Rick’s Gang was on the verge of being broken. They’d seen countless friends die, been on the brink of starvation too often and had seen a promised land turn into a nightmare one time too many. And with group morale at its lowest, arriving at Alexandria with its separate houses, running water, electricity (and razors!) felt like a godsend to our beleaguered gang of walker warriors.
But can Rick and company really find a place to settle down for the long haul without the disastrous results of Herschel’s farm, the prison or Terminus? Of course not, but if this week was any indication, the inevitable tragedy might still be awhile and should lead to some very intriguing storyline possibilities along the way.
Aaron tries to make the group as relaxed as possible as they walk through the gates — a tense moment amusingly broken when Daryl shoots a possum with his crossbow and announces they’ve brought dinner — and suggests Rick speaks with their leader, Deanna Monroe (Tovah Feldshuh).
An advocate of transparency, Deanna asks Rick if she can videotape their conversation. She tells him she used to be a congresswoman and espouses the benefits of acknowledging their past professions and responsibilities. In Alexandria, everyone has a job and a vital role to the community. If Rick’s group is willing, Deanna will assign them duties as well. While Woodbury was led by a fake governor, Alexandria has a genuine politician and one who uses flattering words and a kindly attitude even when she’s not campaigning for votes.
Tonight’s episode reminded me a lot of the classic X-factor 87 (vol3) where the team has a rare break from battling mutants and anti-mutant factions and gets some much needed couch time to decompress with Deanna interviewing various members of Rick’s group to get their take on everything that’s transpired and how they hope to contribute. Daryl again steals the segment as he brings his dead possum along and refuses to sit down. In the pre-walker world, Daryl didn’t much fit in within a suburb so his discomfort even in the face of a seemingly great situation was right in character.
Conversely for Rick, Alexandria reminds him of the “made it” lifestyle he once envisioned with Lori. A place where Carl and Judith can have some semblance of a normal life right down to their own house.
Even better, Rick gets a shower and finds a razor. For this reason alone, this is one of my favorite episodes this season. Rick’s been looking like a wooly mammoth for too long!
The Grimes Makeover isn’t done yet as Jessie, an age-appropriate potential love interest, comes by with a basket of supplies and an offer for a haircut. Jessie has already proven to be more invaluable to the group than Tara.
Rick is still on Distrust Level. 10 despite the shave and a haircut and has everyone stay in one house. Michonne is already anxious about the job Deanna has lined up for her proving the zombie apocalypse has an upside as people are actually happy about being placed in a job as a result.
Carl meanwhile gets his first taste of life as a preteen as he meets Jessie’s son Ron and the other teens, Mikey and Enid. Like Rick, Carl is amazed at the amenities as Ron offers an afternoon of video games or shooting pool. Showing his conditioning from their hellacious lifestyle, Carl reports back to Rick that these guys are all soft and if they stay, they’ll get soft too.
Even Carol seems to be drinking the Kool-Aid explaining in her interview how she was the doting wife who goshdarnit still misses her loving husband before becoming the den mother of the group. Perhaps in the broadest sense of the word as she failed to mention her den mother job responsibilities including burning plaque carriers, teaching the kids how to use knives and and taking down Terminus. But, there’s only so much time to go into yourself during these interviews without sounding like you’re bragging. Besides, all of Carol’s references are with her. Carol does everything to fly under the Alexandria radar including acting like she’s a novice at handling her gun while placing it in a cart to go to the Alexandria weapons storage.
Jessie’s husband welcomes Rick from his darkened porch while sipping on a beer. This is the first crack in the shiny facade of a loving and caring community and Rick clearly gets the hint. Rick does a recon around the Alexandria perimeter and comes across some walkers. He goes back to his hiding place for the gun he stashed before they entered and is annoyed to find it’s gone. He’s joined by Carl, who’d gone off to look for Enid as she hopped the fence. To prove he hasn’t lost his edge, Rick and Carl use their knives to take out the walkers.
Glenn, Tara and Noah are getting a probationary run as scavengers along with Deanna’s son Aiden (Daniel Bonjour), who is reckless enough to string up a walker that killed some of his friends. Glenn again proves his time in captivity in Woodbury has toughened him up for the better, wants no part of Aiden’s dangerous missions and as Aiden goes for a sucker punch, Glenn knocks him down. Itching to drop his pretense of being on his sorta good behavior, Daryl rushes over to knock down Aiden’s buddy. Deanna breaks up the fight and lets everyone know that Rick and his company are part of the community and will be respected. She even thanks Glenn for knocking some sense into Aiden. Deanna’s decided on a job for Rick — she wants him, along with Michonne and Glenn to be the constables.
In a moment recalling the first episode, Rick is decked out in a uniform once again preparing for a new, unexpected journey. The gang — minus Gabriel who was strangely absent this week — seem to approve of Rick’s new outfit. On the porch, Carol echoes Carl’s warning that Alexandria is soft and that softness could rub off on the others. Rick reveals he hasn’t let his guard down for a second saying “We’ll make it work. And if they can’t make it, then we’ll just take this place.”
I’m really intrigued by the various directions this could take place as the writers will definitely have to go in a different direction than the prison and Woodbury. And unlike Slabtown, this new setting has a lot of promise for ways this second half of the season can go. Should prove for a very interesting few weeks.