TV review: The Walking Dead: Season 10, Episode 19 (One More)
During the main season run of The Walking Dead, and indeed, over its previous seasons, the series has come under criticism for focusing too much on character development and not enough on the horror and intensity that comes from living in a post-apocalyptic world. Since the takeover of Angela Kang as showrunner, the series has certainly shifted into a higher gear with episodes constantly delivering top level entertainment. These bonus epilogues, however, have so far been nothing but character-driven, which has caused them to lack pace and urgency and, in the case of Home Sweet Home, not given us anything to care about.
One More continues the trend of ‘Tales from the Apocalypse’, this time with Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) searching desperately for food and supplies according to a map they were given by Maggie (Lauren Cohan). Reaching a final location, the pair decide to bunk for the night before headed back home, only they are not alone and get caught up in a sadistic game.
The episode starts promisingly enough with some beautiful allegorical visuals that depict the pairs perilous journey. The colourful wildflowers that have been able to grow and thrive despite the surrounding destruction, sullied by blood splatter as those around them fight, so they too might be able to live as prosperously as the flowers. There are plenty of zombies around for those missing the violence and it is good to see that the survivors still have their wits about them, using a neat trick to find their way through dangerous grounds. One thing you can never criticise this series about is the effort that goes into evolving the undead and the effects teams that make them so deliciously disgusting.
One More does suffer from the same issues of the previous two bonus episodes in that we must sit through more tales of a traumatic past – this time, two of them. The difference in this episode is that the past actually has relevance to the present. Unlike the Reapers (whose presence appears to be lingering subtly in this episode) and Leah, the tragic past comes from Gabriel and his unwillingness to preach any more. We have seen this character go through a lot of changes over the years from a man of God, unwilling to believe the dead for what they are, not wanting to take a life, to a more renegade and ruthless pastor protecting his flock. One More looks deeper into Gabriel’s quest for truth and finding the line between good and bad. The introduction of a new threat for the pair does feel a little unnecessary, but it does successfully and heroically show that life is not just black and white, good and bad, but an endless shade of grey splattered with red.
Although this episode does suffer from many of the same pitfalls that have plagued these extra episodes, One More does feel better shaped and not forced – it helps that there are some jump scares and gruesome zombies too. It feels like you know Gabriel better as a person and are able to understand him more and what it would be like to be him as he goes through this transition in faith. The episode also does not feel self-contained, instead leaving the door open to see how these events may continue to affect Gabriel and if he can still keep himself inherently good or if he has crossed into the bad. Just like those wildflowers finding a way to survive in the horrific landscape, this pair of characters’ journey is not over.
Entrails and innards (spoilers)
As Gabriel and Aaron follow the instructions on Maggie’s map, all they find is destruction and death. At one building they find bodies charred by fire – is this a sign that the Reapers have been through here? The group that was hunting Maggie’s comrades left some of them burned alive. Are these bodies friends of Maggie’s or just other survivors who feared the Reapers?
Gabriel climbs to the roof of a building to find more dead people, having starved or taken their own lives waiting for help to come. On the roof they had written the words “SAVE US”. The writing could only be seen by people above the roof – was this a message to God who may have sent Father Gabriel to them (albeit too late) or was this message intended for a passing helicopter? Does this link into the wider Walking Dead universe? Did these people see a helicopter, was it the same one Rick was on or part of the Civic Republic?
At the warehouse, Aaron and Gabriel find something to eat in a wild boar and something to drink in some very expensive whiskey. There looks to be lots of things on the shelves but nothing much in terms of food or weapons. After getting drunk at a card game, the pair sleep it off, but Aaron makes a mistake and ends up taken hostage by the owner of the warehouse, Mays (Robert Patrick). Gabriel is then tested and the pair have the conversation about right and wrong, good and bad, which ends with Mays firing his weapon at a wall. He then asks Gabriel if he thinks his friend made it as Aaron is locked up behind the wall.
Mays then forces the pair to play Russian Roulette and this feels incredibly trite as they go back and forth pulling the trigger. Of course, there is no real danger here because neither of these characters are going out like this, but it does provide some tension mainly thanks to the desperate look on the characters faces. As the final round is loaded, Gabriel manages to talk Mays around into believing that this pair are good and they can save him so Mays gets Aaron to stop. But what was stopping Aaron from shooting Mays other than his good nature? Both these men are fathers with children at home – something Mays uses against them when if anything, this should only spur them on to fight against him. The game felt out of place.
After releasing his prisoners, Mays has shed his hateful persona and is ready to humbly accept Gabriel’s offer of help. But, to the horror of Aaron, Gabriel uses Aaron’s mace arm (that Mays had removed earlier) to kill Mays, citing that he would have never been able to change. Aaron doesn’t say anything too strongly against this act, but it will hopefully be a development point for both characters once they get back to Alexandria. Just before they leave, they question how Mays knew everything they were talking about and they find an upstairs hideout which houses Mays’ twin brother (Robert Patrick in a long beard) and dead family. Gabriel now tries to play good priest, but the twin takes his own life, presumably to be with his dead family and not for fear that Gabriel and Aaron may be crueller than his brother.