As we may have all noticed this season, the symbolism of “watches” and motifs of time have been prevalent throughout the storytelling. We have a few occurances of “watches” this season alone:
The watch Rick gives Sam
The watch Carol gives Rick
The pocketwatch Hershal gave to Glenn which Glenn is still carrying
The clock Daryl knocks over and stares at in the country club
This imagery is not new this season. Hershal gave that watch to Glenn in season 2 and it makes a reappearance in season 3 when Glenn asks permission to marry Maggie. But even as far back as season one, we have the idea of time and timepieces popping up. Morales asks Dale at the fish fry, “Why do you keep winding that watch?”
Dale’s reply is from Faulkner:
I like what, uh, a father said to son when he give him a watch that had been handed down through generations. He said “I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire, which will fit your individual needs no better than it did mine or my father’s before me, I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you may forget it for a moment now and then and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it.”
Here is the idea of “forgetting time,” allowing yourself permission to forget about time and not trying to conquer it. Living for the moment. Forgetting the past. Moving forward with no real purpose but to live in the moment. In this new world were every moment could be your last, this is foreboding, prophetic, and solid advice. Live for the now. Forget your past (come back from it?). And time, although important in terms of determining seasons and hours of the day, is not as important as it once was. In our lives, schedules and appointments take up so much of our energy so that keeping track of time, to the minute, is of the essence. In their world, time is more “laid back.” It doesn’t have to be 12:02, but it can be “about noon.”
If speculation is correct about the importance of Glenn’s pocketwatch in the finale, then time and watches become another import symbol – a way to tie the group together. To make them aware of each other. Time would become that identifiable symbol that allows our group to perhaps reunite. Daryl mentioned to Michonne that if she “stuck around in one place for long enough, it’s amazing what people can learn about each other.” The very amount of time that this group has spent together binds them together. Daryl knows Michonne’s favorite candy bar and probably identified the wrapper he stepped over on the tracks. Rick would recognize Glenn’s watch and realize his group was in Terminus. The “passing of time” literally (passing on a timepiece from one person to the next) becomes a ritual and a way to show respect and love for each other. Time becomes a binding agent for our group of survivors.
The flip side of the motif of time is, quite obviously, everyone in our group is living on borrowed time and never know when their time is up. But I think the use of time is supposed to show a more positive view of the passing and spending of time in this new world. As Dale quoted, how you spend your time is more important that the passing of time itself. And I think the motif of time, as especially focused on this season, is just counting down the moments they spend apart, trying to find each other and learn more about each other, until their reunion.