Gene Page/AMC
October 19, 2015 at 01:41 PM EDT

The horn blaring at the end of “First Time Again” put a major dent in Rick’s plan to shift a quarry full of walkers away from Alexandria. But there’s more than an undead horde shambling toward town that threatens their idyllic safe zone — the wolves. And they’re striking with a ferocity to which the people of Alexandria aren’t quite accustomed.

“JSS” showcases how susceptible to threat Alexandria is and the kind of ruthless behavior required to maintain its peace and tranquility. Or is it required? That lingering question has been growing in prominence and is crystallized in the approaches Morgan and Carol take to defend the town throughout “JSS.” Is there a less deadly way to make a life in this type of world, or do violent, brutal attacks call for a proportionate response?

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Before that attack, however, “JSS” winds the clock back to Alexandria while Rick, Michonne, and the rest were plotting a walker parade. In the relief of what’s happening, Carol’s problems are comically domestic. She’s being praised for her cooking, and the toughest topic of the day seems to be the varying opinions on paprika. She chastises one of the women in the pantry for smoking, but other than that moment of tension and Sam continuing to wait around for her at home, life is…normal.

And that sense of normalcy trying to mask the darkness around them pervades the rest of town. Maggie is preparing a garden to plant vegetables while building Deanna back up. Jessie is trying to give Ron a haircut, but Ron is being a standard TV teen who won’t take off his beanie…and is also upset that his mother is friends with the man who killed his father. Eugene and Tara meet with the town’s new doctor,  Denise (Merritt Wever), who may not actually be a doctor who’s trained to operate — she went to med school but switched from wanting to be a surgeon to becoming a psychiatrist, so she’ll have to do her best.

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It’s all so simple and quiet that you know it’s only a matter of time before chaos descends upon them all. (Father Gabriel asking Carl for weapons training is probably a good indicator of that, too.) And sure enough, as Carol is putting food in the oven, setting up her timer, and watching Judith on the baby monitor, she takes a moment to appreciate the situation.

She walks to the window, looks outside, and sees an Alexandrian smoking…until she’s cut down by a bedraggled man who looks like an extra out of The Warriors.

Suddenly, the town is thrown into peril. Molotovs are being thrown at the wall, lookouts burned alive in the process. Maggie and Deanna witness the destruction as a squadron of unfamiliar faces finds its way into town. Screams are coming from every direction: Jessie and Sam are hiding in their home while Ron remains unaccounted for. Carol warns Carl to stay with Judith as she goes to investigate. And Spencer, Deanna’s son, is sniping from the guard tower and watches in horror as a truck comes careening into the town wall, a perpetually sounding horn blaring from it.

And then things start to get really bad.

Most of the horrors plaguing Alexandria are initially showcased via Carol, as she weaves her way through houses and streets, watching her neighbors knifed down and arriving too late to stop some of those deaths. She takes out a wolf, but there are plenty more to confront before Alexandria is safe.

NEXT: Can Carol and Morgan work together?

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AMC’s zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.
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