Hell has come to Alexandria and its name is Rick Grimes. What’s made the Alexandria story arc so brilliant is how each week the writers force us to question the sides and consider who has determined the best way to live in a world run amok by walkers. Is it the residents of Alexandria safely tucked away behind their reinforced walls, frequently choosing cowardice and self preservation over loyalty and a real sense of community not too far removed from the facade of a normal life with dinner parties? Or is it Rick Grimes and his weary walker-battling comrades who have seen so many allies die that they’ve become distrustful, overly cautious and so on edge that they’ll ruin their best shot of happiness?
This week didn’t offer any easy answers, but it’s become clear Rick Grimes can’t have nice things.
We start off with Reg and Deanna mourning Aiden’s death, thankfully skipping past the initial bawling and wailing upon learning their son is dead as the question of where they’ll go from here is far more interesting. Carol tries to be a good undercover homemaker by baking a casserole and including a sympathy note, but Deanna isn’t interested. She’s focused on learning the truth behind Aidan’s death the only way she knows how — going to the videotape and listening to Nicholas’ not at all credible account of what happened. In Nicholas’ version, he was the valiant hero who tried to save Aidan after Glenn distracted him … ooh oooh, and for good measure, he wasn’t gonna leave Tara behind either, but those new recruits tried to kill him. Deanna bazookas his story by asking why he returned with Glenn and his team if that was the case.
Glenn meanwhile is telling Rick the truth. Glenn’s sadness over his inability to save Noah and Nicholas’ cowardice is yet another nail Rick plans to hammer down on the Alexandria coffin. He says they haven’t caught up to the real world and more people are going to get killed. Hard to argue with Rick’s perspective, but Glenn insists they’ve got to make Alexandria work. Fortified walls, electricity, running water and Carol’s cookies does make for a convincing argument. But once again, we’re shown why Rick knows how crazy folks think. After getting benched from scavenger missions from Glenn, who threatens to out him for being so cowardly, Nicholas heads to the woods and retrieves the handgun he stole from Rick’s original precautionary stash. Pretty sure Glenn’s odds of making it next week have plummeted.
Continuing his rounds, Rick checks in with Carol, who is curious as to why Pete is still breathing. She tells Rick that Sam has a special deadbolt in his room that Jessie sends him to when Pete’s on the warpath. One time, Sam came out to find Jessie unconscious and bleeding. It makes perfect sense her low tolerance for wife-beaters (the “people,” not the shirt style) though as she tells Rick she could have been in the same position. As Rick considers everything, specifically his tenuous grip on his sanity … Pete comes by with a warm welcome. Rick tells him to keep walking. This can’t possibly end up well for either of them.
Rick finds Deanna at the grave sites and learns she already knew Pete was beating on Jessie. In Alexandria skilled surgeon > battered wife. Rick offers a simpler solution — Pete can stop and move out or he’ll kill him. Predictably, Deanna has a plan sure to backfire later — exiling Pete and send him on his way. How have these people survived this long?
The writers successfully juggled a number of subplots this week. The most interesting has been one of my favorites from the B team all season — Sasha. Rosita tells Michonne that Sasha may have slept in the tower and they head out into the woods to find her. I do not approve of Rosita’s new wardrobe. Sasha is tired of being reactive and going after the walkers, several of whom sport the dreaded ‘W’ carving. She goes on a walker rampage and Michonne and Tara join in. Besides last week’s necessary inclusion, the walker battles haven’t done a whole lot for me as they feel more tacked on for the sake of having some action scenes. Sasha doesn’t appreciate the help and goes back to the watch tower to snipe more walkers.
Carl meanwhile continues trying to find looks for Enid. You’ve gotta feel for the kid as he hasn’t had a playmate since Sophia and that was before puberty hit about three seasons ago. Carl’s stalking kinda creeps her out, but she appreciates him not being a clueless putz like all of Alexandria PG (Pre-Grimes). When a walker herd comes by, Enid leads Carl to a hollowed out tree. Give it up to Carl. The first teenage girl he’s seen in forever and he’s already playing “Seven Minutes of Heaven.” More walkers with a W on their head stroll on by as I desperately hope we learn the importance of that before the end of next week’s season finale.
In the episode’s most disturbing subplot, Daryl and Aaron are off on a recruitment mission when they find a dismembered body followed by a woman, tied to a tree in a fashion so someone could eat her. We are sure Gareth is dead, yes? As Daryl checks on her before she fully turns, she also has the ‘W’ mark carved on her face.
Back to the main storyline, Rick tells Jessie the beatings have to stop. “If you don’t fight you die. I don’t want you to die.” Jessie wants to maintain status quo to keep the peace as Pete has gotten better before. Rick tells her Sam wanted a gun to protect them and that tears down Jessie’s wall of denial and she’s ready to leave Pete. Movie night at the Grimes’ household is a little less certain just yet. Pete walks in on them and he is not happy with Jessie’s newly discovered courage. The Alexandria residents don’t know how to react when someone shows even a trace of backbone.
Pete gets fired up and Rick warns him, but the two quickly get into a bloody brawl. I was surprised when The Governor was able to handle him so easily, but when surgeon Pete is bloodying up Rick, I really am questioning the physical combat training aspect of his old police department. Jessie tries to break up the fight, which has now spilled out onto the streets, but Pete knocks her back. Carl tries and Rick pushes him away. That sequence was like Roger Goodell’s nightmares since the start of the last NFL season.
Rick finally gets the upper hand and chokes out Pete. Deanna tells him he’s not killing Pete, which sends Rick into a crazy rage-fueled tirade of how Alexandria is going to be ruined thanks to nobody here knowing how to truly survive in the real world. He draws his gun on her and anyone else who comes close and explains they need to face reality and there’s going to be some changes here. Before he really gets going, Michonne knocks him out seemingly disgusted that Rick could mess this up for all of them. Rick was on some evil mastermind speech there and I’m half surprised Carol didn’t knock him out before he revealed their full plan.
This week really put our pal Rick in a bad light — not just with the citizens of Alexandria, but some of his own group as well. Only Carol seemed pleased Rick was beating Pete to a pulp, but Rick may find himself short a few allies when Alexandria blows up in everyone’s faces.
Next week is a special 90-minute season finale so expect some major shake-ups and more than a few significant character deaths … because ‘The Walking Dead.’ Till next week!