After two weeks of outward calm – inward, things were anything but – we get to see life in sleepy Alexandria begin its rapid downward spiral. We knew Alexandria was too good to be true and this wasn’t going to last, but things escalate at a pace I wasn’t quite prepared for. This show did remind us why we have stuck with our characters through all this – when they’re not being paranoid, battle scarred freaks, they do the right thing. Something that can’t be said for everyone in Alexandria… .
Morning in Alexandria looks, with the exception of the huge corrugated metal wall in the background, like your typical sleepy town. Father Gabriel is up with the birds and seems to have created for himself a little church. There are a few chairs, a makeshift pulpit and someone has thoughtfully left him a basket of symbolically resonant strawberries, with a thank you note. In any world but this one, it’s a lovely scene. They don’t live in that world. Father Gabriel – we haven’t had a close look at him for a couple of episodes – surveys his tiny kingdom, and starts to lose it, tearing pages then finally chapters out of his bible. No, things are not going well for father Gabriel. Not at all.
But Daryl has a new motorcycle so things aren’t all bad, as he and Aaron leave the gates. It’s ominous that they’re going on a recruiting run when Alexandria has so many fresh, new and troubling faces. And the power is out …again.
Noah and Reg are having a morning meeting, under a lovely gazebo, enjoying oatmeal for breakfast. Noah would like to continue to meet with Reg because Noah wants to learn a trade. He wants to be able to keep the walls up and help build new buildings. Reg is impressed and maybe a little surprised to see that Noah is in it for the long haul. In a good faith gesture – Reg bequeaths his notebook to Noah, a welcome gesture that shows perhaps how far not only Our Gang, but also the Alexandrians have come. And, architects do love their notebooks.
But not everyone is settling in quite as well. Abraham is looking more tense than refreshed this morning, looking hard in the mirror while Rosita sleeps peacefully. It’s hard to know what’s wrong, but as the episode goes on you wonder if that hair dye has given him ESP.
A expedition party has been organized to fetch replacement parts for the prototype solar power grid – and piece of ironic symbolism that applies equally well to our prototype small town – that has failed. Eugene is showing everybody the parts he needs to fix the grid. Tara shows Eugene the gun he’s going to need on the trip. He is not happy about that. Aiden, Glenn, Nicholas and Noah are also gearing up for the trip along with Eugene and Tara. Glenn and Aiden seem to have patched things up as preparations go on without tension. They hop into the van and head for the electronics warehouse, techno music raging as they roll towards the gate.
Rick pays Jessie a visit; she’s in her garage lamenting the destruction of her owl sculpture. Even sculptures can’t catch a break around here. It’s been vandalized, a thing that doesn’t happen in Alexandria. Rick promises to do some sleuthing, citing the “broken windows,” theory of policing: “you keep your windows intact, you keep your society intact.” That does not inspire confidence.
The expeditionary team is walking the perimeter of the electronics warehouse, making sure that things are somewhat safe and that they can get out once they’ve secured their parts. Tara wonders to Eugene if he is really the coward he seems to be and he assures her that indeed, he is that coward. Glenn and Noah laugh about their mutual thoughts of murdering Aiden after their last run. Nicholas has, sight unseen, chosen the front door as a likely escape route, but Glenn and Noah see it’s a no-go.
Inside the warehouse it’s relatively quiet and super dark, and while they can hear walkers in the distance, they don’t seem to be roaming free. Moments later their suspicions are confirmed when they come upon a bunch of walkers that are, inexplicably yet seeming securely, caged in. My instincts scream kill the walkers, but maybe the group has gone soft living in town. At any rate, they don’t. Eugene’s micro inverters are found, boxes of the things, but the team also finds some loose walkers. Aiden and Nicholas have gotten separated and are beset upon by a walker in military body armor – something Glenn has some unfortunate history with – but Aiden’s inexperience and general cowardice prevent rational thought. Glenn tries to stop him from taking pot shots at it, but Aiden hits a live grenade, blowing hell out of everything. When the smoke clears, Aiden, seemingly dead, has been impaled on a gnarly metal rack, Tara is down with a head wound and the walkers in the cage appear to have gotten out.
Carol, at home, is having her own troubles: Sam won’t leave her alone. First, she finds him hiding in a closet in their house. She tries to clear him out by being mean and ornery, but it seems he wants cookies so badly he’ll live with it. She tries to push him away and out the door, but he won’t leave. To get some peace, she tells him to go steal some chocolate bars and off he goes.
At the warehouse, things have gone from totally bad to somewhat worse. Aiden isn’t dead, and despite Nicholas insisting they leave him and get the hell out of there – apparently that is the way they do things in Alexandria, throw each other to the slow but persistent wolves – Eugene calls bullshit on that, and insists they rescue Aiden because that’s how Tara would have done it. And Glenn, being Glenn, takes a second to roll his eyes before mounting the rescue mission.
In a quieter part of the world, Abraham is out with his crew, led by Tobin, gathering materials for wall construction and repair. They seem tight and organized and even have a lookout posted in the raised bucket of an end loader. Abraham notices birds take off from the trees, and steels himself for the walkers that come streaming out of the bushes. Tobin and his crew open fire and we get to see that incompetence is a universal problem in Alexandria. They manage to take out the hydraulics on the end loader, throwing Francine (the girl in the bucket) clear, and into harm’s way, without seeming to have put down a single walker. Things go pear-shaped as Abraham tries to save Francine while Tobin attempts to abort, leaving Abraham and Francine cut off. Abraham utters his about to be famous battle cry (battle mutter?) “Motherdick,” and begins berzerking on the walkers.
Back in Alexandria, Doctor Pete is drunk. He drops by Rick’s with a beer, and none to share, and tries to get buddy buddy with Rick who takes it in stride, he did just plant one on this guy’s wife, so it’s best to be cool. Pete wants Rick to bring the kids in for checkups – I am sure his bedside manner is terrific – and tries to commiserate, about how rough things are inside the walls too you know, yadayda, and that he and Rick should be “friends.” I don’t think any of those things make it to Rick’s to-do list.
Back at the warehouse, things remain horrible. Eugene, finally, steps up and tries to carry Tara to safety, successfully running a minor gauntlet of walkers on the way to the exit. Glenn and Nicholas are having absolutely no luck removing Aiden from whatever it is he’s impaled on. Aiden makes a deathbed confession that he is an incompetent and pretty awful human, and then it’s time for Glenn, Noah and Nicholas to bug out as their position is overrun, leaving Aiden to be eaten. Nicholas, of course, blunders for the front door, and Noah and Glenn follow because they tend to do the right thing for people who do not deserve it. Naturally, they get trapped in a revolving door at the entrance.
Abe and Francine, with a little help, have taken out the walkers. Abe confronts Tobin by yelling while Francine lets her fist do the talking. Rather than disperse, as Tobin recommends, Abraham rallies the troops to continue the work. Tobin returns to Alexandria with a status update, and presents Deanna with some hard truths, that without Abraham, Francine and likely others would have died, but instead they are healthy and working. Tobin admits that he is not the man for the job, and it looks like the community she has trusted for so long is out of their depth. Either they’ve gotten lucky or things outside have gotten worse, or her people have been sacrificing newcomers and lying about it. Abraham returns a hero, but it isn’t going to last.
Carol’s little buddy returns with the chocolate, to Carol’s — and, likely, everyone’s — surprise. It didn’t take him long to go from model child to thief. Carol turns on the tough routine, trying to scare Sam away again, but when he confesses to destroying his mom’s owl, Carol realizes that Sam’s troubles are scarier than she is. When he asks for a gun, not for himself, Carol sees the writing on the wall, written in blood. Sam runs off.
Glenn, Noah and Nicholas are surrounded on all sides and things are not looking good until Eugene rolls up in the van, cranking music and making enough noise to draw some of the walkers off. Glenn sees his opportunity to save the team, but Nicholas decides to save his own skin. He squeezes out the door leaving an opening for the walkers to grab Noah, giving Glenn a front-row seat to his truly horrendous destruction.
Nicholas tries to commandeer the van from Eugene, but the new and improved Eugene is having none of it, and when Glenn flies in out of nowhere and cold cocks him, Nicholas is done. Glenn spares his life, because that’s the kind of guy Glenn is, and they need one Alexandrian to survive as proof that they didn’t kill them. I don’t know if Nicholas is the right guy for that, but he’s all they’ve got. As they drive home in stunned silence, we see the one entry in Noah’s new notebook: “this is the beginning.” Ouch.
Carol puts on her best mousey performance to pay Peter a visit. He opens the door a crack but when she asks first if Sam is home and then if Jessie is there, Peter’s response is that it’s not a good time. Carol’s worst fears are confirmed. She presents Rick with her findings. Pete must die.
Elsewhere, Father Gabriel is paying Deanna a visit. Father Gabriel seems to have gotten worse since the morning, and basically rats out the group as being agents of Satan disguised as “angels of light,” who don’t deserve to live in the paradise that is Alexandria. Maggie hears all this from the stairs.
“I have a lot to think about,” says Deanna, ushering Gabriel out the door. And indeed she does, and she is about to be confronted with a lot more hard choices as the expeditionary party returns without her son. Turn’s out she’s pretty great at throwing a party but she might not be all that when it comes to running a town….
Did I mention that I don’t believe that Gabriel is or ever was a priest, and that if anyone is Satan’s little dude, it’s him? They have saved his ass countless times and out of guilt, delusion or cowardice (all of the above?) he throws Our Gang under the bus because he, like the Alexandrians, can’t quite come to accept the world as it had become.
It’s great that Eugene has finally found some purpose and courage. Now, I’m afraid this is just going to get him killed.
Will Rick kill Pete or will he do right and arrest him? Will there even be time for that nonsense as things are looking bleak? Of course there’s no evidence, only the word of Carol, by way of Sam, and with the whole Alexandria experiment unraveling it’s hard to see this ending well. How on Earth has this town survived for so long?
New episodes of The Walking Dead premiere Sundays at 9/8CT on AMC.
Photos: Gene Page/AMC