It's fitting that this week's episode of "The Walking Dead" was titled "Remember," since the show suddenly realized that Carol was still a part of the ensemble and actually gave her something to do during the installment. And while it wasn't much, her actions throughout the hour give her ammo to use later down the line, something that fans of the explosive season five premiere should keep in mind as we count down to the finale later this month.
Of all the members of our main group of survivors, Carol seems the most immediately at ease in Alexandria, though of course viewers know that this is just a facade. She lies to Deanna during her interview (or audition, as Aaron would say) and says she had a happy life gardening and doing laundry for her husband before the outbreak, conveniently omitting the fact that he abused her and she rebounded by transforming into an ass-kicking survivalist. She claims she's simply been a den mother to the rest of the group, and inquires if Alexandria has a Junior League of sorts she can join, since she loves getting involved in the community. It's all so sickly sweet that I'm surprised Deanna fell for it (and frankly, she may not have), but as Carol later reveals to a disgusted Daryl, her new job helping cook meals for the community's senior citizens gives her access to a large segment of the population, and a way to easily get to know (a.k.a. assess for weaknesses/assets) their neighbors.
But setting aside Carol's scheming, the hour was really dominated by Deanna, whose videotaped interviews with the core members of Rick's posse framed the episode. We don't know much about her character yet, outside of the fact that she was a congresswoman before the apocalypse (and that alone should set off alarm bells for our heroes – everyone knows you can't trust a politician, especially one as low rent as a member of the House of Representatives) and is now the de facto leader of Alexandria. But her insistence in speaking to everyone, assigning them work, and seemingly aiming to earn their trust while simultaneously picking their brains (and doing some reconnaissance presumably not unlike what Carol is trying to accomplish) is obviously a ploy. We just don't know its ultimate purpose yet.
Deanna's interview with Rick is meant to be the most revelatory, both for her own service and that of viewers. Alongside the sheriff's deputy, we wonder why she's asking such personal questions and try to figure out her game plan. Rick resists telling her about his past; he doesn't see the point. But Deanna says it's important to remember who they were before the zombies took over, and that they need all the help they can get in Alexandria, seemingly unaware of just who she's letting into her community. Rick is blunt with her about the necessity to distrust strangers, because life outside those walls is "all about survival now, at any cost" and that other people "prey on your weaknesses" and "measure you by what they can take from you, by how they can use you to live." While initially we're meant to see these statements as Rick's distrust of Deanna/Alexandria, it's really him declaring his intentions.
Rick's ultimately given the job of Alexandria's constable, with Michonne by his side, and it's jarring to see Sheriff's Deputy Grimes in a uniform again, clean-cut and shaven. But while he may look exactly like the Rick of season one, we've seen enough from him over the years to know that he's not just falling back on the familiar. He powwows with Daryl and Carol before going off on his assignment, calming Carol's worries that this place's apparent softness will make them weak by association, and assuring them that the group will soldier on even if Alexandria's residents' flaws put them in danger.
"We'll make it work," Rick says. "And if they can't make it, then we'll just take this place."
I said last week that I didn't trust Alexandria at all, preferring to take the cautious route in the wake of Michonne's seemingly blind optimism that the community is a safe haven, and perhaps a permanent savior. Of course, now, viewers are being steered into distrusting Rick, whose determination to remain wary and ready pounce – even after several days of seeming normalcy – could peg him as delusional at best, and dangerously unstable at worst. But am I crazy to think that Rick's not so crazy after all? Deanna would certainly say so. But then again, she's an Ohio State fan, so I'm not keen on trusting her opinion.
- Of course I'm just spitballing when I surmise that Deanna is a Buckeye devotee, but she said she used to represent Ohio's 15th congressional district (which encompasses part of Columbus and its surrounding areas), putting her square in the school's target demo. I'll make an effort to keep things professional from here on out, but I must ask: If Aaron Craft was a zombie in the world of "The Walking Dead," would the disease make him more or less likely to flop? (Sorry. Moving on.)
- While we're in a joking mood, I enjoyed Carol and Daryl's teasing exchange as Carol set off to go make meals for the elderly. She scolds him about not showering yet, threatening to hose him down if he doesn't clean up and keep up appearances. She's dressed in a Susie Homemaker outfit, complete with a cardigan, and Daryl retorts, "You look ridiculous." I love these two. And I also can't decide now if I want them to keep up this cute mother/son dynamic or just make out already. It's a tossup.
- You know who I don't love? Nick and Aiden, a former ROTC member and Deanna's son, respectively. They're overly-macho and boorish in a cartoonish way, and their insistence that Glenn, Tara, and Noah do exactly what they say – even when what they say could get them all killed – seems more than a little fishy. I get the impression that Deanna would be able to control these two should she deem it necessary, and her little speech to the rest of the community after Nick takes a swing at Glenn (then misses, and gets a return punch in the face) appeared a bit too on-the-nose to be genuine. Are they purposefully playing up their cluelessness and hotheadedness to lull Rick's group into a false sense of complacency? Or are they really as dumb as they look? It's hard to tell at this stage in the game. But their plan to punish a walker who killed one of their people points to both extreme sadism and extreme stupidity – both equally dangerous traits in the world of "The Walking Dead."
- Daryl shooting – and later disemboweling – that possum was a great character moment; it's nice (and disgusting) to see that some things never change.
- Another great character moment: Michonne getting so excited over brushing her teeth. This group really has been on the road for a long time. (Also: Rick was looking mighty fine in that shot when he answered the door shirtless, post-shave. The zombie apocalypse does wonders for one's abs, apparently.)
- I suspect Enid may be the one that stole the gun Rick had stashed outside the gates, though I can't figure out why, or where else she's going when she disappears (and if anyone else knows about these trips). Judging by her skillful scaling of the outer wall, and her almost immediate escape from Carl, this is a frequent hobby of hers.
- Rick and Carl's brief Zombie Strength Training Montage was a nice father-son bonding moment, and a reminder that these two aren't about to let their survivalist skills get rusty while they're cooped up in Alexandria. One quick quibble, though: While they were off stabbing walkers, WHERE ON EARTH WAS JUDITH? This season is going to end with her getting eaten (maybe by that old couple who allegedly miss their grandchildren, but are really cannibals in disguise?) and literally no one will notice.
Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC