This review contains spoilers.
It didn’t take very long for the cracks in Alexandria’s facade to become achingly apparent to the worldly survivors from Atlanta, Georgia (and surrounding areas). From the very beginning, The Walking Dead has been cultivating a showdown between two vastly different styles of leadership and two vastly different leaders. Part of that seemed deliberate on Deanna’s part—she needs people who know how to actually survive this new world, and her group isn’t it—and part of it seems like she’s in way over her head because she thought she could control the raving animal that is the Ricktatorship.
People make strange decisions when they’re under significant stress. Deanna has a lot on her plate, from Gabriel coming to her last week to rant and rave about Satan being among them to Nicholas spinning lies about what happened at the warehouse and how it’s all the fault of Rick’s group, she’s getting a lot of conflicting information. On one hand, she has people like Tobin who say that Rick’s people are pretty much the best for the job. On the other hand, one of her son’s friends—despite her acknowlegement that her late son was something of an ass—says Glenn is the reason why he died because Glenn and his group were only looking out for themselves. Of course, we know the truth, and some of Deanna’s people might know the truth, too, but not Deanna herself, and as she makes it clear to Rick, she’s the person in charge.
Leave it to Officer Friendly to test the rules out of a desire to be a white knight. As expected, Rick gets involved in Jessie’s situation, and the results are disastrous for Rick and for the rest of his group. They’re also kind of disastrous for Jessie’s house, as a confrontation turns into a fist fight turns into Rick and Paul flying out the front window into the street like some sort of old West saloon scrap while the whole town watches. It’s a really good fight scene from director Michael Satrazemis, and he does a great job with Andrew Lincoln of reminding us just how crazy Rick gets when he’s in a fight, and just how tough it is to stop him when he gets that killer’s look in his vacant blue eyes.
The fight was bad enough, but then Rick dumps a dose of reality on Deanna’s group while waving around his stolen gun. Rick’s clearly not thinking properly, which is probably why he nearly killed what might be the only remaining surgeon in the world over a housewife who makes bad owl sculptures while one of his group may or may not be dying of a closed-head injury in the local clinic. Rick’s desire to protect Jessie makes sense as far as character motivations go—protecting people is what Rick does, and since he couldn’t protect Lori, maybe he could protect Hotter Lori—but it’s really not a good time for it, no matter how much Carol might want Pete taken care of or how much Rick might wish he would’ve stepped in to protect Carol back in the first season when Ed was abusing her in the camp.
I think that’s been the most interesting development in the series. Five years in, and they’re bringing up Ed Peletier, who didn’t even make it to the end of the first season. They’ve mentioned Karen and Shane and Dale at various points, too. The history is starting to come back and be meaningful, if only in the way it informs the actions of certain characters. I’m not sure why Deanna felt the need to rock some Nine Inch Nails, but the group we know and care about are making more sense than ever these days, and Angela Kang has a knack for giving us just enough of the competing elements (Carl and Enid, Daryl and Aaron) to balance out the domestic drama.
For every character that seems to be fitting in, there’s another that isn’t fitting in quite so well, which means that if Rick stays or goes, it’s going to possibly rip the group in a way that Terminus never could. If Rick faces banishment, and I assume he does based on just how unhappy Deanna was with a gun pointed at her, would his people go with him, or would the group tear in two with those happy with Alexandria staying, and Rick going? Or will the threat that keeps dismembering people and carving letters on the skulls of zombies arrive before the big decision to throw Rick out is made?
The fifth season of The Walking Dead is hitting on all cylinders. Surprising deaths, action, high-quality gore, and even improved writing and acting that brings the drama that much more to the forefront… this is probably the most complete season of the show since it began. That’s pretty remarkable considering all the chaos going on behind the scenes as showrunners fight with AMC for money and Robert Kirkman for control (if you believe the rumours, and I think everyone does by now). With one episode left in the season, it would be very hard for the show to end on anything other than a high note, but crazier things have happened.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Spend, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is just waiting for Rick and Carol to go full-fledged Expendables on Deanna and Alexandria in an attempt to take back paradise. Assuming, of course, they’re not interrupted by some evil marauders. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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