Warning: Spoiler Alert
It’s the beginning of the end of The Walking Dead, season five. It’s evening in Alexandria. Deanna and her family have gathered in the living room by candlelight, dressed in black and visibly mourning Aiden. Deanna reaches for the “RUN MIX” CD that Aiden and Nicholas made. Nine Inch Nails’ “Somewhat Damaged” begins to pour through the speakers. Deanna and Reg look confused, but Spencer, who presumably knows what they’re in for when listening to NIN, cringes.
We get a really juicy, jarring montage as the story continues. Cut to Carol, preparing tuna noodles and a sympathy note for Deanna’s family while watching Judith on her baby monitor. She notices Sam peeking in through the window, but she doesn’t turn away and pretend not to see him. Then we see Sasha, on guard duty in the tower and visibly becoming more unbalanced by the minute. In the woods outside the walls, a walker lurches forward, crushing the generic family photo Sasha used for target practice last episode. In Deanna’s living room, Reg is crying, red-faced and pinched-looking. “Enough,” he manages. Deanna turns the music off.
There’s a knock at the door, but when Deanna answers, she finds only the tuna noodles and the sympathy card at her feet. It’s clear that she knows who they’re from. She snatches the card from the top of the dish and leaves the food outside. She enters the living room and immediately sticks the card into one of the candles’ flames, turning it back and forth so it can burn before letting it snuff out on a beautiful porcelain dish laying on the coffee table.
The walker approaches the gates and begins to ram itself into the wall. Sasha steels herself and takes it out, seemingly calmed by the predictable chirp of her silenced rifle and squirt of exploding, rotted flesh.
In a field, a handful of walkers shuffle, but they’re soon dispatched by a few well-aimed arrows. Daryl and Aaron advance through the field. Aaron notes that there are more roamers than there used to be. Daryl spots a tiny light in the distance, probably thrown by a campfire. There’s people out there. Best to scout them out.
The two walk off into the night.
Later that night, Deanna is reviewing the tape she made of Nicholas’ account of the events surrounding her son’s death. Concurrently, Glenn is telling Rick what actually happened. Nicholas spins an utter bullshit story about his and Aiden’s bravery, blaming the bad turn of events on Glenn and Noah. Deanna’s tone remains impassive as she interrogates Nicholas further, which only seems to make him more agitated. Lying to a calm person is hard, I guess? Maybe when it’s the dead guy’s mother, and it was his fault, and yours, that things went so terribly wrong?
He continues his tirade, ordering Deanna to exile Glenn and the entire group because they’re bad people. He’s certain that Deanna knows that he’s telling the truth—she sees what kind of trouble those people are! But Nicholas doesn’t know what Deanna sees, and she sees a great deal. Or, so she says. Maybe it’s not a matter of what she sees, but how she chooses to interpret those events.
Glenn confesses to Rick that he almost left Nicholas to the walkers instead of bringing him back. No one would have argued. It would have been simpler. Rick doesn’t disagree. The people in Alexandria, he says, don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t understand how the world works now and they may never be able to catch up to it. But the reason the group settled in Alexandria was to help them adjust, Glenn counters. They’re necessary to Alexandria. Rick agrees, but makes plain that he doesn’t intend to live by their rules. Glenn won’t accept that. The rules are the rules, and they’re one and the same with the Alexandrians. That’s the only way that living within their walls is going to work. Noah believed in a future within Alexandria, and he was absolutely right to do so. He deserves to have his memory honored by the rest of the group living with his wishes in mind. Again, Rick begrudgingly agrees.
He stands to see Jessie and her sons on their back porch across their yards.
Carol joins him outside and they continue to assess their situation. Carol tells Rick the latest information she’s learned from Sam, that Jessie put a bolt on the inside of his closet and told him to lock himself in when the fighting got bad. Rick looks pained. Carol continues, that last month everything got silent mid-fight, and Sam emerged from his closet to find Jessie knocked out cold, bleeding from the head and Pete sitting on the porch.
It’s just about as bad as things can be. This situation can’t be allowed to continue. Carol won’t stand for it, and Rick wants to know why. Unflinchingly, Carol replies that she was also regularly beaten by her husband. And, she admits, a little softer, she knows why Rick cares so much about what happens to Jessie. She knows Rick is attracted to her, and is certain that his law-enforcement past is colliding with his Zombie Apocalypse Clan Leader persona in all kinds of new and probably uncomfortable ways.
Almost sensing Rick’s glare, Jessie and the boys gather their things and retire inside.
Carol continues that if Ed hadn’t been eaten by walkers, she’s sure she wouldn’t be alive today. Rick knits his brows. “Yeah, you would,” he replies. Which, in this instance of Rick Grimes Zombie Apocalypse English, means “You’d still be alive, not just because you’re tough enough, but because if he would have continued to hit you we would have killed him. Just like we’re going to kill Pete.”
Agitated, Rick begins to walk the neighborhood, presumably on some kind of patrol. He veers a little close to Jessie’s house and is intercepted by Pete, who is, in addition to being extremely drunk, acting like a squirrely kid who is hiding a giant mess he made in the other room.
Rick glares and growls to Pete to keep walking. Pete continues to be at least half-earnestly confused, but Rick has the same look on his face he had when the cop from Grady didn’t stop as he was running away. If Rick were driving, Pete would be propelled in a beautiful rainbow-arc before landing neck-first on the pavement. Lucky for Pete, he continues to drunk-man-stumble away.
The next morning, Michonne has awoken and is lying, dressed, on her bed. If Michonne were the type to fidget when she felt restless, she would have fidgeted. Instead, she lies still, controlling her breathing and trying to focus. Unable to lay still any longer, she gets up and lays her constable’s uniform on the
bed, staring at it but making no move to put it on. She sits beside it, regarding it as if it were a handsome, friendly dog who for some reason seemed to be foaming at the mouth just a little.
Rosita knocks and enters, updating Michonne on Tara’s condition. She’s stable, at least. It’s too soon to tell much else. Oh, and in other news, Sasha spent the night in the tower and now no one’s seen her all morning. So they should probably go try to find her.
Michonne grabs her jacket and leaves the room. She leaves the shirt and jacket of her uniform behind.
The two women arm themselves and begin to search for Sasha outside the walls. They have the usual kind of conversation people have while searching for something in open walker country. Life is different and somehow the same. And, for some reason, it seems like all the wrong parts are different and the even worse parts are the same. They’ve just got to keep trying to integrate. Rosita points out that Michonne hasn’t brought her sword along on this trip into the wild. It’s a start, at least.
They find a walker, shot cleanly through the head from behind. Then another. Then another. She’s hunting them. Well, at least a trail of dead walkers will probably help them track her down.
And soon enough they find her taking on a few dozen at the edge of a clearing. Sasha refuses their assistance, but Rosita and Michonne advance, at least covering Sasha as she takes down walker after walker, increasingly frantic as more emerge through the woods. Watching Sasha drop walker after walker, Michonne flashes back to her own combat, sword in hand and walker guts spraying everywhere. This fight is a part of her, too. She might not be as consumed as Sasha, but she won’t allow herself to lose her fierce, deadly edge. She raises her weapon. Sasha protests, but Michonne dismisses her. She’s not doing this to help Sasha.
And the battle continues, until Sasha is out of ammo and shaking with adrenaline so hard she fumbles as she tries to reload. She abandons her rifle for her blade but she’s soon blindsided, knocked to the ground, and disarmed. Michonne puts a bullet through the walker’s temple before it can manage to eat Sasha’s face.
Sasha is not grateful. Both women are struggling after Noah’s loss and, within that grief, their outrage that they lost one of their own so soon after finally finding somewhere safe to live. Sasha turns on Michonne, furious at the way that Alexandria is working out so well for Michonne while she’s left struggling to make it from hour to hour. She’s completely consumed by the injustice of every part of Alexandria. The violent, nearly bloodthirsty part of Sasha that wants to feel some sort of justice for all that she’s lost is only growing stronger, and she can’t even manage words to explain. She relaxes, and then reassumes her military-like posture, grabbing her gear and marching off. Rosita follows, while Michonne takes a moment to savor the post-combat buzz, unsure if she likes the way it feels anymore.
Carl and Enid are also in the woods, flirting and teasing each other like teenagers do. Going through puberty is traumatic enough without the zombie apocalypse—or is the zombie apocalypse so life-altering that adolescent drama over boyfriends and girlfriends doesn’t even exist anymore? It seems like it’s somewhere in between, as the two run through the woods. They come across a walker and
crouch nearby, setting an egg timer and hurling it away from them. They wait as the walker advances, listening for the bell to start to ring in the egg timer. Just as the walker is upon him, the timer goes off and the walker lurches away from them while they run off in the opposite direction.
This is what happens when teenagers grow up in a world without street signs to steal or whatever the hell it is kids do for petty crime these days.
They have some whispered teenage flirting before a small group of walkers comes upon them, forcing them to hide in a hollowed out tree as they pass. There is more teenage flirting. It’s pretty earnest and pretty cute. I’m certain one of them is going to croak soon. One of the walkers stumbling by has that “W” or “M” symbol carved into its forehead. I’m sensing a pattern here.
Where exactly are these things coming from? Well, as Daryl and Aaron circle through the woods, trying to get a look at the source of last night’s fire from a comfortable distance, they come along some very arms, legs, and lower torsos, but curiously enough no heads or torsos. Whoever chopped those people apart took those. Nearby, they find a naked woman tied to a tree. She’s been completely eviscerated, fairly recently. Her head hangs forward, but we’re unable to tell if she was spiked through the brain first or of she just hasn’t turned yet. Daryl lifts her hair, revealing a non-punctured skull with that familiar brand carved into the flesh on its forehead. Daryl spikes it as it turns.
Glenn is spending time inside Alexandria, perhaps only because he and Nicholas are banned from going outside the walls or carrying weapons. Glenn, who couldn’t keep his mouth shut when Lori was pregnant or when he was still irritatingly positive when everyone else bottomed out, seeks out Nicholas to tell him off like only Glenn can. He’s angry and disappointed but not surprised. People like Nicholas are supposed to be dead in this new world, but Nicholas was lucky enough to get behind a sturdy wall just in time. Since Nicholas is so painfully unsuited to deal with the outside world, he should stay inside from now on. Nicholas sputters the indignant replies of a coward caught off his game, but Glenn doesn’t care about what he has to say.
Rick decides he must confront Jessie about the situation with Pete. He disclosed his assessment earlier to Deanna, and he was outraged to learn that Deanna has known about the situation but hasn’t acted, hoping it would get better on its own. Pete’s skills as a surgeon are necessary to the community and many people are better off that he is still volunteering his services, as well. Rick suggested first that the two be forced to separate, but Deanna remained unwilling to act, knowing that Pete would refuse and probably create an even bigger problem. When Rick suggests that they execute Pete if he fails to cooperate, Deanna becomes offended and incensed, defending exile as an acceptable alternative. Rick has learned his lesson about letting people like that go, but Deanna remained unwilling to listen.
And so he finds Jessie, smoking in her garage next to the broken owl statue. Shamefaced, she puts out the cigarette and offers condolences about Noah. Rick nods, but jumps right into the situation at hand. Pete is beating Jessie and it has to stop, one way or the other. Jessie protests, first admitting that things like this had happened before and, with her help, the situation was brought under control. She can fix it, and she doesn’t need Rick’s help.
She walks back into the house, shutting the garage door in Rick’s face. He begins to walk away, but after a few yards, he turns and walks into her living room. Rick tells her about Sam asking for a gun to protect her, and Jessie breaks down. She tries to get him to leave, but he stands firm. Inside or outside the walls, you fight or you die. That’s the way the world is now and she needs to realize that.
Moved by his passion, she asks why he cares so much. Looking very much like his character from Love, Actually, Andrew Lincoln looks like he swallowed an orange as he understands that he can’t keep the “I Very Much Want To Do Sex With You” expression off of his face.
And then, of course, Pete stumbles in. The confrontation soon turns from dopey-drunk to angry-drunk and Jessie tells him to leave. Pete refuses, and Rick steps in. In a purely law-enforcement-officer kind of way, I’m sure. It stays professional for about ten seconds before Pete leaps into Rick and the two begin beating the crap out of each other. Pete is thrown through a window and the fight spills into the street. The crash drew the neighbors attention, and they begin shouting when they realize that the local wifebeater is brawling with the newly-appointed constable. Jessie tries to pull them apart but Pete strikes her and pushes her away. Carl tries to intercede as well, but it isn’t until Rick has Pete in a “actually suffocating you” choke-hold that Deanna arrives that Rick lands one last blow against Pete, threatens to kill him if he touches Jessie again, and shoves him away, drawing his gun on the crowd.
Deanna begins a very politician-like lecture about the state of things, but Rick doesn’t give a damn what she has to say. She’s screwing it all up. They’re all screwing it all up. They can either start making good decisions about who gets to live here and who doesn’t, or they can kiss their utopia goodbye because it’s gonna go down in flames someday. Probably soon.
Deanna, clearly beginning to think that while Gabriel is clearly crazy he might not be an outright liar, claims that she is beginning to form a very clear idea about who should be able to live within Alexandria and who should not. Rick is incredulous, and continues to rant, but in a moment Michonne, dressed in her constable’s uniform, comes out of nowhere and knocks him out cold. She stands over him, glaring at the onlookers, daring anyone to say a word.
Ninety minutes left in the season. I am going to need a glass of wine, I think.
The Story’s Season Finale Airs Next Sunday Night On AMC.