Episode 5.12 “Remember,” (written by Channing Powell and directed by Greg Nicotero), was unlike any episodes we’ve seen in recent seasons. Instead of focusing on our group trying to survive, this installment was all about Rick and his people trying to come to terms with actually being safe inside the walls of an Alexandria community. And as we came to learn, you can take the survivors out of the zombie apocalypse, but you can’t take the zombie apocalypse out of the survivors.
When the group walks in the front gate at the start of the episode, Rick is already voicing his doubts – out loud – about even staying. He sits down to talk with leader Deanna Monroe, a former congresswoman and self-proclaimed expert people reader, who puts Rick in front of a video camera in order to interview him. These interviews formed a large part of the narrative, giving the audience a chance to see our group members from a unique, outsider’s perspective.
Deanna describes the community they’ve been living in (complete with running water and electricity) since everything started. They’ve done pretty well, but she thinks Rick’s group can help them continue to survive. Rick warns her that she should keep her gates closed, saying “It’s all about survival now. At any cost. People out there…… are looking to play on your weakness. They measure you by what they can take from you. By how they can use you to live.” Andrew Lincoln has gotten some great monologues lately, but of course, you can’t take any of them at face value. We know this show well enough to see that his speech is most likely foreshadowing about the nature of things to come.
When the group members get the ok from Rick, they lay down their weapons according to community rules. When its Carol’s turn, she awkwardly fumbles around, finally plunking down her automatic rifle. I couldn’t understand what she was doing, especially with the shy smile she had plastered on her face. But then, once her videotaped interview began and she lamented the loss of her husband – “that, stupid, wonderful man,” and praised the group for protecting her, I realized the brilliance of her move. If things go bad, Carol wants her own skill and power to be a complete surprise. I just love that no matter what situation the group gets into, Carol is always on it.
Rick gets a friendly “welcome to the neighborhood” basket of supplies from Jessie, and after she lays eyes on him, an offer for a haircut as well. While Jessie cuts his hair, there’s a moment when Rick seems to revel in it, and it’s unclear if it’s due to the feel of a fresh haircut, or the touch of a woman’s hand through his hair. Regardless, Rick is momentarily overcome by it all, and Andrew Lincoln is superb at showing us Rick’s emotions silently spilling forth, manifested by one perfect tear (made famous by Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles) sliding down his bare face.
Daryl is having the most trouble adjusting (no surprise there) to this environment, and prefers to sit on the front porch skinning his kill rather than explore Suburbia. When it’s his turn to be interviewed, he paces the floor looking like he’d rather go taunt some walkers than sit in Deanna’s living room while she tries to figure him out. Still, he admits that Carl and Judith deserve a place to be safe. But clearly, he isn’t comfortable with his new surroundings, and by the way he chastises Carol for the new role she’s playing, and later dubiously asks Rick “Are you a cop again?” he doesn’t want his fellow survivors to get too comfortable either.
Much of this episode is centered on Rick’s adjustment, or more specifically, on his deep wariness. The gang gets two houses, but Rick declares they will initially all sleep under the same roof. He’s not taking any chances. Or maybe, he’s just not ready to let go of the emotional security he feels when all of his people are together. Whatever the case, Rick is having difficulty suppressing his flight or fight response. When the group goes to explore and Rick loses sight of Carl and Judith, he immediately panics, racing through the streets in search of them. With the help of Jessie, he finds them in the (up until now) most unlikely place: On a front porch chatting with a grandma and grandpa.
A few sinister events occur in Alexandria just to make us wonder if everything is as idyllic as it all seems: On a late night walk, Rick encounters Jessie’s suspicious husband, getting a definitively colder welcome than Jessie provided; Rick also learns someone took the gun he hid in the blender at the nearby shack; And later, when Glenn, Tara, and Noah meet Deanna’s son Aiden and his buddy Nicholas, it turns out both guys are total jerks – and potentially dangerous.
Aiden is the type of guy who learned a little from his limited experience, but thinks he knows it all. And even though the first glimpse we’ve gotten of his character is very one-dimensional, it was satisfying to see him get knocked on his ass after getting in Glenn’s face about the practice run. It was also good to see how the other group members had Glenn, Tara and Noah’s backs, rushing over to defend their family when they saw trouble brewing. Rick was even the voice of reason in getting Daryl to back off of Nicholas during the scuffle.
Deanna comes on the scene and (suspiciously) thanks Glenn for putting Aiden in his place. And then, after having already given most of the other survivors jobs, she finally reveals what she has in mind for Rick and Michonne – law enforcement. When Rick and Michonne accept the jobs as constables, Daryl is incredulous, and walks off, scoffing in disbelief.
Back at “home,” Rick ventures down the stairs in his new constable uniform, and just like with the shave, it seems that he is coming full circle. Daryl clearly doesn’t like what he sees, and Carol echoes Carl’s fears about the group getting weak if they let their guard down. But Rick really hasn’t returned to what he once was. None of them can (and some of them wouldn’t want to). He assures Carol and Daryl, telling them, “We won’t get weak. That’s not in us anymore. We’ll make it work. And if they can’t make it, then we’ll just take this place.“ Rick’s declaration, together with the shot of these three strong characters framed in the moonlight, provided the best moments in the episode. Rick is completely self-assured (a far cry from his passive, reluctant leader of the past), Carol has already begun her clever deception (complete with June Cleaver sweater), and Daryl – who refused to even shower – had the perfect “now that’s what I’m talking about” expression after hearing Rick’s pronouncement. These are who our survivors really are. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This episode, though light on the action, was unique and clever in the way the story unfolded. The show effectively planted the idea that there may be more to the seemingly safe haven of Alexandria than meets the eye. As I wrote last week, I know the place plays an important role in the comics, but I don’t want to know any more than that, otherwise I might start comparing the comic to the series, something I have never wanted to do. So taken on its own, this storyline does have a lot of possibility. The survivors’ adjustment process, especially if some of the group decides they want to leave, would make for some interesting (though limited) exploration. And tension has already been set up with some of the community members we met, so there is potential conflict as well.
There’s only four episodes left to this season, which has taken us on some interesting twists and turns (and on a few predictable ones as well). It’s been enjoyable seeing the whole group together, even if the narrative still tends to focus on only a few characters an episode. And it’s refreshing that the crew has moved out of Georgia and is settling in a new place (even though the show is really still filming in Georgia). I have no idea what will happen (though I have some theories…), but I know we’re leading up to something big – we always are. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see what our war-weary survivors encounter next.