* SPOILERS … AND A RATHER NASTY DOSE OF REALITY LIE AHEAD *
Life, especially life in the apocalypse, doesn’t really play fair does it?
There you are, all happy and content, playing happy families behind tall, strong walls, making like life is as it’s always been when, all of a sudden, real life, that of the undead, eat-your-flesh kind, comes crashing through and all your blissfully content assumptions about life are torn to shreds.
Or reality takes the form of a hardened crew of survivors led by an unhinged untreated PTSD-sufferer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), who preaches the gospel of Life Sucks and You Need to be Ready to Kill It (audiobook not available; c’mon who has enough batteries to spare?) or a group of evolution-gone-mad nutters called the Wolves who follow one of your number back home and decide your next on their mass kill list.
Whatever form it takes, life is no respector of burnished delusions, 1950s-style takes on the perfect life, and you either roll with the new deal in town, or you don’t.
“Now” was all about, with a subdued ferocity that nicely captured the coiled-up shock that follows any traumatic event when you want to wind down but find it damn near impossible, coming to grips with all that you’ve lost – did you really have it anyway? Probably not, is the message – and making some kind of peace when things are they are now (or really, as they’ve always been but you weren’t paying attention).
And as you might expect some people made their peace far better than others.
Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) was one of the people who, when she wasn’t sharing a smooch with Rick in the garage – with the door open! How the neighbours will talk! – decided that this was the way of the world and it was high time they all adapted to the fact.
No one exactly enthusiastically rallied to her cause, especially not after she spotted her one time neighbour and friend Betsy in her home, all zombified and such, dead from self-inflicted wounds, and did what needed to be done, knifing her rather inelegantly through the eye.
Announcing to the assembled, stunned Greek chorus that “This is what life looks like now. We have to see it. We have to fight it. Because if we don’t, we die”, Jessie, more in sorrow than any sense of triumphant apocalyptic epiphany walked back to her house, cleaned up the bloodied corpse in her kitchen and tried to coax her son Sam (Major Dodson) down from the “safety” of the upper floors.
Looks like not everyone’s on board with the whole un-kindler, un-gentler new world that just crashed through unannounced.
One person who most definitely is, and was fairly eager to hand the keys of the kingdom to a far more experienced Rick, even as she remained in grief of the most enervating kind, was Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh).
While son Spencer (Auston Nichols) blamed himself for not doing more – Rosita (Christian Serratos) told him he at least did something and that he should snap out of the self pity – and stole groceries and drank a LOT, Deanna wandered mournfully around watching her perfect dream slip from her fingers.
Well, truth be told, it already had, but this was the episode in which she acknowledge d that her vision of a utopian idyll safe behind medieval-worthy walls was quite going to work out the way she expected.
Rick was very sweet, uncharacteristically telling her that her original dream was some warm-and-fuzzy delusion tied up with pretty gossamer strands of string, but she knew what Rick knew and what we all knew – kiss your old life goodbye, you ain’t getting it back, and there’s no longer an Ebay on which to buy one you’d actually like.
Denise (Meritt Wever) was another member of the Alexandria clan who was grappling with the times they are a-changing.
Struggling to be getting into the groove of being town’s doctor after the, ahem, sudden loss of the incumbent, she wondered more than a few times if she was up to the task, deciding with a little TLC and helpful advice from Tara (Alanna Masterson) that being scared sucked but it was better than not being around to be scared in the first place.
And then they too, as was the way of this very smoochy episode – for people dealing with the aftermath of much death and dying there sure was a lot of kissing but then that makes sense given how catastrophically unsettling the whole Wolves’ attack was – kissed.
Back in been-there-done-that land, Maggie (Lauren Cohen) was grappling with a whole other kind of reality-bustin’-in-not-bearing-flowers-or-a-good-time scenario.
With Glenn (Steven Yeun) lost and presumed by most to be dead than an unprepared Alexandrian, Maggie was faced with either staying put, with half of the quarry’s walkers pushing at the walls, or going out and trying to find him.
It was an understandable impulse with Carl (Chandler Riggs) also struggling with the same need to Do Something – till Ron (Austin Abrams) sagely talked him out of it; hey they might be besties yet! Nah, probably not – but one she eventually discounted after she and fellow searcher Aaron (Ross Marquand) decided that there are some things you simply don’t have the luxury of doing in this bad, mad crazy, nasty-things-inside-the-walls new world.
It was a painful decision, especially considering they’d had to navigate zombie-infested sewers to almost get out, but a necessary one that didn’t mean that hope was abandoned – Aaron helped Maggie wipe Glenn and Nicholas’s names off a hurriedly-painted memorial wall – just not indulged in quite the way you wanted.
It was perhaps the most poignant part of a heavily emotional episode, written masterfully by Corey Reed and directed by Avi Youabian, that took the time to admit that when things change, and they change with ruthless brutality, that you don’t have much choice but to change with them.
Or, you know, die.
- And yes we did get a fairly profound intimation that Maggie is pregnant courtesy of Aaron, and no Glenn’s fate was not definitely revealed but maybe next week huh? Maybe? Perhaps “Always Accountable” will give us much needed closure … or not …