. Now his rage has shifted into an equally unnerving catatonic state.
It doesn't appear as though Eugene is waking up any time soon. Everyone but Abraham who is now in the quiet throes portion of his psychotic break, thinks Eugene may be a goner as he lays listless in the hot sun, not even responding to precious clean water poured onto his face.
Rosita attempts to force her lover to snap back to reality, prompting him to lunge, which, in turn, causes Maggie (who is so used to setbacks that this one hardly stings) to pull her gun and let him know she can end it right there for him. He backs down.
While Glenn, Rosita and Tara (who has dubbed this group GREATM in an attempt to be a team builder) go look for more water, Maggie makes a makeshift tent to protect unconscious Eugene from the harsh sun.
Real Talk of the Week: Maggie also quietly lets the surly rooster with a proclivity for violence in on some truth he needs to carry with him in order to survive, telling him he isn't the only one who lost something today and it's never gonna get any better than this. Just as Big Red comes around to this reality, Eugene comes to. So this isn't the last we've seen of a character whose ability to lie has now become a more prominent trademark than his Tennessee Top Hat.
Meanwhile, Tara, Glenn and Rosita bond as they search for a water source and find themselves an honest-to-goodness-fishing hole. They're able to cast a net thanks to the mesh layer of a coat they rip off a nearby walker and voila! A gross dinner of fish from a filthy pond will be served tonight! Rosita shares how she met up with Abraham in Dallas, explaining that he invited her to join the DC mission when he saw her mad good fighting skills. Given that it was the only time in the apocalypse that she felt truly needed, she decided to give his plan a go. Glenn assures her that even with the (false) mission abolished, she is now a legit part of Team Rick.
Meanwhile back at the church....
Michonne and Carl have been left to babysit Baby Judith and full grown, seemingly more hapless but ever more suspicious Father Gabriel. Father Gabriel is becoming increasingly haunted by memories of the parishioners he would not let in while holed up in his church. The depth of the scratches and fingerprints on the window shutters he obsessively traces illustrate how his large flock went from being an angry, living mob left out to die to walkers trying to get inside to eat their preacher.
Carl, who seemed to have a major growth spurt overnight (what up with him almost towering over Michonne?) decides to school Father Gabriel in how to protect himself against walkers and actually pull his weight in the group. Like a weird apocalyptic teenage salesman, Carl showcases a bevy of different, shiny weapons of destruction from which the priest can choose. Father Gabriel begrudgingly selects a machete and then claims that he needs to lie down. Between the river of dried blood on the floor from the Terminus massacre and having a kid dole out kill advice, he's seen enough for the day.
Michonne, who has really taken a backseat to this season's action, tries to soothe Father Gabriel's upset by informing him that any bloodshed her group carries out is always within good reason.
Little do Michonne and Carl know, but the preacher is putting that machete to good use. He breaks through the floorboards and escapes the church. A nail in his foot - a stigmata homage if ever there was one- causes him to hobble which makes him easy prey for a female walker who happens to be lurking about. Although he is able to body slam her to the ground (HOW or WHY did he leave that machete behind? He's put himself in a real pickle!) he can't bring himself to finish her off with a rock to the head because she's wearing a cross necklace. Given her proximity to the church and taste in jewelry, it's obvious she's a former parishioner and Father Gabriel is nowhere near reconciling a la early Herschel that the walkers are nothing but the leftover shells of formerly warm-blooded humans.
Beth and Carol (kinda, sorta) together again
Carol has only been a patient at Grady Memorial one day and already the cop who found her is pleading with Dawn to preserve their batteries and supplies by taking her off life support. Beth overhears this and despite still sporting a wrist cast and stitches from the last time she challenged Dawn, she begs for Dawn to give "the newest patient" a fighting chance. Because Dawn can't look like she is allowing a subordinate to run the show, she gives her heartless cop permission to tell Dr. Edwards to unplug Carol and then tells Beth it's up to her to save her now. Dawn lets it slip that she is now aware that Beth is far from weak and as such she allows her access to the medicine cabinet to aid Carol- a privilege even Dr. Edwards doesn't have.
All Beth needs to do is shakedown the weasel of Dr. Edwards to tell her what drugs and dosage she should administer. He gives in and tells her, Beth bribes another hospital patient-turned-orderly to distract the guards on duty, and she grabs what she needs. As she loads up Carol's IV, she holds her hand and makes her presence known.
As for everyone else? It's time to "check into" the hospital....
The new Rick Grimes is done with playing waiting games when it comes to protecting his people. He quickly develops a plan to retrieve Carol and Beth after Noah debriefs him on the hospital floor plan and Dawn's crappy personality and violent management style. It's all very "everyone split up, quietly kill whoever gets in your way, grab their people and get back out" which does ring a tad simplistic given all the obstacles- mainly cops with guns- they could encounter.
Tyreese who decided to trade changing Judith's diaper for using his muscle to assist the group in this rescue mission, devises a smoother alternative, reasoning that there's no way all the people serving as cops in the hospital won't notice the intruders. It's best to kidnap a couple of these cops and then trade them, old school P.O.W. style. And so off they go!
Noah, who is still hobbling from both his hospital escape and his introduction to what happens when you cross Daryl Dixon, serves as bait. He fires a gun which serves as an instant magnet for two cops from Grady. Just as Noah gets cuffed, the Grimes gang surrounds the cops and takes them as hostages. The male officer- Sgt. Lambson- can easily detect that Rick is a cop by his swagger and demeanor. Before he can even attempt to befriend this fellow officer, another cop- a total alpha male- comes speeding by, shooting wildly. He's able to get the first two cops back but his car finds itself with flat tires courtesy of more bullets.
The cops take off on foot. The group separates to round up their hostages. The alpha male cop who rescued the first two cops ambushes Daryl and is doing a great job of choking him amidst the melted, still-writhing walkers that surround the hospital. In the most visually intense and amazing scene of the week, as the melted walker closest to Daryl is about to bite him, Daryl gouges out its eyes, rips its head from its neck and hits the cop with it. Dazed from being smacked with a decaying, gooey skull, the cop stops his attack long enough for Rick to come back and restore order.
Sgt. Lambson appears to want to take down Dawn so he is eager to cooperate. The three cop hostages are separated and Lambson insists that Rick listen to his insights on how Dawn is likely to react to their demands for Beth and Carol. He claims she will appear to be unyielding at first but (HAAAA) is definitely the kind of gal willing to compromise. They devise a plan to invade Grady Memorial and Rick even gives Lambson the courtesy of treating him with the cop-to-cop respect. (Well, within reason. Dude is still handcuffed and being used as a bargaining chip in Rick's plan to get his two people back.)
Lambson also befriends Sasha, almost seeming to flirt with her. While Sasha has had the wherewithal to participate in the mission, she's also been nursing her broken heart over Bob's death and other Bob-related emotional turmoil.
Big brother Tyreese reminds her how lucky she was to get to say goodbye and that it was a good thing she let him be the one to finish off Bob after he passed. Unfortunately, Sasha's rejuvenation has caused her to let her guard down. She's guarding Lambson who feeds her a sob story about how upset he is that while he was outside the hospital he saw a former comrade who is now a melted pavement walker, still wriggling despite being a pile of goo. What's more that guy had actually replaced him on the original Grady evacuation detail so reallllllly, Lambson could just as easily had his fate.
Sasha, who has now pressed fast forward on all the stages of grief, eagerly offers to end Lambson's melted friend's walker agony if he can just point him out. Somehow, Rick doesn't notice Lambson directing Sasha to the other side of the building where he id's a "melter" as his old buddy. Just as Sasha aims her gun to end his misery, Lambson head butts her into the glass, knocking her out which allows him to run off, albeit still handcuffed.
And so the stage has been set for the epic battle scenario we've all come to expect in every mid-season finale!
Burning questions before next week's face-off:
*Is it safe to assume that Lambson painted the exact opposite portrait of Dawn and how she will react to unruly soldiers storming her fortress?
*Where is shifty-eyed Father Gabriel going?
*What's next for GREATM ?
*WHO is going to die in next week's bloody cliffhanger?