This is why we can’t have nice things, Rick.
Between last week’s carnage in the warehouse, the death of Deanna Monroe’s firstborn son, and Father Gabriel’s dire warnings about wolves lurking amongst the newest members of Alexandria’s flock, this was the one moment this season at which the heroes of The Walking Dead really and truly needed to keep their cool and play well with others.
So of course, this was the episode in which Rick Grimes officially coveted his neighbor’s wife so hard that he decided to throw said neighbor out a window.
Even before that, though, there’s obviously a growing rift between Grimes gang and their new neighbors in the Alexandria safe zone. It doesn’t help that Nicholas, the callow jackass with the wimpy mustache, is trying to sow seeds of mistrust in order to cover his own role in Aidan’s death. In his videotaped debriefing after the accident at the warehouse, we see him offering up a version of the story that we know is a lie.
“Aidan was trying to save us, then Glenn distracted him,” he says, among other giant lies. At the end, he pleads with Deanna to eject Glenn and everyone else from the community. “These people, they’re not like us. I know you see it, too.”
Deanna cagily replies, “You don’t know what I see. And I see a great deal.”
Of course, we know what Deanna sees; we’re seeing it right along with her, watching this interview through her eyes. So if we see that Nicholas is full of crap, presumably she sees that, too… but then, if that’s the case, why is she setting Carol’s sympathy card on fire and leaving her sympathy casserole uneaten on the doorstep? Does this view of the truth go both ways? Is there a tiny Deanna inside all our heads who knows, because we know, that the secret ingredient in Carol’s baked goods is LIES?
It remains to be seen. But speaking of things that Deanna sees: It’s not news to her that Rick is living next door to a wife beater. She says as much when he goes to her about the Pete Problem, basically admitting that she turned a blind eye to his spouse-abusing tendencies because the community needed a surgeon. (Sidenote: I’ll buy that Deanna was willing to be pragmatic about Pete’s abusive nature, since that wouldn’t necessarily affect his ability to provide medical care. But even in Alexandria, shouldn’t it raise some concerns that Pete is also visibly drunk 23 hours a day?)
Rick, who is not even pretending not to want to kill Pete at this point, suggests his own solution: They separate Pete from his family, and if he won’t comply, they’ll kill him. Deanna balks at this, because it’s uncivilized, which leads to the best Grimes-ism of the episode:
“Warning someone to stop or die, that is civilized nowadays.”
Deanna, however, is still convinced that exiling people is the way to go—though she as much as admitted in a previous episode that this is basically the same thing as a death sentence. What she hasn’t seemed to consider is what happens when you exile someone to zombieland and they don’t die: Namely, they come back.
“I wouldn’t kill you. I’d just send you away,” Deanna says to Rick. Rick, having literally just pointed out that *sending* someone away and *keeping* someone away are not the same thing, looks thoroughly exasperated.
NEXT: Other players in Alexandria
With tensions running high between Deanna and her constable, let’s diverge from the Real Sheriffs of Alexandria drama and discuss the side plots.
1. Sasha, still suffering from PTSD, has taken up a new hobby: hunting zombies. When her absence from her usual post in the watchtower attracts Rosita’s and Michonne’s attention, the two go out looking for her. It’s their first time outside the walls of Alexandria since they got there, and it shows. Michonne’s impressive muscles are all bound up in a fitted button-down shirt—the kind of thing she would never have worn when she was swinging a katana on a daily basis—and Rosita is practically unrecognizable without her pigtails, army cap, and jorts. (Sidenote: In addition to apple trees and picket fences, Alexandria appears to have a Talbots somewhere within its walls. So. Many. Sweater sets.)
When the women catch up to Sasha, she makes the usual noises about wanting to be alone—until a herd of walkers erupts from the trees, and then suddenly, it’s a lady murder party, just like old times! It lasts just long enough for the women to satisfy the episode’s Zombie Kill Quota, and then Sasha is nearly overpowered by a walker, and it’s all about her trauma again. Turns out, it’s not just the loss of Tyreese that has her reeling; she’s also deeply guilty about having been cruel to Noah in his last days on earth.
2. Glenn, who is stuck in Alexandria with Nicholas while Deanna figures out what to do with them, finds the sniveling little coward and has a heart-to-heart chat with him:
“People like you are supposed to be dead, but these walls went up just in time, so you’re not,” says Glenn, and then informs Nicholas that he won’t be going outside anymore.
“Are you threatening me?” Nicholas asks.
Glenn replies, “No. I’m saving you.”
Prediction: Nicholas will completely disregard this excellent advice and be ripped to pieces as a result.
Preference: That we get the satisfaction of seeing this happen next week, rather than next season.
3. Teen romance alert: Carl and Enid officially kicked off an awkward flirtation, as required by Primetime Television Law, culminating in a slow-motion scene of the two of them running through the sun-dappled forest and then hiding breathlessly inside a tree together. The good news is, we didn’t have to watch them make out. The bad news is, both of them are still alive to make out next week. THE DANGER IS REAL.
4. Although there was an egregious lack of “Daryl and Aaron” screentime in this episode, the two of them still showed up long enough to nudge the season’s biggest mystery forward yet another step. A flickering light in the forest leads them to a strange scene: There are zombie parts all over the ground, but not enough to make a whole zombie.
“Whoever did this took what was left with him,” Daryl says. And what was left—i.e. what’s missing—looks like heads and torsos, which should ring a bell. And then, things get weirder: The two find a naked, recently-zombified woman tied to a tree, with her intestines on the ground and a W carved into her head.
5. Remember those “W” zombies? There are more of them, and they definitely mean something. Fans who’ve read The Walking Dead graphic novels probably know what’s coming. But since I haven’t read them, I will continue to believe until proven otherwise that those Ws are the handiwork of Brad Pitt, who has been wandering the backwoods of the American southeast ever since the plague first struck, giving all the zombies a uniform they can’t take off.
NEXT: Rick goes dark
Meanwhile, back in Alexandria, it’s time for Sheriff Rick to serve and protect his public, Deanna’s warnings be damned. He goes to Jessie, offering to remove Pete for the sake of her safety—only he offers while standing way too close, looking a little too deeply into her eyes. And at first, Jessie refuses: She says that Pete has gotten help before, and that she can fix this herself. She even says, point blank, “I can take care of myself. We have to take care of ourselves.”
This is an awfully loaded thing for her to say to Rick, who it’s recently been suggested will always do just that, and at the expense of other people’s lives. It explains why he’s so drawn to Jessie: In this way, they’re cut from the same cloth. But here’s where things get interesting: As Rick pressures Jessie to let him step in, and lay down the law, she asks him a vital question.
“Would you do this for someone else?” Someone else presumably meaning a woman he doesn’t obviously want to sleep with.
And Rick, in a moment of bald-faced honesty, says, “No.”
Rick’s long slide down the moral spectrum has been one of the most pivotal plot arcs this season, not to mention of the series on a whole. At this point, we’ve seen our beloved sheriff go from idealist good guy to mercenary pragmatist and back a half dozen times, stopping to wrestle his demons every step of the way. And his descent into anti-heroism tonight was predictable in more ways than one: Not only has The Walking Dead been blatantly heading in this direction ever since the survivors escaped from Terminus, but this is a pretty classic strategy on the part of the writers, throwing Rick into a penultimate crisis of character that will then be resolved by whatever big thing is going to happen in the season finale.
But this blatant admission of self-interest? That’s new. Before this, Rick has been adamant that all the terrible things he’s done were things he had to do—and not for his own sake, but other people’s. It was about survival. It was about family. It was about being a hero!
And now, it’s basically about sex.
Which is why, when Pete declines to quietly leave the house and stop abusing his wife, Rick goes after him in a snarling fury that becomes a full-on brawl in the street. There are two interesting things about this scene: First, Rick does not win this fight easily. Actually, he’s nearly outmatched by Pete, even though Pete a) is not a trained law enforcement officer, and b) looks like a sack of pallid meat covered in a thin coating of whiskey sweat. It’s almost like Rick’s survival skills evaporated along with his illusions of heroism.
And second, this fight scene is filmed exactly like a zombie attack, right down to the way that Andrew Lincoln’s pale blue eyes look filmy and dead in his blood-smeared face, and right up until he finally gives in to the impulse that’s been dogging him since he arrived in Alexandria: He reaches into his waistband and pulls his gun.
“Starting right now, we have to live in the real world! We have to control who lives here!” he yells.
Deanna, standing steely-eyed nearby, says, “That’s never been more clear to me than it is right now.”
But Rick is ranting now, and he doesn’t recognize her warning. Instead, he keeps yelling: “Your way is gonna destroy this place! It’s going to get people killed. If you don’t fight, you die. I’m not gonna stand by and—”
And it is probably a good thing that this is where Michonne shows up and knocks Rick Grimes out cold.
But the damage is done. And knowing how Deanna Monroe prefers to deal with citizens who don’t work out, it would seem that Rick’s tenure as a law enforcement officer and resident of Alexandria is done, too. The real question now is not whether Rick will be exiled—because he almost surely will be—or whether Deanna will regret that decision, because all signs point to this season ending with a new enemy at the gates.
The question is, will it be in Rick’s own self-interest to turn up and save the day? Because if not, I wouldn’t count on him. We have to take care of ourselves.