The Walking Dead
Sure, there’s a ravenous horde of zombies at the gates, a growing sense of despair, and a bunch of beloved survivors are MIA. But at Alexandria, love is in the air! In a season that’s been full-throttle from the start, this episode serves as a moment to catch our breath and set the scene for the final three installments of this first half. Translation: a snoozer, with one whopper of a hunch is confirmed, and the major question left unanswered for another week.
A major cliffhanger is resolved in a rather unsatisfying fashion right at the start. When we last saw Rick, he’d just mowed down a bunch of Wolves with an assault rifle and was stuck in the RV, surrounded by walkers. How would he escape, we wondered? Apparently by hauling ass. That voice Morgan heard yelling about opening the gates was indeed Rick, who we see running in slo-mo, zombie-Baywatch style, as the herd lumbers after him. Well, half the herd, but that’s still plenty — Rick estimates there are now enough walkers to surround Alexandria 20 deep. The folks still unaccounted for on the outside — Sarge, Sasha, Daryl, and of course, Glenn, if he’s alive — won’t have an easy time getting back in. And those still alive in the safe zone can’t simply send out a search party.
The harsh reality of life in the “roamer” apocalypse finally begins to sink in for the Alexandrians, who believe (rightly, it seems) that their days are numbered. Deanna has become utterly paralyzed, wandering the grounds in a daze and watching in silence as anarchy threatens to break out. As townsfolk raid the pantry, Deanna’s son, Spencer, steps up with an impressive argument against self-destruction. For a minute, it looks like he might be ready to fill Deanna’s shoes. Then we see him boozing and munching on crackers — stuff he stole from the pantry after his speech about sticking to the rations plan. A leader he is not.
Spencer’s drunken rant against his mother is so brutal — blaming Deanna for how soft they’ve all become and for the death of Reg and his brother — it seemed to have crushed what was left of her spirit. Deanna had scribbled some expansion plans and a message in Latin, dolor hic tibi proderit olim, which translates to “This pain will be useful to you.” But when she runs into Rick, she’s broken, asking him if her notion of utopia was truly “pie in the sky.” In a moment of compassion, Rick says no. Deanna seems comforted by his words, but she knows her time as the top dog is over. This is Rick’s show now — a fact that’s reinforced by Aaron, who reminds everyone that without the quarry plan, there would be twice as many walkers at their gates. (It’s worth noting that the only time we see Morgan is when Rick gives his speech about how they need to live now that they’re surrounded by flesh-eaters. “There will be more to talk about,” he says, looking squarely at Morgan. So the war-versus-peace debate is on hold, for now. Also — if Rick really cares about Deanna, he should fill her in on the “stab the zombies in the head” rule.)
While Carol, Eugene, Morgan, and Michonne are weirdly absent, we spend a good deal of time with Denise, the panic-attack-prone psychiatrist who’s been forced to play doctor. She’s an utterly boring character, at least until Tara arrives to check in on her. “Being afraid sucks,” Tara says — not a great pep talk, but it’s enough to give Denise some confidence. After a medical breakthrough with her patient, Denise pays Tara back with a long, lingering kiss (hot damn, indeed, Denise) and throws Tara’s “being afraid sucks” line back at her. That’s one silver lining in the midst of all the gloom and doom that’s infected Alexandria — no point in not being who you are or loving who you want to love if the end feels near.
Then there’s Rick and Jessie, who’ve had a healthy dose of sexual tension between them from the moment they met. Maybe it’s the feeling that there’s nothing left to lose, especially since Jessie’s abusive husband is dead. Maybe it’s Jessie’s new attitude, one that Rick surely can appreciate — fight or die, as she told her neighbors not long after poking a zombie in the eyeball and calmly dragging the bloody Ladywolf corpse out of her kitchen. Maybe it’s because the sound of walkers clawing at the walls 24/7 isn’t enough to keep two hot, eligible singles from being horny. “Tell me there’s more” to this life, she asks the Rickster, who replies by initiating a serious garage make-out sesh. Could a little good lovin’ open the door for a kinder, gentler Ricktatorship? Let’s hope not.
This is one potentially dangerous romance, as Jessie’s conniving son, Ron, appears to be up to no good. We know the kid can’t fight — Carl won their hilariously lame shoving match handily (I’ve seen better throw-downs on reruns of Laverne & Shirley). But that scene on top of the wall suggests Ron’s a schemer. He tells Rick that Enid’s missing and rats on Carl, perhaps hoping that Rick will run off to look for the girl himself and suffer a horrible death. Ron also says he’s ready to learn how to handle a gun. For some reason, Rick doesn’t think teaching Ron — the son of the man he shot and killed — how to use a firearm is a problem.
Of course, the night’s big moment belongs to Maggie. She’s on a mission to find Glenn, who either needs her help, she says, or “if he’s dead, I don’t want to be waitin’ on him.” (That line sounds more Gone With the Wind than The Walking Dead.) Aaron shows her a secret way out of town that shouldn’t really be much of a secret — a gate that leads to the sewer and out past the wall. In the darkness and the muck, they’re attacked by two foul, waterlogged walkers, in one of the night’s highlights. Maggie’s zombie is so rotted that she can’t get a grip on the thing to hold it back. Sadly, the light at the end of the tunnel reveals they’d still need to fight through a mess of monsters to escape. Maggie nixes the plan and drops the bomb we suspected — she’s pregnant. That’s why she didn’t join Glenn on the outside, a fact that weighs heavily on her. “I just want to see his face,” Maggie says, in the episode’s top tear-jerking scene. Aaron can do little but comfort her as zombies claw at the gate behind him.
It’s a safe bet that Maggie will get her wish to see Glenn at some point (maybe episode eight for the mid-season finale). Once again, Steven Yeun’s name is conspicuously absent from the opening credits. There’s also a lot of talk about the signal Glenn promised to send if he’s still alive. Maggie’s concerns and ours are the same — everyone just wants to know what the hell happened to Glenn. Until we get some answers — and it appears we won’t next week, either — it will be hard to shake the feeling that TWD is spinning its wheels and toying with its audience.