This review contains spoilers.
There’s a clear delineation between the familiar survivors and the new faces of Alexandria. They’ve been safe this whole time, while Rick and the gang have been out struggling to survive. The Alexandrians survived because they ran; the Ricktatorship survived because they pulled together and watched one another’s backs. When the going gets tough, the first response of Alexandria’s leadership is to flee for the safety of corrugated steel walls and solar panels. Meanwhile, Abraham’s first response is to run into danger to save lives even at the cost of his own.
This is a common thread in all situations where someone from Rick’s group interacts with the folks from Alexandria. They assume positions of leadership simply because they’re both more experienced and more able to do the things that need to be done, even when it puts them in grave danger. There’s something to be said for following someone into Hell when you’re behind them, not being pushed in front of them. For seasons now, we’ve seen these characters develop in the shadow of people like Rick, rarely able to assume the mantle of leadership, but now we’re watching them blossom at the expense of some hurt Alexandrian feelings.
One of the best things about this episode is the way Jennifer Lynch shows this behavior, not tells it. Glenn assumes control from Aiden in a very subtle, smooth way, and Aiden is smart enough not to fight it. Abe takes control by rushing to the aid of someone he barely knows on the fence-building team, and while Tobin might try to turn and run, he inspires the other members of the construction crew to fight with him rather than leaving him to save his own skin. And Eugene, well… Eugene’s moment of bravery is incredibly effective, since it’s not something ingrained within him like it might be with Abraham, and it’s not something he’s displayed before like Glenn. It’s as triumphant a moment for this show as we’re going to get, and it’s book-ended with both folly and tragedy. Great work from Michael Cudlitz, Stephen Yeun, and Josh McDermitt, who nails every comedic beat he can get his hands on and also puts in a great performance as the unlikely hero, finally getting his hands dirty and using both body and brain to keep his friends from too much harm.
Unfortunately, even Eugene finding his guts and Glenn’s standard heroics don’t save the day for everyone. There’s a lot of bloodshed this week, handled deftly by Jennifer Lynch’s ability to frame a shot and KNB FX’s ability to stuff a rubber stomach full of corn syrup and barbequed sausages. There’s been gore throughout The Walking Dead‘s five seasons, but never quite like this. Pity poor Noah, who takes the required steps forward to develop as a character only to fall victim to tragedy. (Some traps the show won’t escape, even if Matthew Negrete is able to imbue it with significant amounts of emotion.) The scene itself is familiar to zombie fans—if you’ve seen Day Of The Dead as many times as I have, you were waiting for Noah to gurgle out “I hope you choke!” as the zombies played with his entrails—but it’s a testament to just how much gorgeous red splatter AMC will hit the airwaves. Aiden’s impalement was no easy feat, either, but nothing quite as unsettling as Noah’s final moments because Noah didn’t deserve it.
That happens a lot on The Walking Dead. Bad things happen to good people, like Jessie and Sam (if you’re to believe Carol’s interpretation of events). She’s a cautious woman, and it’s a great performance from Melissa McBride, because Carol might threaten Sam and tell him not to talk, but you can see in her face that she’s aching to reach out to the poor boy, and when he confesses without admitting it that he’s in an abusive situation, poor Carol is overcome with emotion. It’s handled as sensitively as this show can handle any issue, despite Carol’s first instinct being to go kill the town physician after he awkwardly attempts to bro out with Rick.
Everyone brings baggage into Alexandria, and nobody brings more baggage than Carol. Is she reading the situation right, or is this going to create trouble where none exists? I’m not quite sure yet. It might be an abusive situation, or Carol just might be so hypersensitive to it that being thrust back into the familiar suburban environs of Alexandria just might be bringing up her own post-traumatic issues. Certainly it’s doing a number on Gabriel, who throws Rick and the gang under the bus in such a fashion that I don’t see any way for Deanna to believe him over, say, Aaron and Eric’s opinion of the group, or her own eyes for that matter.
The flaws in Alexandria grow more apparent with every passing week, but it’s pretty clear that Rick and the gang are going to do their best to make it work, even if that means putting themselves into some sort of meat grinder of domestic chaos. It’s kind of impressive that at this stage of the show, they’re still able to improve on the show’s weaker dramatic element without losing the teeth of the horror. In fact, those teeth might be sharpened by us caring about the characters as people, rather than familiar comic book drawings brought to life.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Forget, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is still trying to figure out who Deanna is, and what her endgame might be. Surely she didn’t just import a bunch of strangers to take over her town. Unless she did? Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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