TV Review: The Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 5 “Self Help” (USA, 2014)

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As great and effective the character focuses post-Governor were, The Walking Dead was still yet to turn Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita into characters as compelling as their comic book counterparts; though, it hasn’t been that long since they first came onto our screens. After all the fast paced chaos of Terminus, it seemed necessary to once again split some of the group up in order to solidify at least two of the three characters and officially throw them into the survivor family. “Self Help” was a curiously placed episode – in between two Beth, Carol, and Daryl focused episodes – but it was necessary for it to happen before we trudge along any further into Season 4.

It didn’t take long for the church bus – carrying Glenn, Maggie, Tara, Rosita, Eugene, and Abraham – to strangely mess up and flip right in front of a handful of walkers, beginning the episode with a nice little action sequence that ultimately reminded us of Eugene’s cowardice and lack of survival skills. We later find out that the bus actually flipped because he rigged it, in one of his many attempts to delay getting to Washington D.C. Why would he delay the mission? Because he thinks that once he ‘fixes’ things he won’t have anyone to protect him anymore, as revealed in an interesting scene between him and Tara while Rosita and Abraham surprisingly give the series a rare sex scene. It’s a nice little tie into the ‘survivor hierarchy’ and look into post-apocalyptic utility that we got to have a fun look at last week in “Slabtown”.

The dynamic between Eugene, Rosita, and Abraham was explored nicely here, giving Rosita more than just one line this time. This and the constant quips about Eugene’s mullet made a nice and light comedic thread that ran taut throughout the episode, although it was the bits of action-fueled character building that made “Self Help” what it was. The relationship between Eugene and Abraham was the nucleus of this episode, so it was nice to see that dynamic slide around.

We also got to peer into a bit of Abraham’s backstory via a series of intrusive flashbacks, revealing the death of his family and his attempted suicide which was thwarted only by Eugene’s calls for help. The very end came with Eugene desperately stating that he has a mission so that Abraham doesn’t walk away, and thus we get at the fundamental of Abraham’s impatient and often frustrating commitment to ‘the mission’. He needs this as much as Eugene does; he needs the hope and faith; he needs to keep moving because when he met Eugene and was given this fantasy of saving the world, Abraham was saved from that grim reality of losing his family, and the minute that mission stops is the minute he is dumped right back down into that world.

Fun action sequences like Eugene using a fire engine’s hose to rip apart walkers broke up moments of quite plot driving quite well, placing “Self Help” as another well-balanced episode, despite some parts moving a bit too slowly.

The big reveal that Eugene was lying about the whole thing was something many fans saw coming from a mile away but it was made all the more tragic with Rosita’s reminder that people died because of this lie. Eugene’s cowardice cost many people their lives along the way, and it made one big fool out of Abraham who quite understandably went to town on Eugene’s face and left him with a smashed nose.

Now that the mission is well and truly over, it’ll be great to see how this group will be interacting the next time we catch up with them, especially seeing that they are in front of one of the largest walker hordes yet.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Hightlights:
1. Dynamic between Eugene and Abraham now clearer
2. Eugene’s reveal handled well
3. Eugene on the firetruck
4. Tara gets Eugene to open up
5. Massive walker horde

Lowlights:
1. Glenn and Maggie grossly underused
2. Rosita still not adding much
3. Tara seems to have served her purpose

Episode MVP: Eugene
Walker Kill of the Week: Abraham (splitting that walkers head open with the butt of his rifle)

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The Walking Dead screens on FX in Australia.