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After last week’s snoozer, we’re treated to one of the best episodes of the season. This had it all — intense zombie action, multiple significant character deaths (including two that must rank among the most gory in television history), plot twists, and some serious foreshadowing of what’s ahead in the final two weeks. As speculated in these here recap pages, it looks like Alexandria isn’t hiding a secret after all — and that Rick’s crew will turn out not to be its saviors, but its undoing.
As the episode begins, we see Daryl on his new bike, headed out on a recruiting mission. We also see Father Gabe have a major meltdown, triggered by a bowl of strawberries and a kind note. Is he allergic? Or just mental? Soon he’s tearing a Bible to shreds and looking to the sky for guidance. Later we’ll see what possessed him.
From there we toggle between three locations: Alexandria, a mall-construction site where scrap is gathered to expand the wall, and a warehouse that stores parts to repair the town’s faulty power grid. What becomes clear in each place — as Deanna eventually notes — is that the newbies are taking over. It’s also apparent that the Alexandria motto is “CYA.”
Abraham works at the construction site along with the dude Carol met in the pantry and a few others. These folks get points for a new euphemism for taking a dump (“Have to send a fax to Cleveland”), but loyalty, bravery, and firearm accuracy are not their strong suits. When a few walkers emerge from the woods, one of these boneheads sends their lookout tumbling down from the backhoe-loader bucket she’s stationed in. When Abraham rushes to her aid alone, the foreman does nothing. Motherdicks, indeed. The Sarge saves the day and we have yet another name to remember, as “Francine the lookout” decks the guy who left her for dead.
Back at Alexandria, Rick and Carol do what they do best: patrol the empty streets looking for wives to flirt with, and bully children. Rick gets his first big crime to solve, the Case of the Busted Owl, but it’s Carol who figures out little Sam is the culprit. The kid gets points for persistence, refusing to take no — or a shove out the front door — for an answer to his cookie queries. Carol isn’t being a jerk to him for no reason; she seems determined to keep kids at a safe emotional distance, so if she has to put one down again, it won’t hurt so much. And hey, what else is there to do in Alexandria than turn a child into a lying klepto? More important than who broke the owl is the other mystery Carol uncovers — that Paul is not only hitting the bottle, but Jessie and probably Sam, too. Why else would the kid want a gun but to protect himself from his abusive dad?
All of that intrigue pales in comparison to what goes down at the warehouse of horrors. Again, it’s one of the newcomers, Glenn, who steps up and takes charge. Count Aiden, Deanna’s other son, and his lackey Nicholas, as two of Alexandria’s most gutless citizens (and in Aiden’s case, by the end of the night, that’s literal). What looks like a simple mission goes to hell when Aiden shoots a grenade on the chest of an armored walker. Tara’s knocked out and bleeding rapidly, but Aiden takes the worst of it, impaled on two sharp shafts of shrapnel. When the chips are down, it’s Eugene, of all people, who plays the hero. He carries Tara to safety, nervously caps a few zombies, and uses Aiden’s van and shitty techno music (did Pauly D survive the apocalypse and start circulating mixtapes?) as walker-bait.
Inside the warehouse, we witness two gruesome death scenes that achieve zombie torture-porn status. Glenn and Nicholas try to pry Aiden off the wall — well, Glenn tries, and Nicholas bails after a tug or two. It’s hard to hear over all the screaming and groaning, but Nicholas basically tells his buddy, “I’m outta here 'cause we’re cowards.” Aiden confirms this, admitting to Glenn that the scouts who died on his watch were his fault: “It was us. The others before. They didn’t panic. We did.” Glenn escapes and is spared the lingering, super-bloody overhead shot we see of Aiden getting disemboweled and eaten alive. This was definitely not a good night to eat a late dinner in front of the television.
Of course, we should have known that the minute Noah began making plans for the future — “for the long haul,” as Reg said — that he was a goner. He ends up with Glenn and Nicholas, stuck on opposite sides of a revolving door with walkers piling up to their left and right. It’s a nifty trap that requires teamwork and trust to escape. As expected, Nicholas folds like a beach chair. He goes AWOL, forcing the door open and leaving Glenn and Noah exposed against a crush of zombies. One grabs Noah’s leg — “Don’t let me go,” he cries — and drags him out. It’s a horrifying sight as Noah is pushed back up against the glass, leaving Glenn to watch helplessly as he’s torn apart. At one point, we see a close-up of Noah’s face as it’s torn to pieces. Like Glenn, I imagine most of us were in full fetal positions, trying not to either cry or hurl. Good luck sleeping soundly after seeing that.
It all comes full circle back at Alexandria. Just as Deanna realizes that Rick’s crew is beginning to take over, Father Gabe drops an impromptu sermon about Satan in disguise. Rick’s people, he says, they’re bad people: “They don’t deserve paradise.” Deanna looks at him like he’s a little unstable — which we know he is — but she can’t help but consider his warning. (And Maggie will certainly spread the word about the not-so-good father’s betrayal. This is the thanks they get for saving his parish-abandoning ass?) As Deanna ponders his words, we hear what sounds like Glenn crying out for help. With any luck, Nicholas will be the first inductee into Alexandria’s correctional system.
As for Carol, she tells Rick about her Pete theory. Rick doesn’t trust the guy, especially after he showed up drunk and gave Rick one of those passive-aggressive back-slaps that suggests bad intentions. But Carol doesn’t want to see Pete locked up. Spousal abuse is her cause, and in the new world, she recommends capitol punishment. “You’re gonna have to kill him,” she tells the constable. The look on his face suggests Rick agrees.
Last week, I wondered if Alexandria was really was it seemed — a safe haven run by folks with good intentions. It may be as close to paradise as they’ll find, but it’s also deeply flawed. The Alexandrians are a soft bunch, weak and often cowardly. That’s what creature comforts in the zombie age will do to you. Rick’s gang is too damaged to peacefully coexist with people who beat their wives, abandon friends in danger, and don’t have the common sense to keep watch on the walls. Consider Noah’s lone journal entry: “This is the beginning.” That phrase takes on new meaning when we see it at the episode’s conclusion, as this sure looks like the beginning of the end. It won’t be a surprise if, by the season finale, Alexandria is in flames, and it’s Rick and company who lit the match.
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