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One of the chief complaints about The Walking Dead is that the series doesn’t like to flesh out characters, often only offering us a taste of what makes a particular character tick right before he or she shuffles off the mortal coil. It appears that the show’s writers have begun to take this complaint seriously this season, as “Self Help” took major steps toward giving us more to care about regarding the previously unexplored trifecta of Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene.
Now, I don’t know many people who believed for a single second that Eugene really had the keys to stopping the zombie apocalypse. Even if you haven’t read the comics, it was next to impossible to take a guy like Eugene seriously. And, really, would AMC let The Walking Dead even toy with the idea that it could solve the end of days scenario and right the ship any time in the near future? Highly doubtful. So, the reveal that Eugene was, in fact, completely full of shit, wasn’t a shock at all. The most shocking part was that the revelation came when it did.
The mission to Washington was interesting because, for the first time in a long while, it gave the group something to do other than simply try to survive. There was a destination and a reason to continue living. Without that destination, there was really no reason for the gang to continue moving forward. They could easily just camp out at the church and never move again. But we know from the season and a half spent at the prison that stagnation is boring. Now there is no mission. There is no reason to continue pushing forward. There is no reason for Abraham to continue pushing himself forward and hiding from his past pain, which is what “Self Help” was really all about.
At this point in the series, every character has his or her own gaping emotional wound. It’s impossible not to. But I can’t imagine many are more horrific than those carried by Abraham. While the show was a bit vague as to exactly why Abraham absolutely destroyed a group of men in a grocery store, I assume most people were able to put two and two together in this instance (and, for those still in the dark, Michael Cudlitz (Abraham) explained that the men had raped the woman and children- who also happened to be Abraham’s wife and kids- matching Abraham’s comic origin story). Abraham has appeared up to this point as the strong and regimented Army officer, leading his troops and never losing sight of his goal. But the real Abraham is a much darker and complex man.
The darkness within Abraham is deeper than that which affects Rick and Tyreese. There’s some truly primal element within Abraham that lurks dangerously close to the surface, making him easily the most scary of our “good” guys. But, you know what? I don’t blame him for any of his reactions. I can’t say I wouldn’t do what he did to the men he was traveling with (not that I would physically be able to, but I would certainly try) or that I wouldn’t try to go after Eugene following his revelation. But this new layer to Abraham’s character is interesting and well-earned. After all, if the season is built on the premise that the living are truly the most scary element of this new world, Abraham’s anger management issues fall under this heading nicely.
Finally, while this episode was clearly meant to be a showcase for the characters of Eugene and Abraham, it also allowed for several nice beats for their surrounding cast. Sure, Glenn and Maggie remain two of the show’s most annoying (and underused) characters, but both were given a chance to actually do things this week- Glenn more so than Maggie. Rosita was allowed a number of lines, including some that showed us how Abraham has really fallen under her spell in a way I doubt he even realizes at this point. And while the show still doesn’t quite know what to do with Tara, she’s proven herself to be capable in the face of danger and perhaps the only character who still recognizes the importance of a good sarcastic quip. All-in-all, “Self Help” was a solid outing for the series.
— I can’t be the only one who was a bit worried that Rosita was going to bite the big one after she suddenly had more than two lines within the episode.
— Abraham’s hair is really an unnatural shade of red at this point.
— I am so incredibly excited for next week’s episode. Carol and Daryl road trip!