*THERE BE SPOILERS AND DEADHEADS AND ROAMERS AND WALKERS OH MY! AHEAD*
Ladies and gentleman of the zombie apocalypse, welcome to The Walking Dead Guide to Moving in the Age of the Undead!
Let’s be honest – moving after the end of the world is never easy.
There are a host of things to keep in mind:
(a) Is there enough space for all my weapons?
(b) Does the owners corporation allow pet walkers? (A BIG no-no)
(c) Can I catch possums for dinner whenever I need to?
(d) Does this cardigan go with my brand new (fake) mom-and-apple-pie persona?
And (e) Most important of all, is the person in charge a sociopathic tyrant or do they possess an unhealthy predilection for human flesh?
That’s a lot of questions, an equally intimidating number of question marks and a lot to think about, never easy at the best of times but even harder when you have a beard the size of Texas weighing down your face and more paranoia than a spook on the run Three Days of the Condor-style.
So to make things easier for you, here’s your handy dandy guide to moving into a new gated community free from walkers, sociopaths and cannibals with handy tips on what to say, do, and how to handle those panicked runs through the streets when you think your son and daughter have been kidnapped but he hasn’t but you don’t know that and think he’s walker fodder or something but then you find out he’s with kindly grandparents who simply want to coo over your cute infant daughter and … PHEW!
Just relax will ya? You are going to make this work, trust me. I mean, you have to right?
(1) Always assume the very worst of everyone … if they let you, that is
This is an absolute must of course since as Rick (Andrew Lincoln) warned Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh), ex-Senator from Ohio and head of the Alexendria Safe Zone (ASZ), all the inhabitants of whom have been squirrelled safely from harm almost from day one of the apocalypse, that it’s a mean, nasty, walker-eat-dog-and-human world out there with no one offering gifts of muffin baskets to the new neighbours:
RICK: “Because it’s all about survival now. At any cost. People out there are always looking for an angle, looking to play on your weakness. They measure you by what they can take from you. By how they can use you to live. So bringing people into a place like this now …”
DEANNA: “Are you telling me not to bring your people in? Or are you already looking after this place?”
No fair Deanna! What with your easy, friendly manner, your commitment to transparency – nice touch videotaping all the interviews with Rick, Carl (Chandler Riggs), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Carol (Melissa McBride), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Michonne (Danai Gurira)- your zero tolerance approach to conflict (which includes applauding Glenn for pushing your son Aiden (Daniel Bonjour), your checking to make sure that everyone is snug and safe in their new houses (or all together in just one for now), you make it hard, so very hard, to assume the worst of you.
Why given your openness and willingness to talk about anything, you pretty much back up what Aaron said about this being a pretty lovely place to live and that makes it damn near impossible to stare sullenly at you and mistrust you all the live long day.
Add to Deanna’s charming, accessible demeanour the friendly neighbourliness of Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge), who brought food over, cut Rick’s runaway locks of hair, snapped him back to sanity when he ran through the ASZ looking for Carl and Judith, and may already have a thing for him (fast work lady!) and her son Ron (Austin Adams) who inducted Carl into his small group that includes the surly, outside-ranging Enid (Katelyn Nacon), and ASZ is in the running for Nicest Post-Apocalyptic Community of the Year.
Admittedly it is so far in a very small field of one …
Of course all that My Little Pony Hallmark niceness didn’t stop Daryl, who refused to shower – Carol threatened to hose him down as he slept however so that may change whether he like sit or not – or sit down when Deanna interviewed him – from channelling the apocalyptic equivalent of South Park’s “They took our jobs” meme, seemingly resenting everyone for being so nice.
How very dare they!
THOUGHTS: It makes sense that the group is wary; after what they’ve been through, you’d be mad not to be. But so authentic does Deanna and hell, all of the ASZ seem that it almost impossible to not go along with this brave new world offered to Rick and the group. Still they’re not completely onboard, which stays true to the way they have approached survival in this new and dangerous age, and writer Channing Powell does an impressive job of weighing up their misgivings with their newly-born hope for a new life with the exception of daryl who continues to be a right pain in the un-walker bitten arse.
Paranoia is understandable but Daryl is way over the top and verging on unlikeable. The only explanation for his behaviour is that he found a freedom to be himself and live a life free from an oppressive upbringing out on the road and is loathe to give that up. I get that but he needs to lighten up, and quickly. Unless of course he is the canary in the cage when the ASZ turns out to be a scam but I can’t seem that being the case since The Walking Dead has already played the “too good to be true” card twice already to spectacular effect. A third time will just seem lazy. Realistic maybe but lazy all the same.
(2) Take the chance to re-invent yourself … but don’t forget who are in the process
No sooner has Rick decided to call the ASZ home than he’s naked in the shower (OK there may have been a small gap between the two events but he basically bolted for the bathroom as soon as good decorum allowed; but hey wouldn’t you?), and yes The Walking Dead director for the episode, Greg Nicotero went all HBO and featured Rick in the act of soaping up and washing off through steamed-up glass, and then … wait for this … SHAVING OFF THE BEARD.
Practically another member of the group, the beard, whose frizziness and size rose and fell depending on Rick’s mental state – as you can imagine it was verging on the vigorously unkept for the last couple of seasons – was the major casualty of an episode that saw no human deaths, a number of walkers bite the dust and one trash can-rattling possum find his way into Daryl’s stew.
The beard though wasn’t the only hygiene-related casualty with Michonne’s plaque also suffering mightily under the barrage of a 20 minute cool-and-minty teeth cleaning that frankly must have come close to wearing away her gums.
Carol too adopted the out with the old, in with the new ethos with gusto, although in her case it involved more than a nice shampoo and a change of clothes; along with The Stepford Wives-esque blouse and cardigan and her new role cooking for the old and the infirm, she abruptly went from former battered wife-turned Rambo-turned liberator of the group to housewife extraordinaire, spinning a delightful tale of re-invention to a credulous Deanna, who no doubt expects the all new Carol to spend her days looking up muffin recipes and sewing lace doilies … and not, you know, killing and burning people.
CAROL: “So we’re staying?”
RICK: “I think we can start sleeping in our own houses now. Settle in.”
CAROL: “If we get comfortable here, let our guard down, it’s going to make us weak.”
RICK: “Carl said that. But it’s not going to happen. We won’t get weak. That’s not in us anymore. We’ll make it work. And if they can’t make it, we’ll just take this place.”
But this being Rick’s group, you can’t just enjoy something, good lordy no, and so very quickly everyone from Carol to Carl to Rick and no doubt everyone else went from thinking “Yippee showers and meals and peace-and-quiet” to “We’re going to get weak; if we can’t kill walkers, why we might just relax and start knitting and we can’t have that!”
This naturally meant that Rick had to go outside the wall for a relaxing walk – Deanna said that northern Virginia was pretty much completely evacuated making walker numbers relatively thin on the ground – and find the gun he hid in the blender, a gun which you won’t be surprised to learn had gone by the time he returned to retrieve it.
Out for his daily “can’t get wake” constitutional, Rick was met by Carl, and without batting an eyelid, or muttering “Do you know there’s an apocalypse on young man? Get back to the safe, nurturing community now or I’ll whoop your arse!” proceeded to take part in some father/son bonding of the walker killing kind.
Ain’t nobody going to make us weak with food, and showers and toothpaste, nosirree Bob, ain’t no way that’s going to happen!
THOUGHTS: The dichotomy between wanting to relax but being afraid to – after all strength and having your wits about you are two incredibly necessary things to keep close to you in a zombie apocalypse where everyone, well almost everyone, is a threat – was beautifully represented. While everyone pounced on brushing their teeth and dressing up all purty-like, and even playing video games in the case of Carl, there was a real disquiet that all this easy living could fatally soften their battle-hardened skills. Given the very real possibility that the most feared villain of the comic books, baseball bat-wielding maniac Negan is on his way, it’s a legitimate fear and underlines that even having nice things and feeling safe to walk your dog can’t make the anxiety go away.
(3) Make nice with the new neighbours but make sure they don’t lace the muffins in your “Welcome to the neighbourhood” gift basket with walker blood
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone in a perfect community was as nice as each other? It would be perfectly lovely wouldn’t it?
Alas human beings are not universally-dipped in Pollyanna’s patented brand of caring concern and joie de vivre, and so even though Deanna and Jessie quickly proved to be the golly gee whiz sweetest folks you could ever hope to meet, the ASZ also had more than its fair share of malcontented douchebags form whom much nastiness and conflict will likely emanate.
Chief among them was Aiden, Deanna’s son, who along with Nicholas (Michael Traynor) took Glenn, Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Noah (Tyler James Williams) off on a “dry run” to see how the newly arrived threesome would fare out in the big bad world.
We all know they have way more walker-killing street smarts than the entire ASZ put together but Aiden was having none of it, lording over Glenn, Tara and Noah the fact that he and Nicholas were deadhead-wrangling badasses of the highest order (despite having spent the entire apocalypse largely ensconced in their pick fence nirvana)
Unfortunately somewhere in amongst all the big-noting he missed the fact that walkers aren’t playthings, his careless bravado almost getting Tara killed – Glenn’s handy knife work ensured that didn’t happen – and leading to a big verbal then physical brawl between Aiden and Nicholas and pretty much all of Rick’s group.
The only good thing to come out of this discord, which Deanna broke up very quickly making it clear that Rick and the group are now full members of the ASZ community, was that some of the sense that everything is now perfect, was shaken away.
Oh and Aiden referred to himself as a “douchebag” which at least proves he self-aware if nothing else.
And Rick discovered that adorable Jessie, she of the pantry and haircutting skills par excellence has a simmering piece of resentment of a husband, Pete (Corey Brill) who unfortunately happens to be the town’s surgeon.
Ah just don’t go breaking anything there will ya Rick?
THOUGHTS: Sadly for Rick et al. but happily for we the viewers accustomed as we are to violence, drama and discontent of every stripe and colour in The Walking Dead, it looks like Pleasantville in’t made up solely of Care Bear cutouts. In fact, there seems to be a real possibility that serious conflict could be brewing sooner rather than later, and it will fracture largely along the lines of those who think they know what it takes to survive in the apocalypse and those that actually do know. However it plays out, it will likely look like a case of schoolyard fisticuffs if Negan does show his homicidal face.
So everyone’s settling in, things are mostly looking promising and Rick’s beard is no more. Clearly things can’t this blissfully happy for too long right? Right …
Check out the trailer for next week’s episode “Forget” to see why you can’t give apocalypse survivors nice things …