The Walking Dead’s “Now” (written by Corey Reed) can be likened to eating a microwave pizza for dinner: Sure, it’s fine, and it fills you up adequately – but it’s not particularly satisfying. Of course it was clearly necessary that we return to Alexandria and see The Safe Zone’s inhabitants trying to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the walker herding plan and brutal Wolf attack. But instead of focusing on our major players, the writers chose to look through the eyes of minor characters in order to show the general mood in Alexandria – and in so doing, made what could have been an extraordinary episode a very ordinary one instead. The highlight of this installment was the pairing of Aaron and Maggie on a mission – so maybe that microwave pizza was also accompanied by some homemade chocolate chip cookies.
The episode certainly opened on an exciting note, where, from Deanna’s vantage point, we see Alexandrians clearing the dead, Michonne breaking the news about Glenn’s disappearance to Maggie, and Rick racing toward the gate, narrowly escaping a giant herd of zombies. How Rick got away from all those walkers surrounding the RV and somehow got in front of them is beyond me, but it makes a Glenn escape seem a wee bit less ridiculous now, doesn’t it?
We quickly get a sense of the very low morale in Alexandria, which sets up another opportunity for Rick to deliver one of his impassioned speeches to the frightened community members. Rick tells them to keep fighting, that the missing will come back, and that if they hold it together they’ll survive. But this time, nobody seems convinced. Aaron is overcome with guilt and decides to confess his part in bringing The Wolves’ rampage upon his community, which Ross Marquand does in a powerfully understated way. In fact, I would be remiss not to mention how good he was in the entire episode.
Meanwhile, the residents of Alexandria are hungry, and watered down soup won’t cut it, so some take it upon themselves to raid the pantry. Olivia doesn’t put up much of a fight, and Deanna is still too shell shocked to act, so they just watch as their own community members steal the rations right out from under everyone. That is, until Spencer charges in and warns them that should they go through with their raid, it will be the beginning of the end. He tells them “Doing this will start us down a road where nothing matters; where no one else matters. And then we’ll all look back at this moment right now as when we destroyed this place.” It may have been the best speech of the night, and as Deanna looks with pride at Spencer, the realization that he is most definitely his father’s son spreads across her face.
Later, perhaps motivated by Spencer’s speech, Deanna seems to emerge from her fog and starts drawing up plans to expand The Safe Zone. But when she goes into the kitchen after hearing a commotion, she finds a drunk and angry Spencer with a stolen haul. His reasoning – everyone raids and it will be chaos; one person raids and nobody misses a few supplies (maybe Spencer isn’t quite like his dad after all). Deanna’s disappointment is palpable, but then Spencer rubs salt in her figurative wounds by telling his mom that his dad and brother’s deaths are all on her. Now maybe Deanna was being a little naïve about Alexandria, but at least she was trying to create some semblance of a life for them, and she was one of the first to listen to Rick, so it was very unfair of Spencer to blame his mother, especially considering all the pain she’s already in.
Because every supporting and minor player got to have lines in this episode, Carl and Ron have it out when Carl wants to hop the wall in search of Enid. The “fight” between the two teens was kind of silly and cartoonish (and Carl really needs a haircut about now), but then Ron’s bravado seems to dissipate when he goes to talk to Rick, showing concern for Carl and asking Rick to teach him (Ron) how to shoot. Let’s just say that the request is suspect, and given Ron’s behavior during Rick’s speech (reaching for a weapon) our sheriff shouldn’t let that kid anywhere near a loaded gun.
In the infirmary, Denise is distraught and desperately trying to find a way to save Scott’s infected leg, along with his life. Tara tries to encourage her, but Denise is too overwhelmed with fear to hear her. But Tara does get through to Denise, because the new town doctor perseveres and discovers a way to save Scott. Afterwards, she and Tara share a kiss, acknowledging their growing bond – which means at least one of them will die by the season finale.
Jessie also gets to give a speech after she goes to David’s house and sees that David’s wife Betsy has slit her wrists and has turned into a walker. Jessie quickly puts Betsy down, and as a small crowd gathers, she tells them “…This is what life looks like now. We have to see it. We have to fight it. If we don’t fight, we die.” It was a proclamation that could have come straight out of Rick’s mouth. But even with her new found determination to survive, Jessie’s attempts to reconnect with her sons fail. And so Sam won’t come out of his room and Ron is scheming to possibly do away with the communty’s best leader – but more on Jessie (and Rick) later.
When Maggie and Aaron get to the opening of the sewer and find more walkers, Maggie ultimately chooses not to go through with what would probably be a suicide mission. She reveals she’s pregnant, which didn’t surprise me in the least (or any other fans I’m sure). But her decision to leave Glenn to his own devices was huge. In the past, Maggie has always been willing to risk her life in order to save Glenn. But this time, she has someone else to think of, so she can no longer take the same risks. And so Maggie had to do what she never wanted to do – let Glenn go (at least a little).
When Deanna goes to return the rations Spencer took, she finally comes face to face with a walker, and lets out some rage with a broken bottle to his chest until Rick comes along and kills the walker properly (Now she knows what the rest of us have known since Night of the Living Dead). Deanna finally proclaims she wants to live, and when Rick states she needs to lead her people, she counters by telling him, “They don’t need me, Rick. What they need is you.”
Rick and Jessie have a moment that has been brewing since the two laid eyes on each other. Rick reveals he wanted the others back by now, and echoes Jessie’s words from her “This is what life looks like” speech back at her. But Jessie is still hoping for some kind of future, and tells Rick “Tell me there’s more.” In response, Rick shows her more of what could be between them.
I’m not a Rick/Jessie shipper (or Ressie, if you prefer), so I don’t have a strong opinion about the two getting together. But in so far as Rick deserves a little happiness, I hope he finds it with Jessie. She’s tough and smart, so she has the ability to survive in this world, especially with Rick by her side. But then again, Rick’s not allowed to be happy for too long, so Jessie’s days may be numbered.
As the episode draws to a close, Maggie musters up a little hope for Glenn, wiping his name from the memorial wall. Before long Aaron joins her, taking Nicholas’ name off as well (but we already know how things went down for him), and even finds a way to joke that Aaron – or Erin – works for a boy or girl.
We also see that Deanna starts to get her fighting spirit back, angrily hitting the wall that the walkers are compacted against. That last shot of the blood spilling through was ominous. It seemed too important to just be one of the walkers getting crushed, but it was unclear what else – or who else – it might be coming from.
This episode had to happen because we needed to return to Alexandria to see the community’s reaction to all that has recently befallen them. What was surprising, though, was the writers’ decision to focus on minor characters, who up to this point, haven’t gotten more than a handful of lines. I suppose this was a way for viewers to get to know some of the Alexandria residents a little better, and we did see a fair amount of Rick and Maggie as well. But I would have liked to have seen Carol’s reaction to everything now that the dust has settled, or even some interaction between her and Rick, or Michonne. I think there was some lost opportunity to show how the main survivors are feeling with half of their own missing. Had we seen that, this episode would have been much more affecting.
There are only two more episodes until the mid-season finale. Obviously the elephant in the room is if Glenn survived or not. But I don’t think next week will give us that answer. Some people may enjoy the mystery, reminiscent of Season Two’s search for Sophia. But the difference there was Sophia just vanished, so it was a complete – and heartbreaking – shock when she came out of Hershel’s barn. Here, we saw too much. So now the question is will viewers be angry because the writers created an outlandish way for Glenn to escape (which believe me, I hope they did) or because he didn’t get anywhere near the send-off he should have if he’s dead. They seem to have painted themselves into a corner. The end result needs to be really compelling for this move to have been successful. Wait, never mind – who am I kidding? No matter what happens, we’ll all still be watching Rick and his people in this crazy zombie apocalypse.