I’ve had Netflix and Prime for a long time but as I spend most of my free time either studying or engaged in some kind of outdoor activity, I was late to the party with ‘The Walking Dead’. My friends were positively shocked when I told them I’d never seen the show (this was March 2018) so I decided to binge watch the zombie action to catch up, I’m a sucker for a good sci-fi series.
Now I’m not a person who cries when people on TV die, I managed to sit through Titanic without shedding a single tear, multiple times, but what I saw in Series 5, Episode 9 of ‘The Walking Dead’ made me sob like a small child. If you haven’t seen the show and don’t want to know what happens, then this is your spoiler alert, don’t read on.
Without giving away too much, there are a few scenes at the end of the episode where the character called Tyrese dies. Now for anyone whose watched ‘The Walking Dead’ you will have become accustomed to the death of popular characters, everyone dies in the end, so I’m told. Tyrese wasn’t a character I was particular invested in, he wasn’t a main character, in some respects he kind of just existed in the periphery of the group without a real purpose. Every time someone died, I wasn’t really moved on an emotional level, which is why it really shocked me how the death of Tyrese shook me to the core.
Tyrese was an average good guy in a world that had gone to hell. He tried to maintain his innate goodness and didn’t like to kill people, he was an all-round heroic character on a moral level. The reason his death gripped me was the raw portrayal of what I can only describe as his depression and utter despair after losing someone he loved. It started with him becoming distant from the group, which included his sister, he didn’t really say much and the most obvious problem was that his character now lacked purpose. This led him down a dark road.
He displayed more and more signs of depression, freezing in battle, being lost in his own thoughts. The lead up to his death was heartbreakingly raw. During a routine house search he was cornered by a zombie that snuck up on him as he was transfixed looking at a photo of two twin children. The zombie bit his arm. He fought it off and ended up hiding under the table. The next scene showed visions of those who had died coming to him, the first blaming him for the deaths of others, the next trying to reassure him that it wasn’t his fault and ‘it went the way it was always going to go’. Tyrese is lost, in a world of guilt, pain and confusion. He hasn’t seen a way out for some time now, these visions are manifestations of his internal turmoil. He’s had enough, he doesn’t want to fight anymore, he doesn’t remember what he was fighting for in the first place. Another vision comes from a dead character telling him ‘it’s better now’.
There is a moment where you can see in his eyes, he gives up. After watching him struggle with the idea of life and death, what is worth living for, he makes a decision. All he wants is peace from the brutal agony that he feels every second of every day and he realises that the only way to get this peace is death. He can’t take it anymore, he doesn’t want to fight anymore, he just wants to let go and let the pain melt away. The zombie is attacking him and to move it away he puts his already bitten arm in the zombie’s mouth. This is the moment you can see he has accepted his fate, welcomed it. He was done with the painfully high cost of being alive, with the daily struggle to work out what is worth living for. The scene then shows more visions of the dead, assuring him it is better this way and he slips into a state where instead of seeing the characters trying to save him, he sees those already dead just waiting for him to cross over.
The episode has been described as ‘beautiful, dark and twisted’. It hit me so hard because I have been in that place. As someone who lives with bipolar and experiences depressive episodes, I have felt that pain. I have felt that guilt. I have questioned the reasons for my own existence, felt so helpless, so worthless and so tired of the battle. I know exactly what it’s like to wish for an end to the pain and see no future for myself without eternal agony. To feel like I don’t have the strength anymore to keep fighting, to just want to give up, give in and let go.
I have been to the edge of the abyss more than once, the brink of choosing life or death, but I have survived and I continue to do so. I have found over the years that my experience with depression has made me stronger and as I grow as a person I am thankful every day that I never gave in and that my friends and family never let me. Life can be beautiful, even when living with mental health, it’s just a case of remembering that sometimes.
This episode was one of the most excruciating yet beguiling things I’ve ever watched on TV. Kudos to the producers, directors and of course to Chad Coleman whose magnificent acting had me, the ice queen, curled up like a child in the foetal position sobbing into my pillow.