In between mouthfuls of Bob, cannibal overlord Gareth explains his unique position in the apocalypse’s new world order.
“We don’t want to hurt you. We don’t want to pull you away from your group, or scare you. These aren’t things we want to do — they’re things we got to do,” he tells tied-up Bob, all but picking the bits of Bob’s leg out of his teeth. “You and your people took away our home. That’s fair play. Now we’re out here like everybody else, trying to survive. In order to do that, we have to hunt.”
“This isn’t personal,” he assures Bob, who is becoming more and more aware that his leg has been severed, and is currently inside multiple people’s stomachs. “We would have done this to anybody … a man’s gotta eat.”
Rewind a few hours back, before Bob became a meal. Bob joins Rick on an expedition into town to find some canned goods for the group. Bob, who has spent days with military man Abraham hearing about how scientist Eugene can solve the zombie outbreak and restore the old world order, tells Rick that the group not only needs to travel to Washington, D.C. to try and stop this thing; he says the trip is inevitable. There’s too much momentum. Bob sees the brighter side of life. He sees the light at the end of the tunnel. All Rick sees is the chaotic world right in front of him, but Bob insists that this is not reality.
“No, this is a nightmare, and nightmares end,” Bob says with his big smile. “I’m calling it: Washington’s going to happen. You can’t fight City Hall.”
By episode’s end, Rick comes around, and agrees that forging ahead for D.C. is the group’s best available option. Blue Sky Bob’s words of wisdom have seemingly taken root in Rick’s heart. But did Bob “call it” too early? Did the eternal optimist, who spends much of the episode stealing kisses from his new girlfriend Sasha, mistakenly forecast sunshine during a rainstorm? The fact that Leg of Bob is currently on the menu for a bunch of cannibals doesn’t seem to work in the recovering alcoholic’s favor, does it?
Bob’s the big example, but there are other signs of no return throughout “Strangers.” In the woods, the group encounters a man named Father Gabriel, who has survived the apocalypse by never straying too far outside of his small, remote church. His answers to Rick’s three questions are troubling: He’s killed zero zombies, and he’s killed zero humans, indicating that Gabriel has either been extremely lucky, or he’s lying through his teeth.
But Gabriel’s cowardice while confronting a bunch of zombies — people he knew, once upon a time — suggests that he is as advertised: A sinner who uses God as a weapon, and rejects the world he’s living in now as much as one possibly can. But the survivors no longer have the luxury of rejecting this world. This world rejects you.
Elsewhere, Carol, reunited with her friends for the first time since Rick exiled her for killing two infected members of the group without consulting anyone else, feels the strain between herself and these people she once called family. Rick assures Carol that they’re all one happy bunch again, but does Carol believe it? Near the end of the episode, she’s seen powering up a car; is it simply to have an escape vehicle on standby in case Father Gabriel goes berserk, or is she attempting to hit the road on her own?
If anyone in the group knows the score, it’s Carol. This is a woman who killed and burned the bodies of two decent people, all on her own, to keep her group safe. This is a woman who killed a small child because raising a psychopath in this apocalyptic world is not a viable path. This is a woman who virtually singlehandedly dismantled a cannibal compound with little more than a rifle and her wits.
Look at Carol. Look at who she was when this story began, and who she is now. Does the Carol we now know and love have a place in any kind of larger civilization? Can any of these damaged survivors — these walking, talking killing machines — return to life as they once knew it?
Optimism is a beautiful thing. It’s great to keep hope alive. But then you look at cowards like Gabriel, killers like Carol, and a man like Bob, forced to watch as cannibals swallow his flesh.
“If it makes you feel any better,” Gareth says, licking his lips, “you taste much better than we thought you would.”
Somehow, that probably doesn’t make Bob feel much better.