The group approaches the gates at Alexandria and it’s like bringing feral animals home as pets: they’re filthy and shifty, watching everything that moves and are ready to snap. They’re so wary that they all train their weapons on some rustling in a bush. It turns out to be a possum that Daryl promptly impales. “I brought dinner,” he deadpans, and they walk across the threshold and watch the gates close behind them.
Then they’re asked to give up their weapons if they want to stay. Rick’s like, “We don’t even know if we want to stay here. P.S.: If we wanted to be a threat to you all, you’d be dead already.” Aaron thinks it’s a good idea for the group to meet with Deanna first because she knows all there is to know about Alexandria, and maybe then they’ll feel comfortable enough to relinquish their weapons. Just before Rick goes off to meet with her, he directs Sasha to take out the walker who has followed them to the gate. She puts a bullet through his eye and Rick’s all, “I bet no one in Alexandria could do that.”
Deanna is the boss lady around these parts, as much as there is a boss. She used to be a congressperson and likes to film her meetings with people. For transparency. She asks Rick a lot of questions about his life up to now, but Rick wants to know what this place is and how the hell they can be so clean. She explains that it was a sustainable living community – complete with solar grids for electricity – and she and her family were stranded there on their way back to Ohio. So they decided to stay. Luckily her husband was a former professor of architecture because he helped design their fortress and her sons helped with the building. Then more people came and they built a community. They’ve been living in this community since the outbreak, their lives largely unchanged by the savagery happening outside their walls.
Rick thinks she’s kind of dumb for letting any old people into their community. “People out there only see in you what they can use to survive. Aaron doesn’t know me; I’ve killed people. I killed them for my family’s survival and I’d do it again.” Deanna knows people have had to do bad things because so has she, but she also knows that to continue to survive, Alexandria needs people who have been surviving on the outside. Then she plays the family card.
Deanna: Rick, I know you want a safe place for your kids to grow up. That’s here. And we need you here because you have skills we need.
Rick: How do you know?
Deanna: I’m good at reading people. If I didn’t win reelection, I was going to play professional poker. It’s 3:37. Set your watch and decide to stay. You know you want to.
So he does and tells her he was a sheriff Before. “Yeah,” she says, “I knew it was something like that.” Rick gives the group the okay and they begin to pile their guns on a trolley cart. Carol hilariously piles her gigantic rifle on top and is weirdly smiley and acquiescent.
Aaron presents two homes to Rick and Carl and tells them they can pick one and explains that Deanna has asked the community to give Rick and Co. some space while they settle in. As he and Carl have a look at their new house, it’s clear this will take some getting used to. Rick showers away all the grime (ha, see what I did there?!) that he’d been collecting on the road and SHAVES HIS GRIZZLED BEARD! It’s a moment. Rick hasn’t been this clean since season one. #RIPRick’sBeard.
Just then Neighbor Jessie stops by to drop off supplies to a shirtless Rick. She offers to give him a haircut because she used to be a stylist. He says, “You don’t even know me.” “I can take care of myself,” she tells him. Jessie has two sons, Ron and Sam. She thinks Ron and Carl could be friends, but Rick is still in shock. He never thought he’d have a shower, haircut, or experience electricity again in his life.
Daryl remains feral. He says little to Deanna as he paces her living room with his possum firmly gripped by the tail, and then he guts it on Rick’s new porch. Yeah, still feral. Carl wants to explore the second house and Rick signals Carol to go with him without a word.
Carl hangs behind after Carol’s gotten her fill of the house and she links up with Rick and Daryl outside. They all notice something significant: “They took our weapons and now they’re splitting us up.” They decide to all stay in the same house tonight.
Carl hears thumping upstairs and unsheathes his 15″ chef’s knife, ready for some action. But it’s just an attic full of kid stuff: markers, CDs, comic books, and the like. And someone’s just escaped via the attic window.
That night everyone crowds in the living room and Michonne had such a great time brushing her teeth for 20 minutes. She also appreciates Rick’s new look and I would appreciate if we could ship them with good reason already. Deanna shows up and tells the group that she’s found jobs for some of them. She’s also plainly amazed that their rag tag group was able to band together and become such a close knit family.
Rick: Why don’t I have a job yet?
Deanna: You do, you just don’t know what it is yet. I have a job for Michonne, too. I’m working on something for Sasha, and I’m just trying to figure Mr. Dixon out. But I will.
Whatever that means. Later, Rick creeps into the kitchen while everyone is asleep, still clearly mistrustful: he grabs a huge kitchen knife to hang on to. Just in case, probably.
During her interview with Deanna, Michonne grabs a book for later and is very clear: “If this is how you say it is, then this is what we wanted. All of us.” The next day the group fans out in different directions to explore their new community, but Daryl still isn’t feeling it and hangs back on the porch. Suddenly the street is clear of anyone Rick knows and he begins to panic: Where did Carl and Judith go so quickly? Neighbor Jessie takes him to the Miller’s house; they had a big family and love babies. Rick apologizes for running head long into Jessie’s sculpture during his near freak out and Jessie invites Carl to come over and meet her son, Ron.
Carl has his mind blown when Ron tells him the kids have school. Has Carl ever been to school? Ron introduces him to fellow Kids, Mikey and Enid. Enid is from the outside, too, and sucks the air out of rooms. Ron offers Carl video games, and at Mikey’s house there’s a pool table, but Carl is having a true fish out of water experience. Has he ever done either of those things? They all give him some encouraging “you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do” words (except Enid who suggests he should pull it together), and Carl snaps out of and says, “Teach me how to play an XBox.” During his Deannterview, Carl reflects that his mom, Lori, would have loved Alexandria.
Deanna: I’m sorry you lost her.
Carl: I didn’t just lose her. I killed her. It had to be me.
Boy, the people of Alexandria are going to feel great watching these videos! When Rick speaks with Carl, Carl notes that these people are soft. Like, they’re weak, and he thinks their group should be on their guard not to become weak, too. That night, Michonne wakes up to find Rick standing guard again while everyone else is asleep. She’s curious about why Deanna hasn’t given them jobs yet. She wants one, but Rick isn’t sure he does just yet.
Rick: That’s signing the papers and saying, “Yes, this is how it is.”
Michonne: Are you afraid to do that?
Rick: Aren’t you?
Rick: Then why are you awake right now?
Rick goes for a walk and meets Jessie’s sketchy husband sitting on his front porch. He never offers his name and shadow and smoke obscure his face. Mistrust alert! Back on the living room floor, Rick wakes up. Again.
Carol is all sugar, spice, and everything nice in her interview with Deanna. She claims that she doesn’t really have any skills other than homemaking, that she misses her husband Ed, and that she served essentially as a den mother to the group while we all collectively spit take at our memories of her Terminus invasion. Carol tells Deanna that she’d like to be involved with the community, and the next thing you know she’s assimilated in her cardigan and slacks (AKA her sheep’s clothing), off to cook for people who can’t do it themselves. She meets Daryl on her way out.
Carol: Have you taken a shower yet?
Carol: Take a shower and brush your teeth. We need to make these people think we’re harmless like they are.
Daryl: Er, that’s not how I roll.
Carol: I’M GONNA HOSE YOU DOWN IN YOUR SLEEP.
Daryl: YOU LOOK RIDICULOUS.
For me, it is most heartbreaking to see Glenn’s world-weary interview. He’s earnest, but his anguish is still on his face. “We need to make this work,” he tells Deanna. “We were almost out there too long.” Rick heads outside Alexandria’s walls to check on the gun he stashed in the blender before their arrival. Meanwhile, Carl spies young Enid impressively scaling a back Alexandria wall – something probably no other member of Alexandria could do. Naturally, he follows her.
Glenn, Tara, and Noah are assigned with Aiden and Nicholas as supply runners. Aiden is former ROTC, Deanna’s son, and a self-professed dickbag. Well, he didn’t call himself that, but his behavior said it instead: he wants to take Glenn, Tara, and Noah on a dry run to “weigh each other’s sacks” and refers to guns as “biscuits.” He clearly knows nothing about survival and Glenn is watching him.
Carl continues to follow Enid into the woods outside Alexandria and promptly loses her. To be fair, he didn’t get tracking lessons from Daryl like Beth and Carol did. Soon he links up with Rick who has just found his blender gun missing. Instead of lamenting, Rick and Carl take this opportunity to bond as a handful of walkers approach them. They take them all out, armed with only their knives and we know they aren’t getting soft any time soon. Both of them are blood stained and after Carl impales the last walker Rick’s eyes get misty as he’s never been more proud of his son.
Aiden begins to fill Glenn, Tara, and Noah in on their run system and tells them that they lost four runners because they didn’t follow it. “I know I can be a hard ass and I’m a douchebag but someone has to be in charge! Lucky for you guys, it’s me!” Aiden tells them that they captured one of the walkers who killed their people and they like to pregame by torturing it. But uh oh, it’s gotten lose! Numbskull Nicholas lets out a loud whistle to bring it back BECAUSE THAT’S A SMART THING TO DO and Glenn, Tara, and Noah rightfully freak. But Aiden needs revenge against this walker! It took out four of his people! It sneaks up on him and his attempts at wrangling are thwarted by the walker’s skin literally sloughing off in his hands. He throws it at Tara but Glenn steps in and kills it before it kills her. Glenn, Tara, and Noah are not for this recklessness and head back to Alexandria.
Aiden: You guys can’t work for me anymore!
Glenn: You’re an idiot.
Aiden: You’re supposed to follow my rules!
Glenn: Then we’re just as screwed as your last run crew.
Fighting words! Aiden begins to shove Glenn while Tara and Noah try to assure Aiden that he doesn’t want this problem. Glenn tells Aiden his tough guy act sucks and he should walk away and Deanna comes up to break up the fracas.
Aiden: Why did you let these people in, Mom? They won’t listen to me!
Glenn: Because your way gets people killed.
Aiden takes a swing at Glenn who ducks it and comes back with the most satisfying right jab I have seen on television so far this year. Then punches are flying, Daryl and Nicholas get involved, and Rick and Michonne break it up. Deanna declares that Rick and Co. are equal members of the community and will be treated as such, Aiden! She tells Rick and Michonne that she intends for them to be the community’s constables, thanks Glenn for showing her son what for, and drags Aiden off by the ear. Aiden knows himself enough to know he’s a douchebag, but major points lost (as if he had any) for not realizing how that self-entitled asshattery is going to get everyone killed.
As Rick dons his sheriff uniform we get a hearty flashback to season one. He tells Carol and Daryl that maybe it’s time to settle in.
Carol: If we get too comfortable, we’re going to get weak.
Rick: That’s what my favorite son, Carl, said earlier. But that’s not going to happen because we don’t have it in us to be weak anymore. If these people can’t make it work here, then we’ll just take this place.
The Questions: Who took the Rick’s gun, and so has also been following them? Morgan? Has Aiden learned that he’s not really about that survival life? Will they need to form a coup and take over Alexandria now that Rick has shown us that a shower and a haircut don’t mean he can’t still get grimy?