As always, there will be spoilers in the recap.
The episode opens with Gabriel and Aaron chopping up a bunch of walkers in a field while they’re on a supply run. Once the area is clear, they reach a house marked on their map only to find that it’s been burned to the ground. That would be suspicious enough on its own, but things get exponentially more worrisome when Aaron notices the charred skeletons of a mother, father, and child with flowers placed on top of them. He wonders aloud what happened, but Gabriel says that they’ll never know.
*Side Note: I figured this would end up being a major plot point, but it’s actually not.
The pair then use a kitchen timer to draw out more zombies, which they move to take care of with disinterested ease.
Later, Gabriel and Aaron find a row of abandoned cars and search them for supplies. Aaron gets frustrated at Gabriel’s thoroughness, which is odd since it’s not like they have anything better to do.
After their search doesn’t turn up anything, they break into a boarded up convenience store. During their efforts to clear the entrance, they end up ripping the arms off a dead zombie instead of pulling him through the door, causing them to fall back onto the ground. The new perspective allows them to see a lawn chair on the store’s roof.
When Gabriel climbs up to investigate, however, all he finds is a chained up walker and a pair of corpses embracing each other on a mattress. Despite years of observing death and violence all around him, this makes Gabriel very sad. His misery is compounded when he uses a ladder to climb down into the store and doesn’t find any supplies.
Gabriel suggests they try one last area on his map, which we learn was given to him by Maggie. Aaron refuses, stating that they’ve been at this for two weeks with nothing to show for it. He also misses his daughter and wants to return home. When Gabriel insists that they check one more spot, he relents and follows him.
Along the way, Gabriel is nearly taken out by a walker hiding under what appears to be pluff mud, but is saved by Aaron. With their map destroyed and both men covered in mud, the skies open up and it begins to rain. This is finally enough to convince Gabriel they should start heading home.
*Side Note: If you’re starting to wonder what the point of all this is, I’m right there with you.
Treasure of Knowledge and Nostalgia
After traveling for an indeterminate amount of time, the pair come across a large warehouse that was not on Maggie’s map. It’s clear of zombies, but Aaron still ends up coming face to face with a wild boar, which he manages to kill after letting out a blood curdling scream.
Meanwhile, Gabriel finds a large stack of Bibles along with something in the warehouse office’s desk that makes him smile. He then hears Aaron’s scream and runs out to help him. Upon finding his friend standing over the body of a dead animal instead of a zombie or well armed/psychotic human, he laughs at him for screaming.
*Side Note: I’d scream too if a boar charged at me.
Gabriel then tells Aaron that he’s in the mood for some pork along with what he found in the desk: A large bottle of rare whiskey.
After an odd conversation about how to properly partake of expensive/fancy alcohol, the pair enjoy their dinner followed by a game of cards and a drunken conversation about Gabriel’s life before the dead started walking. Things turn serious when he discusses how good one of his mentors was at putting people at ease simply by being there for them in the moment. He learned that real ministering wasn’t preaching from a pulpit, but talking with and relating to people one on one.
Aaron tells Gabriel that he should start preaching again, but Gabriel says he doesn’t want to since the world will never go back to the way it was. When Aaron responds that not everyone is like the Whisperers, Gabriel counters that evil people are not the exception to the rule.
They are the rule.
Duel of Fates
That night, Aaron is awakened by Gabriel’s snoring and decides to go outside and pee. When Gabriel wakes up the next morning, however, Aaron is gone. He goes to look for him and ends up coming face-to-face with another armed survivor (Mays) who asks if he can have some of the boar.
After the two sit down, Mays informs him that he and Aaron broke into a place he’d already claimed as his own (along with eating his boar and drinking his whiskey). When Gabriel tries to explain that they meant no harm, Mays takes out Aaron’s morning star arm attachment from a bag and asks if such a contraption looks like something people who mean “no harm” would have.
*Side Note: Still not a huge fan of this episode, but Robert Patrick is an absolute badass during this scene.
Gabriel decides to switch tactics, informing Mays that he and Aaron are part of a larger group that will come looking for them if they go missing. Mays retorts that he knows Gabriel is bluffing just like he did during his card game the night before, with is equal parts menacing and creepy.
When Gabriel tries to imply that Mays doesn’t have any bullets in his automatic weapon, he responds by calmly unloading a barrage of fire toward the warehouse office. Gabriel barely has time to recover when Mays asks if he thinks Aaron, who he trapped inside the office, managed to survive his little show of force.
Gabriel tries to get up, but Mays forces him to remain seated before checking on things himself. After announcing that Aaron appears to be breathing, he asks Gabriel why he still wears his pastoral collar. Gabriel says it’s likely for the same reason he keeps a stack of Bibles: To remind him that there’s still goodness and light in what has become a very dark world.
Mays reveals that he actually keeps the Bibles for their thin paper, which makes for good toilet paper. He actually did read the entire book cover to cover at one point, which only reinforced his decision to use its contents to wipes his ass.
Mays recites Gabriel’s line about evil being the rule instead of the exception and agrees with him before wheeling Aaron out and making them sit across from each other. He then pulls out a revolver, empties the bullets from chamber, and puts one back in. Rather than forcing them to play a standard game of Russian Roulette, he announces that each man will have the option of pointing the gun at themselves or the other person until someone is dead.
If they refuse to play, both men die.
Gabriel picks up the gun first, aims it at his own head, and fires a dry shot. Aaron picks up the gun, aims it at his head, and gets the same result. Mays then asks how Aaron lost his arm and how Gabriel lost his eye. He appears dubious/disappointed to learn that Aaron lost his appendage in a construction accident and Gabriel lost his eye due to an infection.
When Gabriel points out Mays’ obvious irritation at their injuries not proving his point about the wickedness of man, he forces Gabriel to pick up the gun again. Once again, Gabriel aims it at his own head and fires a dry shot. When Aaron is forced to pick up the gun and cocks it, the weapon makes a decidedly different sound, which Mays points out is likely due to the bullet loading in the chamber.
Aaron tells Mays that he won’t kill Gabriel because they’re are part of a group of people that cares for and protects each other like family. Mays responds by telling a story about when he was on the road with his brother and his family. Despite saving them multiple times, he awakened one morning to find his brother stealing his food. He then came at Mays with a knife, forcing him to “take care” of his own kin. As far as he was concerned, however, his brother provided a valuable lesson that day about how humanity in this new world would always operate.
Gabriel counters that Mays’ brother didn’t give him anything except a sense of heartache and confusion that led to his current cynical state. As you might imagine, this agitates Mays, who angrily commands Aaron to pull the trigger. When Aaron begins to point the gun to his head, Mays begins taunting him that he’ll never see his daughter (who he mentioned the night before) again if he doesn’t shoot Gabriel.
Aaron appears to consider this for a moment, but still points the gun to his own head. Just as he’s about to shoot, Mays stops him. He then points to the facial scar his brother game him and begins yelling about how “this is who people are.”
Gabriel then begins preaching in earnest, telling Mays that if he punishes people for his own brother’s betrayal, then he’s no better than him. But he knows in his heart that Mays is simply a good person who was broken by this world — and someone who they and the other survivors can help if he comes with them.
Mays doesn’t believe him at first, but Aaron puts down the gun (which he could’ve and arguably should’ve used while their captor was distracted) and assures the man that they’re for real. Mays then puts down his weapon, unties Aaron, and introduces himself before getting his skull bashed in by Gabriel using Aaron’s morning star attachment.
Gabriel explains that there’s no way they could take a man with them who killed his own brother’s family and tried to kill them, but Aaron is furious at what he did — especially after Gabriel’s message about people being inherently good appeared to help Mays, but was revealed to be little more than an insincere ruse.
The Surreal World
Before they depart the warehouse, Aaron points out that Mays heard everything they said the night before, which means he had to have a hiding place.
They end up finding the section of the warehouse where Mays lived along with his brother, who is surprisingly alive, chained up to wall, and sporting the classic “trapped crazy person” beard. They also discover the corpses of his brother’s family. The man mumbles repeatedly that he “made me play,” implying that Mays forced his brother to partake in the same sick game that Aaron and Gabriel just survived.
Gabriel assures the man that they won’t hurt him before picking up the handcuff keys and beginning to free him. As he’s doing this, the man snatches Mays’ revolver off Gabriel and points it at them. Gabriel and Aaron plead with him to put the weapon down and accept their help. Instead, he looks down at the corpses of his wife and daughter (both with bullet holes in their skulls) and turns the gun on himself.
The stunned pair gather a few more supplies and depart, leaving Mays’ brother to lie in rest with his family. On their way out, Gabriel notices pictures of them during happier times before more savage natures were exposed.
Later, Gabriel sees a water tower that was a major landmark on Maggie’s map. This time when he suggest they use it to find and check one more place for supplies, Aaron agrees.
It’s a shame that the first half of this episode was so boring, because the rest of it was surprisingly good.
Maybe being a 90’s kid makes me biased, but Robert “T-1000″ Patrick was all types of good, as were Seth Gillam (Gabriel) and Ross Marquand (Aaron). I already liked Aaron, but Gabriel has officially gone from my most hated character on The Walking Dead to one of my favorites, especially after Gillam’s performance here. The character finally has some conflicted layers that feel genuinely human rather than whatever the plot requires of him.
I also loved the Gabriel and Aaron’s chemistry, both when they were on the same page and completely at odds. A couple years ago it would’ve been impossible to think I’d enjoy these two interacting over an episode featuring Carol/Daryl or Daryl and Maggie, yet here are.
On the story side of things, Mays’ twisted game is the first time in forever that I legitimately feared for any main characters’ well-being. I know I’ve knocked The Walking Dead recently for using new groups of psychos every fews seasons, but Mays’ brokenness was devoid of any societal grand design and much more personal, which in turn made it even more terrifying — especially when it was revealed what he actually did to his brother and his brother’s family.
Then you have Gabriel’s coldly efficient decision to kill someone and his subsequent failed attempt at redemption. As far as killing Mays, that action can be totally justified while also feeling like a complete and bitter betrayal of everything you hoped he believed. Aaron’s reaction might have been a bit too strong (especially considering what Mays just put them through), but I definitely get where it came from.
Once they find Mays brother, it really drives home just how hard it is to navigate who people are in this new world. Instead of a cheesy ending wrapped with a bow or bathed in pure bleakness, The Walking Dead actually managed to conclude the episode in genuinely haunting/thoughtful way.
That first half of the episode was a total snoozefest, though.
Don’t get me wrong — as a reviewer who also tries to write somewhat detailed recaps, long stretches where virtually nothing happens makes my job a lot easier. But even for a show that’s been criticized a lot lately for being stagnant, that was maybe the most insufferable 20 minutes they’ve ever shown.
Thankfully, “One More” recovered to deliver what might be the most entertaining episode of The Walking Dead‘s six-episode return thus far. I can’t believe I’m saying that when the other two featured much bigger characters/plot lines, but once you get past the first couple commercial breaks it was absolutely riveting.
Let’s hope the remaining three episodes can match this one’s intensity without the dead opening.
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