“Mays. My name is Mays.”
The Walking Dead continues to knock it out of the park with these smaller, more character focused episodes. I read opinions online complaining about the lack of a wider cast, about each of this COVID-19 episodes only featuring a handful of characters. And I get that, I too miss the season 5 days when all of the 20+ central cast members were interacting together. But these unfortunate precautions have meant large casts aren’t feasible, which has forced the writers to turn inwards and instead make these smaller but much more tightly scripted episodes. ‘One More’ follows the high standards set by the previous two episodes. It’s one of the smallest episodes in the history of TWD yet it’s also one of the most engaging.
We begin following Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) who, using Maggie’s map of resources, are exploring areas of interest. It becomes clear however, that all of the areas are long since searched and abandoned or worse, destroyed. Gabriel keeps pushing to carry on and search one more location when they stumble upon a warehouse not on the map, full of useful supplies and $2000 bourbon. Oh, and a boar. The pair eat well and get drunk and have what even in the pre-apocalypse could be called a pretty fun night. This half of the episode is a fantastic throwback to the basics of The Walking Dead; the search and survive part that defined earlier seasons. Only now the world is too far gone and there’s hardly anything left. Maggie’s map was meant to offer hope but so far there is little to be found. I’ve always liked the characters of Aaron and Father Gabriel too, but they are most certainly B- list characters at best. They really shine here though, making me wish for even more screen time with the pair. The chemistry between the two is phenomenal and both turn in two of the most believable and earnest performances in the show. I love that even through it all and everything that has happened, Aaron is still a fundamentally good guy. And Gabriel’s development into a hardened zombie fighter is complete but his strong sense of morality still shines through. Well, for the most part (more on that in a sec). This half of the episode is basic but it’s The Walking Dead at it’s best. It’s a simple supply run but the characters are well written and there’s enough haunting visuals to match the early seasons.
The morning after that drunken night, the second part of the episode, is when things change up dramatically. It turns out the pair weren’t alone in that warehouse and Aaron has been taken and tied up by this mysterious gun wielding figure. Enter Robert Patrick’s Mays. Gabriel’s morality and Aaron’s good-guy nature is put to the test as Mays makes the two of them play a twisted game of Russian roulette to prove that there is no good left in the world. He loads one chamber on his revolver and tells them to take turns pulling the trigger at either their own heads or the man opposite them. I really like the fact that neither Gabriel nor Aaron ever points the gun at each other. Mays gives them the option too but even in this dire situation neither of them chooses to betray their friend. I thought this was a nice touch. Patrick is great as Mays, the perfect tough, growly, old man who you could definitely believe made it this far into the post-apocalypse. Mays explains some of the awful things he did, which includes ‘taking care of’ his own brother and his brother’s family. Gabriel’s passionate speech to Mays, imploring him to see the good in the world is just the right amount of good natured corniness, I love it. It works on Mays too, as he lets the pair go free. For a moment I wondered if this was The Walking Dead’s way of becoming more positive after the bleak, existential terror of the whisperers but nope, boom, Gabriel smashes Mays’ face in with Aaron’s prosthetic hand. It’s a pretty shocking (and metal) way for the good Reverend to eliminate Mays and boy does it show how far Gabriel has come. Initially I was disappointed that we weren’t getting the more positive TWD going forward; that this was just a ruse by Gabriel to get Mays to free them. But I soon came to love it – this will go down as a classic The Walking Dead shock and I don’t Gabriel was lying about the good in the world. I think this moment simply goes to show Gabriel has become a lot more pragmatic about the world they live in. Marquand and Gilliam really excel in the scene too, especially Marquand with the look of shock and terror on Aaron’s face.
The show has one final gut punch too, as it reveals that Mays never killed his brother but instead locked him and his brothers family up and made them play his twisted game. The only one left alive when Gabriel and Aaron arrive is Mays’ twin brother – also played by Patrick. I know it sounds daft and maybe it was just a COVID safety measure but having the brother also played by Patrick is an inspired choice. It really drives home the horror of the situation and that last lingering shot on a photo of the brothers at a pre-apocalypse barbecue hits hard. It’s good to see this season continuing to look back at a time before the outbreak, something that the show hasn’t done since the early days. I imagine the Negan-centric episode coming up will do the same. For this episode thought, we have a really solid, small adventure with two of the shows strongest (and sometimes underused talents). It’s not a massive, world changing episode but that’s a good thing. It’s prime example of just how good The Walking Dead can be when it slows down and focuses in. More episodes like this please!