Danai Gurira as Michonne, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes.
Photo: Gene Page/AMC
There’s a whole lot to digest after an hour’s worth of time inside the walls at Alexandria — new faces, new fears, and, perhaps most controversial, some extreme makeovers. The survivors face the obvious question: If it looks like utopia and the fresh blankets smell like utopia, could this place be for real?
Along with Aaron and Eric, we’re introduced to more folks at Alexandria than we’d ever met at Woodbury or Terminus. Clearly, none of these people can be trusted. A quick rundown of the key characters:
Deanna Monroe. Alexandria’s leader. Last week, we speculated that the gang may find a politician hiding out here, and sure enough, Deanna is a congresswoman from Ohio. She’s also an aspiring poker player, a combination that makes her possibly the most dangerous human left on the planet. She’s got a working video camera and claims to be all about “transparency,” but seems too good to be true. Her husband and sons helped build the steel walls that secure the area, she says; by the way she talks about them, it’s likely they’re dead. She doesn’t explain why she videotapes her job interviews with Rick’s gang, or her political affiliation. Makes a joke about communism. May or may not play the clarinet.
Jessie. Former stylist who also held a number of other unspecified jobs. Works at the pantry. Sculpts birds in her spare time. Partial to flannel shirts and shirtless cops in need of a trim.
Natalie and Bob Miller. Elderly couple with a penchant for infants and cheek-pinching. The suspicious duo invites Carl onto their porch without parental permission.
Ron. Jessie’s older son. He’s Carl’s age and claims to go to school in a garage. Has access to video games.
Mikey. Ron’s pal. Has a pool table at his house, invites Carl over to shoot stick while his father isn’t home. Clearly a bad influence.
Enid. Dour outsider who only arrived just a few weeks ago. Gives Carl shade in bunches; likes comic books, scaling walls, staring out windows, and creeping around solo. Her weirdness suggests that in the end, she may be the only one here worth trusting.
Unidentified Woman Who Carts Away Everyone’s Guns. Has a friendly face and access to a shitload of firearms.
Unidentified Husband of Jessie. Smokes cigarettes despite the undeniable health hazards. Seems unenthusiastic about his wife’s friendship with the hunky cop. Could this be Pete, the surgeon Aaron mentioned last week? Rick better hope he doesn’t need an emergency appendectomy.
Nicholas. Greeted the group upon arrival at Alexandria. Sucks at patrolling and tying up walkers with chains.
Aiden. Self-described “hardass” and “douchebag.” Pros: self-assessment. Cons: judgment, attitude, punch-throwing accuracy.
All this new data is a bit overwhelming — for us viewers and for the survivors. It’s strange that everyone is okay with Deanna’s on-camera convos, which seem like a combination of job interview, Big Brother confessional, and, her being a politician, opposition research. Note Deanna’s repeated insistence that who you were before the zombies took over is still important. She was a member of Congress — strike one, if you ask me. And though she spins her card-playing prowess as proof that she can read other people, it also means she has a killer poker face.
Can you blame them for letting their guard down when there’s running water here? Michonne brushes her teeth for 20 minutes, and Rick takes what could be the most satisfying shower in the history of civilization. But in a cruel twist for some viewers, just as we see a glimpse of his naked body in the shower, we also see a razor. Good-bye, beard — hello season one, clean-shaven, weren’t-you-in-Love Actually Mr. Grimes. I suspect thousands of words will be dedicated to the debate over who’s hotter, Bearded Rick or Slick Rick. For a moment, it felt like the show itself was transforming into something else, as the wet, shirtless cop answered the door to find a pretty blonde, offering her services. If not porn, it could have been Desperate Housewives: Zombie Edition.
As the gang slowly, cautiously gets used to the good life, a schism begins to develop — most notably in the final scene on the porch, where we see the contrast between who these people were, who they’ve become, and who they want to be here in Alexandria. There’s Carol, dressed like she’s headed to a PTA meeting. (Daryl’s Fashion Police assessment: “You look ridiculous.”) It wasn’t long ago that she killed a child and set Tyreese’s girlfriend on fire, but now she tells Deanna she’s a “den mother” and a “people person.” Rick’s wearing his new uniform, which looks like his old uniform (where did they get a constable’s gear that fit so perfectly? And why are they calling him a constable?). Meanwhile, Daryl hasn’t even showered yet and still feels more comfortable gutting a possum on the porch than playing house. When he asks Rick if he’s a cop now, it’s a question heavy with meaning. Daryl the biker outlaw would never be pals with a law-and-order guy in the old world. If Rick’s wearing a badge again, maybe they won’t be friends anymore.
There are also some very real reasons to be concerned about Alexandria. Rick heads back to check on the gun he stashed in the trash pile before they entered. It’s gone; best-case scenario is that Enid stole it. (Great moment here where he teams up with Carl for some father-son walker-slaying. It’s the most relaxed and natural they’ve looked since their arrival.) There’s also the confrontation between Glenn and Aiden the D-Bag. Aiden has a way of doing things, and it’s moronic — the walker he kept as a punching bag nearly kills Tara, as she wrestles with it and pulls its loose skin back like curtains. Glenn tries to keep his cool, but when Aiden swings, it’s on. Glenn drops the D-Bag, Daryl tackles Nicholas and nearly chokes him to death, and Michonne lets Aiden know what time it is. The only casualty seems to be Daryl’s feelings, as Rick and Michonne get promoted to police duty while he remains unemployed.
In a good-faith move, Deanna thanks Glenn for “knocking [the D-Bag] on his ass.” But something still feels not quite right about this place. Are Deanna’s interviews really about job placement and human connection? Or, as Rick’s own video suggests, is she looking to find their weaknesses and exploit them? On the porch with Daryl and Carol, Rick insists that Alexandria won’t make them soft — after what they’ve been through, they’ll never lose their survival instincts, he says. Ominously, he explains his long-term plan for their new digs: If Deanna and the rest don’t get with Rick’s program, then he’ll lead a hostile takeover. Sounds like Rick is really the one looking to exploit weaknesses. Judging by the expression on Daryl’s face, that’s the best thing he’s heard so far.