All too often life has shown its not afraid to kill off someone we love. Someone we’ve grown with and shared years of fond memories only to get cut away in a sudden instant. Tonight Epicstream would like to pay tribute to a true iconic legend that departs our lives this week...... Rick’s beard RIP. You were the source of manly ruggedness we all hope to aspire to we know right now you’re up there playing Mirror Mirror with Leonard Nimoy with your days of road kill and zombie guts catching behind you. Rick never had a dog but we know you were this man’s best friend.
Remember – As the group enters the Alexandria safe zone community it feels like another dimension of prior world comforts they thought they’d lost. After varying levels of unease and the reassurances of community leader Deanna they decide to stay but is this band of more sheltered survivors ready to handle their wild and hardened selves?
The whole episode is a very surprising tonal shift for The Walking Dead moving almost entirely away from an action basis to an exploration of character psychology. We see the group, the wild things they have become over this series, plunged into a zoo like cage and watch how they all react with fascination like a post-apocalyptic Big Brother. The interwoven interview scenes forming the diary room as the different characters express their true feelings about their new surroundings. By far the most fun and clever is Carol who from the start is playing an absolute rope-a-dope on all involved as paints herself as the groups “den mother” and a people person completely concealing the utter stone cold badass she has become to stay under their radar. Watch the genius little moment as she deliberate gets clumsy and cumbersome with her gun when handing it over to appear like a novice and of course her full blown house granny disguise clothing as she becomes a care worker for the older residents. Then at the extreme of non-acceptance we have Daryl stubbornly refusing to let any of his guard down as he even declines the home comforts of showers and a clean kitchen to stay dirty and skin a freshly skewed possum out on the porch for his dinner. While this allows for laughs like Carol threatening hosing him down in his sleep it also singularly personifies the groups greatest fear of becoming soft and vulnerable now staying alive is not such a struggling. For so long Daryl has become so dependent on those skills that idea of abandoning them scares him either for his security or loss of purpose; does this new community really need a hunter and tracker? Though the biggest focus is of course on Rick. His mental journey of acceptance is portrayed to embody the whole groups (as individuals accept so does his mind start to sway). His interview with Deanna is such a captivating scene as the two feel each other out and with a satisfying end conclusion is Deanna emphasis on value placing on old world lives sees him appointed as a sheriff once more along with deputy Michone. As Vader “Nooooo” worthy his new grooming is they form a nice metaphor for returning to his former self. You also have to love Rick’s foreboding warnings that they should just keep their gates shut. One final thought to consider regarding Deanna. Though she comes across as highly benevolent figure acting in the interests of the community we must not forget that admits to being a 15 year politician..... so we must embrace the very real possibility that many of her words are complete BS or at least heavily spun.
Yet the episode does a fantastic job of implanting underlying threats and danger just as it’s creating the idea of safety and comfort for the group. Firstly there are the existing residents who very clearly have never had to defend themselves from any remotely significant human threat. They have no lookouts posted, minimal security detail and though their walls maybe walker proof; from either side they’re quite literally child’s play to scale. If many ways the place is just a giant lambs pen. If the Governor had made is way here the only thing stopping him taking over the place would be collapsing from laughter at the sight of them. Next there are their attitudes as supply run head Aiden clearly demonstrates, their delusions of safety have made them cocky as they string up their trophy walker and make loud noises like they’re Brick Tamland. Glen’s reaction and confrontation with Aiden is brilliant as he clearly identifies his reckless and arrogant leadership style as contributory in their recent supply team deaths. Yet the potentially biggest threat is only vaguely implied in connection to their weakness to human attack. In echoing of episode 9’s “The Wolves are near” graffiti clue we see Carl picking up a comic in front of the camera entitled “Wolf Attack” as a teasing clue to where the series is heading in climax. What’s more there may already be a wolf amongst their flock in sheep’s clothing.... consider Carl’s new girl “not-friend” Enid (who’s named as the comic owner). Firstly she’s only joined the community recently and generally seems very indifferent to others there. Secondly she sneaks out over the fence at a point behind houses she knew to be deserted (until the group arrived) to run off someone into the woods. It feels like quite a safe bet that she’s been planted amongst the community by The Wolfs to case the place out for their upcoming attack (maybe under duress i.e. her family is hostage?). A potentially brewing relationship with Carl (we’d imagine his first kiss if that happens) could really complicate that nicely as Enid gets caught between her loyalties to The Wolves and her feelings for Carl. What’s more the young lad isn’t the only Grimes being eyed up as the new stud in town as there’s clear implications of forthcoming relations with Rick and new cast member Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge – True Blood, American Horror Story). Their scenes together form a wonderful expression of Rick’s unease and anxiety at his new surroundings her endear us to Jessie through her understanding “It’s ok if you’re not ok with this yet”. A single ominous night time meeting between Rick and Jessie’s husband implying they’ll be no happy threesome relationship going down here only some good old fashioned face punching.
Remember is a surprisingly wonderful episode that sees the season really take a turn for the interesting as the group find themselves as moderate fish in this new social and political pond. We know something big will go down over the next four episodes but there’s so many new possibilities ahead that the how and why really feels like it will be rewarding. Especially with Rick’s ominous and foreboding closure If they can’t make it then we’ll just take this place” implying that some parts of him can’t be shaven away.