The Walking Dead – Recap: Welcome to the Neighborhood
Recap video and review of The Walking Dead – Season 5 Episode 12 – Remember:
Did this remind anyone else of The Shawshank Redemption? The classic Stephen King adaptation, from The Walking Dead‘s original showrunner Frank Darabont, has a lot in common with “Remember,” since a memorable portion of the film deals with the struggle to re-enter a world that’s no longer familiar to you. The Walking Dead hasn’t always had the chance to cover this ground, but the introduction of the Alexandria Safe Zone allows for the exploration of how a prisoner acclimates to a world he never thought he’d see again.
Last week’s episode set us up to be suspicious of Alexandria, even while reinforcing the notion that this could really be the paradise our protagonists have been searching for all this time. That nagging kernel of suspicion carries over into “Remember,” as Alexandria proves to be a place that’s almost too good to be true. Running water! Electricity! Haircuts! Hell, Michonne (Danai Gurira) takes 20 minutes just to luxuriate in the simple pleasure of brushing her teeth. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is skeptical that this place is really as good as it seems, so the hour is spent showing the cases for and against Alexandria.
For: It’s gorgeous, unspoiled land that’s heavily fortified, fully stocked, and spacious enough that everyone in Rick’s group is offered his or her own house.
Against: Guns are immediately confiscated at the door, and supply run teams must defer to the orders of the leader’s jerkwad son.
On this latter point, however, there is a bit of a catch. Yes, Aiden (Daniel Bonjour) is a massive tool, having completed ROTC before the apocalypse only to spend his time afterwards abusing his power. This is never more evident than when he takes Glenn (Steven Yeun), Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Noah (Tyler James Williams) out on a supply run, and nearly gets Tara killed when he orders everyone to delay killing a walker, all out of some misguided attempt to capture and torture the creature to avenge the death of a friend. Back at the camp, he gets on Glenn’s ass about defying his orders. When Aiden tries to get macho by picking on Glenn, Glenn lays him out with a fist to the face, sparking a rumble that’s only broken up when Alexandria’s leader, former Ohio congresswoman Deanna Monroe (Tovah Feldshuh) orders her son to stand down, declaring to all of Alexandria that Rick’s group is now a part of this community. She then appoints Rick and Michonne as sheriffs, which I’m sure won’t get under Aiden’s skin at all.
In a lot of ways, “Remember” explores the community politics that are necessary in a world where no one can be trusted. For example, Carol (Melissa McBride) is playing a long con of sorts, pretending to be far less fearsome and capable than she is. Not only does she fumble with her gun when submitting it to Alexandria’s armory, she also lies in her taped interview with Deanna, making up a story about a happy past with her late husband Ed. Naturally, we know this to be B.S., since what little we saw of her husband colored him as possibly the worst, most pointlessly abusive man on Earth. Carol is allowing the Alexandrians to think little of her, so she can keep her eyes and ears to the ground on Rick’s behalf, picking up valuable intel on who these people are, and whether or not they have ulterior motives. Highlighting Carol’s attempts at politicking by pitting her against a literal politician is one of the most engaging aspects of the episode, and I hope it’s something the show comes back to as the Alexandria arc continues.
But the episode doesn’t simply explore politics, as we dig into just how jarring it can be to find an oasis out in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Some of the characters are thrilled, others are skeptical, and others — like Rick — go through it all in a sort of fugue state, disbelieving but also desperate to accept the reality of it all. In one of the best moments in the series for Chandler Riggs, Carl nearly breaks down when teenagers in the neighborhood ask him if he wants to play videogames with them. For a kid who had to kill his own mother after helping deliver his baby sister, the simplicity of videogames, coupled with the possibility that he’ll actually get to have some semblance of a childhood, is overwhelming for him. He fights back tears, getting a little choked up before suppressing it and reclaiming his manly facade. Early in the episode, he describes the Alexandrians as “weak” to Rick, and expresses his fear of becoming soft like them, since few have experienced the world outside Alexandria’s walls. Carl suppresses his emotions because it brings him one step closer to that softness, and his immediate instinct is to resist that trajectory. He gains back a bit of his grittiness by immersing himself back in the danger: he follows a suspicious teen girl named Enid outside of Alexandria. She quickly gets away, but in following her outside, Carl comes upon Rick, who is set upon by walkers. Rick discovers that the gun he hid in a blender last week has disappeared, so he and Carl are left to fight with just knives, resulting in an intense setpiece that helps enliven an episode that wasn’t all that concerned with action for most of its runtime. It also helps to show that Carl is doing his best not to let the comfort of Alexandria dull his edge or his survival instincts. He offers to finish off the last walker, with Rick gladly obliges. And while it’s clear that Rick is troubled by the disappearing gun, he seems confident that his crew can take the Alexandrians if it comes to war.
Of course, the bigger question in all of this is Enid. She hardly speaks, and when she does, it’s simply to tell Carl to toughen up (after his brief display of emotion upon being asked to play videogames). She also runs away from Alexandria, which complicates matters: it’d be one thing if she ran away and disappeared, but that’s not what happens. She comes back later in the episode, suggesting that she could be escaping in order to report to a group on the outside. Could she be a spy for an invading force, sent in to gather intel on Alexandria? It’s chilling to think that a teen girl is being used for these ends, but when you think about it, what better spy could you have than a teenage girl? Deanna is a pragmatist, but she seems to have a genuine soft spot for people looking for a better life. So it’s easy to imagine her having a similar soft spot for a young girl, prompting her to question the child less severely than she did, say, Daryl (Norman Reedus). Constant dread is a part of watching The Walking Dead, so the minute the group comes across a place like the CDC, or Hershel’s farm, or the prison, or Woodbury, or Alexandria, the immediate instinct is to begin wondering how it’s all going to go wrong. In that way, we start thinking like the characters. Do this long enough, and the thought stops being “How will this go wrong?” to “How are we going to deal with it once it does?” And Rick’s answer? He straight up tells Carol and Daryl that if the Alexandrians put up a fight, they’ll simply take Alexandria by force. It’s arguably one of Rick’s darkest moments (I guess shedding the beard revealed a darker layer beneath), but it’s also one of his most interesting, right up there with the “Ricktatorship” speech at the end of Season 2. Rick’s desire to survive and thrive isn’t just a “Do what you can to see tomorrow” type of attitude. It’s literally become a “f*** everyone who isn’t us” attitude. It’s chilling but also downright thrilling. “The new world’s gonna need Rick Grimes,” indeed.
“Remember” is another fantastic episode in what’s been a strong half-season for The Walking Dead so far. I’m not sure where the story is headed from here, but I don’t think I’ve been this excited to find out in a long time.