The aftermath of the ‘run that went bad’ last week takes centre stage this week on The Walking Dead. So how did the penultimate episode of the series’ fifth season go?
Let’s bitch it out…
How do you solve a problem like Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln)? Apparently a well deserved sucker punch to the back of the head courtesy of Michonne (Danai Gurira). Boy was that punch ever satisfying as we’ve reached that moment (again?) where all you want to do is get Rick to shut the hell up. Last week I was already bitching about Rick’s self-righteousness hitting an all-time low – his hubris on having survived so long morphing into a god complex. I get what he’s saying – the Alexandrites have no idea what’s going on outside their walls, thereby clinging to a way of life that no longer makes sense. It leaves them incredibly susceptible to the harsh reality that is their inevitable takeover. Here we see the season coming full circle – the Alexandrites are just the Termites pre-cannibalism. Naive in thinking that the old way of life is still something that’s plausible – and it is, but only temporarily and if everyone who lives in those walls stays within those walls.
‘Try’ all but shoves this down our throats multiple times. As much as I know you were groaning and eye-rolling at the frolicking of Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) in the woods – it actually had a purpose. Needing to get out of the compound and just ‘run’ shows us how stifling and suffocating Alexandria is to outsiders who’ve had the misfortune of the adrenaline rush that is running for your life. In contrast, Glenn’s (Steven Yeun) apt little smackdown to yellow-bellied Nicholas (Michael Traynor) shows us just how clueless the Alexandrites are when they venture outside the safety of its walls. You can’t remain ignorant once you’ve been enlightened – nor can you educate the ignorant without jarring hands-on tragedies. Perhaps Nicholas needed to lose a limb in a BBQ to fully understand the threat that lies outside those walls.
And then we have Michonne and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) who deliver the episode’s best moments. Although we get that Alexandria is somehow taking something away from our survivors, what happens with Michonne and Sasha in the limited screen time they have illustrates a far more sophisticated mode of story-telling than all the crap that goes down with Rick.
Sasha’s grief is palpable – her frustration with the world is resonant. She’s doesn’t wallow in despair – but takes out her anger in what I would argue is the most productive ways we’ve seen on the show: perfecting her target practice in secret and refusing to drink the Kool-Aid entirely, thereby prohibiting herself from becoming weak. Sasha’s grief is a motivator – it keeps her grounded in the real world and gives her character realistic dimension. But these are her own demons that she’s wrestling with – she doesn’t take it out on some unsuspecting Alexandrite (aside from a verbal slip up here and there). She wears her grief very clearly for us to see – and that’s something that a show like this can easily gloss over. Sasha feels less like a caricature because we’re right there with her as she’s working out her grief.
In contrast, Michonne has a similar arc, but her tragedies aren’t as raw as Sasha’s – which means her evolution comes about more subtly. I could have done without the spoon-feeding flashback montage of Michonne’s greatest kills to get to that point – but ultimately, she’s reaching the same profound catharsis that Sasha is searching for, once the immediacy of her grief has dissipated. Michonne wants to integrate into Alexandria and why wouldn’t she? Isn’t this the kind of utopic life that the survivors of a zombie apocalypse would be searching for? But after all that she’s been through, it’s impossible for Michonne to go back to that life, hence the restlessness and the exuberance she feels when she fires that gun. There are no easy answers – it’s a constant oscillation between the two worlds and really – it’s far more interesting the one-dimensional, black or white way that Rick has subscribed to. The whole Alexandria narrative would play out in quite sophisticated fashion if we saw member both from the Grimes gang and Alexandria trying to find some kind of middle ground between pre and post apocalypse.
But alas, this is The Walking Dead and in order to satisfy that target demographic, we need our overt displays of hyper-masculinity by way of graphic fist-fighting complete with a damsel-in-distress pleading for the two burly men to ‘stop!’ *YAWN*. Rick had me going there for a moment – I genuinely thought he might emerge as a good leader. Sadly it seems that a well-endowed blonde is all it takes to undo any potential good. As we go into the season finale next week, I’m hoping Rick wakes up sobered and realizes the world isn’t black and white as he’s painted it out to be.
- The women characters are kicking some serious ass in the latter half of the season. Even though Carol (Melissa McBride) is a bit too quick to side with Rick, there’s still nuance and growth in her character. Perhaps it’s because there’s been such a shift from S1 Carol.
- Rosita (Christian Serratos) has more than two lines AND she’s gotten rid of those dreadful pigtails. Another win for the women.
- We finally get a glimpse into the long forgotten mystery of the “W” head-carved walkers. Unfortunately we also find out that whoever is doing it is yet another sadistic bastard (as evidence by the naked woman tied up to a tree to be fed on). Am I the only one who wishes we could stay in Alexandria a bit longer?
- The interaction between Rick and Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) before Pete (Corey Brill) comes home is the absolutely WORST. Are we really to believe that a haircut and a couple of five-minute conversations is all it takes for Rick to sacrifice safe haven for his children for this plainer than plain woman?
- Am I the only one disappointed that the Rick-Michonne thing is totally never going to happen?
- Although the stuff with Enid was a bit too ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ for me, she did utter one of the most profound lines we’ve ever heard – ‘It’s their world. We’re just living in it.” Preach sister.
- Anyone care what happens to Tara (Alanna Masterson)? Bueller?
What did you think viewers? Is Rick pretty much guaranteed to be exiled now? Who will go with him? What do you think the symbolism of the red balloon is? Who or what do you think is behind the “W” walker carvings? What big surprises do you anticipate for the season finale? Who do you think is going to die (although statistically, The Walking Dead season finales don’t yield significant protagonists’ deaths – do you think that might change this year?) Tell us your theories in the comments below.
A gentle reminder that we adhere to a SPOILER FREE zone. Please keep any plot points from the graphic novel that may potential spoil the direction of the show to yourself.
The Walking Dead airs at 9pm EST, Sundays on AMC.