Well people, the beard is gone. I repeat… the beard is gone. I for one was happy to see Lumberjack Rick go but a tad unhappy to see a clean shaven Rick. It reminds me of Season 1 and i wasn’t his biggest fan then. Lucky for us it seems to grow like a weed and lucky for Rick, his Season 1 persona is exactly what he needs to succeed in Alexandria. Yes, our band of survivors made their way to the Alexandria Safe Haven in this episode. Are they trustworthy? It’s too soon to tell, but the amenities are nice enough to keep them around.
Let’s dig in.
We open the episode with the group standing right outside of Alexandria’s main gate. As they are welcomed by their first Alexandria resident, a noise in the grass next to them alerts Daryl, prompting him to fire an arrow. Turns out it was just an opossum and their first impression to this guy are words “we brought dinner,” while Daryl holds up a dead animal. I would expect nothing less.
This was a seriously tense scene. While I was optimistic about nothing happening as they walked in, I still can never shake that feeling that something won’t. As the group walks in, the camera pans out and we see them all. Grungy, dirty, tired, nervous, and did I mention dirty? The juxtaposition of the setting against the group was quite telling how foreign they look. It goes to show that even in this world there are still many different ways of life, but which way is the right way?
We soon find out as Rick notices a walker approaching. He alerts Sasha who takes it out with one perfect shot to the head. Why doesn’t Alexandria seem to have lookouts? I’m not sure, but Rick tells them “It’s a good thing we’re here.” His group is not messing around and Rick is sending the Alexandrian’s messages already.
The guy who let them in tells them that their first step is to go see Deanna, who my guess is either the woman in charge or the face of the community they let the new people think is in charge. We quickly find out when we meet Deanna Monroe. She was a congresswoman before that day and now she is a president of sorts for the Alexandria Safe Haven. She lives in a large pretty house filled with books, a TV, nice clothes,and clean furniture- it’s a pretty jarring setting for the apocalypse.
Rick is the one who goes in to speak with her and she tells him that pretty much all of the residents have been there since the beginning and that Rick’s group is the first they’ve thought to let in for a while. I am not quite sure how believable this is. Seemed like a tactic to gain his trust to me.
Deanna was going to be a poker player if the whole political career didn’t work out. She tells Rick that she has a way of being able to read people. This is important. The reason this is important is because all of the new people have to be interviewed, or “auditioned” as Aaron stated, by Deanna.
In an interesting twist Deanna records all interviews for full transparency of the community. This means that anyone can come in and watch the interviews. It also means that she can go back and watch them whenever she wants for things she may have missed initially. It looks almost like an MTV confessional. Rick is sitting in front of the camera. We know that he is a smart man. He has survived outside any gate easily and in his interview it’s clear that he can still survive inside a gate too.
He tells Deanna that they should keep the gates closed and not let new people in. The people outside the gates can’t be trusted. They measure you by what they can take. It’s unclear whether he is blatantly warning her about his group or testing her to see how she responds to something like that. Why and how are these people so trusting of outsiders? He is trying to find the crack.
Rick tells Deanna about the things that he has had to do while he’s been on the outside and the effects that the world out there have had on him. His revelations don’t even really seem to faze Deanna. Apparently she has had to make some tough choices of her own, one of which involves having to exile three men who didn’t fit the bill. Yeah. That’s definitely going to come back around.
She understands Rick. She likes the tenacity and character of his group. She needs them to help keep Alexandria safe and protected. She can also offer something that Rick desperately needs- a safe place for his kids to grow up. She brings Rick to two white picket fenced houses for his group. They can share them both. Him and Carl look around the house in awe.
Rick takes the time to enjoy a nice hot shower and shaves his beard. It was a live reaction. That was actually the first time Andrew Lincoln had seen his face since early season 2. Once out of the shower, a knock at the door reveals our newest resident of Alexandria, Jessie. AKA, most likely a future love interest for Rick (I’m still rooting for Michonne though).
Jessie used to be a stylist and offers to cut Rick’s gnarly long hair. They talk about their kids. Jessie has a son that’s Carl’s age and makes no mention of a husband. She does do a little digging and finds out that Rick’s wife is out of the picture.
We get to see three pretty different interviews from Michonne, Daryl, and Carol.
Michonne is still extremely optimisitic. She says that if this place is what it seems and what Deanna says it is then it’s perfect for them. The group is ready for something like this. She has really blossomed into a beautiful and heartwarming character.
Daryl is a little more hesitant. He is not used to suburban life or following orders. He would be happy out in the woods surviving. Daryl’s a softie though and surrenders with one solid line. “The boy and the baby, they deserve a roof.” It will be interesting to see if Daryl can find his place here.
Here is the good part. Of course the best part of the episode involves Carol- she rocks. Carol cheerfully tells Deanna that she is the den mother of the group. Before everything went to hell she was a simple housewife with a wonderful, loving husband named ED. Man, she really does miss that man. Even when they are turning over their weapons, Carol acts like she’s too weak to lift her gun. She is playing smart. Seem weak. Join the junior league. Be a mole. Genius.
Later, Daryl is on the front porch of the house when Carol emerges in a stepford outfit of khakis and a cardigan. She looks ridiculous and Daryl tells her so. She knows what she has to do though and a set of clean clothes probably doesn’t feel horrible.
You know who is not in clean clothes? Daryl. He is like that whiny teenager that doesn’t want to be somewhere and just tries to make it as miserable as possible. He refuses to shower and guts opossums on the clean porch.
Everyone passes their interviews and settles into the living room of one of the houses to sleep. They setting may be nice but they are still not convinced that they are 100% safe. After Terminus and Woodbury can you blame them? Deanna shows up and is impressed to see the true comradery and familial presence that resides in this group. She welcomes them all again and tells them that at some point they will all receive jobs. She already has a couple ideas for Michonne, Rick, and Sasha, but Daryl…well she is still trying to figure him out.
They get through the night and the next day is all about settling in and getting comfortable. The group takes off on a walk and Rick stays behind to speak with Daryl, to let him know that he hasn’t made any decisions yet. When he goes to join the group he can’t find them, more specifically Judith and Carl.
While manically running through the neighborhood he slams into a sculpture that belongs to none other than Jessie. She tells Rick that the kids are probably with the elderly couple next door who love babies. Sure enough there they are. Jessie thinks this is the perfect opportunity to introduce Carl to her son.
Jessie’s son tells Carl about going to school in a garage and asks Carl if he will join. He assumes so, but school hasn’t really been on the brain recently. He is introduced to another boy and a girl named Enid. Enid had been outside for a while and was just recently brought in too. (One lie Deanna has been caught in). She definitely catches his attention.
This scene was actually sort of heartbreaking to me. Carl was clearly feeling extremely awkward having not interacted or played with kids his own age since probably the prison days, and even then he was kind of aloof. They’ve got working video games and comic books and he is just overwhelmed. Carl is strong though. He quickly recovers and dives into some video games with the guys.
It’s pretty apparent to Carl that these boys have grown up in an entirely different world than him. When Rick comes into Carl’s room later that day he expresses an appropriate sentiment.
“I like it here. I like the people. But they’re weak. And I don’t want us to get weak too.”
It’s a solid point to make. Sure the scenery is safe, but how safe are the people if there were to be a breach. Carl always wants to be able to survive and worries that getting comfortable could harm that. Plus they really aren’t sure if what they are seeing is what they will get. They are still suspicious and so am I.
There are just a couple of reasons as to why I am suspicious of Alexandria.
The first is that Carl sees the girl Enid climbing over the fence and running into the woods. Again, why is there no security detail guarding the perimeter? Carl decides to follow her to see what’s up. He quickly loses her though. I think she is meeting up with another group.
Another reason being that on their second night Rick can’t sleep and decides to take a midnight stroll. This leads him to Jessie’s house where a man sitting on the front porch covered by a shadow makes it clear to Rick that he is Jessie’s husband and in one way or another marks that territory. Interesting that Jessie didn’t mention being married. He also says “Welcome to Alexandria” in a way that sent a shiver up my spine. That was not a welcome…it sounded more like a threat.
Rick also ventures outside the walls to get some walker practice and to also ensure that the gun he hid is still there. It’s not. How could someone possibly know where he hid that unless they were watching him? This sends red flags to Rick. While out at the shack where he hid his gun a group of walkers finds him. He is also joined by Carl and we are treated to a kick ass father son bonding moment. It’s great to see these two working as a team now and Rick not having to worry about Carl. He can handle his own.
And just when you think the mystery man on the porch was bad we meet Aidan. Aidan is Deanna’s douchebag Abercrombie son who is in charge of the supply run team. This is the job that was assigned to Noah, Glenn, and Tara. He tells the trio that their only rule is to follow his orders. Great…he’s also a power tripper.
On the run, him and his partner (whose name I do not remember) says that the last four members of the supply run team were killed. The reason? They didn’t follow Aidan’s orders. That’s not worrisome. Maybe it’s because Aidan gives stupid orders.
The group is on their way to the walker that Aidan and his partner had tied up. It was one of the walkers that killed the last group. They had him tied up by his hands but he had escaped. This really pisses of Aidan who now wants to find the walker so they can…I actually don’t know…torture it? Lame. The start shouting and whistiling for it. When it finally does emerge it sneaks up on Aidan who has difficulty gaining control since the walker’s skin is practically sagging and ripping off.
So naturally Aidan pushes it onto Tara. She was ordered by Aidan not to kill it and attempts to push it away, but again the skin makes it too difficult. When the walker is right in her face about to bite, Glenn comes over and kills it. This of course sets off Aidan as he strictly said not to kill it.
They get into it back at the camp’s courtyard. Here Glenn basically says that Aidan’s orders are dumb and probably what got the last group killed and there’s no way he is letting his people die for some dude’s ego. This is where you can really see the line between the Alexandria crew and Rick’s gang.
Aidan goes to take a swing at Glenn, who 5 seasons ago wouldn’t have been able to do much. Glenn now easily ducks out of the way and knocks Aidan out with one solid elbow punch. It was fantastic. I love Glenn and watching Glenn kick ass is good TV.
This sets off a little mini brawl as the other guy tries to get in on the action. Michonne shuts him down immediately and when Aidan tries to get back up, Daryl (unnecessarily) pounces on him. Daryl was literally looking for anything to make this place bad…such a moody teenager.
Deanna is there in a flash. It’s a tense moment because you are unsure what stance she is going to take in this situation. Of course Aidan thinks she will take his side, but she doesn’t. She sends him away and thanks Glenn for finally putting him in his place. Is it just another tactic to gain trust? I definitely think so.
Her next order of business is making Rick and Michonne the new constables (officers) of the Alexandria Safe Haven. Things are starting to get good.
The final scene really sets the tone for Rick and his group. He slowly comes down the stairs dressed in an officer’s uniform, and with his clean face he may as well just be Sherriff Rick from season one. Talk about an amazing visual five seasons into a zombie apocalypse. There is a voiceover playing during the scene. It’s the same lines that we heard Rick telling Deanna in his interview. The part where he tells her she should keep the gates closed. The people that come in here measure you by what they can take.
That was the exact moment when I understood. He is playing them. Carol is playing them. While it may seem on the outside that the group is settling in to Alexandria, they really aren’t. Be good citizens and learn what they can and then decide the next steps. Rick is not a sheriff anymore and he knows it. He doesn’t believe in that way of life anymore. If he did, why would he be leaving the grounds to go fight walkers?
Carol and Daryl join him out on the porch. Daryl is clealy a little put off by Rick’s new appearance. He hasn’t seen him like that in a long time…will it affect their friendship? Is Rick changing?
Carol tells the men that she is also worried that by staying there they will become weak. Rick shuts it down with the most chilling line of the night. One to settle her fears and one to settle Daryl’s thoughts.
“We won’t get weak. That’s not in us anymore. We’ll make it work,” he says. “And if they can’t make it… then we’ll just take this place.”
Rick is still in there. A uniform doesn’t change that. His plan has been in motion since the minute they walked through those gates. He knew they could take it if and when they wanted to. Why not play along for a bit to see if that’s even necessary.
SO GOOD! A great episode. I have heard a lot about Alexandria over the years and can’t wait to see what’s in store.