Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Just "Try" to Resist THE WALKING DEAD

Article originally written for Seat42F.

As THE WALKING DEAD begins last night on AMC, things are tense in Alexandria. With a person lost on both sides, Rick’s group and Deanna’s aren’t exactly happy with one another, especially when those that return from the supply run tell conflicting stories, each side blaming the other for what happened. Will they continue to “Try” to get along, or is this the beginning of the end of the happy town?

Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is the best representation of a wild person trying to go back to civilization. He is on edge because of what happens to Noah (Tyler James Williams), but also because Carol (Melissa McBride) keeps urging him to take out Pete (Corey Brill), who is abusing his wife, Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge). The evidence seems to be there, Pete’s son, Sam (Major Dodson), telling Carol bad things that Jessie doesn’t exactly deny. Still, Rick isn’t sure he should interfere, until he admits to himself his feelings for Jessie.

I love that Rick tells Carol she would still be here, even if her own abusive spouse, Ed, hadn’t been eaten by Walkers. Carol is a very strong person, someone capable of holding her own, and even giving back, as she does when arguing for Rick to take action against Pete. Jessie isn’t the same type. She will probably die if no one stops Pete. But what to do? Is she someone Rick should take care of? He decides yes, but admits he wouldn’t do the same for just anyone.

Rick is not part of the community yet. He isn’t interested in protecting all of these new people, seeing them as weak and not willing to do what’s necessary to survive. In “Try,” he tells Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) that they must separate Pete and Jessie, and if Pete doesn’t cooperate, kill him. Deanna says they do not execute and Rick better never suggest it again, which I think is her trying to assert the control she feels slipping away, enhanced by grief and anger at losing her son. But Rick knows what will happen if they let a bad guy escape be exiling him. He’ll come back, and there will be consequences. Rick has seen this before, Deanna has not.

All this leads to a town square brawl between Pete and Rick. Rick gets the upper hand, then rants at Deanna and the others, waving his gun around. He tells them they’re not safe, and that they can’t go by Deanna’s rules any more. It’s quite a speech, though it does come off crazy. I think Rick is just at his breaking point, knowing in his gut that Alexandria is not going to survive unless changes are made, but unable to make those changes. He hasn’t adapted, “Try” as he might, and this is a key moment for his character.

Which ends with Michonne (Danai Gurira) cold-cocking him. Rick may be right that Deanna’s way isn’t right, but Rick’s rules would take away much from the good civilization that is being preserved here. Not everyone wants what Rick wants in THE WALKING DEAD.

Glenn (Steven Yeun), for one, is looking for balance. He tells Nicholas (Michael Traynor) that he will not go out on any more runs, not because Glenn in threatening Nicholas, but because Glenn wants to save him. Glenn isn’t looking to punish; he’s looking to protect. He wants to build upon what Deanna has established, not tear it down.

Michonne also wants to hang onto the promise of a semi-normal life. She chases Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) out into the woods, alongside Rosita (Christian Serratos), sans police uniform and sword. Sasha is angry and needs to blow off steam, feeling guilty for telling Noah he wouldn’t survive, which only builds upon her struggle at losing Bob and Tyreese. As Michonne helps Sasha, though, it’s not anger Michonne feels. She remembers her past, remembers what it’s like on the outside. Not bringing her uniform reveals her doubts about fitting in, but not bringing her sword is a rejection of who she was. Michonne is reminded of what’s outside the walls, and after bringing Sasha home, she chooses Alexandria. This leads her to don the uniform and knock Rick out, as mentioned, to preserve the peace.

Carl (Chandler Riggs) is part of the fitting-in group, too. He tries to stop Rick’s fight. This is after he shares a moment and almost-kiss with Enid (Katelyn Nacon) in the woods. Carl realizes the danger, but like Enid, he also wants to live in a world where he can run and enjoy himself. Alexandria offers a chance at that.

What will happen next? Deanna seems very close to kicking out at least Rick, if not the group, knowing she needs them, but coming close to rejecting the price of their assistance. However, seeing Carl and Glenn and others “Try” to fit into Alexandria, witnessing Michonne exert control over Rick when it’s necessary, perhaps Deanna will be tempted to punish only Rick, leaving the others alone. If Rick’s people can help him find the middle ground, as they have done, the entire group stands a chance at making Alexandria a home. Will Deanna allow that to happen?

Outside the walls, Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) find mutilated Walkers with Ws carved into their foreheads. This continues a trend that started at Noah’s family’s neighborhood. Periodically we’ve seen scenes of disturbing brutality. I haven’t made a thing of them in my reviews because they’ve been minor foreshadowing in very full episodes, but in “Try,” it’s clear that THE WALKING DEAD is heading somewhere with this sooner, rather than later. Who is doing this, and what do they want? They surely won’t be friendly to the good people of Alexandria.

THE WALKING DEAD continues to masterfully balance deep character stories with larger plots, spooling out an arc patiently and artistically. Some of my fellow fans have mourned the loss of the hours focusing on one or two characters that were so brilliant last year, but I think the current structure matches what’s happening now better. THE WALKING DEAD has continuously shifted and morphed over the seasons depending on the needs of the story, and I think it is brilliantly continuing to do the same this year.

THE WALKING DEAD ends its fifth season next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

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