The Walking Dead’ season 5 brings its 9th episode to life with midseason premiere “What Happened and What’s Going On,” as the group picks up in the aftermath of Beth’s loss, and searches for a new hope, only to be hit with another devastating death.

Last year’s ‘The Walking Dead’ midseason finale, “Coda,” saw Rick attempting to negotiate with Dawn for the lives of Carol and Beth, only for the conflict to go horribly awry, while Gabriel made a shocking discovery of his own. So, what does the latest episode of season 5 bring?

Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘The Walking Dead’ season 5, episode 9, midseason premiere “What Happened and What’s Going On”!

‘The Walking Dead’ historically kicks off its midseason premieres in rare form, season 3’s midpoint picking up from the chaos of Rick’s team invading Woodbury, and last year’s more experimental premiere shrinking to an intimate focus on Rick and Carl after the prison’s fall. This time around, “What Happened and What’s Going On” had a bit less to work with, as Beth’s loss and the Grady Hospital arc proved somewhat anticlimactic and uneven overall, leaving plenty of blanks as to what focus the series might take next.

In particular, it’s of interest to see the group downsized once again, as Rick communicates with Carol and the others in an unseen convoy trailing behind Rick, Tyreese, Noah, Michonne and Glenn. ‘The Walking Dead’ tends to do its strongest work when focusing on a few characters at a time, and while we’re only given glimpses of the group’s mood after Beth, investigating Noah’s potential safe haven seemed a perfectly reasonable sidequest to pare down the number of characters in one episode. Of course, ‘The Walking Dead’ being ‘The Walking Dead,’ everything was mysteriously destroyed long before we ever got there, but the sudden shock of Tyreese’s bite and the subsequent ghostly hallucinations provided the big, experimental swing we’re more used to with midseason premieres, and one gorgeously directed by Greg Nicotero, at that.

Apart from Chad Coleman’s gently giant presence, Tyreese himself had undergone a number of presentations throughout his two-season tenure, none of which had ever felt particularly fleshed out. From falling in with the Governor, falling in love with Karen, and subsequently abstaining from violence through much of season 4 and 5, we’ve only gotten to know so much about the quiet figure, and the hints of backstory with his father, and subsequent interactions with the dead* proved an effective shorthand at building character before the end. If nothing else, defying the Governor’s insistence on “paying the bill” made Tyreese a fighter until the end, one who wouldn’t succumb to the guilt lain on him by fallen characters, and would never “give up,” as he’d flirted with in the past.

*The presence Lizzie and Mieke in the opening montage more or less gave away that something might befall either Tyreese or Carol, as the only characters to have had significant interactions with the girls. And lord help us, if they didn’t find a way to cram one last Beth song in, months after her death.

A bit of odd pacing throughout the hour meant that Rick, Glenn and Michonne had plenty of time to themselves before learning of Noah or Tyreese’s fate, and it was interesting to see Michonne so weary of “making it” out on the road, and looking for an opportunity to settle down and hang up the sword. The series frequently plays with notions that life on the road strips away their humanity, just as Glenn and Rick wonder if they should have killed Dawn for her inadvertent act, and Michonne’s desire for haven resonates well, considering how often we’ve seen her loner stoicism in the past. It seems as if we’re Washington-bound once more, though with hope of Eugene’s cure gone, that’s only a vague heading for now.

The death of Tyreese is a significant one, particularly so soon after losing Beth, and “What Happened and What’s Going On” amiably took the time to remind us of the good deeds done by the character, though the death ends up feeling more “interesting” a choice than a heartbreaking one. We only glimpse the anguish in Sasha’s face at the funeral, and don’t actually see Carol at all, so we’ll likely need another week for the true state of “What Happened and What’s Going On” with the group as a whole.

The visual poetry of Tyreese’s memories, as well as the many unexpected cameos make tonight’s premiere a memorable one, albeit not tremendously exciting for the season itself. Apart from the usual platitudes of differentiating between survival and “making it,” “What Happened and What’s Going On” had only so much substance to complement its visual flair.

AND ANOTHER THING…

  • ‘The Walking Dead’ doesn’t always answer mysteries around other fallen camps, but are we to believe that “Shirewilt” was attacked by something other than walkers? After all, a good many of the homes seemed individually burnt, while the severed torsos and truck full of amputated walkers suggest at least something amiss.
  • I demand an explanation of what someone was doing with a grandfather clock on the road, before apparently being chased off.
  • Granted the radio broadcasts were primarily hallucinations, I wonder if the later reports of “cannibalism” were of Tyreese’s earliest memories in the apocalypse, and therefore a subtle tie-in to the spinoff.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the ‘Walking Dead’ season 5, and join us later for more coverage of ‘The Walking Dead’’s midseason premiere on AMC!