​The Streets Are Paved With Half-Melted Zombies In A Tense Walking Dead

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Not a lot of things happened in "Crossed," the episode before next week's mid-season finale; it's clear that most of it is setting the stage, especially since it checks in with everybody in the group for the first time in a long time to see how things are about to go horribly, horribly wrong for each of them. Fun!


The main business is obviously Rick and the others' plan to rescue Beth and Carol from Generally Idiotic Hospital, but "Crossed" intercuts this by updating the stories of all the disparate parts of the group. Here's what they're all up to:

At the Church — Carl and Michonne board up the church in a very smart preventative measure while Father Gabriel tries to clean up some of the blood stains left by the slaughter of the Termites. Carl tries to get the increasingly panicky Father Gabriel to choose a weapon to defend himself; Gabriel picks a machete, and then immediately uses it to pull up the floorboards and crawl under the church to escape from the people who butchered a group of unarmed people in a house of God. (Of course we know the Termites are pure evil, and obviously Gabriel was told the same, but of the people he actually saw commit heinous murder, it was Rick and the others.) Upon exiting the church, Gabriel immediately steps on a nail and is attacked by a zombie wearing a cross necklace; Father Gabriel somehow manages to see neither of these things as a sign from God.

At the Firetruck — Abraham is still in an emotional lockdown. Glenn and Rosita catch fish with a makeshift net. Eugene wakes up at the verrrrrry end of the episode. Tara finds a yo-yo.

At the Hospital — Dawn continues to be a goddamned mess. See, one cop thinks that Carol's too messed up to waste supplies on, but Beth pipes in with the very valid point that "If you aren't trying to help heal people, why the fuck are you even running an evil hospital." This somehow forces Dawn into ordering Carol be taken off her meds, which she somehow blames on Beth, but then she gives Beth the key to the drug cabinet so she can try to save Carol. Dawn says Beth can't get caught because… I don't even know. Somehow Dawn's policy is to let everyone tell her what to do, ostensibly in order to be in charge, even though if she were in charge people couldn't tell her what to do. She's an idiot. Anyways, Beth gets Carol her drugs, but Carol doesn't wake up.

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That leaves Rick, Daryl, Tyreese, Sasha and Noah — who's very willing to stick it to the assholes at Generally Idiotic — to figure out how to rescue Beth and Carol. Rick's ready to form an all-out assault that requires crackerjack timing and a map of the hospital drawn in the dirt, but Tyreese suggests luring a couple of the cops to them by firing a few rounds in the air, capturing them, and offering them to Dawn in a trade of hostages. Rick thinks it's risky, but Daryl agrees with Tyreese; Rick, having dissolved the Ricktatorship long ago, consents.


It comes close to working without a hitch — they fire the guns, two officers come a-runnin', they ambush 'em and tie them up — until another police car comes with another cop, who manages to rescue his fellow hospital officers for about five seconds before Sasha shoots out his tire and… actually, all you need to know is that all three officers are captured, and Daryl and Cop #3 have a surprisingly brutal, genuinely tense fight in a parking lot of napalmed, half-melted zombies trying to bite them. Daryl wins when he rips off a zombie's head (using the eye sockets as a handle!) and bludgeons the officer withit.

One of the officers, named Bob (the still mourning Sasha's ears prick up at this) is one of the good guys, according to Noah; Bob tells Rick how to negotiate the irksomely incapable Dawn. They head off to confront the hospital in the next episode, leaving Sasha to watch the prisoners. The episode basically ends with Officer Bob telling Sasha a sad story about a friend he saw melted and zombified on the pavement outside, Sasha agrees to shoot it, and Bob, hands tied behind his back, manages to slam Sasha's head into a window, knocking her out. I assume Bob is still a good guy, but he's also still a member of Team Hospital, and obviously he's not going to stay captive if Sasha's going to be stupid enough to fall for his story.


And that's the prologue for next week. Not a ton happened, but even in its slowness it ratcheted up the tension nicely in pretty much all locations but the firetruck — it was a calm before the likely storm of the mid-season finale, but in a way that still heralds all sorts of shocking, horrible, and very possibly depressing events coming up in the mid-season finale. And man, I do mean depressing — Norman Reedus, Daryl himself, said that the midseason finale made him cry for an hour, so… yeah. I don't expect everyone's going to make it to 2015's mid-season premiere.

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Assorted Musings:

• Some delightfully gruesome zombies this week. Obviously, the real highlight was the parking lot full of napalmed zombies literally half-melted to the asphalt; they all look like rotting, overcooked hotdogs. But an honorable mention goes to the zombie Father Gabriel pushes onto a small stump that impales her stomach, because as she tries to crawl after Gabriel she basically disembowels herself. Awesome.


• I should also mention the fight in the melted zombie lot again between Daryl and the bald officer, because it was genuinely tense — basically, although the zombies were stuck in place, there were basically dozen of chomping zombie mouths all around Daryl and the cop, and one wrong move would have been deadly. Daryl accidentally put his fingers in a zombie's mouth when grasping for something to bludgeon the cop with for just a second! Just some really good choreography and planning in this scene.

• Man, I'm a sucker for a scene where someone ineffectually tries to clean blood off a floor.


• Tara dubs the firetruck squad Team GREATM, after the first letter of everyone's name. Notice how I refused to call them GREATM in this recap.

• If anyone can give me an explanation how three zombies/people got stuck under one fallen pole I'd love to hear it.


• AMC has a pretty great behind-the-scenes video on the napalmed zombies if you're so inclined (and have a strong stomach).



My hot takes:

This was that episode everyone dreads: Somewhat mild, which means next week is going to be BONKERS (and royally suck for our scrappy band of survivors)…

1. Rick's glare. I noticed it throughout the episode: When he was making the plans and Tyreese and Daryl came up with an alternative; When he was going to execute that cop (never thought I was going to write that…) and Daryl told him "three is better than two;" etc. I don't think he was mad about it, I think he was realizing that killing isn't the only way. The plan he came up with was an assault on the hospital. People would die. He was going to execute that cop (he had the same look he gave the prisoner in Season 3 right before he gave him a machete to the head). We saw that Rick can do what needs to be done. Also, the theme of this show recently has been coming back from the edge: The Governor could not come back. Gareth could not come back. But Rick? Because he has the support of Daryl and Tyrese (and soon Abraham), he CAN come back. Those glares? Rick is realizing it, too.

2. Carl sure has grown up. Look at him dropping knowledge all over the preacherman. No, you're holding it wrong, you need to hold it like this just in case their heads are too thick. DUDE. Michonne realized that he's all grown up, but also that the preacherman isn't, because he was holed up in the church for so long and never had to get his hands dirty. Another reason I know Carl is grown up? HE WENT A WHOLE EPISODE AND DIDN'T EVEN LEAVE THE HOUSE, LORI. NO ONE HAD TO TELL HIM TO STAY INSIDE, LORI. JEEZ.

3. Speaking of growing up, check out those Greene sisters holding it down. Herschel raised 'em right. Maggie getting all Rickish on Abraham to protect Rosita, and Beth showing flashes of Rickness to protect Carol. She even caught Dawn off guard, who at this point, doesn't really seem to be in charge. I feel like the rest of the cops are in charge, and she's just there to direct or deflect their impulses. After last night's episode, I think Beth has it together better than Dawn, and Dawn is starting to realize that.

4. Napalm walkers. Holy shit they were part of the street. That was something I'd never considered we might see. Sure, I know the Army napalmed the city, but so far we only saw scorch marks on buildings – not people fused to the ground X-Files style.


6. So, Eugene is pretty useful after all, even if they only realized it while he was unconscious. Rosita taking care of business with the water filter Eugene taught her how to make. Catching fish with nets (probably something else he taught). Now that he's awake, he can put the other skill he didn't know he had (craftiness) to help the group. You don't NEED to focus on killing. What happens when you run out of bullets (WINK WINK WINK)? I think Glenn was just pissed that he lied, not that he used his manipulation skills to stay alive.

7. Rosita. She is awesome. I liked how she explained her story that she just was (kind of like Tara is now) until Abraham came along and asked for her help. It was the first time anyone asked her for help since the walkers came. Then she just nonchalantly MAKES A FREAKING WATER FILTER THAT SAVES APPROXIMATELY FIVE PEOPLE AND THEN MAKES FISH NETS SO THEY CAN EAT TO BECAUSE WHY NOT. Glenn was right to ask that she stick around with him (and Maggie and Tara and the whole group, probably) and she was right to accept. At that point, they didn't know WHAT Abraham would do. Also, it was cool because Glenn was reinforcing in her that she is useful, and that he needs her help, too; Abraham isn't the only one. (Side note: Glenn seems to be collecting the ladies, doesn't he? Sure, Daryl is the fan favorite and when he smiles ovaries across the globe erupt, but look at Glenn being all sly. He's practically married to MAGGIE, Tara won't leave him alone, and now Rosita is hooked. Just sayin').

8. Back to the preacherman. WHAT THE HELL, MAN? You have two of the baddest of asses in the church with you, and you NOPE THE HELL OUT? God you're starting to remind me of Lori. Doing exactly what you SHOULDN'T do given the circumstances. I also realize that they are giving him the same kind of arc Herschel had back at the farm. They both had faith and couldn't kill anyone (barn v. food bank), and they both need some kind of catalyst to kick them in gear (Rick helping after Shane killed all the barn walkers v. ???). He couldn't ever ROCK SMASH a walker that just tried to eat him because it had a cross necklace. HE GONE LEARN SOON.

9. The cop that Sasha had tied up. CURSE YOUR SUDDEN BUT INEVITABLE BETRAYAL! As soon as he started yammering about the dude in the truck I KNEW he was up to something, and for some reason Sasha couldn't hear me YELLING AT HER TO STAHP. Speaking of that copper, I know the shows aren't related but DAMN he didn't remind me of Agent Sitwell from Agents of SHIELD and the grander Marvel Cinematic Universe. The calm demeanor he had while captured was JUST like Sitwell in the beginning of The Winter Soldier (On the Lumerian Star). He knew he was going to get out one way or another. Also, the double cross. If this cop tells Dawn "Hail Hydra" next week I will literally shit a brick (I MEAN literally, too. I have a brick to eat next week just in case he does so I can subsequently shit it).

10. Bring that doctor along after you bust Beth and Carol out of the hospital, Rick. Sure he murdered another doctor, but that was because he would have been killed after the other dude got better. Dawn doesn't like the Doc. Plus, with Noah dropping Richmond (Alexandria Safe Zone, anyone?) nuggets, he'll be more useful and Rick doesn't play favorites once you're in the group. He and Eugene can form a pity party. I'm sure Eugene can figure out how to make invitations.

Overall, I liked it. SASHA DON'T BE DUMB. But otherwise, it was a great episode.