When last we left off, the group had just arrived at the gates of their promised uptopia in Alexandria. Tonight's episode, "Remember" took an unforgettable turn into brand, new territory. The rough and tumble survivors coated in filth and battlescars were forced to acclimate to what for all intents and purposes appears to be suburban normalcy populated by people who appear to be frightfully naive.
It's amazing that the residents of Alexandria lasted this long and it's clear they wouldn't have had their community not been behind such a fortress. Or are these rubes all playing stupid? It's a little too soon to tell, which is why for all their acceptance of hospitality that includes luxury homes with HOT SHOWERS, at the moment, Rick & co. are still keeping their guards up about the long haul.
It is with much trepidation and bad assery that the Grimes family sets foot behind the gates. Needless to say they scoff at handing over their weapons and this is the first of many scenes wherein the side-eye given is so heavy handed, it ought to be listed in the credits as a guest star. So instead it's agreed that before they even take that step, Rick will meet with a resident named Deanna "who knows everything about this place."
Deanna Moore turns out to be a former congresswoman from Ohio projecting a straight-shooter image that's classically all small town panache, diplomacy and a no-nonsense attitude like only a former congresswoman from a place like Ohio can.
She asks this grizzled, dirt-covered stranger who looks more like an ex-con by now than the men he routinely arrested back in his days as sheriff, if he is ok with her filming their interview. Rick gruffly agrees since he knows if she tries something funny he won't have any problem going on a murdering spree on camera.
She asks some basic questions and then shares that the complex they are in was designed as a state- of- the-art luxury housing "starting in the low 800's" and her architecture professor husband helped barricade it by stealing materials from a local mall construction site that were fortress-strong. Rick basically then tells her she is stupid to let anyone in since those surviving on the outside are looking to take, take, take. "I've killed people. I don't even know how many by now. But I know why they're dead," Rick tells her as matter-of-factly as anyone can admit to serial killing, pointing out that it was so his family - every single person traveling with him- could remain alive.
Deanna's reason for recruiting Rick's family is simple- they need them to help them survive. And boy, is that an understatement since so much of the episode that followed was filled with the survivors who populate Alexandria doing things wrong. Though I am still not convinced these people could be this stupid and have survived this long, so there may still be a Woodbury common thread yet.
Rick does let on that he used to be a sheriff which Deanna, using her poker playing hobby prowess says she suspected but he needs to decide if they are staying or not.
In one of the many hilarious "getting to know you" scenes of the episode, the group finally agrees to turn in their weapons (which can be checked out any time they wish to go beyond the gates) into a container on a cart. As the knives, swords, bows and heavy artillery class guns pile up a few feet high, the school marm-esque lady collecting them is forced to remark she should have brought another bin.
And that's when they are introduced to paradise in the form of the gorgeous, furnished model homes they will now get to live in- the complete opposite of every disgusting, uncomfortable place they've rested their heads for the past years.
But the biggest and best thing? HOT SHOWERS!!!!!.
Rick wastes no time transforming himself. The results of his hot water, razor and haircut (courtesy of a friendly, flirtatious local hairdresser named Jessie who has a son Carl's age) makeover are so intense, everyone he encounters- from his own family to his new neighbors- is struck by his handsome, wholesome, movie star, good looks. This Rick completely contradicts the wild-eyed, loose cannon, imposing figure who arrived at the gates hours earlier. He seems to be a different person and maybe would truly be if only his inside could catch up with his outside- if that's even possible and is indeed the right thing to do.
Rick wisely decides they group will spend their first night under the same roof and not split up into their assigned houses.
Michonne has a good feeling about this place.
Carl is psyched by how spacious and rich and normal it is and the fact that there are teenagers there including a girl (ooooh! a real teenage girl!!) he glimpsed when they arrived. Although Carl does grab a butcher knife when he hears some creaking in the attic of his new dream home that turns out to be nothing.
Daryl refuses to shower for the first two day and is visibly ill at ease with his fancy new surroundings and cookie cutter neighbors. Everyone (except Daryl) looks so freaking squeaky clean and secretly full of hope.
Deanna isn't surprised to find them having a slumber party when she comes to check on Rick that first night. She lets them know everyone will be assigned a job, even "Mr. Dixon" once she figures him out.
Rick wakes up out of habit in the middle of the night despite the peaceful nature of his surroundings. (I was a little surprised that no one was serving as a night guards.) He takes a huge knife from the kitchen as a just-in-case.
When blissfully cleaned up Michonne is interviewed she tells Deanna is this is how you say it is, then this is what we wanted. She appears sold.
Rick tells Daryl to explore. He decides to stay because he is Daryl and that's what Daryl needs to do. Rick tells him he and Lori used to drive through upscale neighborhoods like this dreaming out loud about how one day they could live there.
Rick takes off to check out the area and within minutes starts running in a panic, having lost sight of Carl and Judith. Lo and behold they are found on porch with a sweet-faced pair of grandparents fussing over them.
In his haste over securing Carl and Judith, Rick broke the a hot-mess looking owl sculpture in Jessie the hair stylist's yard that she and her son were working on. He apologizes and when she makes a crack about the eyes not coming out quite right, Rick deadpans that he didn't notice the eyes since, "I was in the middle of losing my mind." This is one of many instances in which despite knowing the new arrivals needs to adjust, the folksy, vanilla residents of Alexandria Just Don't Seem To Get How Much These People Have Seen. It's this cluelessness- authentic or part of some grand trickery- that bothers me.
Carl hangs out with Jessie's son, Ron, and his other teenage friends Mikey and Enid, the girl he saw earlier. Enid is cool and detached and Ron and Mikey exhibit next level eagerness over what fun teenage things (video games! pool! just hangin' out!) Carl can join them in doing. For a second it looks like Carl, who has killed so many walkers and people in his young life that no video game's action could ever match up, is going to blow them off and leave them to their "kid stuff." But then his interest in sullen Enid (who is also a recent arrival) and his remembrance of loving video games when life was normal, kick in and he agrees to stay and just be a kid for once.
Cut to Carl's interview with Deanna shortly afterwards where he coolly explained how he once had to kill his own mother. SIGH.
In a beautifully shot scene almost melancholy in his normality, Rick later comes into Carl's new bedroom to ask how his time hanging out with his teen peers went. Lying on the bed like typical teen staring at the ceiling who might be troubled by girl problems or not making the team, Carl confesses, "I like the people but they are weak. I don't want us to get weak too." It's clear that the closest Carl will ever come to fitting in his suburban oasis, is pretending to fit in.
The next night, Michonne wakes up to talk to Rick about how Deanna hasn't assigned her a job yet and how she does want one because she wants to stay. Rick muses about them being awake i.e. unable to adjust to this new life inferring that it's a good thing (they are apparently the only ones who remain vigilant) and he decides to take a moonlit stroll.
Passing by hair stylist Jessie's home, a man who is smoking on the porch and who identifies himself as her husband, greets him with, "You're Rick." Rick's response is to keep on walking because Rick Grimes does not socialize, got it?
Carol's on-camera interview with Deanna is my favorite one of the entire batch that is sporadically shown throughout the episode. She looks so demure in her stylish, conservative age-appropriate outfit straight out of the latest JC Penney catalogue (which in another divinely comedic moment, Daryl rightfully refers to as "ridiculous".)
In a story spun from sunshine, bullshit and the well-worn experience of a fighter who knows the best way to disarm a potential new threat is to present herself as a non-threat, JC Penney Carol regales Deanna with stories of her happy (ha) former domestic life and wonderful (HA) husband whom she misses dearly. And in a line that made me ROFL, after describing her role in the Grimes family as den mother, she expresses her gratitude over how they have "been kind enough to protect her."
She even goes so far as to request a job that will allow her to serve and interact with the community in some way. Well-played and totally brilliant. The woman who trained children how to kill, who single-handedly blew up Terminus and is now capable of murdering whoever she needs to with her bare hands if no weapons are available, not only disarmed Deanna with her fake June Cleaver persona, but in doing so she ensured she would get to work in a capacity that will let her spy on the folks who call Alexandria home.
Elsewhere, Carl sees Enid scale the gates, armed with a knife, and is compelled to follow her just to see where she is going. Rick is also exploring outside the perimeter in the form of going to check on the gun he hid in a discarded blender on a nearby property before they arrived. He's more than a little surprised to find it's missing.
That surprise doesn't last long though as some walkers find their way over to him. Such a strange sight to Rick so clean-shaven and shiny in the presence of rotting flesh making a run at him. Carl catches up to him as those walkers emerge and it becomes clear that the two of them are happy to be having this encounter- as it will keep their fighting instincts intact and not allow them to go soft.
Meanwhile, Glenn, Noah and Tara have been assigned the job of helping to go out on runs to check out the what's going on behind the gates and scout for supplies/signs of other life. Their task leaders are the two cockiest, ill-suited, downright stupid, fratboy types to ever appear on this show. Aiden, the more alpha of the two empty-headed blowhards, who also happens to be Deanna's son, clearly has no idea what he is doing or who he is training and makes a huge show of establishing himself as the only one who can give orders. He even goes so far as to say they lost four people the month before who didn't follow those orders.
A walker the two morons had refused to kill when they had the chance and instead had allowed to remain animated (for a "pre-gaming ritual" where the chained up walker who should have immediately been slayed is assumedly beaten for sport) almost kills Tara. Glenn is forced to kill that walker in disbelief that this scenario is even happening and these jackasses are in charge of something as important as going on runs and clearing the perimeter.
His anger turns to rage when Aiden informs him "they aren't ready for runs" (DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE DEALING WITH, FOOLS? CAN YOU SMELL WHAT THE GLENN IS COOKING?) to which Glenn coolly replies, "Pretty sure you've got that backwards."
A little more antagonism and the fight is on. Glenn knocks Aiden's block off. Daryl happily jumps into the fray but is pulled off by Rick. Deanna shows up and expresses satisfaction that someone finally took her son down a peg by giving him a much needed beatdown. She gives a speech about the Grimes family being part of the community of equals and designates Rick as constable, the job she's had in mind for him since they met. And what's more, Michonne will be one, too.
Later on after a flashback to Rick's uncivilized, intake interview with Deanna, we see Rick emerge in his spiffy new constable's uniform - like a cadet freshly graduated from the academy.
"You a cop again?" Daryl drawls with a slight hint of displeasure that Rick's rank is apparently going to higher than his coupled with his still intense distrust of the new community. (Daryl may be a man of few words, but no other character expresses so much in four word sentences.)
Rick says he is only trying it on for size.
Carol asks if that means they are staying. Rick's answer is that they should all start to sleep in their own new homes.,
Like Carl, Carol is worried that living in this idyllic place will turn them weak. And has Rick really drank the Kool-Aid??? Nahhhh.
Rick lets them know that behind his softened looks, he is the same old hardened leader. "If they can't make it, then we will just take this place," he assures them.
This is going to be realllllly interesting.
*Is Alexandria all it appears to be?? What do you think is in store next? Can they group survive living a "civilized" kind of life?