TWD TBT: Tyreese Faces the Past in Epx509
Bicycle Girl discusses the role of the past in The Walking Dead Episode 509 of What’s Happened and What’s Going On in this week’s TWD TBT post
Hey, hey, Dead Heads. It’s Thursdaaay. You know what that means. I’ve crawled all the way to my trusty keyboard to bring you another TWD Throwback Thursday post. Last week I took a look at how EPx509 shed some light on the future of the series. This week, I want to revisit the episode to discuss how the past played a role in the events leading up to Tyreese’s death.
At the start of What’s Happened and What’s Going On we’re treated to some quick views of familiar places, including:
Woodbury, where Tyreese unknowingly aligned himself with the villainous governor;
the prison, where Tyreese lived with the Survivors and lost his love, Karen;
and the railroad tracks, which Tyreese and Carol followed with the girls in hopes of finding sanctuary. Those tracks eventually led them to both the painful loss of Mika and Lizzie in The Grove and meeting Martin.
The first scenes also show some interesting combinations of symbols of hope and death, including:
This cheerful child’s chalk drawing that appears on the street in Noah’s camp
this walker trapped in a car outside of the barbed wire surrounding the community,
and this skeleton, a symbol of death but with hopeful new life springing from it in the form of a flowering plant.
As Tyreese and the others walk to the community, they pass by this clock.
No one else seems to pay it much mind, but Tyreese looks at it closely. To me, this is foreshadowing that soon he’ll be confronted with the events of times past and that his time alive is running out.
While Noah is mourning the loss of his family and people, Tyreese tries to console him by speaking of his past. He says:
I wanted to die for what I lost.
Who I had lost.
I stepped out into a crowd of those things just trying to take it all out on them until they took me.
Put them all in front of me so I didn’t see anything.
But I just kept going.
And then later, I was there for Judith when she needed me.
I saved her.
I brought her back to her dad.
And that wouldn’t have happened if I had just given up if I hadn’t chosen to live.
This is an important monologue because it shows that Tyreese at this point is committed to fighting on, to keep surviving.
Inside of Noah’s brother’s room, Tyreese becomes distracted looking at photographs from the past. He is so caught up in thought looking at Noah’s memories that he is bitten. The past figuratively is responsible for the injury that leads to Tyreese dying.
From there, the episode becomes surreal. Tyreese is confronted by Martin who mocks him saying:
And by the Governor, who remarks:
We’re reminded of the brutality of the past that Tyreese has had to endure. The Governor mentions Karen. A photograph that is reminiscent of the house in the Grove becomes covered by blood as a symbol of what happened to Lizzie and Mika.
Bob, the girls and Beth visit Tyreese. The girls tell him that death is better. Bob speaks of fate, and Beth sings about the struggling man who needs to move on in a rendition of the song popularized by Jimmy Cliff.
But Tyreese keeps fighting. He remains defiant in the face of the past, arguing:
I know his gave me hope that we weren’t going to lose him in this episode, and it seemed like perhaps Rick and the others would save him.
But then on the way out, things change.
Again, we see the images of the places Tyreese has been, but this time there are more scenes. We see Sasha stabbing Martin to death and Rick killing Gareth with a machete.
We see Carol ready to kill Lizzie.
Now, Tyreese is reflecting on the horrible things he has witnessed.
We find Tyreese suffering from blood loss in the car as he sits beside Noah. He imagines the radio saying the following words:
This seems to refer to Carol’s destruction of Terminus
And this could elude both to the deaths of Lizzie and Mika and to the deaths of Gareth, Martin and the other Termites.
It seems now that Tyreese is realizing that his own group’s methods have become brutal. What it takes to survive has moved beyond what he is willing to do. He refuses to give up being the kind of man who saves babies. He won’t compromise the goodness he has left just to survive.
Coming to this conclusion, he says:
Bob asks if he is sure, and we see Beth and the girls without their wounds. Tyreese is at peace with his decision to let go. He is at peace with the past. He is ready to move on.
It doesn’t make the sight of his grave any less heartbreaking, but it does make it easier to say goodbye to the character so powerfully portrayed by Chad L. Coleman. Tyreese got the sendoff he deserved with Beth at the wheel, Bob in the passenger seat and the Samuels girls riding beside him.