The Walking Dead Recap: Ricktatorship Down

Daryl on a mission. Photo: AMC

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The Walking Dead
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It’s fitting that this episode opens with the throbbing misery of Nine Inch Nails, track one on recently deceased Aiden’s “Run Mix.” Trent Reznor’s jams make a perfect soundtrack for a world gone to hell, even if you’re just baking a “sorry your son was impaled and eaten alive” tuna casserole. And this particular song’s title is a sly nod to the state of affairs inside Alexandria: “Somewhat Damaged.” Come to think of it, “The Downward Spiral” would also work quite well, seeing as this experiment in civilization-building is about to collapse, and Rick has lost his bloody mind.

There’s a clue as to where things are headed early on when Rick and Glenn discuss what went down at the warehouse. Nicholas, being a complete coward, lied through his teeth during his on-camera confessional, making himself sound like a hero. He also warned Deanna that these newcomers are bad news. Glenn, of course, tells Rick what really happened, that these people have no clue when it comes to survival. (Duh.) That leads to this exchange:

Rick: Their rules? We don’t answer to them.
Glenn: We are them now … we’ve got to make this work.

That’s a heavy statement for Glenn to make. He just watched Noah get torn to pieces thanks to one Alexandrian’s incompetence. Yet he still thinks life on the inside is preferable to what’s out there. A bad day in paradise means there’s no chocolate for your cookies or your owl sculpture is broken.  On the outside, you’re waging war with a guy who keeps his zombie daughter chained in a secret room and relaxes in the glow of his walker-head aquarium. You’re sleeping in a shed and praying for a tornado to blast away the flesh-eaters pounding at your door. You’re fighting off rapists and pedophiles and cannibals. You’re starving and dehydrated. You’re never more than a step ahead of certain death.

Still there’s a clear division among those who are ready to assimilate and those who are pushing for a hostile takeover. The latter camp seems to have only three members now — Rick, Carol, and Sasha. Carol isn’t interested in Deanna’s vision of a new civilization or stuff like “due process” and a working justice system. As a victim of abuse herself, she sees only one solution for Pete’s violence. That makes sense. But why, in all the talk of what to do about this serial wife-beater — a situation Deanna admits she knew about — doesn’t anyone consider creating laws and setting up a jail? That seems fundamental to the civilization Deanna is so intent on creating. Yet the only options under consideration are to do nothing, exile the guy, or kill him.

If Rick’s looking for backup, Sasha’s not a great choice. She’s now in full-blown Rambo mode — staying up all night in the lookout tower, hunting zombies by day, wasting a ton of ammo and making all sorts of noise. (She clearly should not be allowed to handle firearms at this point.) Sasha’s death wish doesn’t stop Michonne and Rosita from trying to save her, as the three of them square off with a pack of walkers like some zombie-hunting Charlie’s Angels. Dressed in their Alexandria clothes, Michonne and Rosita can still throw down when they need to.

As warped as Sasha is, Rick’s even worse. Carol knows why he’s so intent on helping Jessie: He’s got a thing for her. (Duh.) But as Jessie herself points out, she’s a married woman. Rick can’t quite wrap his head around this regular life. Like Sasha, he’s got a serious case of zombie PTSD, and he’s brought the war inside the Alexandria walls. When he sees a kid walking a dog, or women gabbing on a porch, it’s unreal to him. The red balloon tied to a toy boat is a not-too-subtle metaphor for peace and normalcy, a new way of life. By the episode’s end, the balloon drifts off just as all hell breaks loose.

There’s serious drama outside the walls, too, starting with Daryl and Aaron on a recruiting mission that goes full True Detective. They see a light in the distance and figure someone’s out there. What they find is gruesome — dismembered limbs and missing body parts. Even worse, there’s a woman tied to a tree, left there to be eaten, her guts spilled out. Carved into her forehead is that W we’ve seen before. Whoever Daryl and Aaron are tracking is probably responsible for those marks. But who? And why? Seems like we’ll get some answers next week.

Carl is also out in the woods, chasing Enid and nearly having his first make-out session. He’s a pretty smooth operator, given the circumstances and a general lack of experience talking to girls his own age. First, he asks if Ron, Jessie’s son, knows Enid leaves town alone. “He wouldn’t understand,” she says. Green light! Carl follows with a compliment — “Cool knife,” which is totally a pickup line these days — and establishes common ground (both of their moms are dead). Not a smart move cornering themselves in a tree when the zombies come, but that’s about as close to Seven Minutes in Heaven as the kid is going to get.

Carl isn’t the only Grimes who’s looking to hook up. When Rick bluntly tells Jessie he knows she’s being abused, her first instinct isn’t to thank him or to swoon. She smartly lays out the facts — she’s not single, and Rick has found a safe place to raise his children. Why is he ready to risk that for her? Rick says he’s just trying to help, but she’s not so sure that’s true. Neither are we. This is the dark side of the Ricktatorship — the guy who wants things done his way and who thinks he can take whatever he wants. That works on the outside, where survival trumps all, but not here. Rick barely knows this woman. Granted, I’m sure that haircut felt nice, but what sort of genuine feelings can he have for her at this point? It seems she’s just another thing that Rick needs to save, since that’s all he does: save people. (Or kill them when he decides they’re a threat.)

Rick’s god complex leads to the epic throwdown at Jessie’s house with Pete, the drunk surgeon. Deanna already made it clear to Rick that killing Pete is not an option. But the doc taps into that primal rage still lurking just below the surface. Rick tackles him through a window, and in seconds, there’s a full-blown MMA fight in the street, complete with a crowd of onlookers. When Jessie tries to pull Pete away, he smacks her. Carl grabs his dad and gets shoved aside. Rick applies a chokehold and is ready to finish the job when Deanna finally orders him to stop. His response — drawing his pistol and aiming it at her.

What follows is a rant about how “we” know what needs to happen here at Alexandria and how their “way of doing things is done.” But no one steps forward to stand beside Rick and back him up. He’s out on a long limb all alone, bloodied and sounding like a lunatic. If they get around to building a jail, Rick may join Pete inside it. Far more surprising than Rick’s meltdown is how it ends — an out-of-nowhere knockout punch, delivered by his former confidante Michonne. Rick’s running out of support, and the rift that’s widening between him and his friends may end up swallowing Alexandria whole.

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