Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review The Walking Dead each week in a series of letters.
Last week we wondered if the downfall of Alexandria was going to come from Rick and the gang. But now we see that their newfound utopia was already full of incompetence and cowardice, and that paradise was already about to be lost. They have a system, Shane, and that system involves cutting bait at the first hint of danger. If, say, your crappy shooting knocks the lookout from her tower, the handbook says “immediately run away and leave her to die.” And when your best friend gets impaled on some wrought iron, page 27 reads, “lie and tell everyone you checked on him and he’s dead.”
The residents of Alexandria suck at the zombie apocalypse. They need Rick. Especially the abusive fathers. They need Rick a whole other kind of way.
But before we get to that, NOAH! We lost Noah thanks to that asshole Nicholas who thinks he might have read “when in a tight spot, every man for himself” on page 19 of Zombie Survival For Dummies. And not only did the writers kill Noah, they gave him one of the most brutal deaths since…well, at least since Aiden earlier in the episode. Two up-close zombie feasts in “Spend,” including one of the most sweet and innocent characters—who was in it for the long haul, wanting to learn how to build—pressed up against the glass as zombies ripped the flesh from his cheeks.
And if Nicholas’ betrayal wasn’t enough, we have Father Gabriel—the man who locked his own parishioners outside to die—finding some deformed version of a conscience and poisoning Deanna against Rick and the gang. What did they do that so offended his sense of goodness? They gunned down a bunch of cannibals that were going to eat him—in church.
I’m mad, Shane. At Nicholas. At Father Gabriel. And a maybe even a little at tonight’s writer, Jennifer Lynch, who decided that I needed to watch Noah get torn apart alive. It was an intense episode when I was expecting a little more calm before the storm now that they’re in a safe place. That’s a good thing, but The Walking Dead certainly offers little mercy. What did you think? Too much? Or is this why we love the show?
Good God, what just happened?
Nicholas is easily the biggest asshole on the planet, and I don’t think I’m going to stop being angry at him until he’s dead. Glenn showed way more mercy than I would have when he loaded him into the back of the van—between he and the other idiot, Aiden, they make a two-man walking death trap, indiscriminately shooting live grenades, leaving friends to die at the drop of a hat, and turning simple runs into suicide missions. At least Aiden had the courtesy to die after his latest screw-up, but Nicholas is going to be around to screw things up into the future.
Here’s what’s going to happen, Josh: That psychopathic coward Father Gabriel has poisoned Deanna against the gang, and now Nicholas is going to come back and protect himself by spinning a web of lies about how they killed her son. Then the wife-beating doctor will join the propaganda campaign, and we’ll have ourselves a war. I’m not sure if you saw “scenes from next week,” but it seems to involve Sasha living out her Charles Whitman destiny and sniping people left and right.
This all depends on Deanna now, and she’s going to be rattled by her son’s death. She’s the only one who can understand the complexities of Rick’s group and take the good (leadership, survival skills, a pretty impressive moral center considering the circumstances) with the bad (a predilection for violence, Carol giving terrifying speeches to children, Sasha harboring mass murder fantasies). She’s the glue, and I don’t think the glue is going to hold. She’s like Elmer’s, Josh. A BAD GLUE.
I’m so bummed about Noah. The really touching moment of this episode came when he met with Reg to start an apprenticeship. He wanted to learn to preserve and to build, and he understood the importance of passing knowledge from one generation to another. He’s exactly the kind of person you want on your side in the zombie apocalypse, especially the rebuilding phase, and he’s dead because of the exact opposite.
So, where the hell are we now? Father Gabriel is going off the deep end (and I really hope that isn’t the last bible he was destroying, or future generations will think the whole thing stops pretty abruptly after, like, Deuteronomy), Carol is in Rick’s ear advocating murder, and Deanna’s about to find out her son died under mysterious circumstances just after a renegade priest told her she had invited Satan into her walls.
This can’t be good, Josh. With two episodes left, I’m predicting chaos and violence, and the peaceful promise of Alexandria imploding in a flurry of bullets and smoke. And as of now, their best fighter, Daryl, isn’t even around to support them. But with the way the Alexandria citizens seem to abandon each other at the first sign of trouble, they may not even need him.
I agree that it’s all going to depend on Deanna. So far, she’s shown herself to be an admirable leader, but the proof of that is hard to find. The men she appointed to lead the construction crew and the supply-run crew were both terrible at their jobs and tended to get people killed. She’s going to have a lot of conflicting data to try to suss out, but in the end, even if she thinks Rick’s gang are bad people, is there anything she can do about that? Once you’ve invited them in, you can’t exactly uninvite them.
And so much for Carol scarring that kid for life last week. She may be that creepy new lady, but she’s the creepy new lady with cookies. And it looks like little Sam was scarred long before Carol got there. His dad is the real creep. There is no greater sin to Carol than a man who beats up on his family. Dr. Pete might as well be infected. Don’t be surprised if you find his body burned beyond recognition in the near future.
So they all got hot showers and attended a nice cocktail party, but that appears to be the end of a respite in Alexandria. Two episodes left in the season—Carl doesn’t need to worry about anyone getting complacent and soft.
So a question for you: There’s a sheriff in town, but what do you do about law-breakers? There’s no prison, so how do you deal with a guy whose inflated sense of self-preservation causes the death of team member? What do you do with a potential child abuser? Who’s the judge and jury? As you said, Glenn was merciful in even bringing Nicholas back alive, but now what?
I was thinking that myself. At some point, you have to build a jail, right? At least it creates another job! But the concept of a jail is pretty terrifying in the apocalypse, since if any walkers break through, the jailbird is pretty screwed. Or maybe he’s the safest of all? I can’t tell. Crap, now you’ve got me thinking about the worst possible way to die, which is by sitting in a jail cell slowly starving to death while zombies try to break through while you wither away.
You’re right—there’s no disinviting this crew. Which is why, in a strange way, I wonder if Father Gabriel hasn’t followed his craziness to a somewhat reasonable proposition—maybe they’re so damaged that they truly are poison to a society like this, even if they mean well. I mean, let’s be real, we all love Rick, but the guy has the emotional complexity of a prune. Sasha is legitimately nuts, Carol has re-discovered the bloodlust that once got her kicked out of the group, and I really don’t know what to think of Abraham, except that he isn’t happy unless he’s leading or fighting. At least Eugene’s not a coward now, though!
One thing I noticed in our reviews—unlike when we write about Better Call Saul, we’re pretty much totally wrapped up in the Walking Dead world. We rarely step back to analyze the success of the show this season, which I think means—I don’t want to put words in your mouth—that we’re both pretty well sold on season five. Especially this second half. I’ve been thoroughly entertained, and I think the writers have followed their strengths. There hasn’t been too much obnoxious philosophizing, and the themes come through in action rather than words. There’s always some deeper nugget to mine—was Noah’s death a sign that the pure can’t thrive in this world? Was Nicholas’ survival an indication that cutthroats survive, at least in the short term? Does the evil husband represent Carol having to confront her own past?
On that last question, probably not—they just needed a way to not make Rick seem like a dick when he steals the dude’s wife. Easy solution: Make him an abuser!
Regardless, this has been such a strong season. Until next week, please don’t die, Daryl Dixon.