This review contains spoilers.
There’s something rotten in Denmark, and by Denmark I mean the Alexandria Safe Zone. I’m not sure what it is, but I am not the only one that feels that way. Throughout this episode, there are hints dropped that there’s something strange going on. From the stamping of hands at the party to the fact that there are zombies with mysterious letters carved into their heads that may or may not have been sent as a warning, it’s clear that there’s something ominous about to go down, and it’s only smart that Rick, Carol, and Daryl are wise in their pursuit of some unregulated firepower, just to be safe.
After all, even the safest of walled cities is only as safe as its craziest member, and it’s clear that there are some damaged people within the walls of Alexandria, and that’s just Rick’s group. The two most damaged members of the team, Daryl and Sasha, are still having some difficulty getting integrated, but all it takes is one hunting trip with Aaron and a garage full of motorcycle parts to get things clicking and working in the right direction. Sasha, on the other hand, doesn’t have someone quite as adept at drawing her out and helping her deal with her issues, and shooting at pictures of the family that once lived in her home.
Of the many emotional beats in this episode, the one that I think works the best, at least for me, is Sasha’s breakdown in the party scene. A few days ago, she was eating beans out of a can; now she’s at a dinner party with people eating potato puffs off little plastic swords and drinking beer like there’s nothing happening just beyond those corrugated steel walls. But there is. Sasha knows this, and Sonequa Martin-Green plays this perfectly. As someone who needed Ativan to ride the tube during rush hour in London, I understand what she’s going through completely, and her lashing out makes perfect sense, both in ferocity and in timing.
David Boyd, who directed the episode, did a great job of using clips and sounds to really punch home that epic freak-out. It really elevated the tension, particularly when paired with Martin-Green’s performance, but it was one of several good character moments. Daryl’s spaghetti Tuesday was a great contrast, with the neatly-dressed and urbane couple sharing a meal with the slurping, feral, probably-not-bathed Dixon. Norman Reedus has been doing great physical work with this role, and that shines again tonight as he slowly bonds with Aaron over the late Buttons the horse.
However, as always, Carol manages to steal every scene she’s in as the invisible school marm who’s secretly a killer. The confrontation she has with Jessie’s son is just phenomenal, and Melissa McBride is simply the best at this sort of thing. She’s a velvet glove wrapped around a steel gauntlet, and while I think Carol wouldn’t actually harm a child who didn’t deserve it, who knows how far she’ll go to protect her family? She’s already lost one daughter, she can’t afford to lose anyone else, and Corey Reed’s script gives her plenty of awesome stuff to chew on, with the scene staged and lit spectacularly, showing the fear in the kid’s eyes and the dangerous glint in Carol’s with tight close-ups.
Watching how the group relaxes into its new environment is proving to be more entertaining than I ever could have expected it to be. No more bad flashbacks to Woodbury or Hershel’s farm; this is a group that’s finding its feet as part of a larger organization, because they’re in this place on their terms, not Deanna’s terms. With the little glimpses we see of how they’re fitting in, or not fitting in, it’s nice to see that the show is able to communicate some progress with that mission just based on the wearing of shirts with buttons or the ability to enjoy a drink and a weird kiss on the cheek at a party.
With some secret firearms at their disposal, and the knowledge that they’re tougher than everyone in this town, there’s a bit of a swagger to the group. They’re comfortable, because they know if it came time to throw down, they’d come out on top, no matter how angry Deanna’s sons might be or how outnumbered they might be. Perhaps it’s overconfidence, or perhaps it’s just seeing how soft the town really is that makes everyone more comfortable, but not too comfortable. They’re not those people anymore, and that paranoia is hard to suppress (hence the gun stealing).
There aren’t too many episodes left in the season, and there’s something hinted at in the “next episode” trailers that I think they’re waiting to spring on the viewers before the season is out. I can only hope the undefended Alexandrians don’t end up getting any of the people I like (Carol) killed because of their softness.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Remember, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan still thinks that there’s some element in Alexandria that Rick and company are going to have to eliminate to keep their positions. That’s why Rick is top cop and Michonne is his deputy. Still, Rick should have kept the beard, or at least kept some crazy facial hair to match Abraham. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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