The Walking Dead: 503 “Four Walls and a Roof” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
After last week’s confirmation that The Walking Dead was taking on the Fear the Hunters comic arc as Bob found himself minus one leg, the clock was ticking for a confrontation between the ex-Termites/Hunters and Rick’s group – but I’m not sure many people expected the arc to come to a head in episode three. So did Four Walls and a Roof provide a satisfying conclusion to the brutally short Hunters arc, or did they fail to stick the landing?
The episode opened where we left last week with Bob’s missing leg being chewed by Gareth and his crew – and wasted very little time in unleashing one of the most iconic moments from the comics as Bob revealed that the Hunters were in fact eating tainted meat. Lawrence Gilliard Jr, a reliably strong actor since his first appearance in season 4 nailed the moment – Bob’s hysteric laughter providing the first of several incredibly satisfying moments in the episode. It was a pity that, like in the comics, the impact of eating tainted meat was never really expanded upon (with the Hunters meeting their end via gorier means) – but it was nonetheless a fantastic moment to open the episode, and a clear sign that the writers are sticking a little more faithfully to the source material.
After last week’s hinting about Father Gabriel’s past, all was revealed here, as the priest tearfully confessed to locking dozens of people out of the church and letting them be torn apart by the walkers. Seth Gilliam made a strong debut last week and he’s even better here with some strong material to work with – effectively conveying the priest’s despair as he recounts his past. With a cast of characters that are becoming increasingly amoral and brutal (with the exception of Tyreese, who’s been curiously cast as a pacifist this season), it’s refreshing to have a slightly more emotionally complex character to balance out the action heroes.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a review of this episode without mentioning the demise of the Hunters. The setup to the deaths of Gareth and co are perhaps the weakest parts of the episode – the lack of intelligence required from the Hunters to stroll into the church without checking for traps does render Gareth’s group slightly less threatening then they should be – but the brutal scenes as Rick and co execute the Hunters are some of the finest so far this season, and for several different reasons. In one way, Rick slashing Gareth to pieces with the red-handled machete (making good on his promise in No Sanctuary) is a punch-the-air moment of justice – the cannibals getting the comeuppance they deserve in appropriately badass style (yet another satisfying moment in a season that’s delivered several iconic moments already).
However, the scene is also pretty uncomfortable to watch – the Hunters are brutally hacked to pieces while other group members look on in horror, and, it’s a testament to the writer and director that the scene feels both difficult to watch and a satisfying moment of revenge. It’s clearly shown here that Rick and some of his group are fast descending into brutally amoral territory, and while they remain the ‘good guys’ in comparison to a bunch of cannibals, it’s becoming increasingly murkier whether Rick and co are really the heroes they were in season one.
With the Hunters dispatched, the episode closes with more setup for the future – but before the cliffhanger ending, Bob finally passes away (becoming the first series regular to die this season, and most likely not the last). While the peaceful, melancholy scenes do jar a little with the preceding scenes, it’s an appropriately emotional exit for Bob, who proved to be a surprisingly strong addition to the series. Abraham’s group’s departure wasn’t quite as effective, however – it’s a fairly logical choice to split the group up to avoid the crushing weight of over a dozen regulars, but the departure of the crew feels a little contrived and unnatural; an artificial way to get the cure plot moving. Despite this, the splitting of the group should hopefully lead to some more focus on the less developed characters (Rosita doesn’t currently have a personality, for example) – even if it might mark a return to the slower pace of last season.
Four Walls and a Roof leaves us with a tantalizing cliffhanger, as the missing Daryl emerges from the bushes with a mystery companion in tow. It’s an intriguing (if slightly abrupt) ending – and leaves us with a genuine mystery that’ll most likely fuel the rest of the half-season; who could be with Daryl? Do they have anything to do with Beth? With next week delivering a Beth episode, it looks like we’re finally about to get some solid answers about the missing Greene…
Overall, Four Walls and a Roof manages to keep season five’s hot streak up, providing us with a satisfyingly brutal conclusion to the Hunters arc and a very intriguing teaser that finally promises some movement on the Beth storyline. Some plot elements may be a little awkward and contrived, but Four Walls and a Roof nonetheless completes a hat trick of strong opening episodes for season five.
Scene of the Episode: Justice is Served – Gareth and the Hunters meet a slightly horrific end by the hands of Rick’s red-handled machete and friends in quite possibly the most brutal scene this season (and that’s saying something).