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AHHAHAHAHAAAAAH that was amazing. So it looks like this is happening, for another week in a row. Look at me momentumming. Abraham would be proud I BET.

On that subject, Abraham, sir, I apologise for impunging you with allegations of knowing about cars with white crosses and not sharing it with the group and thus trying to avoid any turning off the way into pesky side quests. It's just, you know, it really seemed like you were hiding something. But I mean, really, how likely is it that you might be hiding something that could potentially harm Rick's family pack? (Especially now that three of them have been split off and dragged down that side-path?) Not bloody likely, I think the show has made itself clear on that subject. (I still think that's the thing, but that could also just be because we tend to connect things to each other simply because they're presently the most/only visible things. And now there's whatever he and Rosita saw that was relevant in Michonne's killing of the walker to muddy up the waters. So really it could go either way. Man, the puns with this show, they write themselves!)

Wider season/series perspective:
Okay, so let's pull back a bit and try to get some perspective on the overall terrain it looks like we're going to be finding our way through, here. The basic structures of previous seasons have started strong with laying in the hope for combined humanity and survival, which then gets slowly broken down through the competing demands – either humanity or survival – until it becomes a choice between holding on to that specific hope, or letting it go in favour of survival. They also tend to begin by peppering in plenty of winks to the driving consideration of the survivor's actions for the season – who's taking bets that's gonna be (re)starting? The season opener tends to have a fairly tight focus, after which the early season opens out wide and starts playing with the sub-themes and variations, which arrow back in together for the mid-season finale, then out again but narrower before funnelling in for the finale. That said, they seem pretty loose about mixing it up, so I may well be looking for the wrong MO, there, and thus missing something vital. (*cough* Daryl. Dude. Get that right eye healed up, would you? Maybe once you find Beth/bring her back "safe"?)

The single distinct theme – the umbrella idea that dictates all the dilemmas/conflicts/loss of life – is related to the hope, but can't be narrowed down/confirmed for a while, until there's enough data sets to see what all of it has in common. However, current working theory is that it's somewhere in the vicinity of the "Way". The ~job and the ~path are, in this walking-based world, symbiotic (at least in the pack's current perambulatory state), where the commitment to finish one means following the other to the end, a hope neatly tying together under the question "what is our way"; meanwhile, there's plenty of talk already about the way things (and people) are, and the way things (and people) have to be. Although the prominence of the "hidden things" thread might take the theme somewhere else less obvious, too; not to mention this minor undercurrent of "sacrifice" that seems to be swirling around. (With the clear echoes of S1 concerns, there is also an outside chance that we're cycling through a "salvation" theme again. Although if so, it's more likely to be repeat-with-significant-difference.)

Reassessment first:
Since I (and the show) dinged The Governor quite harshly for not reassessing the signs he was steering by in light of new input (... Daryl), let's start by not repeating his mistakes.

— Martin! Dude! You survived (because Tyreese didn't make sure he'd finished the job, rookie move, Tyreese – worse if you knew you didn't and HID it from Carol, who WOULD have finished it off, Tyreese – and rookie move, me, for not holding on to that question mark next to the age-old trope of didn't see the body)! Well good on you. I'm sure that will be a long and satisfying life ahead of you.

— YEP, that's a leg-injury motif, alright. *counts off another finger* *these puns could get reeeeely gross*

— Gareth, you cagey bastard, was that a wince or not? Where was that gunshot injury, and how bad? (Also you might just become my fav if you're gonna just keep stating themes right out there in the open for us all to get *clear* on like that. WE HAVE A "DEVOLUTION" DINGDINGDING \o/)

— It really is just a white cross; I thought it looked like a red cross type thing back when Beth got snatched, but apparently not so much.

— Carol and the watches! Giving Rick (back) more time (even if this current state won't last)! But he still had the one (from her husband) she gave him, so that must not have been hers on the table that she saw, just me over-connecting. And NO she does not want it back, but she will accept Rick and the group back. (WHICH WAS ALL ENTIRELY AMAZING AND I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO THINK ABOUT THAT YET JUST SITTING HERE AND FLAILING WILDLY)

Digging into the nitty gritty:
Those two things – letting go of one and taking hold of the other – being about the only things Carol is now sure of at all. She wants to start over, but having made herself into the woman who can kill to save, she doesn't know what she's doing with human life, when survival-life-and-death aren't the stark choices to steer by. Putting down the water jugs to try to bring a dead car (battery) back to life, and – unlike Daryl last season – with no water involved, but by flipping a switch, ie, one day you just change. (I LOVE that the show is keeping this ticking over, not losing sight of the consequences – the damage – of having attained that state, now examining what she's lost in the process of changing into who she needs to be.) So now she's generating issues to deal with (charging a battery!), directionlessly, needing that conflict-purpose even when it doesn't exist. But being the head of the "missing surviving girls" brigade, her instincts still (narratively speaking) bring her and Daryl to Beth's trail – and Daryl is able to give direction and purpose to her flipped-switch, charged state.

Carrying the water with her, Daryl naturally, contra-themedly, rejects the useless either/or wheel-spinning she's doing over the fact that they should all be dead (both her and Gabriel talking about being "lucky" in having survived), pointing out that the point – not the question – is that they ARE ALIVE. Between willingly laying himself out in a coffin, then being unable to carry both his survival and Beth's together – losing hold of one – then willingly offering his life in place of Rick's, then joking about surrendering (DUDE you are lucky you are one contra-themed sumbitch), and now being unable to carry both his water jugs and Carol's together – losing hold of one.... Daryl, it might be time you learn that a) your people have got to the point where they can carry their own lives/survival without your assistance and b) that's not your defining role/identity within the group anymore, you've cleared the slate, you're starting fresh, it's time to start learning who you are, unique and human. (You are contra-theming it up there, too – ahead of the curve even – because you went back, fully confronted (took hold) and confessed (let go) your past slate, and then burned it down to ashes. Then you confronted and confessed to Rick, too, and were washed clean by his forgiveness, his letting-go of what you'd "done" and taking-hold of you. Your way is still not their way; people want to just forget – not talk about, not confess – what they've done, refusing to take hold of it and risk that it cannot be let go. They're just trying to ignore it as they carry it around hidden inside with them. It won't work, what's hidden cannot be dealt with or forgiven, there's no fresh start to be had that way (and Tara, way to get on that early, *high five* ... wait. Okay, for you: *fist-bump*, but only cos you did good); but where once you did what you could to carry their survival when they couldn't, perhaps now you can begin to do what you can to carry their humanity when they can't.)

ON THAT SUBJECT, Daryl, did you notice that the very first thing you did when aiming to hunt down that car with the white cross was destroy (*hide*) the signs that would indicate to your quarry that they have human pursuit? I know your evolution to humanity isn't going to be all a smooth ride, you've hit plenty of bumps along the way – in fact it's been nearly all bumps – but thematically, scouting for signs of human activity/pursuit (while out hunting) is gonna bite ... well, someone in the ass. (THE PUNS THEY WRITE THEMSELVES) You said it yourself, they ain't "people"; and they did this to themselves. I'm not gonna say it again: please get that eye healed up, and start being able to see both sides of other people's actions once more. ESPECIALLY when what you feel is trying to tell you something (the human/activity signs to "read" coming from the inside more than the outside!).

Also, apparently Rick's listening to Judith's voice now for direction. Which was a) adorable, b) symbolic all over the place, and c) nicely paired with listening/going with Carl's insistence that they respond to Gabriel's calls for help, as well as listening to Carl's detective work around the signs of what went down at the church. And, going both ways, that he makes sure that Carl is hearing him, and Carl does listen, leading to the detective work and giving Rick a heads-up. It's ALSO interesting to me, as Rick and Carl switch off for the lead more frequently along this path they're jointly walking (although with Rick still firmly having the deciding vote), that Carl has now begun talking about good and bad people, and being stong enough and able to help – issues Rick was working through more in S1 – and Rick is the one fixating on safety – Carl's main concern in S1. *sticks a pin in that*

So, Gabriel (O RLY SHOW), did you perhaps lose your way (and your congregation) by clinging to refuge (hiding) in your church and refusing to leave? Because Abraham (who unlike you loves to fight) got up and gave a sermon in your church about the way he's found, to convert the congregation he's found, about the necessity of moving on to DC and the refuge promised there, as per a saviour figure he wholeheartedly believes in and is willing to follow no matter what (and you're both hiding something; seriously guys, you've got a bad case of matched-pair-itis beginning to develop there, you might wanna look to that).

SO. Bob. Were you perhaps hiding something? And did that perhaps separate you from the group? (AND ARE YOU DEVELOPING REALLY, REALLY STRONG SYMPTOMS OF MATCHED-PAIR-ITIS WITH GLENN?) The good news is, you were right, and the nightmare is nearly at an end (for you). The bad news is, you have lost a leg (you know, being bit doesn't have to be the end – this group you're with amputated Hershel's leg, although fair enough, that was at a sedentary point in their lives, and you did feel pretty strongly about not letting go of parts of yourself in order to make it to when the world gets fixed and puppies and rainbows), and the (hidden) fact that you are turning makes you surprisingly tasty to people who have devolved into a roving band of human-feeders, people who feed on their own kind. (Yes, I'm assuming he was bit (THE PUNS), which does seem pretty frikkin' obvious all on its own, but also because I did hear about that comic book storyline. Either way, I don't think it's an unsafe assumption to make. Haha.)

Random final items/tracking threads:
— It was the Rick and Daryl comedy hour! One whole joke each! Of course, Daryl made his on purpose, whereas Rick's look and "Get your hands up!" reaction to Gabriel had me laughing so hard I had to pause the episode for a minute or two. The reactions all around this episode were golden.

— In the beginning of S3, wherein the theme was structural integrity – within Rick's group meaning absolute adherence to Rick's authority (at least to begin with) – Carol did her best but didn't fully comply with Rick's orders when they took the prison field, to take her time and be careful with her shots, almost accidentally shooting him (she also later overruled Rick's orders to Glenn to stay nearby Hershel in case he died/turned; she and Glenn were then each the ones who wound up separated from the group (structural integrity: not enough!), trapped alone in a dungeon setting (structural integrity: too much!), and attacked by walkers). IF the theme this season is specifically tied to finishing your job – or not hiding things – and IF Tyreese genuinely thought he'd killed Martin (I'm currently leaning toward this rather than deliberately lying to Carol), then look for some substantial-but-perhaps-not-fatal, sowing-reaping on his actions (possibly to do with Judith), probably theme-related calamity to befall him before mid-season. And if not, well, that'll be interesting too.

— Fire has also been an obvious motif – though, like food (and unlike time, water, and signs), not signifying anything more specific to TWD than what they usually symbolise in stories. However, it's interesting that someone carved "you'll burn for this" on Gabriel's church, presumably in response to not being saved, and Eugene characterised his efforts to save the world as "fight fire with fire". Might be specifically linked – especially through the pairing of Gabriel and Abraham, AND/OR through Bob's optimism about saving the world and now having bits of himself roasted over an open flame – but also might just be iterations of the wider fire motif. *moar pins*

— Also, nice work, Gabriel, assuming the standard Christian "self-sacrifice" pose upon the prospect of getting eaten, you twerp. IT IS YOUR FAULT (actually Rick's choice in all that water to save your life rather than let you die, and also, Bob's willingness to "double back" and unwillingness to let go of parts of himself, and then choosing to go out alone and presumably kill himself to spare Sasha) THAT BOB'S FLESH GOT DOUBLE-EATEN INSTEAD. And interesting you should mention, Gabriel, that without "blessing", communion is just wine. (Oh, and by the way, hello and thanks for being another Rick-analogue, welcome to the fold. Good luck, bucko!)

— Another word frequently used for a congregation is a "flock". *pins the animal/"livestock" concept to the rest of the theme-ponderings*

— While we're at it, *Abraham*, you may be the "Father" of God's people, yet even willing to sacrifice your family (... and slay-then-burn Isaac on an altar), but it's traditionally held that *Gabriel* is the one who will herald the triumphant return of Christ in the apocalypse (and his wholesale destruction of his enemies). So ... something tells me you two have got the thoroughly wrong end of the stick on what your job is, here. BUT I'M SURE THAT'LL WORK OUT JUUUUUST FINE.

Okay, I'm done chewing for now. *ptui!*

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January 2016
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