The Walking Dead

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

So far, season five of The Walking Dead has had a record-breaking body count. The season’s finale is an extended episode, up to ninety minutes from the usual sixty. One can’t help but wonder if the usual body count for a season finale of this show might increase, as well.

Personally, I can’t decide if I’m pulling harder for Nicholas or Gabriel. Fairly certain that I won’t get that lucky.

First, we see a long-wrecked car in a wooded clearing. Morgan is sleeping in the backseat, huddled down but sleeping comfortably. He wakes peacefully and, upon reorienting himself to his surrounding, catches sight of a rabbit’s foot hanging from the car’s rearview mirror. He smiles. Luck, indeed.

And, for the first time in a very long time, we get TWO Morgan scenes in a row! He’s cooking his MRE breakfast over a little campfire in the woods when he’s approached by a tall, long-haired, lanky man with a gun. Morgan greets him evenly and suggests that he lower his weapon. The man (who, we see as the camera pans, has a W carved into his forehead) keeps the gun drawn on Morgan and begins to babble about the original settlers in the area. Keeping the drawn on Morgan, the man explains, without much prompting, about how they coerced the native people into hunting the wolves. But, things aren’t like that anymore. The wolves do the hunting these days. Morgan easily agrees, not tipping his hand that he’s certain he’s talking to a crazy person.

The Crazy continues, chattering on about how it’s nice to talk to someone. Sure, he sees people when his group runs through camps, or when they find people in their traps, but it’s not the same. Morgan, stone-faced, continues to listen as Crazy demands all of Morgan’s supplies. Morgan asks to keep a little, so he can keep going, but Crazy is going to take him too. Morgan wants to stay alive though, and tries to state his case while going for his gun. Crazy thrusts his own gun closer, ordering Morgan to be still. A tense moment passes, then Crazy’s friend jumps from the bushes to ambush Morgan.

That was a mistake. Even though Morgan doesn’t have his gun, he has a long wooden staff that he goes all master-fighter on the two with. He tries to warn them off, but people with W’s carved into their forehead usually don’t listen to reason so great. He puts them down, shoves them into the car that he slept in the night before, honks the horn a few times to see if any walkers are nearby so he can eliminate them if need be, and leaves them. He pauses only to grab the rabbit’s foot from the rearview mirror.

And we’re underway.

In Alexandria, Rick awakens in an unfinished room on a decent bed, his wounds cleaned and dressed. Michonne has been watching over him. She wanted answers from him the minute he woke up. She explains that Pete has been separated from Jessie and the boys, put into another house. More importantly, she wants to know why Rick didn’t tell her about his suspicions or his plans. He had to move fast, he replies. He knows he doesn’t have much of a good answer but the two have stayed alive because of their instincts, and she appears to understand his urgency. Even though she understands it, she doesn’t want Rick to continue behaving in such a way. They need to be accepted into Alexandria,

because outside was tearing them apart. Rick understands, on some level, but he can’t reconcile the daffy simplicity of the Alexandrians way of running things.

Before they can continue, Abraham, Glenn, and Carol enter. Upon seeing that Rick is awake and talking, Carol confronts him about the gun he had. She answers her own confrontation, though, accusing him of taking it from the armory and chastising him for such a stupid action. (Carol, Our Lady Badass, covers for her people before they need to cover themselves).

Glenn reports that Deanna is holding a meeting. Is it expressly to kick Rick out? Or just to try? Maggie’s going to request a meeting with Deanna to explain things, and to try to get a handle on how things might go.

Carol launches into the viable defense she’s prepared for Rick. He was concerned that someone was being abused. He took the gun for protection. Pete came after him first. It’s about 70% true, and that’s probably good enough to convince these dummies to let them stick around. Just tell them a story, she advises. These people are children, and children like stories. Carol’s been playing a role since they arrived, because she knows that’s how they want to see her. If she can do it, so can Rick.

Rick nods, but then orders a plan to rush the meeting and take Deanna and her family hostage in case things look bad. They’ll demand the armory or throats get slit. Glenn objects—now they’re like Terminus! No, Rick clarifies, they won’t actually hurt anyone. They’re too soft, they’ll give in before anyone gets hurt.

Because Glenn must have everything in black and white, he blatantly asks Rick if Rick wanted this kind of thing to happen. Rick didn’t, he says, he just snapped because he couldn’t handle their passive way of living. And that’s the way it is. They have a plan in case things go bad, and that’ll be that. He lays back down to sleep until it’s time for the meeting.

Maggie meets with Deanna, trying to contextualize Rick’s actions and advise against a bunch of frightened strangers having sway on her friend’s fate. She reminds Deanna of the reasons why they need each other, but Deanna is too troubled by the violence that has happened since her family’s arrival. Reg reminds Deanna that it was Michonne, not an Alexandrian, who put an end to Rick’s outburst. Deanna doesn’t appear to be moved. She’ll let the people have their say and make her decision, and with that, she dismisses Maggie.

Frustrated, Maggie leaves, but she’s caught by Reg on the way out. He knows that she’s right about Rick needing to stay, he’ll try to bend her ear if he can.

Carol goes back to see Rick, alone this time. With no preamble, she explains that she knows it’s unwise to tell Michonne and Glenn the truth about the guns and hands Rick another weapon. Rick is tired of lying, but Carol isn’t sympathetic. Rick doesn’t want to overrun Alexandria, but he doesn’t want to lie and pretend to play by their rules. Well, sunshine, says Carol, Queen of Post-Apocalyptic Sass , you don’t get both. Rick takes her point, and gathers himself. He wants to go home, so he sets out on the brief walk. A group of men are talking on the sidewalk, and he meets their eyes and greets each one by name.

The men are clearly unnerved by a man with multiple facial and hand wounds strolling along like nothing is unusual.

Maggie finds Glenn sitting outside upon returning from her meeting with Deanna. It went like they had expected it to, she reports. She plans on spending the day talking to as many people as possible, trying to explain Rick’s case so they won’t be so frightened of him. Glenn is supportive, but not certain he’ll join her. He’s still clearly rattled by Noah’s death and the lies that Nicholas is telling.

Speaking of Nicholas, he’s creeping and spying on Glenn as the scene goes on. After Maggie leaves, Nicholas (armed with the J gun that Rick stashed in the blender) makes certain that Glenn sees him climb over the walls and into the forest.

Rick returns to his house, wanting to see his children. Satisfied that they’re safe, he has a very frank discussion with Carl about what happened the night before, and what they’re planning for tonight. Carl isn’t happy about the threat of violence, but he understands that the people within Alexandria are weak and need to be awakened to this world’s harsh reality.

Pete’s dealing with his own harsh reality by drinking and sitting in the dark. He reluctantly answers the insistent knock at his door and is dismayed to find Carol on the other side, holding a casserole. Before he can turn her away she steps inside, shuts the door, and shuffles him against a nearby wall. She reminds him that he needs to be performing postop care on Tara. He growls at her to leave.

She shifts the casserole to one hand and pulls out a knife with the other. Calm, Gives-Zero-Shits Carol holds the knife against his throat and face. She could kill him right now, she says, not unhappily. She could, and she will, if he gives her any reason to. She knows no one would believe that she did it because she doesn’t like him, but they’d definitely believe it if she said he tried to hurt her.

He squirms. She continues. He’s a weak, nothing of a man, and in this world he should be dead already. But he’s here, and he’s lucky, and if he plays his cards right and does smart things, she won’t kill him. She sheaths her knife, shoves the casserole into his stomach, and walks out.

“I want my dish back, cleaned, when you’re done!”

Pete drops the casserole on the hallway and goes back into the living room. Crashing and stumbling, he’s enraged that he’s not in his own house.

But he’s close enough to see Rick stop by to talk to Jessie. She tries to shoo him away but Rick refuses to be sorry for what he’s done. She understands, but it’s still not a good idea for them to be seen together. Rick accepts, and turns to walk away. As he goes, she tells him that she realizes that he was right, after all.

Gabriel has been mostly doing Gabriel things (meaning, chores and weeping) all morning, but he decides to go for a walk. Spencer lets him out, reaffirming that Gabriel doesn’t want a gun before leaving the town. Gabriel is sure. God will protect him. Um, OK.

Gabriel comes upon a walker eating another person, and weeps and is distraught. He confronts it, he’s ready for it, he claims. I was personally rooting for the walker to have a Gabriel Burger, but instead Gabriel whips out a rope and chokes the walker. It takes a few tries before he manages to decapitate the rotting thing with the ligature, and he continues to weep and whimper as the walkers head continues to gnash its teeth on the ground. He pulls out a blade and spikes it, then goes to the person-not-yet-walker that was being eaten and spikes it, too.

He returns (without a spot on his white shirt, somehow), looking even more disturbed than usual. Spencer wants to talk to Gabriel about his spiritual troubles, and Gabriel says he’ll try to find the time. Spencer takes off, embarrassed of what he’s asked, and calls to Gabriel to make sure he shuts the gate.

Note: Do not, under any circumstances, let the emotionally-disturbed person who is failing to connect with reality in charge of locking up.

Daryl and Aaron have seen a man in a red poncho wandering through the woods, and have begun to track him to see if he’s a worthy recruit. They manage for a while, but unfortunately lose him. Instead, they find a cannery, which doesn’t appear to have been disturbed much. They might not be able to find the person, but if they can manage to bring back a lot of food, their mission will be a success.

They eliminate the few walkers they find wandering around the lot and begin to look for any supplies they might be able to take. Aaron spots an Alaska license plate and gathers it, happy to be able to start his collection over again. Daryl is as amused as someone who never collected anything can be. Chuckling, he opens the door on another tractor trailer parked by the loading docks.

Daryl, you should be more careful when you open doors.

That tractor trailer was full of walkers, who begin to flood out the door quickly, springing what quickly is revealed to be a very aggressive trap. The other trailers are also filled with walkers, all with W’s carved into their foreheads. Aaron and Daryl move to make it back to the road, but the lot is filling with more even more branded walkers. They find refuge in a nearby car, figuring that they can wait the swarm out before trying to make a break for it.

Except, no. Aaron finds a scrawled note stuffed between the seats. “Bad people are coming. Don’t stay.” So much for that idea, then. They consider their fate in silence, trying to ignore the rotting faces and hands scrambling at the glass. Things look grim, and they both know it.

Daryl opens up a bit, confessing that he feels better out in the world than he did in Alexandria. Even now, it feels more like him. Aaron counters that, while that may be true, Daryl also belongs somewhere safe, and the fact that he tried to integrate means a lot. Maybe, Daryl relents.

He lights a cigarette and tells Aaron that he’s going to leave the car first to cause a diversion so Aaron can make to the fence. Aaron won’t let that happen. They’re in this together. Daryl tries to refuse, but Aaron won’t be moved. Daryl takes a few more draws and they decide to go on three. They count.

One.

Two.

And then the walkers begin to drop away. Morgan has found them, somehow, and he’s taken it upon himself to save them. Save them, he does.

As space clears around the car, Aaron and Daryl get out to fight, as well. It’s an ugly melee, but a successful one. They manage to fight their way to the perimeter and close the fence again. Once they’re secure, the men introduce themselves in the shaky way that strangers who have just cheated death together do. Aaron, astonished and grateful, invites Morgan to join himself and Daryl on the trip back to the community.

Morgan is also grateful, but he declines. He’s actually a bit lost, he confesses. He’s looking for something in the area but isn’t quite sure where to find it. Aaron and Daryl offer to help. Morgan produces the map he found that Abraham and left for Rick. Yeah, Daryl can probably help Morgan find Rick Grimes.

Also outside the walls in Alexandria, Glenn is pursuing Nicholas through the woods. Glenn finds the body of another tied and tortured walker, but before he can react, Nicholas shoots him in the shoulder. The two men fight each other through and against walkers throughout much of the episode, with Glenn nearly getting chomped on at least once because Nicholas abandons him.

But back inside the walls, Abraham has gone to visit Tara. He turns away, though, when he sees that Eugene is sitting with her. He’s asleep, Rosita explains, and tells him to go on ahead. Once Abraham settles into the chair, she drops a bedpan, starting Eugene awake.

Abraham doesn’t want to have this conversation, but Eugene has some things to say. He’s sorry for lying, and unspeakably grateful that Abraham’s talents and wits for survival delivered him to DC anyway. Abraham is sorry for almost killing Eugene, but Eugene knows he probably had it coming just a little bit.

Rick is resting, waiting for the meeting, when Michonne approaches him. They a short-sentenced conversation about the guns that he, Carol, and Daryl stole and why they did so. He tries to hand over the gun that Carol brought to him, but Michonne doesn’t take it. She asserts that she knows they all have to try to make this work. She doesn’t need her sword, she explains, and Rick won’t need his gun. She doesn’t accept it as he offers it again, though. She leaves him to have a few more minutes to gather himself before the meeting.

Rick begins to check his weapons and arm himself, prepared to do what’s necessary against the Alexandrians if they decide against his fate. Bob’s words, “this isn’t the real world. This is a nightmare. And nightmares end,” echo across his thoughts. Pausing to look out the window, Rick scans the horizon for danger as he probably will for the rest of his life. At least he’s adjusted to finding it. He realizes the gate is open. He rushes down the street and finds the gate covered in walker detritus, flesh torn on the locking mechanism from a corpse that staggered into it before continuing further, into Alexandria.

At this point, the narrative layers quite a bit, between shots of the meeting (which starts without Rick and Glenn, to Maggie and Michonne’s protest), Glenn and Nicholas fighting in the woods, Rick finding and fighting off the walkers that got in through the open fence, and Gabriel, who stumbles into his

garage-church to find Sasha (who spent the day flinging dead walkers into a pit and taking a nap on them) looking for his guidance. Gabriel instead rants against her wickedness, insisting that she doesn’t deserve the utopia of Alexandria. Maggie, Abraham, and Carol speak in defense of Rick Grimes. The brawl between Glenn and Nicholas comes to a head when Glenn pins Nicholas down, pushing the barrel of a gun into his head, but is unable to pull the trigger for all of Nicholas’ pathetic weeping. Sasha and Gabriel begin to fight, but Gabriel vs. Sasha is like Comatose Antelope vs. Lionness and she soon puts him down on the floor, rifle drawn on him. Deanna recalls Gabriel’s warning to the group in the meeting, but Jessie (with a fresh black eye) isn’t necessarily convinced that he’s worth listening to. Maggie leaves the group to go find Gabriel.

Also, the Wolves have guided Red Poncho Man to their sprung-but-empty trap and slash his throat, killing him and leaving him to turn. As they work to lure the walkers back into the trailers by triggering remote noise-and-light lures, one discovers Aaron’s pack with pictures of Alexandria and its inhabitants.

Meanwhile, Rick has taken down the walkers who got into the town, and slings one over his shoulder. He carries it into the middle of the meeting and dumps it in the middle of the crowd. See, this is why you can’t have nice things, he tries to explain. Your gate was open and you’re all idiots and this needs to stop! Deanna demands to know why the gate was open, and Spencer admits that he left Gabriel to close it. Gabriel is still not at the meeting. Maggie found Sasha ready to shoot him and intervened. Gabriel continued to weep. Maggie should have let Sasha kill him. He doesn’t deserve to be alive, he sobs. He doesn’t deserve to be alive, because they’re all dead because of him. Them, who? Well, we don’t know.

Before the meeting can continue, Pete shows up, armed with Michonne’s sword and, again, roaring drunk. The open gate is proof that Rick and his people don’t belong! He’s flailing and dangerous. A few Alexandrians move to disarm him, but Pete lashes back at them.

In doing so, he catches Reg and slices his throat open, mortally wounding him. Deanna screams an rushes to hold her dying husband. Abraham springs across the crowd to restrain and immobilize Pete. Pete, for his part, doesn’t appear concerned that he just killed someone as he continues to shout against Rick. Sobbing, Deanna catches Rick’s eye.

“Do it,” she orders.

Abraham adjusts his hold on Pete slightly, so he won’t be harmed as Rick walks over to execute Pete on the spot. Everyone is stunned.

But no one is more stunned than Daryl, Aaron, and Morgan, who have just arrived on the scene.

Michonne collected her sword after Pete misused it and murdered Reg. She wipes the blood clean and moves to hang it above her fireplace again, but she reconsiders. Instead, she puts on her harness and slides the sword back into its harness.

She and her group will need to make it work within Alexandria. But Alexandria will have to work with her group, as well.

And that’s all for season five. Lots of people are dead and a completely new future awaits.

Photo Courtesy Of AMC Network

Photo Courtesy Of AMC Network

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.

Photo Courtesy Of AMC

Photo Courtesy Of AMC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The opening shot is Gabriel, possibly preparing for a sermon. He’s got an altar, and there’s a semi-circle of empty chairs facing him. Obviously he will be a priest in Alexandria, because priests are priests even in the zombie apocalypse. Or something. It was probably unwise to just hand him such a position, since after he sees the nice basket of strawberries, praising God for Blessing Alexandria with Gabriel’s presence, he starts ripping pages out of his bible. Then, he sweats and groans in anguish as he tears the book apart. Then, he looks heavenward. His expression is hard to read, if only because the dazed look of someone who is probably nuts could mean oh so many things.

Really, though, life is moving forward in Alexandria. Daryl has built his motorcycle and is heading out with Aaron on another recruitment mission. Reg, Deanna’s husband, is meeting Noah, per Noah’s request, first thing in the morning. Noah will be going on a run with the group later today, but before that happened, Noah wanted to have a conversation. He’s very interested in the walls that Reg designed. He wants to be taught how to do that, in case they would ever need to know.

Reg, concerned, asks Noah if he thinks the walls might fall. It’s not that Noah is concerned about the walls falling down on their own, but they could hypothetically be pushed from the outside. Rammed, destroyed somehow. And it’s not just the wall, he continues. Alexandria is starting over, and eventually buildings will need to be repaired. New ones will need to be built. Noah wants to be a part of that.

Reg is moved, and maybe a little flattered. He takes out a notebook to begin writing. Noah asks what he’s doing, and he explains that he always writes important things down in a journal. With a thoughtful look, he tears out the few used pages and turns the book over to Noah. His first lesson will be to write things down, because there’s going to be so much to learn.

The Run Group is gearing up to head out. They need supplies for their solar power. Eugene is helpful enough to know what kind they need and provide an example, but he is not interested in going himself. A few people try to convince him otherwise, but it’s eventually That Jerk Nicholas who insists Eugene come along so he can verify the equipment they’re gathering. Noah offers Eugene a gun again, this time much closer to his face. Eugene accepts but he’s not very happy about it. Glenn says goodbye to Maggie in his anxious, earnest way. Maggie is stoic. She knows Glenn will handle any situation that comes up. He always does, she reminds him.

The group, headed by Deanna and Reg’s son Aiden (who seems like kind of a jackass) load themselves into the van and hunker down for the drive. One of the Alexandria Idiots puts in a mix CD with some techno mix with a Resident Evil clip edited in and blasts the volume, “to pump everyone up.” I can only assume that the writers are going out of their way to show us how painfully naïve and dead-inside-terrible the Alexandria Idiots really are. You’re not going clubbing, you fools.

They make it to the warehouse and begin to assess their approach. Various stupid strategies are suggested by That Idiot Nicholas, but Aiden agrees with Glenn to do a full perimeter sweep of all possible exits before entering the building. As Noah takes out an advancing walker, the team divides into teams to secure the perimeter. Tara and Eugene team up, mostly because Eugene isn’t done yet telling Tara how inappropriate it is for him to be there, while she continues to flatly disagree with him.

Ahead, Glenn compliments Noah on his well-aimed walker elimination. Noah admits his target practice has helped. They all gather at the originally planned entrance. Glenn bangs on the walls of the steel building, listening for any walker noises in response to the racket. He’s met by silence. Alexandria Idiots want to proceed but Glenn would prefer to wait. It’s a big place, it could take a while for them to come looking for the noise.

Glenn is humored for a few more seconds before the group advances through the warehouse. They discover several dozen walkers inside the warehouse behind a security cage. For the most part they all seem to be secured, so they split up to begin searching for supplies. Eugene and Tara find the thing they were looking for!

Across the warehouse, Aiden and Nicholas come across a stray walker, who was some sort of special military forces when it was a human, because it’s wearing riot gear and a face shield. Aiden keeps trying to shoot it, but the armor is doing a good job. Glenn tries to coach him how to take it down, but Aiden is a little trigger happy. Still shouting, Glenn notices the grenades on the walker’s vest. Glenn orders Aiden to stop, but the grenade is shot and a blast rocks the warehouse.

In the aftermath, Glenn is one of the first to come to. There’s been a hole blown in the walker cage and they’re beginning to get through. Eugene is OK but Tara is unconscious and bleeding from the head. Aiden is pierced through the torso in several places by the mangled remains of a blasted shelving unit. Nicholas is nearby and checks Aiden’s pulse. Aiden’s gone.

Noah and Glenn are able to get to Eugene and Tara in time to save them from the advancing walkers. They decide to make a run for it to the warehouse’s office. To his credit, Eugene appears very concerned for Tara, even if he’s too much of a coward to try to help her without someone screaming in his face for him to do so. He carries her to the office where the group begins to work on an exit strategy. Walkers grind and snarl at the windows. There haven’t been this many walkers in a long time!

Through the window, they see Aiden gain consciousness and gain awareness of his situation. That Idiot Nicholas isn’t very good at telling when people are dead I guess. The group hesitates for a second about what to do, but Eugene insists that they try to retrieve him. Tara would make them save Aiden, he says. He promises to wait and protect her while they get Aiden before they all make a break for it. It’s a risky plan but they can’t leave anyone behind so of course Glenn agrees to it.

Noah covers Glenn and That Idiot as they try to dislodge Aiden from the building. Aiden is panicking, and Glenn is trying to talk him through it. As they pull him forward, he screams, and more walkers are drawn to them. Nicholas grabs Aiden and hisses in his ear that this is what he deserves, since they were the reason the team lost four other people a few months ago. They were the panickers, not their dead friends. Aiden agrees, screaming his own confession, and That Idiot Nicholas runs off. Glenn and Noah try to free Aiden, but they’re overwhelmed by walkers. Aiden has deserted people. He’s panicked at the wrong time. He’s stuck to a shelving unit with several metal bars protruding from his chest. Glenn can’t save him. With more regret than other people would have, Glenn and Noah run off, leaving Aiden to be devoured, guts-first.

Things aren’t going exactly as well as they could in Alexandria either. Abraham’s obvious PTSD-like affliction has him getting a little dizzy and bored on the construction crew, but the worksite is soon overcome by walkers, finally giving him something to do. These Alexandria people are also idiots, who don’t shoot very well and are generally doing a bad job at handling the situation. A team member falls from a backhoe bucket and the foreman gives orders to leave her, but Abraham of course refuses. He drives hard into the melee to save his coworker, which he does fairly successfully and with a little more glee than he probably needed.

With those walkers taken care of, the construction workers have all reunited, and begin discussing what had just happened. A few marvel over Abraham’s bravery. The foreman tries to explain why he gave orders to leave the fallen worker, Francine, and Abraham is furious that anyone would ever do such a thing. The foreman tries to get Francine to back him up, saying it’s their code, but she decks him and lays him out flat. I’m sensing a lot of people in Alexandria need to be punched in the face.

Like Jessie’s husband, Pete. He goes over to Rick’s house in the afternoon when Rick is off duty, drunk as hell and talking a bunch of weird, aggressive nonsense. Earlier in the day, Rick had noticed that Jessie’s owl statue had again been destroyed, and he said he’d look into who did it. Behavior like that shouldn’t be tolerated in a place that has a sheriff. Bad for society, he tries to say. Jessie assured him it was nothing to be worried about, but Rick didn’t have much else to do, so he said he’d look into it. Pete apparently reacted poorly to Rick and Jessie’s interaction because now he’s daytime drunk and clumsily insulting someone who has torn apart walkers with his bare hands. Rick apologizes for being unable to solve the owl vandal mystery, noting how odd it was that nobody saw anything at all. Pete’s too drunk to pick upon any sort of actual thinking, though. Rick eventually hustles him out the door. Pete has nominated himself as another Alexandria Idiot who needs a punch in the face.

That kid Sam is also irritating. He’s sneaking around Carol’s house and generally being a terrible pest. Carol-the-Alexandrian is warm and friendly and bakes cookies, but Real-Carol wants nothing to do with this little shit or his constant need for attention. He badgers her into agreeing to make one more batch of cookies in exchange for his silence about that whole “gun theft” thing.

As the cookies are finishing, Sam continues to pepper Carol with questions. She resists, but eventually admits that she liked cooking before the world ended because it was fun and also distracted her when she was sad.

Well, Sam knows what it’s like to be sad. Sometimes when he’s sad he breaks stuff. Carol, as much as she is trying to ignore the sad, needy kid that buzzes around her constantly, can’t help but ask what he means by that. Was he the one who broke the owl statue, she asks.

Sam doesn’t answer, but asks her why she took the guns. Guns are for protection, she explains. Sam wants a gun! But not for himself, he says. Carol is increasingly concerned by Sam’s sudden silence and unwillingness to talk. She can also spot a troubled kid from a mile away. When she asks who he would want the gun for, he bolts entirely.

No one is having a very easy day, for sure. At the warehouse, Glenn and Noah are trying to fight their way out. Eugene takes Tara over his shoulder and, shaking like a leaf, manages to make a run through the remaining walkers who aren’t busy eating Aiden or trying to eat Glenn and Noah. He makes it to the van, throwing Tara in the back.

Glenn and Noah have met up with Nicholas, and the three are now trapped in a revolving door at the warehouse’s entrance. Glenn and Noah try to talk Nicholas through his panic, but he just thrashes and screams. Eugene comes along in the van, blaring that awful music and beating the side of the metal door like a drum. Eventually the outside walkers become distracted by the diversion and take off.

Now it’s just a matter of trying to get three people out of a revolving door when one side opens up to a room full of riled up walkers. Glenn forms a plan, they try to put it into action, and Nicholas continues to panic. He squeezes himself out through the door and flees, leaving Noah and Glenn in a bad position to get out on their own. They struggle to keep the walkers back, but one eventually gets Noah’s leg. Then then get his other leg. Glenn pulls for all he’s worth but he’s no match for the physics of a revolving door and dozens of monsters.

They drag Noah through the door and eat him while he’s pressed up against the glass. Glenn shakes and cries as Noah screams.

Across the parking lot, Nicholas catches up with Eugene. When Eugene asks where the others are, Nicholas attacks him and tries to steal the van. A few walkers hear the noise and become interested. It’s all going very badly when Glenn comes from nowhere and breaks everything up, laying Nicholas out and then punching him twice more for good measure.

I thought for a split second Glenn was gonna go to the Abraham Place and beat his face in, but even after watching his friend get eaten alive, Glenn is not that guy. He orders Eugene to throw him into the van with Tara. They’re getting the hell out of there. The ride back is silent. Glenn drives and Eugene stares at the unconscious passengers and Noah’s diary, which contains only the words “This is the beginning.”

The beginning, sure. But of what? Well…

Carol hasn’t been able to find Sam. She finally knocks on his front door. Pete answers. The house is dark, and Pete looks like hell. He’s very obviously a dude beating at least his wife and probably his son, too. Carol lived this life for years, and from the expression on her face, she had really hoped that domestic violence was one thing she’d never have to deal with again. She goes to tell Rick.

The foreman that screwed up the construction site has come to apprise Deanna of the situation. He also insists on resigning and letting Abraham take over the lead. He was impressed by Abraham’s combat skills as well as his people skills. Reg, who is the brains behind the construction crew, doesn’t immediately seem taken with the idea but Deanna knows what she has to do. The man leaves, thankful for Deanna and Reg’s time. Maggie, who is working as Deanna’s assistant, agrees with the foreman’s

assessment of Abraham. Deanna takes it all in, but wonders if it isn’t a mistake promoting so many outsiders to leadership positions so quickly.

Maggie reminds her that the whole reason her group is there is because Alexandria needs survivors of the crisis if it is going to have a future. Deanna agrees, seemingly grateful for Maggie’s advice.

Maggie leaves to attend to another task, and there’s another knock at the door. It’s Gabriel, and he’s gotta talk to Deanna immediately. He’s gotta talk to her about paradise and Satan and evil and a whole bunch of other things that hopefully don’t make any sense to Deanna. Maggie overhears as Gabriel tells Deanna that her group is corrupted by Satan, wicked to its core. They’re false apostles, she hears him say. Deanna’s expression never changes at all from “shrewd politician” and doesn’t waver for a split second here. She thanks Gabriel for his words, says she has a lot of thinking to do, and dismisses him. Maggie remains still, unsure of what to do, and hopes (along with me and everybody else) that what Deanna has to think about is what she’s gonna do with a batshit insane priest.

The convoy returns and Glenn screams for help.

Before the women react, we’re taken back to Rick’s house. Carol is certain that Pete is beating Jessie, and maybe Sam. Rick reacts in the measured, distant manner of a law enforcement professional, but clenches his fists like someone who never wants to stop punching people in the face. It’s no wonder, Rick, you’re surrounded by idiots.

Carol knows there’s only one way for Jessie and Pete’s situation to end. She knows it from years and years of being Ed’s battered wife. They’re gonna have to kill Pete. Plain and simple.

And that’s all, folks. Aiden is dead. Noah is dead. And lots of people need to get clocked.

Courtesy of AMC

Courtesy of AMC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Life on the inside is hard, too. I don’t think anyone expected that re-assimilating into a community would go easily, but I also don’t think anyone was prepared for just how safe-and-sound and blissfully ignorant Alexandria actually is.

Sasha wakes one morning, and it almost looks as if she’s glaring at the family photographs of smiling strangers before her eyes even focus. This world of knickknacks and furniture and is incomprehensible to her. She heads to the weapons lockup to check out her gun and spend some time outside the walls. It’s early—first light, really. The woman who works at the lockup, Olivia, is awake and chattering away like a particularly annoying songbird. Sasha, who has killed a pack of wild dogs without blinking an eye, is shocked by Olivia’s energetic senselessness. The kind of blind, friendly personality that Olivia displays has been eliminated in Sasha’s world. She can barely choke out replies to Olivia’s nattering as she walks away with her rifle.

In the forest, she finds a clearing and sets up the pictures for some target practice. She fires a round, the glass shattering and the picture itself knocked onto the ground. She looks around, making sure she’s not being watched. Another shot, and another look-around by Sasha, who is becoming increasingly more agitated at the endless silence she hears. She continues to take a shot, pause, and take another, but eventually she begins shooting in fairly rapid progression. Glass splinters, the muffled clack of the silenced gunfire slices through the air, and walkers begin to growl as Sasha’s breathing deepens.

Except there are no walkers. Just Sasha sitting on a stump amid a pile of shot-up framed photographs. It’s not the satisfaction she’d hoped for, it appears.

“Come and get me,” she mutters.

Rick, Carol, and Daryl are also outside the walls. They’re meeting up at the overrun shanty-ish house where Rick hid the blender-gun. The three of them are simply unable to deal with not having firepower under their control, and they begin to plot to raid the weapons lockup. Nothing extreme, necessarily, but the lockup is so poorly guarded, and they’ll be so careful with using them, that it would be irresponsible to not take a few weapons just in case things go to hell. It’s a caution they can’t afford not to take.

Rick wants to keep everything strictly between the three of them. He wants the rest of the group to really make an effort and assimilate, but he also knows the three of them are the best suited to take care of this kind of thing. Daryl agrees, and Carol nods. A walker approaches, and Daryl raises his bow to take aim, but Carol very precisely empties a clip into the thing before ending it. Daryl and Rick appear a bit confused—her marksmanship couldn’t possibly have gotten so bad? Carol explains, “You said you were taking me shooting. Can’t go back with a full mag, now, can I?” Carol, Our Lady Badass, wins again. But there’s a “W” (or an “M”) into the head of that walker, punctuated by the bullet hole in the thing’s forehead. It’s troublesome enough to make raiding the lockup an unavoidable necessity.

Rick and Carol head back to within the walls, and Daryl stays out to go hunting. Rick meets up with Michonne, who is customizing her police uniform into something she can fight in. narrow back, lots of movement in the arms. They’re the new constables, and they need to discuss their roles in the community. They’re strangers, yet they’ve been handed authority over the others. Is that wise on Deanna’s part? If it is, or if it isn’t, how does it affect them, exactly? The kind of walls they’ve built up around themselves to survive life on the outside are hard to tear down. Michonne, for her part, really wants to try.

They have a meeting with Maggie, Sasha, and Deanna in Deanna’s parlor. Deanna is unveiling more of her plans for Rick, Michonne, and Maggie. Rick and Michonne are the keepers of the peace. They look after the children, patrol the walls, take care of internal disputes. Maggie’s role will be more political. Deanna talks about her dream for the future of Alexandria and, eventually, civilization. Maggie and Michonne are enraptured and in agreement, but Rick begins to tune out and glance out the window, checking the perimeter as much as he can.

Deanna catches him almost immediately. Whether or not she’s a full-of-shit politician remains to be seen but she sure isn’t an inept politician. She knows how to read people. She really wasn’t kidding about that professional poker player thing. She very sharply asks Rick if he has a problem, and he stumbles to deny anything is wrong, but eventually he begins completely change the subject from the future government of mankind to immediate security needs. The patrols need to be enforced several times over, at the barest of minimums. When it’s revealed that there are no actual lookouts in the watchtower, everyone from Rick’s group insists that 24/7 watchtower shifts begin immediately. Sasha volunteers for every shift possible, but Deanna isn’t so sure she wants Sasha in that role right away. Why does Sasha want these shifts so badly, Deanna asks. Before Sasha can reply, Michonne and Maggie interject that Sasha is the best shot on the crew and could be a major asset to the community in that regard. Deanna seems impressed, but assigns the first watchtower shift to her son, Spencer.

Oh, and she’s having a party this evening to welcome them all to the community and she wants everyone to attend. Meeting adjourned!

And everyone from Rick’s group (even Michonne, who wants this to work very, very badly) kind of exchange a look like “is this lady for real?”

Rick leaves the meeting, walking past a house where Carol is talking recipes with other wives. She breaks away from the women and runs to catch up with Rick. They smile and nod and speak in hushed tones as they fine-tune their plan to take a few guns from the poorly guarded, poorly maintained weapons locker. They just need to slip someone into the room to leave the window unlatched and they’ll be in business. But who? Everyone’s watching Rick and especially Daryl so closely, and they can’t involve any of the others. Carol’s invisible, though, and she knows it.

The locker happens to be in the community storage with the other rationed supplies. Olivia keeps track of all the recipes and is really excited by all the things Carol talks about making. A group of men come in, asking Olivia to let them into the weapons lockup because they need to address a security concern at the wall before tonight’s festivities. Carol tentatively follows them into the room, regarding all the metal and powder-and-oil smell gingerly. One of the men looks at her as she fidgets with her cardigan. He smiles. “Are you afraid of guns, ma’am?” he asks. Carol laughs and replies that, while she’s handled some before on the outside, she’s sure no expert. The man smiles again. He’d be happy to take her shooting any time. Carol smiles back. She’d sure like that.

She pauses to look out the window, then turns back to Rick as the two leave the room. Being invisible has its own advantages, she confesses. The latch on the window is open.

Carol, Our Lady of Crafty Badassery.

Out in the woods, Daryl is tracking quietly when he hears a slight noise through the brush. He draws his bow and calls for the person to come out. Aaron, hands raised and very calmly, stumbles into Daryl’s sight line. He’s pretty impressed Daryl can tell the difference between walkers and people just by the noise. To Daryl, this is like being impressed that he can tie his shoes or clean a gun. Daryl doesn’t draw off of him and demands to know why Aaron is following him.

He wasn’t following him, he explains. He was out hunting as well but he’s not nearly as good at it as Daryl is. He asks to tag along, and Daryl accepts as long as he keeps up and doesn’t make too much noise. They soon come upon a horse, rolling around in a clearing. Aaron admits he’s been trying to capture the horse for months and bring it in, but he’s been unsuccessful. Daryl nods as Aaron babbles about the horse being named Buttons by one of the children who saw it near the gate one day. He readies a rope and slings his bow over his shoulder. Aaron is impressed by Daryl’s confidence as he approaches the horse. He’s done it before, Daryl explains. The group has, at least. But the thing about these horses is that the longer they’re out there, the more they become what they really are.

Truer words rarely spoken.

Daryl makes eye contact with the horse, then approaches with a slouched posture and soothing voice. The horse regards him, but stiffens and backs up slowly. Daryl talks to the horse, trying to convince him that he understands him and is therefore trustworthy. You used to be somebody’s, Daryl concedes, but now you’re just yours. And that’s okay.

He reaches to throw the rope, but some walkers have gathered around them and begin to try to eat everybody. Aaron and Daryl dispatch them quickly and then follow the horse as it runs away.

As they track the horse, Aaron continues to talk at Daryl. Daryl is different from the people in Alexandria, and Aaron knows what it’s like to feel different from people in your community, too. He relates how he and Eric have been made to feel like outsiders, how they’ve been insulted by really well-meaning and nice people, how they’re used to having to prove themselves somehow. But, that stuff has gone away since he’s let the community get to know him. People are afraid of what they don’t understand, and they do really stupid things when they’re scared. And Daryl should give the community a chance, too. Daryl isn’t so sure. He’s seen a lot of people do a lot of terrible things, and they weren’t afraid of anything. But Aaron is willing to bet those people were afraid, too.

Inside Alexandria, the group is attending Deanna’s party. Rick is wearing a shirt with buttons and everyone is clean and drinking alcohol out of glasses. People are wearing blazers. It’s an intensely different kind of scene than Rick is used to, and the whole experience leaves Rick reeling for a minute. Deanna greets them, holds out her arms to Judith, and chattering about what a bright future she’ll have. Rick recovers quickly, and nods along with Deanna’s hopes.

Abraham and Rosita entered. Abraham is wearing a shirt with a collar and sleeves. That alone is worth the whole episode. Neither of the two look particularly impressed, but Rosita points out the beer. Abraham is more on board.

Deanna then drags Rick off to meet her husband, Reg, and the two discuss how impressive building the wall was versus keeping people alive without a wall. They call it a tie. He offers Rick a drink, but Rick declines. “I’m good,” he says. Reg sizes him up, and it’s like they’re at an actual damn country club. He holds out the bottle to Rick. “But you don’t have to be!” he says lightly. Rick reels again, and recovers just in time to laugh before things get too weird. Rick gratefully accepts a glass of whiskey.

And we’re back to Daryl and Aaron tracking the horse. They’re losing light fast, and the walkers are beginning to stir a bit more. They decide to approach the small flock of walkers stalking the horse from behind, picking them off from the sides and working their way it. It works fine until they realize the clearing is also littered with walker torsos with still-functional heads. Aaron has a close call, but Daryl manages to save him. The two recover, but only in time to see the horse get overtaken by walkers and eaten, brutally and with intestines everywhere, in a matter of seconds. Aaron and Daryl move in to eliminate the walkers who are distracted by the horse feast they’re having. When the last of the walkers is taken care of, Daryl nods to Aaron to put the horse down. Aaron does without flinching, but without much of any other reaction, either.

I normally like to deal with concurrent story arcs within an episode separately, but the dichotomy between these two scenes was one of the most striking things I’ve seen a television show do recently, and it’s worth experiencing in exactly that order.

Inside Alexandria, the party continues. Noah is a little freaked out and wants to leave, but Maggie and Glenn assert that he has to stay and spend time with family. Jessie introduces Rick to her husband Pete who seems kind of like a jackass. The pairs are sporting red “A”s stamped onto their hands. Jessie says hopeful things about society and their chance at civilization that Rick can’t seem to bring himself to agree with. But he seems to very much appreciate Jessie is talking to him, even if her words are hippie nonsense.

He checks the perimeter of the room again. Carl is talking to some kids and looking like normal teenager. One of Jessie’s sons approaches and kid-babbles at Rick about cookies. And he notices Rick doesn’t have a stamp and becomes rather distressed.

A stamp? Is this finally the crazy-bomb that’s going to drop and reveal these people as nut jobs?

Nope. He’s just a kid with a toy stamper who likes stamping things. Rick accepts the stamp without much protest.

Daryl and Aaron arrived back in Alexandria safely. Daryl had dressed to go to the party, and stands outside the window for a bit, before deciding to head back home. He passes Aaron and Eric’s house, and Aaron calls to him from the porch. Daryl kind of assumed Aaron would be at the party, but Aaron clarifies—he couldn’t go because of Eric’s ankle, and he’s not very sorry he’s missing it. He badgers Daryl to come in and have dinner. At the mention of spaghetti, Daryl acquiesces.

Daryl plows through the plate of spaghetti, and Eric is more than a little amused at his, um, rustic table manners. Eric, trying to seem like everything is normal, starts talking to Daryl about maybe certain things he could pick up “in his travels.” Daryl is confused. Aaron is disappointed. Eric has spilled the beans.

Aaron leads Daryl into their garage. He has a ton of bike parts and a bike in there, but he admits he doesn’t know how to assemble or work on any of it. But Daryl knows. And he wants Daryl to have a bike, because he wants Daryl to be the one to go out recruiting with him. Eric isn’t suited for it, but Daryl is wise and skilled and knows a good guy from a bad guy.

Daryl is exploring the garage as Aaron explains, looking at parts and inspecting the tools lying around. He’s listening closely, though, as Aaron assures him that his role is going to be valued and appreciated. Daryl figures he’s got nothing else to do. Which, obviously, really meant “this is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me thank you.”

Carol has slipped away from the party and is making quick work of the weapons lockup. A shocked child’s voice rings out behind her, “What are you doing?!”

Carol turns around and realizes she knows the child from their brief introductions around the neighborhood. He begins babbling like a scared child about wanting more cookies and telling his mom and Carol realizes that this is the soft, squishy brain of a child who has never had to kill a walker and has never seen anyone get eaten alive.

She proceeds to offer him cookies if he stays silent, and threatens him with sudden and total abandonment in the middle of nowhere, where no one will hear him scream, as he’s tied to a tree and monsters feast on him alive.

I think maybe that kid crapped his pants a little. He agrees. Silence and cookies for him.

Rick is looking for Judith at the party and finds her in Jessie’s arms. She babbles some more about hope and babies and Judith fusses for Rick. Rick begins to babble back a bit, explaining that maybe he understands that there is a little bit of stability in the world. They are in the middle of performing the baby-swap when Rick reaches down and kisses Jessie on the cheek.

Um, Rick? If you’re that drunk, maybe you shouldn’t be holding that baby.

Meanwhile, Sasha has arrived but isn’t coping very well. The party is loud and the women have her cornered and are blathering on about recipes and housecleaning tips and Sasha can barely stand any of it. A woman introduces herself and offers to make her favorite meal as part of her welcome to the community. Sasha can barely reply that she doesn’t have a favorite meal before the woman chatters ahead, saying she’d worry she’d make something Sasha doesn’t like and then she’d feel terrible.

Sasha flips. “That’s what you’re worried about?!” she screams.

Party’s over. At least for Sasha.

The next day, she’s at the gate with her rifle propped up beside her. Deanna marches up to her and thrusts a box of ammunition in to her hand. She doesn’t know quite what’s wrong with Sasha, and it troubles her. Sasha doesn’t care. This life they’re living cannot be real. Deanna, offended to her core, calls that bullshit and walks away.

Rick, Daryl, and Carol have met back at the shanty house to divvy up the guns Carol managed to swipe. Daryl declines. If he’s really going to try, he doesn’t want to have a gun. Easily said for a dude with a crossbow, but still a good step for him? Rick and Carol load themselves up.
Inside the wall, Michonne has hung her sword above her very-impressive fireplace.

Once Rick returns inside, he sees Jessie and Pete stroll past, smiling and waving. Rick returns the wave, and glares at Pete as he slips his arm tighter around Jessie.

But Rick is soon distracted, and follows a noise up to the wall. There’s a walker on the other side. Rick pinpoints the walker’s location. An aerial shot shows the two creatures pressed up against opposite sides of the wall, listening to each other breathe.
It’s not going to be a smooth transition for anybody.

Photo Courtesy Of AMC

Photo Courtesy Of AMC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

In another blessing of continuity from The Walking Dead Gods, this week we again pick up right where we left off. The group is gathering at the gates of Alexandria, with Aaron and Eric limping through first. It’s a typical slow, deliberately crafted Walking Dead shot. All of a sudden, a crash and rustle of movement stirs in the weeds beside the road. The entire group draws on the disruption, and Daryl puts an arrow throw the offence’s source—a possum rooting through some rubbish cans. The Alexandrites are horrified, but Daryl’s used to shocking polite sensibilities. He grabs the dead thing by the tail. “Brought dinner,” he proclaims.

Just inside the gates, the gate worker tells the group to disarm. They, of course, protest. Rick reiterates that the group won’t be surrendering their weapons until they speak to the person in charge. Aaron vouches for him, wants them taken straight to Deanna. As they’re discussing things, a walker begins to amble up the street. Sasha raises her rifle and puts it down through the bars in the gate. No more words. The group remains armed as they walk into Alexandria. Rick muses aloud that Alexandria will, indeed, need Rick Grimes.

Next, we find Rick in a very nicely furnished sitting room. Books on shelves. Lace curtains. The whole schmear. Hairy and filthy, Rick looks out of place. For his part, Rick looks like he can’t believe that a place so clean and well-maintained still exists. It’s hard to blame him.

A short, pale woman enters, dressed in the clothing you’d expect any business-elite woman in her mid-50s to wear at home. She introduces herself as Deanna Monroe. Rick states his name and continues to size her up. Deanna gets right to business. She wants to talk to Rick, and she wants to film the talk for the sake of transparency. She asks what Rick was before the world ended. Rick is sure it doesn’t matter. She isn’t.

Deanna begins to give her background—she was a congresswoman representing Ohio. She and her family were trying to get back home during the crisis but they were stopped by the Army and rerouted to the neighborhood where they now sit. It was a subdivision, planned to be self-sustainable with solar power, cisterns, septic tanks, etc. The wall outside came from construction materials from a nearby shopping center. Her husband, an architecture professor, started to put up the walls with the help of their sons. Soon, more people came and the wall was completed.

They’ve been inside the walls the entire time. That’s why they need people like Rick and his group—they need people who have been on the outside to help them survive. Rick, still amazed that a place like this can even exist, looks at Deanna as he tells her he thinks they should keep the gates closed.

Deanna inquires as to why, continuing to interrogate him with the patient, even manner of a lawyer or psychiatrist evaluating a client. Rick knows he’s being watched very carefully, but he doesn’t hesitate in explaining that, on the outside, it’s all about survival by any means necessary. Any people you come across measure you by what they can take from you. Deanna asks if he means that their group should not be allowed in Alexandria. She explains that she’s considering taking them in on the word of Aaron, and Rick interrupts. He doesn’t know Aaron, he states, but Deanna should know that Rick has done

whatever he needed to do to survive, including killing people. He’s killed people so that his family, his entire group, would be safe, and so he could stay alive to continue to support them.

Rather than being bothered by Rick’s confession, Deanna states that his family seems very important to him, and anyone should be so lucky as to be a part of a family like his. She continues to explain that all of northern Virginia was evacuated when the crisis began, so there haven’t been many people or walkers (called “roamers” in Alexandria) to deal with. But, regardless, they’ve lost people within their community. And she, herself, has “done thing.”

Rick asks what she’s done, and she solemnly confesses that she exiled three people from the community because they “didn’t work out.” She knew it was as good as a death sentence but she did it anyway.

Rick might slowly be warming up to Deanna. She isn’t all smiles and charm like The Governor was, or skittish and creepy like Garrett from Termius. She’s frank, but chooses her words carefully. Rick, at least, is intrigued by what a community like Alexandria could want from his group.

Deanna replies that they need people with survival skills. The world has changed and they need people who understand it as it is now. The people of the community deserve a chance to raise their families, and Rick’s group can help them do that. And, in turn, Rick’s family should have a safe place to live. She has absolute confidence that his group will be an asset to Alexandria.

Rick is still suspicious. Deanna smiles. She’s good at reading people, she says. (And, as a career politician, that’s probably true). And if she hadn’t won reelection, she was going to become a professional poker player. Rick scoffs, but Deanna sharply tells him she wasn’t kidding. She points to her watch. It’s 3:37pm, she reminds him. She understands he’s skeptical, and respects his right to be, but the time has come to make a decision.

Rick lifts his arm and begins to wind his watch. The click of the gears turning is nearly deafening as he sets it to the correct time.

And so Rick and the group decide to stay, for now. They disarm and turn their weapons in, which they’re allowed to have any time they leave the compound but not within its walls. The guns are laid in a giant plastic bin and wheeled off in a cart, which seemed like a terrible idea to me because there was about 15 barrels rattling around like they weren’t deadly weapons. Alexandrites aren’t too good with proper weapons discipline, it seems.

Aaron leads the group to two large, northern Virginia, expensive-suburb houses. The group has both, Rick can pick whichever one he’d like. The community has been notified to give them a wide berth as they settle in, and Aaron takes leave to leave the group a chance to look at their surroundings.

Rick and Carl enter, finding the house to be furnished with upholstered couches that don’t have any blood or guts on them, and clean towels and blankets as far as the eye can see. Rick stumbles into the shower as soon as he finds it.

Out of the shower, he wipes the steam from the mirror to examine his reflection. He doesn’t look as though he recognizes it. There are shaving tools laid out on the counter. Rick starts to trim away at his beard, then shaves it off entirely in what I am absolutely referring to as the fourth character death this season. (So far: Bob, Beth, Tyreese, and now Rick’s Beard.)

A neighbor lady knocks as Rick is finishing his shave. He stumbles to the door to find a blonde woman with a basket of supplies for them. They make some awkward small talk about his obvious fresh shave, and she volunteers to cut his hair.

She was a stylist, she explains, and she has Rick sitting before her while she wields scissors at his righteous mass of curls. She begins chatting in the way a stylist would have before the world ended—what her life is like, how many kids she has, etc. She has a boy, Ron, who is Carl’s age, and she wants to introduce them. Rick is okay with this, even if he chokes up a little as he tries to comprehend the normality of the situation.

The episode takes us to a cut of Daryl’s interview with Deanna. He refuses to sit, and is still clutching the possum from earlier by the tail. Deanna doesn’t seem to be disturbed, and Daryl doesn’t feel the need to be any more personable or friendly than he ever is. She asks him why he wants to stay. “The boy and the baby deserve a roof, I guess,” he replies. “And you?” Deanna pushes. Daryl grunts and leaves.

He returns to the group’s houses and begins to gut and clean the possum on the front steps. Carol and Carl take a peek inside the other house, which is just as clean and furnished as any other they’ve seen here. Carl hears a slow thumping from upstairs. He follows the noise to a door at the end of the second story hallway, drawing his knife as he opens it.

He finds no walkers or murderous spies, though. Just a room filled with teenage paraphernalia like comic books and CD liner notes.

The group begins to settle in for the evening. They all feel more comfortable sleeping in the living room of the bigger house. Michonne emerges after brushing her teeth for twenty minutes. I can’t even imagine how good that would feel but I think it’s close to heaven. Buoyed by her clean teeth, she checks in with Rick. Being safe is smart, but she has a good feeling about this. And, she doesn’t add, she might be a little worried that being too paranoid will blow their chances at staying here.

Deanna knocks at the door just then to see how they’re all settling in. She seems a bit surprised at the sleeping arrangements, but the considers that it’s smart. It’s even heartwarming, she continues like a career politician, that people from so many different backgrounds can become a family like they have. They’re a family that will be welcomed in the community, and in the community everyone has jobs that she assigns them.

Rick asks if she’s going to give him a job, and she responds enthusiastically. She has a job figured out for Rick, and Michonne, and almost for Sasha, but not “Mr. Dixon” just yet. I wonder if her invocation of Beth’s sarcastic nickname for Daryl stabbed him in the heart as deeply as it got mine. It’s hard to tell from Daryl’s reaction, though. He gives a dissatisfied grunt.

The group slowly drifts to sleep, but Rick lies awake. It’s a huge adjustment to go from roaming the wild with walkers everywhere to sleeping in a subdivision. He goes to the kitchen and removes a knife from the drawer. He’ll probably be safer if it’s nearby.

The next interview we see is Michonne. If the community is what it appears to be, she says, it’s exactly what they’re looking for. They need it. They’re ready for it, she asserts. Deanna confirms, “All of you?” Michonne takes a split second to steel herself before replying, “All of us.”

The next morning, the group is headed out to the neighborhood to explore a bit. Daryl declines to go, and Rick understands but hangs back a minute to talk to him. He and Lori used to drive through neighborhoods like this and dream, he says. Daryl points out that he’s living in this neighborhood now. Rick nods, and moves to follow the group.

But, it’s a subdivision, and they’ve gone around a corner and he can’t see them anymore. Rick panics like a herding animal panics when its lost its flock. He runs headlong down the neighbors yards and barrels into a pile of metal in someone’s driveway. It’s the stylist’s driveway! Rick hastily explains that he can’t find Carl and Judith and Jessie (the stylist) smiles and shows him the most likely place they would have gone.

They find Judith, Carl, and the rest of the group on the porch of an elderly couple’s home. Everyone seems taken in with the baby, for obvious reasons. Jessie offers to introduce Carl to her son Ron, and Rick moves to retrieve Carl from the group on the porch.

Carl and Ron walk along the second story hallway to Ron’s room. There’s a group of teenagers in there, playing video games and listening to music. Ron rattles off all the stuff to do in the neighborhood like he’s a normal teenage boy welcoming someone who just moved nearby because his dad got transferred. Carl is a bit overwhelmed, but Ron quickly senses it and tries to cover for his mistake. There’s one girl in the room, Enid, and she’s from the outside, too. It took her three weeks to talk. She hasn’t said a word since Carl walked in, but lifts her eyes and brusquely tells Carl, “Pull it together, sport.” Carl produces the comic book he found, Ron takes it and apologizes—they didn’t realize anyone would be moving into that house so soon. The comic book, it’s learned, is Enid’s. The rest of the group doesn’t seem to be interested in it.

We flash to Carl’s interview, which is conducted while he holds Judith on his lap. He tells a bit of the story of how he lost his mom. Not just that he lost her, but that he had to kill her.

Carl is laying in his bed like any other teenager. Rick enters, and asks how the visit went. It was okay, Carl says, but he’s bothered by the people in the community. They’re weak, and he worries that if the group stays they’ll become weak, too. Rick grunts in agreement.

That night, Rick again can’t sleep. He takes a quick walk around the neighborhood, and runs into a neighbor who’s smoking on his porch. He introduces himself as Jessie’s husband in the kind of way that Rick is used to people talking to him. He looks suspiciously at the man and turns back towards his house.

He may have managed to sleep a little that night, but he starts awake the next morning.

Carol invokes the person she was for her interview with Deanna. In her old life, she’d wash clothes, clean the house, and have dinner on the table for Ed when he got home (and oh, how she misses that stupid wonderful man!) She became the groups den mother, and they were kind enough to protect her out on the road. She conveniently leaves out the part where she first kills two sick people, teaches children how to fire guns, and becomes Our Lady Badass to save her group several times over.

She emerges from her house in slacks and a cardigan, looking less like Our Lady Badass and more like Our Lady Lemonade Social. She’s off to make casseroles for the people who can’t cook for themselves. She tells Daryl where she’s headed, and admonishes him for his still-rough appearance. She wants him to take a good long shower and take the vest off so she can wash it. They’ve got to keep up appearances, and if she has to she’ll pull out Our Lady Badass and hit him with a hose.

Glenn’s interview reveals that he feels that the group needs to make Alexandria work for them. When asked why, he replies that they were almost out there too long.

Tara, Glenn, and Noah are met later that day by Alexandrites Aiden and Nicholas, who introduce themselves as supply-run-type-people. It quickly becomes obvious that they’re wanna-be-cowboy-jerks. They also have bad weapon discipline, demonstrated first by referring to the weapons they checked out for today’s outing as “sweet biscuits.”

And they run things about as well as you’d expect someone who calls a weapon a sweet biscuit to run them. They pop off about how tough they are, willingly calling themselves douchebags and assholes but insist that they’re in charge to keep people safe. No one from Rick’s group is impressed. They’re even less impressed when they hear that the group recently lost three people, and that they’ve tied up the walker who killed one of them as kind of a violence piñata. As they approach where it was kept, they see it escaped, and they begin looking and calling for it. Glenn tries to dissuade them, but Nicholas and Aiden insist. Of course it comes stumbling out of the woods, and of course Aiden and Nicholas barely evade it, and the whole scene ends when Glenn spikes it through the head. Aiden and Nicholas are incensed that Glenn killed their toy, but Glenn doesn’t want anything to do with those chumps. Neither does Tara and Noah.

Rick is taking his own stroll around the compound, checking the security of the walls and going on a field trip to retrieve the blender gun from the last episode. He comes along to the house, but the blender gun is gone. He’d been trailed by a few stumbling, worse-for-wear walkers during this time, and as he kneels and wonders who took his gun and why, the walkers begin to advance. Lucikly, Carl (who has been chasing Enid after watching her climb over the security wall by his house) shows up, and the two participate in some zombie-apocalypse-father-son bonding.

Glenn et al have returned to the compound, and Glenn is none too pleased with what he saw from Nicholas and Aiden. Things quickly come to a head, and Glenn tries to convince Aiden that he doesn’t want to fight. Aiden continues to get shove-ey, and Glenn employs his hard-earned ass-kicking skills to dodge Aiden’s punch and then lay him out. The rest of the group has convened by this point, and a fair melee breaks out, ending with Daryl knelt down on top of Nicholas, a minute away from snapping his neck.

Deanna interrupts, calling for everyone to quit fighting. She hears Aiden and Nicholas’s protest that Rick’s group shouldn’t be allowed in, but she dismisses them. She declares that Rick and his family are now a part of the community and equal in every way. She sends Aiden and Nicholas to turn in their weapons and then wait for an audience with her, and she does NOT seem like she’s going to be very happy when she talks to them.

She then turns to Glenn to thank him for knocking Aiden on his ass. She offers Michonne and Rick positions as constables within the community. She tells Rick that he needs to go back to what he was before. Daryl doesn’t wait around for Deanna to not offer him a job. Rick and Michonne accept Deanna’s offer.

Later that evening, a clean-shaven, recently-trimmed Rick Grimes descends the stairs in his house dressed in a constable’s uniform. Jacket, tie, the works. Everyone smiles, but Rick deflects, saying he’s only trying it on for size for now. Daryl doesn’t seem to be impressed, but Daryl will also respect Rick Grimes, even if he does turn back into a cop.

Rick tells the group they should begin to settle in and get comfortable. Start sleeping in the bedrooms. Acclimate to the community. Carol wonders if it won’t make them weak, if they do so, but Rick doesn’t think there’s weakness in any of them anymore. And, he adds, if Alexandria goes bad, they’ll just take it for themselves.

The Story Continues Next Sunday Night at 10:00 pm on AMC.

Photo Courtesy Of AMC

Photo Courtesy Of AMC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

It’s still the dim light of sunrise that lights the barn the group slept in last week. Everyone is preparing for the day in silence. Maggie enters, followed by Aaron, with Sasha bringing up the rear. Everyone immediately jumps to alert. Maggie runs the situation down for Rick (came upon them outside, he’s been searched and stripped of his weapons and gear, etc.) Daryl moves to secure the barn door, and Judith begins to cry.

Aaron is as unmoved by Judith’s tears as he is from being searched and marched at gunpoint to the group’s camp. He greets Rick with even but cheerful tones. Cheerful enough for everyone to mistrust him immediately. Rick wants to see the weapon Aaron was carrying, and Maggie hands over the snub-nosed revolver. Rick looks over the weapon, checks its barrel, and tucks it into the back of his pants with a Rick Grimes Thousand Yard Stare.

Sasha begins to explain what he’s told them: There’s a camp nearby, and they want them to join, but they have to audition first. Aaron interrupts with a hokey joke about audition being a silly word, because the dance troupe is only on Friday nights, and the joke goes over about as well as you’d expect in a group of starving apocalypse survivors who haven’t known what day of the week it is for months.

Aaron, also unmoved by his comedic flop, clarifies: It’s not a camp, where he lives. It’s a community. And he thinks Rick and his crew would be just the right additions to that community. He directs Sasha to open the front pocket of his pack in order to help his cause. In the pocket, there are grainy black and white pictures of very impressive-looking walls. Aaron begins to babble about the poor quality like an amateur photographer trying to justify bad shots, but Daryl interrupts.

No one gives a shit.

Aaron doesn’t blink as he readily agrees. He begins to explain the photographs. The walls, he says, are very secure in a lot of very technical terms like “rolled steel” and “metal tubing.” The next picture is of inside the gates—

And that’s as far as he can get before Rick cop-marches across the barn and clocks him.

The group seems a bit taken aback, but Rick moves to assess the situation. Aaron has been following them. How many others are there? There’s no reason to trust him. He wants Aaron restrained and the perimeter secured before anything else happens.

Aaron comes to and compliments Rick’s right cross. Glenn hands over a flare gun he found in Aaron’s pack. Rick turns on Aaron—the flare gun means he has someone to signal, and he’d better tell how many there are if he wants to live. How much can you really trust someone who smiles after getting punched in the face?

Rick continues to interrogate Aaron, and Aaron continues answering as calmly and reasonably as he can. He’s very forthright in knowing that nothing he says or does will convince Rick that he’s trustworthy.

But, he believes that Rick is trustworthy, and that the group would be a good addition to his community, and so he hopes that Rick will do the right thing.

There’s one other person with him, he says. They were traveling in a pair to find worthwhile people into the community. There are vehicles parked nearby with enough room to take them plus the fifteen in Rick’s group back to the community.

Rick considers Aaron’s words, but he seems utterly unconvinced. Michonne, however, wants to give it a shot. She wants to go check out the cars to see if they’re where Aaron said they would be. Rick is unhappy about Michonne’s insistence, but Glenn and Maggie want to go as well, so Rick taps Abraham and Rosita to accompany them. He’ll give it an hour, he says. If they’re not back in an hour, he’s coming after them.

The remainder of the group moves to secure the perimeter, while Rick stays with Judith and a tied-up Aaron in the barn. As the group disperses, Aaron continues to run his nearly unstoppably cheerful mouth. He used to work for an NGO, he says. He took supplies through the Niger River Delta. In doing so, bad people would point guns at him all the time. But he knows that Rick isn’t a bad person, so he’s not too bothered by all the guns being drawn on him. Rick isn’t charmed. He’ll wait for an hour, and then he’ll put a knife through Aaron’s skull if it turns out anything has happened to his people.

Glenn, Maggie, Michonne, Rosita, and Abraham follow Aaron’s directions to the car. Glenn reinforces battle orders—guns up, shoot anyone who advances.

Shoot anyone, though? Michonne doesn’t like that, and Maggie doesn’t, either. Glenn reiterates the need for caution since they’re potentially walking into a dangerous situation. And, for his part, he can’t imagine why anyone who had followed them for the last few days would want people like them in their group.

It’s hard for me when Glenn starts becoming cynical, because he’s such a guileless, earnest guy. Michonne doesn’t like to see it, either. They’re the group of people who rescued a priest, she reminds him. Rescued a girl who attacked the prison with the governor. Heck, Rick even took in a crazy lady with a sword. Aaron saw good in their group, she asserts. Glenn, however, doesn’t know what it is Aaron saw.

And in a field, crouched behind the oversized wheel of an ancient tractor, someone continues to see them.

They find the vehicles just about where Aaron said they’d be. It’s an old RV and an even older sedan. Something rustles in the woods, and the group draws on them, but it’s just a few clumsy, stupid walkers. Rosita and Abraham advance to take care of them. Abraham missteps, and Rosita covers him. With the walkers dispatched, Abraham and Rosita move into the RV to clear it. It comes up fine, but in the cupboard Abraham finds something that stops him dead.

Store-brand spaghettios with meatballs. Feast of college students, toddlers, and zombie apocalypse kings. Rosita tries to be happy for him, but she remains aloof. Abraham is troubled by her distance. He needs to know if she was afraid of him after he laid out Eugene—if she was afraid he’d hurt her. She

wasn’t afraid, she answers. It’s not him. That’s all she’ll say, but that’s good enough for Abraham, for now.

In the barn, Judith is crying and Rick is trying to mash up some acorns for her. Aaron offers the jar of applesauce in his pack. Of course Rick thinks its poisoned, but Judith is still crying and she could draw walkers toward them at any time. Rick considers the applesauce, but offers a spoon to Aaron first. Aaron points out how useless it would be to kill Rick’s daughter while he was tied to a post in a barn, but Rick isn’t willing to entertain any possible scenario that doesn’t seem safe to him.

Aaron weakly tries to refuse the applesauce, babbling about how his mother always made him eat it the way that only someone who is accustomed to having a full belly of only food they want to eat can. Eventually, though, he swallows the spoonful Rick has offered him. Rick takes a bite, as well, and then feeds Judith.

The group returns, having driven the vehicles back to the barn. They were stocked with canned goods, which Rick has decided belong to his group no matter if they decide to join their community or not.

But why wouldn’t they join the community, Michonne wants to know. Everything that Aaron has said has checked out so far. He’s had ample opportunity to hurt them and he hasn’t. It’s time to at least give him a little credit for being honest so far and see where this leads. The group is in dire need of a place to settle down. It’s the best shot they’ve had in a long time, and she wants to take it. And she’ll hear it now if anyone disagrees with her.

The group is silent, until Daryl reckons that the barn smells like horseshit and maybe that’s reason enough to give it a shot.

They then enter the same “I don’t trust you” “I understand you don’t trust me but I think you should” bit when deciding when to leave and what route to take to get to Aaron’s community. They discuss and make a plan, by which I mean Rick informs them that they’ll be leaving at night taking the road he wants to take and that will be the end of it.

Rick goes outside to do his own sweep for traps in the vehicles. Michonne follows him. She wants to make sure that they’re going to give joining this community a shot for real. Rick wants to, he admits, but he isn’t sure that he can. Every place that has meant to be a safe haven so far has turned into its own horror show. Outside Woodbury, there was no noise. Outside Terminus, there was no noise. Rick knows he’s going to have to drive up to the gates of this community and make a decision, but before he’ll let his family be put in danger by that decision, he wants to see it first.

Rick, Michonne, Glenn, and Aaron lead in the sedan as the rest of the group follows in an RV. Rick continues to rifle through the car, finding a stack of license plates in the glovebox. Aaron explains that he’s trying to collect all fifty states. Yesterday Rick’s group almost died of dehydration, and this fool is collecting license plates. He’s got a wall of them in his house, he explains. Michonne is amazed, and he encourages her to look through the pictures he has. The same low-quality shots reveal large, suburban houses, solar panels, old, intact buildings, and wide, empty streets.

Wait a minute, though. Why aren’t there any pictures of his people? He tried to take a group shot, he starts, but the exposure was wrong and it didn’t turn out. Michonne is maybe not buying his story so much. Has Rick even asked him the three questions? Rick has not. Michonne faces Aaron in the backseat, trying to study him in the poor light.

“How many walkers have you killed?” she asks. Aaron doesn’t know. A lot? “How many people have you killed?” Aaron pauses, and solemnly answers that he’s killed two people. “Why?” Michonne demands. Again, Aaron hesitates before he answers, “Because they were trying to kill me.”

It’s unsettling, of course, but it’s certainly plausible that he’s telling the truth. But, the road Rick has insisted on using hasn’t been cleared like the one Aaron wanted to use, and they’re set upon by walkers before any further questions can be asked or answered.

Glenn charges through the flock that is lurching along the road. The walkers, it seems, have been getting much juicier (because they’re more rotten?) and the car is soon covered in blood and globs of walker flesh. Once they’re clear of the field of walkers, they stop the car and realize the RV is no longer behind them. They try to clean the windshield off before they’ll circle back to try to find the others. But now the car won’t start because the intake is full of walker chunks.

More walkers are coming from the woods, and Aaron is becoming panicked. Then a flare goes off a little down the road. Aaron absolutely loses it and takes off running toward the flare with his hands tied behind his back. Rick, Michonne, and Glenn begin to engage in the weekly round of walker melee, trying to fight their way back to where they think the RV and the others might be.

Glenn gets separated from the group, and stumbles through a few close calls before hitting a clearing in the woods. He finds Aaron with his back to a tree, kicking at a walker that’s going for his brains. Glenn barely hesitates before he goes to eliminate the walker and cut Aaron’s hands free. Glenn turns to find Rick and Michonne, but Aaron tries to stop him. They can make it to the community together, he says. He reminds Glenn of his own words a few days before (when he was spying on them, but that’s no surprise now)—they can only make it anywhere together. Glenn pauses and turns to face Aaron.

Deep into the woods, Rick and Michonne are trying to fend off their flock of walkers while shouting for Glenn. Rick runs out of bullets and predictably, uses Aaron’s flare gun to turn an advancing walker into corpse-version of a Roman candle. He’s beginning to get ready to take on the walkers with a blade when gunfire comes from behind, mowing down the walkers. It’s Glenn and Aaron. Hey, Aaron can shoot! But is that a good or bad thing?

They rush back to the road, trying to get back to the location of the flare. It went off beside a water tower, which was next to some buildings. The group has indeed, taken refuge there. Everyone is reunited, but Aaron is still looking for the person who set off the flare.

“Eric?” he shouts.

“In here!” Eric calls, from inside the building from which everyone just emerged.

We follow Aaron in to see a thin man in his thirties laying on the floor with a bandaged ankle. Aaron looks stricken, but Eric assures him that it’s no worse than a volleyball injury. Maggie told him it’s just a broken ankle.

Aaron leans down to embrace Eric. The two share a kiss that is equal parts love and relief. Once they catch their breath, Eric explains that this whole mess is Aaron’s fault. Aaron is indignant, but only as indignant as one can be when realizing that their significant other is safe and relatively unhurt following a dangerous situation. Eric, it seems, got into a little trouble with some walkers (he calls them “roamers”), and wound up getting a tire rolled onto his ankle. So earlier he wasn’t spying so much as he was stuck, then.

Rick interrupts their reunion. Eric offers a calm, friendly greeting, which is met with the Rick Grimes Grunt of Acknowledgement. Aaron follows Rick away from the room where Eric is staying.

The group convenes in a larger room adjacent to Eric’s. Aaron thanks them profusely for saving Eric’s life. He promises he’ll settle the debt when they get to where they’re going. And he drops the town’s name. They’re headed to Alexandria.

To interrupt here, I am not exactly up on the graphic novel series, but I do know that the Alexandria Safe-Zone is a thing, and so it appears that the show will be following that vein for a little while. It’s a huge move forward in the plot!

More importantly, Aaron has just given Rick the name of their destination, which might be enough to get Rick to maybe consider trusting him a little bit more perhaps. Rick agrees that they’ll head there in the morning, but he wants Aaron to stay outside.

Aaron has had enough of Rick Grimes. The only way he’s not spending the night with Eric, he declares, is if someone shoots him, and he moves towards Rick and the room where Eric is. Rick tenses, but Glenn intercedes. There’s only two. They’re unarmed. One has a broken ankle. Plus it seems fairly certain that they’re actually trying to help, after all.

The next morning, the group is headed into DC. They catch a glimpse of the Washington Monument, and Abraham totally does not choke up, nope, not at all. They’re so close! But the voltage in the RV is so low! They can make it, Abraham assures them.

They can’t make it. Broke down on the road, Glenn begins to assess the situation. Abraham is frustrated, but Glenn tells him they just need another battery. Abraham demands to know where they’re going to get another battery. Glenn, smiling and remembering Dale, shows him the other batteries in the RV that are used to run the accessories.

While Glenn attends to the RV, Rick and Michonne keep watch of the perimeter. Michonne can’t help but feel hopeful for their destination. The fight, she admits, is what’s been keeping them alive all this time, but it’s come time to let that fight go. The fight will turn on them if they don’t, and bring them down. Rick agrees, but then has to go see a man about a horse. Or something. He doesn’t really say why he suddenly splits off.

Just off the road, a small house lays in wreckage. Picking through, Rick finds the top of a blender. He deposits a handgun with the letter J written on it, and rejoins the group.

They’re just outside the city now. The gates are imposing, offering no clue as to what’s beyond them. Michonne lays a hand on Rick’s, trying to comfort him. He closes his eyes, and he hears it.

Laughter. From inside the gates. Not eerie silence or shouting or walkers hissing but actual, honest-to-goodness laughter.

He picks up Judith and walks up to the gates.

And we’ll find out what’s inside those gates next week!

Photo: Courtesy Of Walking Dead

Photo: Courtesy Of Walking Dead

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Maggie is crying slow, defeated tears with her back to a snarl of tree and brush. It’s the kind of crying you do when you’re so exhausted you can’t muster the energy to weep and you can’t muster the energy to suppress it, either. A walker approaches and Maggie, barely managing to suppress a sob, turns to kill it with the least effort possible. She slumps back to the ground before the walker quits twitching.

Hands, quickly revealed to be Daryl’s, claw through dark, crumbling dirt in search of earthworms. He finds one, barely grimacing as he knocks the excess dirt off of it and pops it into his mouth.

Sasha is looking for any sort of damp earth in a creek bed. But, as she looks ahead and realizes that the water has been gone so long that the frogs have dried to death, she realizes she won’t find it. Maggie and Daryl approach and the three silently accept that their search has yielded nothing.

They head back to the van they’ve been traveling in, where the rest of them have regrouped , waiting for the three to return. Their equally unsuccessful searches are apparent from a quarter-mile away. As they trudge towards the van, Maggie wonders aloud, with the kind of eloquence that only a southern farmer’s daughter can, “How much longer [they] got.” Sasha answers they have sixty miles to their destination. But Maggie wasn’t talking about distance.

Shortly after, the van runs out of gas, and Rick gives the order to continue on foot. Rick might have meant “forward march,” but everyone is too tired, hungry, and thirsty to manage more than a desperate shuffle. A few walkers trail a few dozen yards behind them as they continue walking along the road. Daryl brings them to Rick’s attention, but Rick isn’t immediately concerned. The corpses aren’t shuffling too quickly themselves, and the group is dangerously low on energy and resources. Rick wants to wait for the right opportunity to expend the energy it will take to eliminate them. Not letting on to whether or not Daryl thinks this is a particularly good idea, Daryl agrees.

Rick shifts the conversation to Beth. Completely unsurprisingly, Daryl hasn’t said anything about losing her, and the silence is becoming eerie, even for Daryl. He’s not interested in the conversation, though. After an unsuccessful attempt at directing their talk about Judith, he tells Rick he’s going to make another run into the woods to see if he can find any food or water. Hearing this, Carol says that she’ll join him. Daryl tries to decline, but Carol won’t let Daryl grunt and shuffle away from her. “Are you going to try to stop me?” she asks, confident that he won’t protest.

The group continues their slog along the highway, and Carl gives Maggie a music box he found. It’s a little girl’s music box, the kind with the ballerina that pops up and twirls on a spring if you wind it up. This one is broken, but Carl is so desperate to get Maggie to be even a little less despondent that he’s willing to try anything. It works, maybe a bit.

Any of Maggie’s goodwill is shattered, though, when super-clueless Gabriel approaches her, trying first to make conversation about uncomfortable priest collars and hairshirts and, when Maggie blows him off with extreme prejudice, offers to listen to her troubles and loss. Maggie has zero time for Gabriel’s constantly anxious, weeping, Cowardly Lion ways. She reminds him that he left his entire congregation to die and walks away from him.

More walkers have gathered behind the group, like vultures who are also nearly starved to death. I’m not sure if it’s because they’re also starving, or if it’s because their flesh is rotting off their bones therefore making it harder to walk.

Sasha tries to convince Michonne to help her address the situation, but Michonne agrees with Rick that they should bide their time on the attack. Sasha volunteers to do it herself. Michonne, apparently unable to deal with Sasha’s oozing anger and destructive tendencies, tries to tell Sasha that Tyreese wouldn’t want her acting so aggressively. Sasha rebuffs Michonne’s concerns—the two weren’t the same then, and they’re not the same now. Michonne tries to tell Sasha that anger is anger, no matter if its Tyreese’s kind or Sasha’s, but Sasha won’t hear it.

Carol and Daryl are still searching for some sort of anything in the woods. They reach a clearing, but it’s too dry for either food or water to be nearby. Carol suggests they start back, and Daryl tries to send her on ahead. She won’t, though. Instead, she tells Daryl that Beth saved her life in the hospital, and gives him Beth’s knife that she’s been hanging onto. Daryl takes the knife, turning it over in his hands. Carol continues, concerned and fierce, that she knows that Daryl needs to let himself feel Beth’s loss. For herself, she admits that she can’t allow herself the space for grief and pain, but she knows that she and Daryl aren’t the same in that regard. She encourages him to confront Beth’s death, brushes his grimy hair from his face, kisses his equally grimy forehead, and turns to rejoin the group.

The group has come upon a short bridge over a deep, narrow ravine. They line up in a triangle-ish formation to finally address the growing number of walkers tailing them. As they begin to stagger and lunge at the still-living, the crew dodges and shifts their momentum, hurling the oncoming dead into the ravine. It all goes well enough until Sasha begins stabbing them instead of chucking them aside, which riles them up for some reason. The walkers begin to advance more aggressively and, as Abraham notes, the plan of conserving energy and chucking them into the ravine “goes to shit.” Sasha proves herself to be a dangerously loose cannon in the melee, nearly killing Michonne and giving Abraham a good-sized gash on his bicep.

They continue their trek after the walkers have been dealt with, and soon enough they come along a wreckage of a few cars. They decide to take another break to scavenge through the vehicles, and Daryl splits off into the woods again.

Maggie approaches the nearest car, finding nothing in the cabin, but in the trunk is a walker, bound and gagged, who looks like Beth might have if she’d starved to death and then turned. She shuts the trunk and begins to walk away, but the walker has begun to beat against the sides of the trunk. Overwhelmed, Maggie turns to open the trunk and kill it, but the keys are stuck. She quickly becomes frustrated, grunting and clawing at the keys to try to open the trunk. Glenn approaches and talks to her in the quiet, even tones that you use when faced with someone whose emotions are so raw that the slightest shock from a trusted source might send them into a complete meltdown. He manages to jiggle the trunk open,

and, seeing the resemblance the walker bears to Maggie’s dead sister, quickly puts it down and walks away, hoping that Maggie will find comfort and reassurance in his calm, nonplussed demeanor.

The search of the cars has given the group nothing but a bottle of cheap whiskey that Abraham is steadily applying himself to. Rosita, most of all, is not happy with Abraham’s decision to drink, since the alcohol will only make his physical condition deteriorate more rapidly, plus being drunk doesn’t mix well with fighting off walkers, but she handles it in a matter that is both matter of fact and completely disgusted.

As they group rests, a pack of dogs, formerly pets but who have long returned to a more basic way of life, rushes upon the group. They bark and snarl and begin to surround the humans. Everyone hunches into battle positions, but Sasha takes them out with her silenced rifle before anyone can make a move. With a look that is grim even for this show, Rick begins to gather firewood. The scene cuts to roasting dog meat over tiny fires. Some (Daryl) are having less trouble than others (Tara) getting it down. Noah, looking up at Sasha much the way he looked at Tyreese when they came upon his overrun home, confides that he can’t manage to eat the dogs and that he doesn’t know if he’s going to make it. Sasha, offering none of the comfort or wisdom that Tyreese had to give, firmly and flatly tells him that if he thinks that, he won’t. She encourages him to eat and not think. Crowded around fires in unbearably sweltering East Coast summer heat, Gabriel has unbuttoned his shirt and loosened his collar. Chewing as unhappily as a starving man can chew, he removes the white collar entirely and throws it into the fire. The scene fades as the group eats in silence.

They continue to walk. Glenn coaxes Maggie into taking a tiny sip of water, and tries to do the same with Daryl. Daryl, though, jets off into the woods again. Abraham continues to drink the bottle of cheap whiskey he found. He offers the bottle to Sasha, who refuses and chides that alcohol is only going to make their situation worse. Abraham, presumably pretty buzzed from nothing but whiskey on a days-empty stomach, tells Sasha that, if she keeps acting out, that she’ll be the one making things way worse than he could with a bottle of alcohol. She’s among friends, he says, and she shouldn’t be so destructive. Sasha, as unhappy with Abraham’s unsolicited conversation as Maggie was with Gabriel’s, asserts that they’re not friends and walks away. Abraham considers, and nods as he takes another drink.

Daryl has gone off to look for water in the woods. A clearing and the corner of a barn comes into sight, but instead of investigating, he slumps at the base of a tree and takes a few broken cigarettes and a lighter from his pocket. He lights one and takes a few guilty-looking drags. Smoking isn’t great for dehydration and malnutrition, either, but it quickly becomes clear that he’s not struggling with his decision to smoke. He holds the cigarette with both hands, staring at it, half-gone and still lit, and stubs it out on the back of his left hand between thumb and pointer fingers. From the raised tissue beneath the filth and ashes on his hand, it looks like he’s been indulging in this habit for a while. As he brushes the ash off the blistering burn, he begins to choke up silent, heavy sobs.

When Daryl returns to the group, he finds that they’ve come across several clean-looking containers of water on the road, with a note that simply reads “from a friend.” Okay, sure, seems legit, right?

Rick refuses to consider drinking it, but Eugene wants to believe that it’s not a trap. Besides, if they’re being tempted with something as blatant as this, whoever has laid the trap certainly has worse in mind for them anyway. He raises a bottle, offering to be the guinea pig, but Abraham slaps it away like Eugene still has the cure to save the world locked up in his brain somehow. They glare at each other as Rick continues to reject any idea of accepting the water.

But then the skies opened, and it began to rain.

Most of the group is at least kind of encouraged by the sudden storm, tilting their heads back to drink. Daryl, Maggie, and Sasha, though, simply stand and stare ahead as if they don’t even notice they’re getting wet.

The rain soon turns into a threatening storm, and the group hurries to a barn that Daryl found. In clearing the space, Maggie comes across another walker—another emaciated woman, in a delicate blouse and skirt. The walker has a gun nearby, and, after she stabs it in the head, she wonders why the woman didn’t use it before she died and turned. Carol, approaching her from behind, remarks that the woman must have been like them—unable to give up, no matter how hard it gets.

As the group waits out the storm and settles in for the night, they begin discussing the world. Michonne insists that this isn’t the world, but Glenn wonders if it just might be. Michonne won’t accept that there is nothing more than wandering about, starving and barely not getting killed. Rick, while he wants to believe that they’ll find a place to settle in DC, also knows that the group will be okay if they don’t.

And here Rick gives his “grandfather in the war against the Germans” speech, which is really well done and well delivered and I’m not going to butcher it by trying to sum it up here. It is, though, where the series gets its title—Rick’s grandfather was convinced he was a dead man every day of the war, and would pretend that he was so in order to force himself to continue fighting. This wretched place they’re plodding through is just what they have to get through in order to live. Becoming The Walking Dead, he explains, is how they’re managing to survive.

Daryl, though, won’t agree that they’re like the walking dead. Rick, maybe realizing that his suggestion that they all pretend they’re dead might be unbearable for someone who has just lost someone they loved dearly, tries to clarify his meaning. They’re not like the walkers, of course, but they’re dead in another way. Daryl still doesn’t buy it.

The group begins to settle in for the night, but soon some walkers begin to claw at the door. Daryl first tries to hold them off, then Maggie, then Sasha, then the whole group is pressing against the door and grinding their feet into the mud floor of the barn trying to keep it closed. The scene flashes with their anguished faces, the wind howling and thunder roaring, and fades to black.

Maggie wakes up blinking as the rest of the group is asleep early the next morning. She sees Daryl awake, and the two briefly talk about Sasha and her grief over the loss of her sibling. Tyreese was tough, Daryl states. He pauses for just a fraction, barely glancing at Maggie as he adds, “She was, too.” The she, of course, is Maggie’s own lost sibling. And I think that’s the most Daryl Dixon might ever be able to say

about how much he loved and how much he misses Beth Greene. He hands Maggie the music box Carl gave her (the one with the slight blonde figurine inside with her own affinity for music), saying he might have fixed it.

Maggie takes the box and walks over to Sasha, waking her so they can take a walk outside and check their perimeter.

Outside, they’re astounded by what they see. It looks like a small tornado has cut through the woods right outside the barn, uprooting the pine trees and turning all available branches and roots into walker kebabs. The women, faithless and heartbroken as they are, are moved.

They sit on a fallen tree and watch the beginning of the cloudy, steamy sunrise that begins after a night of summer rainstorms. Sasha confesses that she feels the same way that Noah does—she doesn’t know if she’s going to make it. Maggie assures her that the two of them are going to make it, and then admits that making it is just as hard as not making it. She opens the jewelry box, for a distraction, mentioning that Daryl had fixed it.

It doesn’t work. The two would have shared a long laugh about it, but out of nowhere a very clean, LL Bean-clad stranger approaches, giving a message of friendship and asking to talk to Rick. By name. Maggie and Sasha draw on the man, who introduces himself as Aaron and insists that he can be trusted. As the women express their disbelief, the music box begins to play from its spot on the fallen tree.

Is Aaron the “friend” who left the water? Is he really a friend? Will Rick trust him?

We’ll see you next week, kiddos!

The Story Continues Next Sunday Night at 10:00 pm on AMC.