On this week’s The Walking Dead, the group begins to settle into their new home and it’s clear that some of are having more trouble than others adjusting to domestic life. A bookend episode to last week, we see the team settling in — or not — and we get a good look at how life in the wild has taken its toll.
The episode opens at night. We see a series of family photos, smiling people from before the cataclysm intercut with images of Sasha laying down and looking at them. She is unable to sleep.
The next morning Sasha is with Olivia, checking her rifle out, ostensibly to hunt. When Olivia asks for a leg if Sasha bags a boar, Sasha’s stunned look betrays her thoughts that the people of Alexandria are a bit ridiculous. Prosciutto? Olivia still carries her phone, for example. She grabs her weapon and heads out of the gate. In a clearing, Sasha sets up the photos for target practice. She seems agitated and freaked out and — honestly — guilty, as she puts bullets through their smiling faces. As the intensity of her shooting and the intensity of her anger mounts, sounds of walkers’ gravelly moans rake over. Sasha, leans against the stump of a tree, the photos scattered behind her.
“Come and get me,” she says — to whom or what is unclear. Walkers maybe, but I wonder if she’s deteriorating and having a Charles Whitman moment.
Rick, the new J. Crew version of Carol and Daryl are outside. Walkers shamble around them, but they are relaxed and chatty. They’re standing by the abandoned house where Rick had stashed the now missing gun, talking in hushed tones about strategies to gain access to the arsenal and arm themselves while the people of Alexandria aren’t watching them. Carol has spotted a crate of pistols that nobody is paying attention to. and when a walker approaches, Carol pumps almost a full magazine into it, so they can plausibly say she was out shooting. As the meeting breaks, Daryl notices a dead walker with a “W clearly carved into its forehead.
Michonne is trying out her new cop threads. She’s made some modifications, slimming the cut of the jacket with some rad lacing up the back. I like that if she’s going to be a cop, she’s going to be her kind of cop. Rick walks in there, and he’s mentions that he’s unsure whether they’re being played, “Handing authority over to strangers,” is how he puts it. Michonne is unsure as well, “I don’t know if it’s for us or for them.” Michonne concedes that it’s the smart play for Deanna. Rick wonders if it’s “ smart for then or smart for now.” Michoonne reminds him that, no matter what, it is now.
Meanwhile Daryl is still outside, hunting. He’s alerted to a sound that we can’t hear. It’s Aaron. Daryl demands to know why Aaron was following him, Aaron claims to be hunting rabbits. He’s impressed that Daryl can hear the difference between a human and a walker, and that he seems to have some innate skill at being able to tell good guys from bad guys — a gift that Aaron notices Rick doesn’t seem to have. “Ain’t much difference anymore,” says Daryl, but it feels like a bluff because it seems that he’s been feeling the same way about Rick, as well. Aaron and Daryl decide to hunt together.
Back in Alexandria, Deanna is having a meeting with her security team, Rick, Michonne and Maggie. She’s going over procedure and protocols, trying to make it all seem official — a fake-it-till-you-make-it approach, so to speak. She is hoping to create a real government in the city and this is a big step towards her dream of “industry, commerce and civilization.” Real pie-in-the-sky type stuff. Rick moves the meeting outside to talk more concrete issues like security.
As they walk the perimeter, Rick has noticed (thanks to Carl) that the walls are easy to climb, and he want a guard on it 24/7 watch, noting, “People are the real threat now.” Deanna recognizes that Rick wants the people constantly armed, but she can’t — understandably — have that. At this point, Sasha strolls up and volunteers to be a lookout in the clock tower. Deanna insists that she doesn’t have people in the tower regularly. Her son, Spencer, has a rifle up there, but only mans it occasionally. Somehow there hasn’t been the need. Rick demands they put one there immediately.
Sasha immediately volunteers to take every shift she can get. Deanna senses her eagerness as a problem (again with The Charles Whitman) and, while Maggie does defend Sasha, it’s a half-hearted defense. Deanna agrees to consider her for the primary spot on the tower, but she wants Spencer to take the first watch.
Deanna tells the group that she’s throwing a welcome party for them, and she wants everyone, specifically Sasha, to come.
Meanwhile, Carol is on the porch going over plans for food for the party — there she is, pitching in, playing the perfect doormat. Rick strolls by and Carol breaks from her clatch to “beg for help” from Rick. They decide the party will be the perfect cover for liberating some firearms. The arsenal is right next to where the party is being held. After a bit of back and forth deciding who should pull off the job, Carol makes the obvious choice. “You know what’s great about this place?” she asks Rick. “Being invisible again.”
Daryl and Aaron are still hunting in the woods, when they come upon a horse grazing in a field. Aaron and some of the other townsfolk have seen the horse and have even named it “Buttons.” Aaron has been trying unsuccessfully to snare the horse and bring it into town. Daryl suspects that the horse was once domestic, grabs a rope and makes a collar out of it, noting, “the longer they’re out there, the more they become what they really are.” He manages to get close enough to slip the rope around the horse’s neck when walkers come lurching out of the woods and spook it.
Back at the pantry/armory, Carol and Olivia are going over party stuff and hitting up the pantry and Carol is letting Olivia in on her secret recipe for cookies, which is that she can substitute — spoiler alert! — orange juice for eggs. Two men come in looking to make a “withdrawal” from the armory. Carol follows them to where the weapons are kept. One man, who introduces himself as Tobin, asks Carol if she’s afraid of guns. She mentions that she carried a pistol and a rifle, but nothing like theirs. He offers to teach Carol how to shoot. At this point it’s obvious that either Carol’s strategy is working perfectly, or they are all stumbling towards something horrible. In the time of that conversation, she managed to open the window latch unseen.
Daryl and Aaron are tracking Buttons. Aaron opens up to Daryl that he understands that Daryl feels like an outsider, because he and Eric are also treated that way. “They’re scared of you and me for different reasons,” Aaron notes, but that familiarity has reduced the fear. He encourages Daryl to go to the party.
Carol, Rick, Judith and Carl arrive at Deanna’s, and she welcomes them warmly. Everyone is looking clean and fresh and Rick appears relaxed, holding Judith and taking it all in. Rick seems unsure, as if the party might be a mirage. Abraham and Rosita show up, Abe wearing a clean shirt and his very best scowl. Both he and Rosita look skeptical. “I don’t know about this,” say Abraham. “They have beer,” Rosita notes. Abraham pledges to try.
Deanna introduces Rick to her husband, Reg. Reg has seen the tapes and shares with Rick how remarkable everyone has made him out to be. Rick tries to compliment him on the wall, but Reg shrugs it off. “I’m glad you’re here,” he says, offering Rick a whiskey. Rick at first refuses but they cajole him into it. Then Jessie arrives with her family.
Back in the bush, Aaron and Daryl spot the horse in a field. As they make their assault on the walkers there, Aaron gets snagged on a walker who was lying in the tall grass. Daryl dispatches it and another that was dangerously close, and while he’s cleaning up, Aaron takes out another approaching walker. They exchange “thanks”. By the time they get back on track, the horse has been swarmed and, thanks to its newly acquired leash, is quickly taken down. They waste all the walkers that were feeding on the horse and Aaron puts the horse out of its misery.
Night has fallen. At the party, Maggie and Glenn notice that Noah doesn’t seem to be having a good time. Noah is ready to bail, claims the party is “not my thing.” Glen reminds Noah that they are in this together. “You’re with family,” say Maggie, and they do their best to mingle.
Meanwhile, Daryl is watching the party from behind a tree like he’s stalking it. He gives up and walks away down the road, when Aaron steps out of a nearby house. Daryl asks why Aaron isn’t at the party, and Aaron replies that he was never really going to go because of Eric’s ankle, “thank God.” Daryl wonders then why Aaron told him to go to the party. “I told you to try,” says Aaron, “and you did.” Aaron invites Daryl in for spaghetti.
Back at the party, Carol and Rick are scoping out the armory, but Olivia is there, so Carol decides to use her power of invisibility and ducks out. Rick bumps into Jessie and her husband Pete, who is a doctor. He seems nice enough and they exchange pleasantries. Pete wanders off for refills, leaving Jessie and Rick to admire “the view.” People are mingling and having — or pretending to have — a good time, “just like ordinary life.” Jessie’s little boy, Sam, comes up because there’s no more cookies.. Rick tells the kid that he’s got the inside scoop and his friend Carol can hook the kid up. Rick gets his hand stamped with an ‘A’ by Sam. “See you’re officially one of us,” says Jessie.Yeah, right.
Sasha arrives at the door, and it’s answered by Spencer, Deanna’s son. He tried to engage her with chit chat, but Sasha is not in the mood for trivialities just yet.
Back at Aaron’s place, Daryl is inhaling his pasta. Eric mentions that Mrs. Niedermeyer is dying to make homemade pasta and if Daryl ever finds a pasta maker “on his travels,” he should bring it back. Daryl had no idea he was going anywhere, so Aaron takes Daryl out to the garage to reveal his master plan. The garage is full of motorcycle parts. “You’re gonna need a bike,” Aaron tells Daryl, adding that he told Deanna not to give Daryl a job, because he has something else in mind. Aaron wants Daryl on the road with him as a recruiter, because he has noticed that Daryl, like himself, needs to be “out there” and Eric just doesn’t have what it takes.
Most importantly, Daryl knows the difference between a good person and a bad person and that’s what it’s all about.
Out on the porch, Michonne is contemplating her cocktail sword. Abraham joins her.. “Pray to God you don’t have to use it again,” say Abraham,”It’s on your back even when it’s off your back.” Michonne asks him how much he’s had to drink. Enough so that he’s realized that things have worked out pretty well for himself.
Carol pops through the window of the pantry/armory. She grabs a bar of chocolate, then grabs a few handguns, too. “What are you doing?” asks Sam,who has followed her, hoping she was going to make more cookies. She promises to make him a batch in exchange for his silence. He explains that he has to tell his mom. Carol leans in uncomfortably close to Sam making him promise not to tell anyone, especially his Mom or he’ll end up outside the walls, far away, tied to a tree where the monsters will come and tear him apart while he can still feel it. But if he promises not to tell, he’ll get cookies … lots of cookies.
Back at the party, Rick is being contemplative when Jessie comes in to the room carrying Judith. He admits that Alexandria isn’t that bad, and when he leans in close take Judith, he plants a kiss on Jessie’s cheek. Jessie doesn’t seem to mind. Not entirely at least.
The party continues and Deanna tries to get Sasha engaged. As she listens in on people’s conversation, it’s pretty obvious that she is dealing with some heavy PTSD. She loses it when someone offers to make her a meal and is worried that she’ll make something Sasha doesn’t like. “You’re worried ?! That’s what you’re worried about!?” she yells, and, realizing she’s not adjusting well at all, leaves.
The following morning. Sasha is waiting by the gate. Deanna comes by with Sasha’s rifle, perplexed by what Sasha’s problem is. “It isn’t real,” Sasha states, indicating Alexandria. Deanna calls bullshit on that and hands Sasha a box of ammo, opening he gate to let her out.
Carol, Daryl and Rick are out at the stash house. Carol hands out the pistols that she’s liberated. “I’ve been thinking,” say Daryl. “Do we really need these?” He concedes that if things go bad, for sure, they’ll do what they have to do, but for now, it seems that Aaron has won him over. It’s also possible that he now sees Rick and Carol in a different light and isn’t liking what he sees. Carol admits that the guns aren’t necessary now, but Rick takes one. Daryl is not pleased.
Meanwhile, as one part of Our Gang is taking up arms, Michonne is relinquishing a bit — hanging her sword above the mantle.
Rick, Daryl and Carol return to town, but — tellingly — all head in separate directions. Jessies, Paul and the kids are having a stroll and they call to Rick, waving their “A” hands in solidarity. Rick reaches behind him for the pistol he has stashed in his belt. It’s not good.
The music comes up and the lyric, “The sun in my life, it is dead, it is dead,” can be heard, plainly. Rick, having heard something, walks between their houses to the wall. He puts his hand on it and leans in. A walker is on the other side, doing the same. His other self…
Fade to black.
It’s interesting to note some status reversals in the group and actions that are very concerning among our gang. While I understand the PTSD is consuming them in one way or another, Rick and Carol have become actively hostile or at least deeply paranoid, while Daryl, who should be the worst off seems to be adjusting quickly. Has Deanna, and anyone else who’s seen the tapes recognize this potential? Was Daryl being spied on by Aaron and are they convinced that if there is a moral center to the group that it’s Daryl? Leave you thoughts in the comments section below.
New episodes of The Walking Dead premiere Sundays at 9/8CT on AMC.