On "The Walking Dead," Tyreese mourns and quarantine begins

This week's episode was all about taking responsibility -- or submitting to authority

By Neil Drumming

Published October 28, 2013 2:11PM (EDT)

Andrew Lincoln in "The Walking Dead"              (AMC/Frank Ockenfels 3)
Andrew Lincoln in "The Walking Dead" (AMC/Frank Ockenfels 3)

I read somewhere that, in the original "The Walking Dead" comic book, the character of Tyreese plays a much bigger part in the overall narrative, that he is more of a right hand man to Rick than Daryl. As gratifying as it may have been to see the wonderful actor Chad Coleman ("The Wire") with more  screen time, I doubt there's too many fans who wish Norman Reedus had less. As the crossbow-wielding Daryl, Reedus' particular brand of kick-ass southern hospitality is one of the more visceral thrills of the program. And, personally, I think the show's creators have finally found a far more effective -- if counterintuitive -- use for Coleman's size and formidable presence than as simply an enforcer.

Last week, Tyreese discovered that the woman he'd come to love had been murdered, cruelly burnt alive for the crime of being ill. This week, rather than blindly seek retribution for this injustice, he stands, towering over Karen's charred body and begs the powers that be -- such as they are -- to do what's right. When the big man does finally lash out, overcome with grief and fury, he is quickly and violently subdued by Rick, a man far smaller but way more indoctrinated into the vicious world they all now inhabit.

Faced with a zombie apocalypse, not all of us would man up, pick up a pistol or a make-shift pike and make with the de-braining. I'm sure some viewers are frustrated by the Tyreese's unwillingness to engage in the gory necessities of life post-undead. But Tyreese is more than a pacifist or a softy. In a world of situational badasses, the character of Tyreese represents what I imagine would constitute the great majority of mankind -- those of us who would, perhaps to our own detriment, still place our faith in some authority or another. Regardless of his physical ability, Tyreese resists taking life or death into his own hands presumably in the hope that the universe will right itself. In this way, he is at the mercy of those who, for whatever innate reason, assume responsibility or dominion over the rest of us -- people like Rick, Daryl, the Governor, or Carol.

Never mind Rick overreacting and beating Tyreese's eye closed with relatively little provocation. We all know that his particular brand of barely-hinged leadership would only be acceptable while the dead walk the earth. It is Carol's coldhearted certainty that most disturbs. It's not that she believes in teaching knife skills to children or that the already-quarantined should be set ablaze for good measure. The danger is that she has absolutely no problem operating independently and atoning for it, or not, afterward. I wonder whether her actions, now unapologetically revealed to Rick, will eventually put her at odds with her semi-sweetie Daryl.

Aside from the acrid, lingering smoke of Carol's pyrotechnics, this week's episode was about taking responsibility in a much more acceptable way. With the virus spreading throughout the prison and the number of deaths mounting, the council reluctantly began sectioning people off for safety and for quarantine. Infected soldiers like Sasha and Glen wisely volunteered themselves to idle among the sickly. Even feisty Carl submitted to being sequestered among the children, at least until deciding to play bodyguard to Hershel on his harvesting mission. I'm not sure what elderberries can do for an ailment that involves coughing up blood, but the old man's Hippocratic commitment is duly noted. The little excursion saw the return of Carl underneath his dad's sheriff hat. We get a hint that under Hershel's calm tutelage, the kid may curb his penchant for pulling the trigger -- but I doubt it.

It is of absolutely no surprise that Daryl immediately volunteered to venture out in search of antibiotics, leading to a potentially electric pairing of him and Michonne. What's more shocking is that they brought Bob Stookey along. Sure, the guy's got medical training, but he practically got them all killed on the last away mission. Enlisting Tyreese also seemed questionable, but perhaps Daryl figured the gentle giant needed some air in his fragile state. After a spectacularly daunting walker run-in, the quartet got more than a breather (and lost an awesome car). And, indeed, Tyreese did find a way at long last to release some of his pent-up aggression. Now isolated from the camp, his little crew is likely to have a lot more use for his size and strength before they make it to safety. So much for those "positive vibes."

Neil Drumming

Neil Drumming is a staff writer for Salon. Follow him on Twitter @Neil_Salon.

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