In a sense, “Crossed” spends most of its running time keeping a few narrative plates spinning in anticipation of the inevitable clash between Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) group and the Grady Memorial staff. Only the initial thrust and parry of that conflict have been dealt by the end of the episode, with Rick deciding to heed Tyreese’s (Chad Coleman) advice to not kill anyone and do a straight trade to get Beth (Emily Kinney) and Carol (Melissa McBride) back. That doesn’t work out for Rick’s group ultimately, but the entire episode hinges on how one is to approach kindness and care in the world of the living dead.
Rick and the group’s first introductions to the Grady Memorial people makes up the majority of the episode’s action, including a great fight among a number of half-melted but still-biting zombies. Once that settles down, however, the manipulation switches from physical to psychological, as a hostage from the Grady camp, Bob (Maximiliano Hernández), pretends to empathize with the group to gain favor, especially from still-vulnerable Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green). Not for nothing is his final ploy fueled by an appeal to Sasha’s basic humanity, the need to see a friend or colleague put out of their suffering.
Pain of another sort plagues Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), who seems frozen in anger, regret, and shock for most of the episode. He nearly pummels Rosita (Christian Serratos) when she tries to offer him water and an embrace, only calming down when Maggie (Lauren Cohan) puts a gun to his face. She too enacts a sort of psychological cure for his breakdown by letting him stew while Glenn (Steven Yeun), Rosita, and Tara (Alanna Masterson) use the time to gather supplies and replenish the water supplies. The sequence of Rosita explaining how to filter water, a skill she learned from Eugene (Josh McDermitt), is a testament to The Walking Dead’s long history of starting and strengthening bonds through the practice and teaching of everyday survival skills.
It’s similar to the bond that Carl (Chandler Riggs) is trying to create with Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) by teaching him weapon skills to little avail. The priest is still reeling from the massacre of the cannibals in the church, as the episode opens with him trying to pick and scrub the blood off the floors of his church. And even when he ultimately takes up a weapon, Gabriel isn’t able to use it on the zombie who attacked him. Gabriel still has faith in a godly charity, in not hurting others even if you can’t necessarily help them, a belief he’s been allowed to keep by human sacrifice and a great deal of work. He hasn’t had to make a decision in the heat of the moment, and he doesn’t seem particularly keen on the subject. His moral struggle isn’t nearly as high stakes as the one Rick is waging, nor is it as volatile as the one Abraham is stunned silent by, but it matters, and is key to the philosophical backbone of The Walking Dead.
For more recaps of The Walking Dead, click here.