This week on The Walking Dead, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) et all venture into uncharted territory: suburbia.
Fresh out of their meeting with Aaron (Ross Marquand), the gang arrive at the gates of Alexandria, an isolated safe haven from the rest of Atlanta. Everything looks good at the onset. Clean roads, nice looking people, huge homes. The gang don’t cozy up to the warm atmosphere immediately, however.
They’re all asked to turn in their weapons, as per protocol of the community. It’s hard not to all put a show of taking all their guns and mementos of walker/human-killing history, though Carol (Melissa McBride) stands out by far. She makes it an effort pulling off her rifle, giggling and pretending she’s the innocent housewife. It’s a very political and calculated move, and I couldn’t love her more.
Later on the group is introduced to Deanna Monroe (Tovah Feldshuh), the matriarch and leading figure of the community (originally a Congresswoman in pre-apocalypse days). She expresses her desire to film each newcomer and ask them questions on tape, so that they can establish a sense of transparency. Scenes of her interactions with each character are interspersed throughout the episode, creating a light documentary feel.
Throughout Rick’s conversation with Deanna, Rick tries to gather why the Alexandrians would allow themselves to be so vulnerable and let a completely random group into their already safe community. Deanna explains that she wants them to be a part of their family because they know how to survive; they’ve been at it this long and successfully, and thus would be a great aspect. Rick explains his side with the same argument, but a different idea. To him, it’s all about survival of the fittest.
Everyone tries to ease themselves back into domestic life, but no one takes it more seriously than Rick. We get a pretty steamy scene of Rick actually taking a shower and cleaning himself, and before we know it, we’re given a shot of Rick and his razor. Things will never be the same apparently, as Rick starts to clean off all his facial hair. Fetus Rick from Season 1 is back.
The doorbell rings and he is quickly introduced to Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge), native to Alexandria. They get on pretty well, and their friendship escalates to a scene 2 minutes later, where we see Jessie cutting Rick’s hair. Their exchange pre-haircut is pretty great: “I could cut your hair!” “But you don’t even know me.” After all of this tiring grooming and a long stare from Rick at his reflection, you can practically hear “Who Am I” ringing out.
Though the extremely forthright acts of kindness from the Alexandrians seem genuine, there’s still every reason to remain cautious and suspicious. Carol, Rick, and Daryl (Norman Reedus) question the fact that they’ve all been vetted and separated from each other. Carol is all the wiser and continues with her “helpless, vulnerable mother” façade and settles very easily into Alexandria life, while Daryl makes his unwelcomed feelings become very obvious and continues to detach himself from the establishment.
As it would seem, this new change affects everyone. Carl (Chandler Riggs) explores his house and discovers lo and behold, the attic! Complete with books, magazines, and comic books, and eventually a meeting with actual other kids (including a potential budding romance between him and the stereotypical emo teenage girl), it seems as though Carl may finally get that “normal kid life”.
When night falls, the group sticks together at Rick’s house, culminating in the cutest slumber party ever. As it turns out, Rick’s clean-shaven face seems to be turning on every person in the vicinity.
The next morning marks a fresh point in everyone’s agenda, as they all set out to explore different parts of Alexandria. Rick almost loses Carl and Judith, but is calmed down and helped out by Jessie, his hair-cutting bud. He shyly thanks her and offers his artistic contribution to her projects (“Yeah of course. The eyes”. What an awkward dork).
After Carl’s meeting with kids his age, Rick asks him why he should still feel uncomfortable. Carl offers great wisdom: “they’re weak and I don’t want us to get weak”.
As per the rules of Alexandria, everyone is assigned jobs and responsibilities. Carol quickly assumes her housewife role. Glenn (Steven Yeun), Tara (Alanna Masterson), and Noah (Tyler James Williams) take on supply runs. Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rick are concerned that they haven’t been approached with a role, but don’t dwell on this; all in good time.
By the gates, Carl notices the girl he met earlier (the one he was quickly smitten by) stealthily escape the main grounds of Alexandria and climb over the gates into the woods. Obviously, he follows. Though he tries to keep track of her trail but loses it very quickly. Over in another part of the woods, Rick returns back to the house where he stored his gun in a blender, but much to his disappointment it’s gone. At that point, a group of walkers trudge along towards him, with Carl joining moments later. As the camera pans towards the two of them getting ready to take on the walkers, you know it’s gonna be an awesome father-son bonding moment.
While on their supply run shift, Glenn, Tara and Noah meet Deanna’s son Aiden (Daniel Bonjour), a self-proclaimed douchebag and wannabe alpha-male. Deep in the woods, Aiden and another Alexandrian explain to them a specific contraction, wherein they’ve trapped a walker who killed one of their friends with a noose, so to remind themselves who the real villains are. Glenn, Tara, and Noah see right through Aiden’s stupidity and bring it to light, as they prevent him from trying to capture another walker.
When they get back to Alexandria, tensions are running high between Glenn and Aiden. Aiden tries to intimidate Glenn by emphasizing that these are their grounds and their rules, but Glenn simply doesn’t have enough time for his shit. Simply put, Glenn could take on 10,000 Aiden’s any day thanks to his experiences beyond the wall, and he shows it. A fight broils down between the gang and Alexandrians, before it’s quickly brought to a halt by Rick and Deanna. After each party goes their own way, and after she thanks Glenn for kicking her son’s ass, Deanna finally gives appointments to Rick and Michonne: constables in Alexandria.
As the day boils down, we get a much needed shot of Rick walking down the stairs of his new home in new sheriff gear. As he stands on the porch, we get an interesting trifecta of sorts from him, Carol, and Daryl. While Carol has completely adopted the suburban life with a change of clothes and “attitude” in the light, and Daryl has stayed true to his rugged, raw lifestyle in the shadows, Rick stands in the middle, partly shown in light and partly in the shade, as an amalgamation of both attitudes/lifestyles. While it may seem to the Alexandrians as though they have won over the gang, Rick makes it very clear with his last statement and ode to the fittest: “It they can’t make it, we’ll just take it.”
Boy oh boy, things are getting super interesting. After facing conflict after conflict with exterior forces and extravagant battles, we’re finally getting some internalized struggles at a micro-level. Some low-scale drama in suburbia is exactly what the gang needed.
First off, let me just predict that Rick is gonna heat things up in Alexandria. Apart from Michonne/Rick happening, there’s also potential for a blossoming romance between Rick and Jessie. Especially interesting is the conflict that may arise from Rick and Jessie’s husband, who we heard from on his porch (“My wife cut your hair”) but never got a full glance of from in the shadows – this definitely means something. I can already feel tensions starting between these two, making me nostalgic of the good ‘ole Rick and Shane times.
The warm, fuzzy feelings of love that Carl may too be facing are super adorable, though his love interest intrigues me even more. I have a feeling that her going over the gate is not just for exploration; perhaps she is an inside spy in Alexandria reporting to an outside group. Her venture outside also makes me think that she may have spotted Rick putting his gun into the blender a couple of days earlier and stole it. It’s gonna get real good.
As I mentioned before, I live for the tensions that will arise between the gang and the Alexandrians, specifically Glenn vs frat boy Aiden. I feel nothing but love and pride for our long-lasting group, and absolutely loved the scene of Glenn suavely avoiding Aiden’s punch and knocking it right back to him. I also get good vibes from Deanna, who seems to see right through her son’s bullshit. But as we all know, things will always be too good to be true, and I see her taking a very similar path of downfall to Hershel as a martyr of sorts in the future. Her death would obviously mean major conflicts of leadership and interest between Aiden and the gang, though her appointment of Rick and Michonne as constables seem to be her preparing for the future.
And though I’ve talked about this a bunch of times, I can’t get over how awesome Carol is. She seems to be the sole person playing her cards wisely and intentionally, giving off the air of vulnerability and ineptness in taking care of herself (like specifically her shout-out to her abusive husband Ed while being filmed by Deanna). I’d like to see how the Alexandrians would react to seeing her take down all the Termites in episode 1 of this season, right after she declared “I’m a people person!”
While I’ve been going on and on about how into internal conflicts I am, it’s been very reassuring and calming seeing everyone settle down. No one loves this stable lifestyle more than Michonne, who has become completely comfortable and thankful. These small moments of happiness and good fortune should definitely not be taken for granted, and I’m glad that it hasn’t for them.