The Walking Dead: “Self Help” and the Characteristics of the Survivor

the walking dead season 5

S05xE05″: “Self Help”

Survival is a theme this season, and each member of the Tribe has proven to be brave, cunning, downright ruthless or all of the above. The group headed to Washington D.C. is used to being on the ground, traveling on foot, not settling down and they are moving with a purpose, which gives them vigor and the hopefulness necessary to keep one foot in front of the other, even through zombie hordes and exploding buses. Still, when purpose shifts in meaning and complications arise, individuals must rediscover their reasons for moving forward, realign expectations, and determine how to best reconnect with like-minded groups. In a post-apocalyptic world without easy means of communication or travel, options are limited and the paths are few.

Spoilers ahead, Sweetie!

While we have spent a good amount of time exploring the original members of the Tribe, the stories of Abraham, Eugene and Rosita have been missing from the bigger narrative. The only thing we know about the D.C. faction is that they are traveling to the Human Genome Project with Eugene, a supposed scientist who has knowledge of the zombie cure. Throughout this season and last, we have watched the group surrounding Eugene working toward a common goal–to arrive at D.C. with Eugene so that he, along with his scientist buddies, can help bring normality back to the world.

Unfortunately, it turns out Eugene is a pathological liar. A skilled one, but a liar nonetheless. He is not a scientist and he does not have a cure. Eugene is simply a scared individual who took the help of Abraham the only way he knew how–to lie about his worth in order to become invaluable to a potential tribe leader.

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The hope that Eugene’s cause created has been the unifying factor between the splintered factions of the Tribe. Not only Abraham and his faction but Rick and his group are also headed to D.C. in the hope that they can work together to find a cure and get the world right.

The thing is, the world is never going to be right. People, governments and social structures are irrevocably changed. As Abraham tells Glen,

Gotten to the point where everyone alive is strong now. We have to be. You’re either strong and they can help you so you help them, or you’re strong and they can kill you. So you gotta kill them. You gotta kill them and I want to say it’s never easy. That’s not the truth. It’s the easiest thing in the world now.

The societal shifts that have taken place–the violence, the crime, the lack of law enforcement and corruption, the fact that the weak are left to die while the strong move forward toward survival–all these factors make it so post-apocalyptic life will never truly emulate pre-apocalyptic life. Survivors cannot go back from what they have done or who they have become because of their actions. This is why Rick asks potential Tribe members the 3 questions, this is why Carl asks his father before they entered Terminus; “When we get there, are we gonna tell them?”

While Eugene’s deception is disheartening, cruel and ultimately diabolical, it is also a sad testament to the complex value system that has clearly taken form in post-apocalyptic society. In Slabtown, everyone has to contribute to the feudal system of goods for service and protection. Each Tribe member, except Judith, brings a tangible ability that strengthens the group. How is Eugene to truly believe when Tara tells him that they would take care of him even if he could not cure the world? If he was faced with Rick’s 3 questions without bias and only pure honesty, what would the man have to say? He is slow, weak and scared. He doesn’t believe he would survive without the assistance of others, and the self-doubt alone would end up getting him killed. In order to escape what he perceives as his inevitable fate, he takes advantage of a broken man and gives Abraham hope where, before, he had none.

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While we know him as “Sergeant”, according to his flashbacks, Abraham Ford was a family man when the apocalypse hit. Although he seemed to have initially left his military time behind him, we know he took the measures necessary to protect his family when we see him bludgeoning a threat with a canned good in a grocery store. He acts to protect his family, doing what the Tribe full of survivors have done numerous times since, but when they see what he is capable of, his family are not only frightened of the walkers but of Abraham as well. His partner and their two children run from him and quickly die, because they have left safety behind and have no survival skills.

Those who survive in a post-apocalyptic society must take help where they get it, a lesson hard learned for each member of the Tribe. Individuals must be able to answer the 3 questions; they must kill or be killed. If a survivor cannot make himself valuable or keep himself alive, he has no life expectancy. While I’m no Eugene apologist, he did what he felt he had to do to make it out alive. Regardless if Abe and the D.C. faction allow him to tag along even though they can’t trust him or if they take drastic measures and leave him behind, the group has no reason to travel to the capitol any longer, but Rick doesn’t know. To reunite with the people in Rick’s faction, the group must make a fast decision on what their path will be.

xoxo The Collectiva Diva