Recap: The Walking Dead Season 5 episode 15 “Try”: Us and them ….

the-walking-dead-episode-515-deanna-rick Lori Acken

Alexandria has become something of a Rorschach test. For some it’s a paradise, for others it is possibly the last or first bastion of a civilized society, while some see it as a flock of sheep waiting to be lead. Those illusions are being exposed rather quickly. It’s no coincidence that things went south in Alexandria almost as soon as Our Gang stepped through the gates. The friction is palpable, with people who once thought of themselves useful or even heroic have been exposed as frauds, and a town that once seemed civilized is coming to see that their utopia is built on fictions.

Deanna looks forlornly at a compact disk named “Runmix.” There’s no mistaking who made that, and it serves to underscore the grief of Deanna, Reg and Spencer, and remind us that these people have CD players. They live a soft life where listening to a mix CD can be part of the grieving process. They don’t see their world as frivolous or luxurious; they see it as normal. They naturally can’t listen for long (not only because the song is by Nine Inch Nails) as they are legitimately grief stricken, and looking for someone to blame.

But before they shut the music off, we see Carol putting a casserole in the oven, and Sasha up in the tower trying to get a grip on her emotions by picking off walkers.

Deanna, Reg and Spencer sit in stunned silence. A knock on the door snaps them out of their stupor. Deanna opens the door to find Carol’s casserole on the step with a note: “We’re truly sorry for your loss.” Deanna leaves the casserole on the step but brings the card inside and burns it. The card has two meanings. Of course, the loss of Aiden is the obvious one, but I think Deanna’s loss of innocence is more substantial. She hasn’t come to grips with the world as it is. She’s been sheltered in Alexandria and hasn’t had to fully face reality until her son dies. She’s been content to hear bad news and even “exile” folks, but the world has finally come to her doorstep.

Speaking of the world, Aaron and Daryl are out in it. Aaron comments that the walker populations seems to have increased while the human population is almost nonexistent. And then they see a light burning in the distance.

Deanna is reviewing the recording of the Nicholas debrief on the horrors of the warehouse. As you might expect, Nicholas lies, putting the blame fully on Glen’s shoulders for distracting Aiden. “They did this,” “They’re not like us,” says Nicholas. It’s become a familiar refrain and, while true, is painting a picture of Alexandria as fundamentally weak and overly willing to lie to itself. Deanna says she sees a lot of things. Let’s hope she does.

Meanwhile, Glen is recounting his side of the story to Rick on the porch (I would have felt better if we also saw Glen on tape, but that’s just me putting off the inevitable). Rick tries to put the blame on “them,” for all this, but Glen isn’t taking the bait. “We are them,” he says, reminding Rick that Noah believed in Alexandria and that making the situation work is critical to both groups. The Alexandrians need their skills and the gang could use those walls. They have already come to romanticize the outside world.

The Walking Dead Carol SamRick wanders over to Carol who is watching Jessie with her kids on the porch down the way. Carol shares her intel from Sam: Jessie has put a bolt inside Sam’s closet door, and that Sam has found her unconscious on at least one occasion. I know Carol hates domestic abuse but Rick’s motivations seem less altruistic and more primitive. He wanders from the porch to contemplate the situation, standing at the edge of a little pond, watching a balloon floating on the water. Pete comes up and tries to be all pally wally but Rick makes his angry face and tells Pete, who is stunned by this change of heart, to move along. Pete, wisely, takes the hint.

Michonne is laying on her bed, fully dressed. It’s 6:30 so presumably she’s slept in them, revealing much about her level of buy-in with the good people of Alexandria: either she’s too vigilant to bother with pajamas, or she’s too keyed up to sleep. Neither is a good sign. She gets up and lays out her police clothes when Rosita comes in to give an update. Tara isn’t dead yet but Sasha has been on the tower all night and is still out there doing god knows what.

Michonne and Rosita head outside the walls to go and look for Sasha. Unlike most of the rest of Our Gang, neither Michonne nor Rosita have been outside since arriving in Alexandria, though a sound in the distance proves that both of them still have their reflexes. Rosita seems more down with the domestic life than Michonne, who seems more concerned with losing her edge: “I feel like I was asleep in there,” she confesses.

Back in there, Deanna is mulling over the fresh graves in her community when Rick saunters up, ostensibly to see how she’s holding up (she’s not) but also to bring the situation with Pete to light. Initially, I was hopeful that Rick wasn’t going to go off half-cocked, but when he tells Deanna about the abuse and she admits to knowing about it, Rick starts to slide. He’s is ready and willing to take things into his own hands, but Deanna reminds him that they do not kill people: “This is civilization, Rick.” Oh honey, I know you mean well but…. She is willing to exile but not execute, pointing out that she, rather naively, wouldn’t kill Rick. He instructs her on the error of letting dangerous people out of your sight, which sheds light on the rise in the number of walkers in the area and the conspicuous ‘W’s carved on their foreheads.

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Outside of the walls, Michonne and Rosita are following Sasha’s trail of walkers, all shot neatly in the back of the head. Carl is also out there following, or trying to follow, Enid. Turns out, for all his wilderness savvy, he’s not much of a tracker as Enid’s disembodied voice informs him. When she pops out from behind a tree, he looks genuinely surprised. He may have underestimated her. They have a friendly chase deeper into the woods where they come across a lone walker. Enid takes a kitchen timer, sets it and tosses it to distract the walker so they can calmly walk off. Enid doesn’t seem to be one for killing, and she seems very confident out in the wild.

Back in town, Nicholas is washing out the van when Glen approaches to have a friendly chat. Glen points out that the deaths at the warehouse are on Nicholas, and cowards like him are supposed to be dead by now and he just got lucky when the walls went up. Nicholas tries to stand up for himself, but has to realize that when Glen says he’s just trying to save him, it’s true and that he and the Alexandrians are out of their depth.

Enid and Carl are also having a much nicer time of it as they sit, chatting, in the woods. “We’re supposed to be out here,” she says. She’s found a way to be both inside and out, in Alexandria and apart from it, knowing they don’t understand people like her. A large group of walkers upsets the tranquil scene forcing Carl and Enid to take shelter in the hollowed out trunk of a tree. “It’s their world,” says Enid, “we just live in it.” The quarters are pretty tight for a couple of teenagers, and just when you think they’re about to kiss, Carl turns away. “Cool, you’re afraid of me too,” she says, smiling, as a walker with a ‘W’ carved into its forehead walks by.

In another part of the woods, Nicholas digs up a can he’s stashed by the trunk of a tree and, lo and behold, pulls the gun that Rick hid before entering Alexandria. At first, I thought Enid took it, but Enid isn’t a killer of walkers or people, she seems completely at ease in this world. On the one hand it makes sense that Nicholas has the gun, on the other, is confusing because he doesn’t seem to have the wherewithal to acquire it. Hmmm….

Sasha is runnin’ and gunnin’ when Rosita and Michonne find her. Sasha is tired of playing defense, and you can see her point… sort of. A large group of walkers descends on the party (again, a suspiciously large group I might add ) and Sasha seems relieved to have the conversation cut short. She goes for it, one might say gleefully, like it’s murder therapy. Michonne and Rosita join the fray. Things get hairy for a minute, but between the three of them, they take care of it. It pisses Sasha off that they helped her at all — “You can’t help me,” she says. But of course they can. They just did.

Somewhere in the world, Aaron and Daryl are stalking through the woods towards the source of the light. They come across a dismembered walker – or a dismembered corpse – who seems to be short of all its parts. Daryl notices that the kill is relatively fresh. They follow the trail to what appears to be a nude woman hogtied to a tree. Aaron realizes, to both his and Daryl’s horror, that the woman was alive when she was tied to the tree and left as food/bait for walkers. Daryl looks at her face more closely and discovers a ‘W’ carved on her forehead. Her eyes open as if she had only then turned. Daryl puts her out of her misery.

Rick approaches Jessie who’s sneaking a cigarette in the garage. He confronts her with the fact that he knows Pete has been beating her. She’s convinced she can make him stop, she’s done it before, but Rick isn’t nearly as positive. Rick offers to take care of Pete, but Jessie is skeptical of Rick’s good intentions. “We have to take care of ourselves,” she says and runs into the house closing the garage door behind her. Rick has a strange reverie/panic attack as he looks at the normal people of Alexandria doing normal things, family things.

Rick walks back to the house to hash it out with Jessie. He breaks it down that “if you don’t fight, you die” and just because they’re behind a wall that doesn’t change. Besides, Deanna’s basically admitted that she would sacrifice Jessie to keep Pete and Rick’s not too keen on that trade. While he does admit that he wouldn’t do what he’s doing for anyone else, I don’t quite buy it. She agrees to go along with Rick’s “plan,” when Pete wanders in, drunk, wondering what is going on.

[On a side note: Just how valuable is a doctor who seems to be a leering drunk all the time? I get it that the Alexandrians need a doctor, but is he more symbolic of the past than an actual help?]

Jessie tries to stand up to Pete to no avail. Rick tries to get him to leave, but Pete really does not like being bossed around; perhaps he’s been getting his way for far too long and Rick’s threat to his authority will not be tolerated. He takes a swing at Rick, which goes about as well as expected. Within moments the blood starts to flow and the two combatants end up hurtling through the front window of the house.

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The people of the town stream towards the ruckus, except for Sasha who glances at it all from the tower but goes back to doing her thing. The crowd gathers where Rick and Pete are having it out, yet nobody seems to want to step in. Are they afraid, do they find this entertaining, or does Pete deserve this particular beating? Jessie tries to pull Pete off Rick but he swats her away, and when Carl tries the same with Rick, he gets cuffed. Finally, Deanna steps in and, by the sound of her voice, stops the melee.

Rick, turning up the crazy, starts waving his pistol around and calling the people of Alexandria out for not getting it, for being weak and hiding behind their little walls and their pretense of civilization. While Rick is not exactly wrong, his methods are super flawed.

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All the while, Sasha is siting in the tower just plugging walkers who wander into her field of vision. Rick goes on some more about how they all have to live in the real world, and that they have to control who lives behind the wall (of course he’s talking about Pete, but if the shoe fits…). Deanna agrees that they do have to be careful who lives inside the wall which really riles Rick up, offended that she might be talking about him.

Michonne finally springs into action and basically lays him out before he says or does something really stupid.

Random thoughts:

Despite a really shaky track record, somehow Rick always seems to be put in charge, no matter how crazy he gets. While this isn’t his absolute craziest, from the perspective of the Alexandrians he is an unhinged threat.

There is something going on with the surge in walkers around Alexandria, the numbers seem to be increasing rapidly, and the ‘W’s on their foreheads does not bode well. Someone is doing this and, based on the woman that Aaron and Daryl found, they might be the nastiest piece of work yet. Scary.

Until next week, share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The 90-minute season 5 finale of The Walking Dead premieres Sunday, March 29 at 9/8CT on AMC.

Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC