Airdate: March 1, 2015
Directed by: Greg Nicotero
Showrunner: Scott M. Gimple
Written by: Channing Powell (episode); Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore (graphic novels); Frank Darabont (creator)
With strong reservations, Rick and the crew decided to follow Aaron to Alexandria last week, with some – such as Maggie and Michonne – being in favor of following Aaron, and others – Rick, Carol, Daryl – being less enthusiastic. But although they do have their differences within the group, there’s one thing for certain: when Rick refers to the group as his family, he means it with all his heart, and there better not be anyone looking to mess with them. So now that they’ve arrived at the gates of the Alexandria Safe Zone (as it is called in the comics), is this going to be Rick’s Ithaca? Or is his voyage not truly complete yet?
<<Spoiler Alert: The following review will discuss at length plot points of The Walking Dead S05E12, “Remember” – read more at your own risk.>>
Please note that today’s review will be of a more abbreviated variety than is my norm, due to time constraints I’m currently under.
The majority of this week’s episode is about the group trying to find ways to fit into an already established and, at least on the surface, successful settlement. It’s ostensibly run by Deanna Monroe [Tovah Feldshuh], a former Congresswoman from Ohio. She interviews each member of the group, filming them, and we see snippets of these interviews throughout the episode – but for the most part, this is Rick’s show.
There are several subplots beneath the Rick story, which I’ll deal with briefly here. Carl is, for the first time since the prison, learning how to be around other teens. There are two boys, who are into video games and low-stakes adventures, and one girl – Enid [Katelyn Nacon] – who, like Carl, is a newcomer to Alexandria. Before they enter the compound at the beginning of the episode, Carl sees a girl watching them from an abandoned house outside the gates, and when he’s introduced around the older kids, he realizes it was Enid he saw. The teens have also been using a spare room upstairs at the house assigned to Carl and Rick as a kind of hideout; when they first enter the house, Carl hears thumping upstairs, and goes to investigate, knife in hand. He finds magazines, pillows, and a knotted rope hanging out the window.
Later, he espies Enid sneaking up to the fence and watches her, using metal spikes through holes in the support beam, climb over and out. He follows, getting as far as the house that Rick hid the handgun at last week, before he loses her, just in time to have a father/son walker-killing bonding moment with Rick, who is independently in the area, checking for his gun (which, as it so happens, has gone missing – I suspect that Enid may have been spying on them earlier, and taken the gun).
What exactly is Enid up to? It could be that she’s an adventurous type, looking to hone her survival skills – but I don’t think so. While Alexandria seems, so far, to be a fairly safe and straight-forward community of survivors, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other groups around looking to take what Alexandria has. After all, they have electricity, clean running water, homes and medical care, and apparently a working, equitable community. Who wouldn’t want that kind of stability? I suspect, then, that Enid is a mole – she’s in Alexandria gathering information, and reporting back to someone else. Readers of the comics might have ideas as to who this might be, but I’ll just leave that out for now. This would explain why, upon the arrival of Rick and the group, she’s eager to get over the fence unseen – she’s going to report the newcomers to whomever she’s working for.
Another subplot sees Glen, Tara, and Noah given jobs as supply runners, as they’ve talked about past experience doing this. The scavenging team is run by an ex-ROTC guy named Aiden [Daniel Bonjour], who figures his military training (although he admits to not completing it) makes him some kind of badass expert zombie killer. It doesn’t help, however, when he tells Glenn et al how they lost four members the previous month, and then we see why – the guy’s a complete idiot. He and his buddy – Nicholas [Michael Traynor] – have tied up a walker and have been ritually attacking it as a weird form of payback. Predictably, the walker has torn free, and it almost kills both Tara and Glenn before they dispatch it, pissing off Aiden. He feels he’s owed respect because he was there before the others, but it’s ridiculously obvious that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and Glenn calls him out on it – it’s apparent to Glenn that Aiden – not the walkers – is the reason they lost four people. This leads to a confrontation when they get back inside the gate at Alexandria, with Aiden taking a swing at Glenn. Glenn puts him down pretty quickly, and Daryl, attracted by the commotion, puts Nicholas down too, before he can jump Glenn. Things are quickly deescalated, however, when Rick and Deanna show up. In an interesting aside, Deanna thanks Glenn for hitting Aiden, which suggests a couple of things. Either she is trying to get in good with these new people that she recognizes as far tougher and more dangerous than her own people, or she is a weak leader who has not been able to get idiots like Aiden to shape up, giving them too much leeway, and getting people killed. Either way, it does show the beginning of possible fractures in this otherwise ideal community.
Of the remainder of the group, Carol and Daryl are the two most interesting. Daryl is going hardcore survivalist, refusing to shower, change, or stop doing things like gutting a dead possum on the veranda. The clip of his interview with Deanna is excellent: he’s pacing back and forth, maintaining eye contact like a wolf eyeing up its enemy (something he also does with Nicholas and Aiden after Rick gets him up off the former), all while holding onto a possum he shot with his crossbow just as they were entering into Alexandria. Carol goes a different route. When they are turning in their weapons after entering, Carol pretends to have a hard time with her rifle, giving a sheepish “My, look how big this silly gun is” look at the person taking the weapons to storage. In her interview, she talks about how much she misses her husband Ed, and how she’d like to work as a den-mother to the children. She calls this “keeping up appearances” when talking to Daryl, and it’s another ode to her massive kick-assery. While people like Daryl, Rick, and Michonne are the obviously dangerous among the group, Carol is camouflaging herself – thus, she might be overlooked, and can be there to save everyone’s bacon yet again, should it become necessary.
This brings us to the main story of the night: Constable Rick’s reemergence. In his interview with Deanna, he’s honest, brutally so, pointing out that they should never open the gates to anyone (strongly hinting that they shouldn’t have opened them to him, either), as everyone still left alive outside is just looking for what they can get from others. Deanna asks him what he was before, and he doesn’t see the point. She talks at length about how you are a product of where you’ve come from, and explains to him why, to her at least, what you were is just as important as what you’ve become. Predictably, she tells him she suspected as much when he tells her he was a sheriff.
After they’re assigned a house, we get an extended scene of Rick shaving off the beard. On Talking Dead after the episode aired, Andrew Lincoln admitted that this was really his beard, that the crew set up two cameras and let him have at it. Watching first the dirt washing off him in a shower, then the beard coming off in clumps, and finally the clean-shaven Rick from season one emerging in the steam, was a moment of visceral transformation. This is where the “Remember” of the title comes into play, as Rick begins to remember who he was in the pre-apocalypse.
In order to balance this remembrance, and is if to remind Rick of where he was mentally just last week, we have several people warn him that a seemingly safe place like Alexandria might make them soft. Carl is the first to express this, and when he and Rick have the father/son bonding I mentioned earlier, it is actually Carl who is the more active and violent. Others warn him too, and even Michonne, who has been pro-Alexandria from the beginning, lets him know that she’s keeping both eyes open.
Their first night inside, they decide to all bunk down in the same house. Deanna comes by, and commends them for their decision; but by the next day, as things seem to be slowly normalizing, Rick is already telling people that he feels they can safely stay in their own homes. This comes just a few hours after a conversation with Carol and Daryl, where they observe that it feels like they’re being split up within the town, after having been forced to give up their weapons.
This leads to my biggest beef with the episode – how on Earth can Rick be convinced to give up his weapons? The last time they did that, it was at Terminus, and we all know how well that turned out. Yes, Alexandria seems like a safe location, and yes, Aaron seems like a trustworthy guy, but then again, so did Terminus and Gareth, at least on the surface. Rick does hide a weapon outside the town, meaning he thinks he has recourse to arming himself, and it looks as thought they each keep their non-firearm weaponry (including Daryl’s crossbow – but who’s ever going to get that out of his hands again?), but this part just seems to go too simply for me. No fight about it whatsoever, beyond some meaningless posing when they first enter the town.
There is a moment where we get to see just how tense Rick really is under the surface. After he’s shaved, and enjoyed a haircut given to him by one of the locals, he goes out to see the neighborhood, and briefly loses sight of Carl and Judith. Turns out they’re speaking with an older couple, and his relief is palpable. It’s these little moments of shock and then relief that are quickly getting him acclimated to his new surroundings. By the time Deanna shows up at the fight between Glenn and Aiden, and asks Rick to become the town’s constable, he’s ready to put on the hat and badge.
This was an excellent episode, one that seems for the first time in a long time to give us some hope for our survivors. Here’s a community that seemingly has it all: electricity, water, a functioning government, jobs for everyone, and a sense of belonging and inclusiveness that Rick is finding attractive. There are some hints of darker things going on – Aiden and his acceptable ineptitude comes to mind, as well as the hairdresser’s husband who makes the statement “My wife cut your hair” sound vaguely threatening – but for now, it appears that Rick is willing to try settling in, to make a new life here for him and his family. The big questions will be whether or not he and Carol can get Daryl to at least appear to conform, and the problem with Enid. Where is she going? And to whom (if anyone) is she reporting? Time will tell, but rest assured: things are just a little too perfect here in the Alexandria Safe Zone. Don’t expect the quiet pace to last for very long.
Steve’s Grade: A-
Another strong episode continuing the trend so far this half-season. We see a new group, and learn of what life can be like with the right kind of preparations in place. But is there a dark side to Alexandria?