Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review The Walking Dead each week in a series of letters.
New characters! New plots! New suspicions!
For an episode without much action, “Remember” made for a pretty damn exciting hour, right? This may be premature, but I think it’s safe to say that Alexandria is not some weird cannibal torture cult, but rather a nice neighborhood and just about the best option you could hope to find in the zombie-scape. That being said, we knew there would be drama of some kind, and it turns out that it will come in the form of…douchebags! Just like in our world, Josh!
The first half of “Remember” was all suspense, playing out the string that began last week. Should they trust this little paradise they’ve found, which comes with running water, a stylist, friends for your kids, and old people that will adore your baby? Is Deanna the former congresswoman legit? (Also, shouldn’t Rick have asked if she was Republican or Democrat to decide whether she was evil? Haha! Just kidding, anyone who is now offended!) Should they sleep in separate mansions? They knew that bit of suspense could only last long, and soon it segued into a tentative trust—when Rick broke the owl sculpture in his panic and then realized his kids were safe, that was the big moment of relief, when we could finally believe in the community.
From there, the conflict got even more interesting…what’s the interaction like between people who have lived safely behind walls for the duration of the apocalypse, and those who have been on the outside? You can see some of the group starting to conform, but it’s quickly dividing along class lines. The odd man out is Daryl—in a weird way, the zombie apocalypse gave him the kind of status that he could never have aspired to in a world when he was just a redneck with survival skills. Now he feels the pain of his old exclusion, and you can tell he’s spoiling for a fight. He doesn’t want to lose everything he’s gained, even though he knows the community will be good for Judith and Carl and most of the rest of the group. It hurts him especially when he sees Carol all dressed up for work, as though their bond from the wild days has evaporated with the re-introduction of actual society. It reminds me of the Bielksi partisans, a group of Jewish partisans who escaped the Nazis and lived in the forests of what’s now Belarus, eluding the Germans and surviving on their own. There, the men who had been academics quickly paled in status to the ones with actual workable skills, who were prepared to survive. The social order was reversed, and Daryl’s experiencing the reverse of that phenomenon now.
There are two characters from Alexandria who clearly represent conflict. The first is the husband of the stylist that Rick will surely be hooking up with one day soon, provided there’s any justice. We barely met him, but he seems like the kind of jealous a-hole who wouldn’t let Rick just take his wife from him, am I right? Then there’s Aiden, who seems like a classic buffoon, yet is somehow in charge of supply runs even though he gets his own people killed and tries to tie up zombies because he thinks it’s a good way to get revenge. It was nice to see Glen coldcock him—even for Aiden’s mother, apparently—but we haven’t heard the last of this guy.
Finally, there’s the issue of becoming weak and complacent behind the walls. Rick, a constable once more, finds it impossible, and I don’t know about you, Josh, but I found it a little chilling and pretty powerful at the end of the episode when he laid it on the line—either the community works, or they’ll simply take it for themselves. We’ve spent this whole time suspicious of Alexandria’s motives, but perhaps we’ve had it all wrong—maybe they just invited the wolves through their door.
Before I kick it your way, Josh, a totally unrelated note that is nonetheless urgent—did you notice that they’re now running old mini-clips of the show halfway through commercial breaks, to trick people like me into stopping our DVR fast-forward and accidentally watching commercials? THAT’S BULLSHIT! Brilliant, but bullshit.
Rick is the one who knocks! How great was his matter-of-fact declaration to the distrusting braintrust—Carol and Daryl—that if things don’t work out with the residents of Alexandria, they’ll simply take it? Michonne and Glen are determined to make the new arrangement work, but not everyone in Rick’s gang is ready to let their guard down. Carol, particularly, in hiding her badassery from Deanna and pretending to be the helpless den mother, is donning sheep’s clothing and sharpening her wolf’s teeth.
And while this seems like the safest the gang has been since Rick was tending his prison garden, it’s not all videogames and cute hairdressers behind the walls of Alexandria. There’s Aiden, the self-proclaimed douchebag leader of supply runs, playing at some kind of revenge fantasy on a Roamer and nearly getting Tara killed—then trying and failing to sucker punch Glen. Glen! Who would take a cheap shot at Glen? But my favorite of the new characters is Jessie’s creepy husband sitting on the porch in the dark, greeting Rick with, “My wife cut your hair.” Like Deanna, I’m a great judge of character, and I can immediately tell he and Rick are going to be besties.
The biggest mystery we’re left with, though, is who took Checkov’s…I mean Rick’s gun from the coffee pot in the trash heap? My money is on Enid, the little goth girl who’s clearly destined to be Carl’s first crush. The most suspenseful moment for me was when Enid, Carl, Rick and the supply runners were all outside the walls at the same time, each thinking they were alone. Zombie hunting accidents are a serious matter, Shane. And none of them were wearing orange vests.
I don’t know about you, but so far I really like Deanna. She seems like a capable leader, balancing the need for safety and strength with a desire to maintain some semblance of civilization. She also recognized that her son needed to get punched in the face. She basically wins the argument with Rick that what they were before still matters. She sees Rick’s stop-at-nothing protectiveness of his family and realizes that it’s best to be a part of that family. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, but as it stands, when the apocalypse comes, I’d rather be in Deanna’s compound than following Rick into the wilderness. At least this week.
And yes, AMC has been doing the old-scenes-in-the-middle-of-a-commercial-break trick for months. Gets me every time.
I first read this sentence: “My money is on Enid, the little goth girl who’s clearly destined to be Carl’s first crush”
as: “My money is on Enid, the little goth girl who’s clearly destined to be Carol’s first crush”
All I could think was, hmmm…interesting take, Josh.
That misconception aside, I’m with you every step of the way here. I like Deanna, I’m worried about Aiden and the weird husband, and Enid was watching the gang enter the compound, probably saw Rick stash the gun, and is absolutely the likely thief. I can’t imagine who else would have done it, or why—they badly want Rick and co. to stay, and stealing his gun would only send him into a panic.
Another interesting moment came when Rick and Carl decided to take on the zombies in hand-to-hand combat rather than just shooting them. It was almost like they had to convince themselves they hadn’t gone soft, despite the safety of the walls and the comforts of running water. Which is fair enough, but I also had to wonder if they missed the adrenaline rush of fighting, the way a returning veteran will struggle to deal with the lack of tension. We haven’t really talked about the possibility of PTSD, since it seemed like the war would never end, but here we are—I can absolutely see the group struggling to return to civilian life, particularly someone like Rick who has come to terms with the need to be ruthless, violent and suspicious.
My question to you is this: We know this isn’t going to work out, for one reason or another, so Josh, how’s it going to fail? Will the gang fail to acclimate to civilian life and force a conflict with the Alexandrians? Will Aiden prove to be too much of a douchebag? Will we get a Romeo & Juliet saga from Carl and Enid, which divides the community and leads to a blood feud? Or will Rick just kill Jessie’s husband for sport, and to secure a new wife?
Either way, I’m still enjoying this season immensely. I think we’re deep enough into Season Five to pass judgement—where do you rank it against the others? I’ve got it pretty high…maybe second to Season One? Am I crazy?
It’d be cheating to answer that question since I’ve read the comics, but now I kind of wish the TV writers would change things up and give us a Romeo & Juliet blood feud instead. Enid was just pretending to be a zombie, Carl! She took the goth thing a step too far. Oh why did you have to smash her skull in with that rebar?!? Enid was your sun!
As far as this season as a whole, I agree it’s been a strong one so far. But Season Three remains my favorite. It included all the action at the prison and all the insanity at Woodbury. We had the show’s best antagonist in The Governor. And the stakes felt so high because we’d spent all of Season Two getting to know the characters.
But there’s been plenty to love about this season with four episodes still to come. I’ll just leave it with the remaining episode titles to see if they hint at what’s to come: “Forget,” “Spend,” “Try” and “Conquer.”
Please don’t die, Daryl Dixon.
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