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Episode: 515
Airdate: March 22, 2015
Directed by: Angela Kang
Showrunner: Scott M. Gimple
Written by: TBA (episode); Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore (graphic novels); Frank Darabont (creator)

Last week’s episode left us with a lot of hanging plots, not the least of which involve how Deanna is going to take her son, Aiden’s, death, and how Rick intends to deal with the wife and child abuser Pete, who just so happens to also be the community’s doctor. Things are just a little too “normal” in Alexandria, and there’s a sense that the wheels are about to come off for several members of our group. Click through for my review and synopsis.

<<Spoiler Alert: The following review will discuss at length plot points of The Walking Dead S05E15, “Try” – read more at your own risk.>>

The episode begins with Deanna, Reg, and Spencer sitting in their living room by candlelight, mourning the loss of Aiden. Deanna puts a CD, labeled “Run mix,” into a player. The first song to play is “Somewhat Damaged” by Nine Inch Nails. Click on the video below if you want to listen to the whole song:


 

The production team couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate song for what the group is going through right now. Sasha encapsulated this a couple of episodes back, at the welcome party, when she shouted at the Alexandrian women discussing recipes, “THESE are the things you worry about?” Tonight, we got see Sasha taken to the edge, and Rick driving right over it.

As the music is playing in the Monroe household, we cut back and forth between a few different scenes. In one set, we see Carol preparing a tuna casserole; in another, a walker approaching the gates in the darkness; then to Sasha, looking out into the night holding her gun, nervous tension dancing across her face. Back in the home, Reg tells Deanna to turn off the music, just as a knock comes on the door. Opening it, Deanna finds Carol’s casserole on the porch, with a note: “We’re truly sorry for your loss.” Taking the note, she leaves the food, and then lights the note with a candle, holding it as it burns. Outside, we flash back to Sasha, who takes out the walker at the gates with a well-placed head shot.

We cut to a field at night, and a walker takes a crossbow bolt to the head; we’re with Daryl and Aaron, and their cross-country bromance. Aaron comments that there are more around, and Daryl says that someone is, pointing at a fire they can see burning just inside a treeline near them.

The next day, Deanna is going over Nicholas’s testimony about the events on the run that killed Aiden. Predictably, he’s blaming everything on Glen, but he’s evasive and nervous, and when he asks Deanna if she can see what he’s saying, she tells him that she can see far more than he realizes. This is interspersed with Glenn retelling what happened, in his case to Rick. This serves to show the divide that is growing between the two camps, the long-time Alexandrians versus Rick and the group. Glen isn’t shown giving his side of events (read: the truth) to Deanna; while I can only presume that he does need to talk to her, we don’t see this, emphasizing further the divide. Rick leans in and quietly tells Glen, “They don’t know what they’re doing, any of them.” Glen reminds Rick that Noah had wanted to make Alexandria work, and that they should do their best to make it so. As an argument, I found this more than a little flat. Yes, seeing Noah torn apart in front of him has obviously affected Glen adversely; but Noah was still a relatively new member of the group. While his eternal optimism might be seen as infectious, we never really saw him bonding or growing in friendship with anyone. Why, then, would his death serve as a catalyst for the “can’t we all just get along” camp?

Later, Rick and Carol observe Jessie and her two kids on their porch. Carol asks Rick if he’s thought about their conversation, and follows up by telling Rick that she sees that he’s grown attracted to Jessie. He seems hesitant to do Carol’s bidding, so she tries to push him a little, saying that, “If a walker hadn’t got Ed, I wouldn’t be here.” Rick replies, “Yes, you would,” but he walks away as he says it. He’s admitting that he does know how to deal with the kind of person Pete is, and that he’s going to go do it, despite his earlier hesitation.

That evening, Rick stands on the road near the central pond. He looks at a red balloon tied to a toy boat, and holds his secret gun. Pete approaches him, and tries to open a dialogue. “Keep walking,” Rick says, menace clear as day writ large in his voice. Pete looks confused – he’s trying to make overtures, and certainly he suspects Rick’s affection for his wife, but he doesn’t realize that Rick is weighing his life on his scales right before him.

We next see Michonne waking up in bed. This is the scene from the Sneak Peek video released earlier in the week by AMC. She looks at a laundry basket full of clean clothing, hesitates over what to wear, and gets joined by Rosita, who informs her that Sasha is nowhere to be found. They head out to look for her, the first time either of them has been outside the gates since they arrived at Alexandria. Rosita tells Michonne that the place is changing them, but Michonne denies it – until Rosita points out to her, “You didn’t bring your sword with you. That’s not nothing.”

Cut to Rick and Deanna standing in front of four grave markers. I’m assuming that two are for Noah and Aiden, and the other two for – well, that isn’t ever clear. Nor is the reason that the ground is freshly turned for all four, especially considering that we know at least two of them are likely empty graves. However, the more important point of this scene is their conversation. Rick tells Deanna they have a problem with Pete, and Rick finds out, much to his surprise, that this isn’t news to Deanna. She’s been giving Pete a free-pass due to the fact that he’s a doctor, and they need him. Not good enough for Rick. He suggests that they move Pete out to another house, and when Deanna presses him, asking what if Pete decides to ignore them, Rick tells her he’ll kill him. She tells him in no uncertain terms that this will not happen, and gives a veiled threat that if he persists with this kind of thinking, he may find himself exiled from the community.

Outside, Michonne and Rosita start coming across downed walkers, each with single shots to the backs of their heads. Michonne looks worried, saying, “She’s hunting them.”

Elsewhere, Carl is walking through the woods, when Enid’s voice comes from somewhere nearby, telling him that she knows he’s following her, and that he’s done it before. They end up talking a bit, she admitting that she’s a little frightened of him, and they end up chasing each other through the woods like a couple of children. At the end of their chase, a walker is nearby, so Enid takes a kitchen timer, winds it up, and tosses it to distract the walker away from them.

In town, Nicholas is scrubbing out the back of the van. Glen approaches him, and tells him that he won’t be allowed to head outside of Alexandria anymore. Nicholas tries to stand Glen down, but Glen insists that he isn’t doing it to punish Nicholas – he says, “No, I’m saving you.”

Back to the teens. They’re sitting together against a log, and Carl asks her why she’s afraid of him. She doesn’t really answer, but pulls out a knife instead, digging at the wood. “Nice knife,” Carl says, in what for him is his best approximation of a post-apocalyptic pick-up line. Hearing approaching walkers, the two run and hide inside a hollow tree, face to face, nearly touching. Enid whispers to him, a plum piece of wisdom. In reference to the walkers, she says, “It’s their world. We’re just living in it.” His hand strays against hers for a moment, but he pulls back. She smiles, and says, “You’re afraid of me too.”

In a sinister move, we see a pair of hands scrabbling away some dirt at the base of a tree. They uncover what looks like a cremation urn, and opening it, pull out a gun – the gun that Rick hid outside Alexandria about four episodes ago, if I’m not mistaken. Who’s hands are they? Nicholas. I don’t suspect he’s grabbing the gun for noble intentions. Glen had better be careful around him – this guy’s a coward, and there’s no greater fear for a coward than exposure. He’d rather kill Glen than face himself.

Meanwhile, Michonne and Rosita catch up with Sasha. She’s taking down a bunch of walkers, and the other two women join in as they begin to approach from multiple directions. Sasha gets angrier as each one goes down, telling the others that she has this, that she doesn’t need them. She rants almost incoherently for a moment, then basically tells Michonne that this is largely in response to Noah going down the day before. Again, this rings a little hollow for me, almost as though the show’s producers are trying to create a false sympathy for a relatively minor and unknown character. Yes, Noah was likable, and yes, his death was particularly grotesque, but really – would not one but two of our main group members be affected by his death in this way? Especially after seeing so much death already? After all, Sasha has just lost both her brother and the man she was falling in love with; Noah’s death should be nothing more than a footnote for her. On a side note, the last walker Sasha takes down before her rant has a “W” carved into it’s forehead, something we’ve seen a lot of since the mid-season hiatus.

We cut back to the road, where Daryl and Aaron investigate the woods where they saw the light the night before. They find one or more dismembered bodies. “This just happened,” Daryl says. The body parts do, indeed, look fresh – in fact, they don’t look as though they belonged to walkers. Was someone here in the night butchering people? This does not bode well. They go a bit further in, and find a naked, eviscerated woman tied to a tree. She’s turned, but it appears that she was likely alive at the time she was tied up, as her body hasn’t had time for any decay or rot to set in. She, too, like the last walker Sasha killed, has a “W” carved into her forehead.

In town, Rick finally goes to speak with Jessie. She is majorly resistant to his offers of help, telling him that she’s dealt with Pete’s problems before, and that she’ll deal with them again. She kicks Rick out of the garage, closing the door behind him.

He heads outside, and looks around the community. He sees people playing, walking, doing normal things. Gathering up his courage, he goes up to Jessie’s front door and lets himself in. He does the Rick head-angled-down look of earnestness, and tells her, “Sam asked for a gun to protect you.” She hesitates, tears in her eyes, so he goes pushes further, using her children to try to sway her. He tells her, “I can keep you and your boys safe. I can. All you have to do is say yes.” She asks if he would do the same for anyone in her situation, and when he says he wouldn’t, she replies, “Yes.” Of course, this is the moment that Pete decides to enter the room.

He’s aggressive, abusive, telling Rick to leave. Jessie tells Pete he needs to leave, and he gets up in her face, accusing her of telling tales out of school. Rick tells him that Pete needs to come with him, and Pete goes after him, throwing a punch. They engage, and the two men go flying out the front window and into the street. They take turns getting the upper hand, first Pete trying to choke Rick, and then Rick trying to gouge Pete’s eyes. Everyone in town comes running; we even see Sasha tracking the people heading toward the fight in her scope. Carl and Enid come running, as do Glen and Nicholas. The red balloon that Rick noticed earlier goes floating up into the sky – a loss of hope, perhaps, or maybe of some modicum of innocence.

Jessie tries to pull Pete off Rick, and gets hit hard in the face and knocked back. Carl comes in, trying to stop Rick, and gets thrown back by his dad as well. Finally, Deanna and a few Alexandrians show up. When one of them goes to stop Rick, he pulls his gun, pointing it wildly about himself, using it to punctuate his sentences in a very dangerous manner. Rick has officially become unhinged. He goes off on a long rant about how badly the Alexandrians are screwing things up, and how his way is better. All the time he’s speaking, we cut back and forth between his speech, and Sasha outside, killing walkers at the walls (side note – the last one she tags has – you guessed it – a “W” carved into its forehead). He says, “We know what needs to be done, and we do it. We’re the ones who live.” He tells Deanna that she needs to be careful who she lets into the town, indicating that people like Pete shouldn’t be there, but she replies, “That has never been clearer to me than it is right now.” Clearly, she’s referring to Rick himself, and this drives his rant to a newly elevated pitch. He appears to be on the verge of issuing some sort of us or them ultimatum, when Michonne, now wearing her deputy’s uniform, steps in and knocks him out.

Quite the note to end the episode on. Michonne’s actions are bound to be controversial, but I think they were necessary. Rick really had lost it. He was raving, practically foaming at the mouth, and he’d lost any modicum of control. His intentions in dealing with the Pete situation were anything but honorable. Yes, Pete is an abusive a-hole, and yes, he needs to be dealt with. But Rick admits to Jessie that the only reason he’s doing this is because he has feelings for her. This is not how a cop should be doing his job, and Rick knows better. It’s almost as if the normalcy that has attended their new lives in Alexandria has made him crave the nuclear family that he hasn’t had since Lori died. This does not mean he has the right to step into a situation and try to take a new surrogate, despite the fact that Pete is what he is.

The correct answer to Jessie’s question should have been “Yes.” If that entailed her response becoming “No,” then so be it – it would have been the right call, and Rick would have maintained his integrity in his confrontation with Pete. Instead, he devolves into a mere savage, showing just how far the outside world has taken him from civilization. Juxtaposing his out-of-control descent with Sasha’s highly controlled descent shows that there are at least two ways to lose your humanity here; Carol’s carefully quiet manipulations show, perhaps, a third.

Not everyone is descending into this group madness. Glen, despite his experiences and horror at watching Noah die, insists that they as a group try to make Alexandria work; Daryl has apparently bought in to Aaron’s charm, helping in his own way; we saw Abraham take on a leadership role last week; and Michonne clearly shows that she takes her uniform and badge seriously, keeping the peace for all, even at the cost of hurting one of their own.

Speaking of Daryl, although he and Aaron only got about four minutes of screentime tonight, I found their storyline to be very interesting. It’s pretty clear that whoever did the things done to the bodies they found is also who is carving the “W”s into walkers’ foreheads, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out who that is next week. The show needs some sort of cliffhanger going into the summer hiatus, and while Rick’s situation will likely lead to one, another good tease would be to get an idea who these “W” people are. Yes, they’re likely the group called the Wolves we’ve been teased with for six weeks now, but that doesn’t really tell us anything. Perhaps if the “W”s had, instead, been an “S” – or even an “N” – but no dice.

For some, then, Alexandria has had a civilizing effect, whereas for others, it has forced them to confront their own lack of humanity in the face of crisis. Rick is still recuperable, as are they all at this point; but if he’d taken things a step further, if he’d killed Pete, there might have been no going back for him, any more than there would have been recourse for him had he issued some sort of us-or-them ultimatum to Deanna and her people. He’s on precarious ground right now, and I suspect that next week is going to bring judgement upon him – both from the larger group and, more importantly, from himself. Only Rick has the strength to change Rick; here’s hoping he can get himself back on track before he ends up taking people down around him with his Pyrrhic stubbornness. And what, exactly, does Nicholas intend to do with that gun he’s carrying?


Cool Stuff

Here’s a 1956 Oscar-winning short film called The Red Balloon. Maybe Rick just needs to find his inner-child again:


 

Steve’s Grade: A
An episode that addresses the primary theme of Season 5: what is it that we become? Right now, neither Rick nor Sasha appear to be heading in very good directions, neither for themselves nor for the group; next week could bring some very difficult decisions.

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Comments
  1. dave says:

    I did like how Rick channeled Shane’s “I’ll take care of you and your child” plea. I guess Shane just took the express highway to zombie apocalypse madman while Rick got off at a few exits to sightsee. Of course, back in season 2 I was a Shane fan, but that was mainly because Rick and Lori were both so damn annoying.

    • He definitely improved, but it took some time. I liked Shane’s anger, but thought he ended up getting dragged out too long. The thing that bothered me the most about that storyline was Lori’s incessant “You need to deal with Shane” “Shane needs to go” etc., and then when Rick does kill him – in self-defense – she got all, “How could you?” A very inconsistently written – and acted – character.

      • dave says:

        All of season 2 got dragged out toooooooo long. If it wasn’t for the mid-season and season finale episodes being pretty kick ass I might have stopped watching during that season. Yes, Lori tells Rick “Shane needs to go”, then finds Shane on the water tower and practically confirms every crazy thought he has about the two of them being together.

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