This review contains spoilers.
I’ve never had a pet from a breeder or a pet store. All my pets have been found or rescued via some way. With every rescued pet, particularly the cats I’ve had that have come from cat rescue organizations, there’s always a little bit of work involved in making that cat your friend, rather than just some animal you keep feeding. However, there’s a certain point when a cat is destined to be an outside cat, and there’s no amount of coddling, feeding, or toys that can make that creature into a domesticated animal. That goes double for domestic animals that get lost or escape to the outside world. It changes the animal in a way that can’t be undone.
Rick and his survivors on The Walking Dead are a bunch of feral animals, and Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) is the woman attempting to re-domesticate that pack of cats. Some food, a roof over their heads, soap and a hot shower, clean clothes, a toilet that isn’t a hole in the ground… it’s a much-needed respite from life on the road, but will it be enough? On the surface, everything looks great, but it’s what’s going on inside the heads of our characters that just might screw up the whole deal.
How the characters handle their entrance interview with Deanna and their slow assimilation with the survivors of Alexandria is what drives this episode, which moves slowly and draws out the tension of being an outsider. The interviews are the most interesting little visual blip from director Greg Nicotero; they’re recorded sitting in a chair being interviewed and the footage changes from standard HD television to old-fashioned 4×3 television, like an old video camera from the pre-widescreen days would shoot. The questions are Alexandria’s version of Rick’s Three Questions: who they are, what they hope to get out of Alexandria, and what they used to do in the world outside. It turns out some of those careers, like Rick’s background in law enforcement and Glenn’s peerless ability to go on supply runs, might help knit them into the fabric of the safe zone.
Not without some kinks, mind you. Rick stares down Deanna like a captive prisoner, and can’t sleep at night. Carl is busy attempting to follow a fellow outsider as she skulks around outside the walls. Glenn and Aiden (Daniel Bonjour) immediately butt heads when Glenn finds out that Aiden and his pal keep a zombie on a chain “to remind them of what they’re up against.” (I love that it was a page directly from the Governor’s playbook, even if it was a whole zombie rather than heads in aquariums.) And Daryl, well… Daryl not only refuses to shave, shower, or change clothes, he even takes the time to eat the possum he shot and killed outside the walls rather than depend on the hospitality of the strangers. His pacing and skulking, very much like a feral cat penned inside a garage, was good use of physicality on Norman Reedus’ part. Another one of my favorite moments is the way Carol just blatantly lies to Deanna about her capabilities, just in case the group needs a secret ace in the hole while giving herself an excuse to wander the community at random and have access to knives.
The most telling moments don’t come from the words of the script by Channing Powell (though it is a great script, especially by The Walking Dead standards), but from the actions taken therein. When Glenn gets into a scrape with Aiden, Rick’s group comes running and they strike out brutally. When the walker endangers Tara and Glenn, they ignore Aiden’s command and protect their own. And, as Rick says, if the Alexandria group isn’t strong enough to keep their home safe, well… they’ll just take it from them.
That beat, and the hard pan in on Rick’s face when he says that, means a lot. Has the group gotten so feral that they’re willing to screw over people who are misguided but otherwise friendly? If you’re a member of Alexandria, it’s a legitimate concern. (See also the very cold reception of Rick from Samantha AKA Alexandra Breckenridge’s husband.) If you’re part of Rick’s group, are you really willing to give up your guns and control of your own lives to people who have never stepped foot outside of their flush toilet utopia in exchange for the chance to be involved in said utopia? And what to make of the gambit of making Rick and Michonne the law?
I sincerely doubt they’ll make Rick the bad guy, but the very idea of it pumps a lot of life into the premise of the show. Can Rick turn heel and take over the town like some sort of Clint Eastwood cowboy? Even if it’s for the town’s own good? Perhaps that’s why they were brought in, to help run things rather than to simply make casseroles for old people. Or, perhaps, they’re outside muscle. Or maybe, and this is my favorite theory, Rick is about to go CRAZY.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.