Photo by Gene Page/AMC

‘The Walking Dead’ Episode 5.5 “Self-Help” (8 out of 10) Created by Frank Darabont; Starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Chandler Riggs, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan; Sundays on AMC.

Tonight’s episode was focused on Abraham’s (Michael Cudlitz) quest to get Eugene (Josh McDermitt) to Washington D.C.  As you may have guessed, things don’t go smoothly—starting with an extreme school bus rollover. Some big time spoilers are ahead, along with an introspective on the show’s most creative zombie slaughter to date.

Abraham’s Past, Present, and Future

We learn a bit about Abraham’s past through a series of flashbacks that are dispersed throughout the main storyline. Based on the jarring image of Abraham beating a zombie to death with what looks like a can of peas, we know it’s not going to be pretty. This is a great opportunity for Michael Cudlitz to dig in to the role of Abraham. Thus far in the show, he’s been a generic tough guy on a mission, but tonight’s episode focused its emotional core around him, and Cudlitz managed to peel back the layers of Abraham’s character. 

Within those layers, we see a man whose family chose to take their chances in the zombified world rather than to stay with him, a man who was on the verge of suicide, and ultimately a man who needed a mission to keep his head on straight. After Abraham met Eugene and heard his story about getting to Washington D.C., Abraham was able to pull things back together—which makes it hard to watch when he learns that Eugene’s not really a scientist.

As Abraham’s mission was revealed to be based on a lie, the dude has lost his anchor—and now his group is in the middle of nowhere. It’s tough to tell what their next move will be, but things aren’t looking so good for Eugene.

The Library

Eugene has always been a little odd—props to Josh McDermitt for giving him the right mixture of hillbilly, cowardice, and robotic line-delivery—but tonight’s episode pushed him further out of the eccentric nice guy camp and into the creepy social outcast camp. Of the group, Tara (Alanna Masterson) is the only one who has seemed to forge a personal relationship with him—though it was a bit unbelievable that she would be so understanding of Eugene’s penchant for watching Abraham and Rosita have sex—also, they were both aware of his presence but didn’t seem to mind…yeesh—and his admission that he sabotaged their bus, which nearly killed all of them. 

Eugene has also been terminally scared of getting his hands dirty with zombie-killing, which Tara tries to change in this episode. Clearly all it took was some prodding, since Eugene’s use of a fire hose to pulverize a horde of zombies into one massive slurpee was possibly the most epic moment of zombie slaughter thus far on the show. As Abraham says, “I’ve been to six county fairs and a goat rodeo, but I ain’t never seen anything like that.”

Despite his talent for using highly-pressurized water to slice zombies in half, Eugene’s revelation that he isn’t a scientist is going to have some huge ramifications. Abraham’s lost his way because of it, and now half of Rick’s posse is out in the middle of nowhere with a scorched bus and a pant load of zombies between them and the church. It’s the kind of blunder that would get Eugene shot and cremated if Carol was around.

Samson

Since Eugene’s introduction on the show, his mullet has become the subject of water cooler discussions everywhere. Tonight, Eugene’s friends were throwing around comparisons to the biblical story of Samson, and how his hair was the source of his power. It’s an interesting allusion, especially for a character like Eugene who is physically definitely not a Samson. The both of them have secrets that make them strong, and the treatment of these secrets that lead to their eventual downfall.  If Abraham doesn’t beat Eugene to death with a can of peas, I wouldn’t be surprised if homeboy ditches his mullet.

Verdict

I have a love/hate relationship with the show’s decisions to break up the whole group into smaller parts and flesh out the minor characters.  I love it because it does just that.  Abraham’s flashbacks were great, bite-sized bits of characterization that added a ton of intrigue to his character, and it was interesting to see Tara and Eugene forge an odd little bond.  I hate it because some of my favorite moments on the show are when the whole cast is in crisis mode, and we don’t see as much of that with the team all split up.  Also, it’s been two weeks since we saw Daryl coming out of the woods with a mystery guest, but tonight was not the night for his revelation. Only three more episodes until mid-season finale!

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Tags: Josh McDermitt , Michael Cudlitz , The Walking Dead