After being on the move for what feels like forever, our group of survivors has found a suburban paradise to call home. But can people this hard-worn and traumatized settle back into society? Or, as Glenn put it, were they almost "out there" too long?
Spoiler alert! The following recaps contains spoilers. There is no sanctuary.
"Remember" certainly marks the beginning of a new chapter of "The Walking Dead" for the second half of Season 5, with Alexandria coming off as a much more sustainable location than Woodbury or Terminus. Nothing is perfect, of course, and there are already some interesting red flags (*cough* Aiden *cough*), but after a shower and shave and a shiny, new uniform, this is the most that Rick has let his guard down in a long time.
Here are the four main takeaways from the episode.
The group gets settled in, some more than others.
When Team Rick finally enters the gates of pristine Alexandria, they look like angry refugees who are about to take the place by force. They agree to check their weapons as they get acquainted with their new environment, which includes two gigantic, side-by-side houses in which everyone can live. This place has everything: electricity, running water, sewage filtration, the works. Michonne brushes her teeth. Maggie inhales clean laundry. Rick takes a much-needed hot shower and shaves off his beard (if you can't remember the last time you saw him clean-shaven, just think that Michonne has never seen his face like that until now). Everyone seems a little skeptical, but in awe of the amenities. Michonne says she has a good feeling about the place.
A nice, neighbor lady named Jessie comes by with a laundry basket full of supplies from the pantry -- they have a pantry! -- and offers to give Rick a haircut. She's a strong, pretty and intuitive mom with two boys, one Carl's age named Ron. Carl meets him to play video games -- video games! -- and is introduced to his moody friend Enid who also came from "outside." She gives him the cold shoulder but you get the sense that she'll warm up. Carl later tells Rick that he's concerned about living with people who haven't had to deal with the outside. "They're weak. I don't want us to get weak too," he says. Then again, Carl still can't enter an unexplored room without his knife drawn. Similarly, Rick sleeps with a kitchen knife and has a mini-panic attack when he loses sight of Carl and Judith for a second, only to realize that they're talking to some sweet, old grandparents.
Daryl is further proof that old habits die hard, especially when he guts an opossum on the immaculate porch. He's the only one who hasn't showered or put down his weapon and he makes fun of Carol for putting on a nice sweater and a pair of khakis. Something is going on with Carol, though. She's incredibly chipper, not that she shouldn't be, but she seems like she's being fake. In her interview with Deanna, she lies about her abusive husband by saying she misses him and calls him "wonderful." What's up with that?
Deanna seems cool...
Rick's group is understandably suspicious of authority figures. Even newcomer Abraham lets out a loud, "Who's Deanna?" when Aaron tells them they are to meet with the woman in charge. Before the fall, Deanna Monroe used to be a Congresswoman for Ohio's 15th district and came to Alexandria with her family after being directed to by the Army -- who then never showed. A big shopping mall nearby and a husband who was a professor of architecture helped them make the best out of the resources and start a community completely shielded from the outside world. "This is the start of sustainability," she says. A simple read of her watch reminds us that we haven't known what time it is on the show in a very long time. Rick looks uncomfortable, even sitting in the first comfy chair he's sat in for a while, but there seems to be a mutual respect between the two.
Deanna primarily wants Rick's group to stay because they need people who have been "outside." Apparently they are the first group she has invited in for a while and she wants them to help Alexandria survive. Rick surprises her by saying she should have kept the gates closed. "It's all about survival now, at any cost," he says. This is before he shaves his beard, and it's hard not to imagine this being foreshadowing for a later coup. Still, Deanna seems cool. She checks in on the group after they settle in to one of the houses for the first night and assures them that everyone will have a job by saying, "Looks like the Communists won after all!" Lol.
...But her son is a real (self-proclaimed) "douchebag."
If you watched this episode and didn't immediately get bad feeling about Aiden, you're crazy. Unnecessary machismo has always been a pitfall on this show, and Aiden's actions on his first perimeter check with Noah, Tara and Glenn show that he has plenty of it. First, he talks up these wimpy pistols to three people who are used to using assault rifles, which is innocent but still lame. He says that his last team of four people was lost because they didn't follow his directions, yet his first order of business when they reach the woods is to find and chain up a walker that killed one of them. Not only is it a weird waste of time, but Tara almost gets bitten in the process and on top of that, Aiden yells at her after Glenn kills the walker (Or, "Moaner" in Alexandria speak).
Back in town, Glenn gives Aiden a piece of his mind and a fight ensues. Aiden asks his mom, "Why'd you let these people in?" to which Glenn answers, "Because we actually know what we're doing out there." BOOM. Glenn ducks when Aiden throws a punch, then lands one of his own. Before long, everyone is rushing over and Daryl pounces on Aiden's cohort. It's a tense situation, but Deanna defuses it by reminding everyone that Rick's group is now an equal part of their community. To top it off, she thanks Glenn for punching her son in the face. Even she knows he needs to be knocked on his ass.
Rick and Michonne are the new law in town, but Rick's still a believer in "Survival at any cost."
After Deanna declares Rick's group an official part of Alexandria, it's clear that they are going to stay. She finally gives Rick and Michonne their new jobs: constables. Rick's going to be a law man again?! Well, as if he ever stopped being one in the first place. Back at their homes, Rick confirms that they are staying put and says they can settle into both houses. Carol echoes Carl's concern that this place could make them weak. Rick, looking like a new man in his uniform with significantly less hair, flatly says that it's not going to happen. They'll make it work here no matter what, and if the Alexandrians can't, "Then we'll just take this place." *Drops the mic.*
So ... our first taste of Alexandria is more sweet than bitter, but obviously it will take some time to find out how pure Deanna's intentions are, how much of a problem Aiden is going to be and what, if any, other problems arise that would lead to a Ricktatorship of the town. That scene where Carl sees Enid climb over the fence, then finds his dad looking for his stashed gun in the woods raises some questions. First, where did the gun go? And secondly, where did Enid go? The answers to those questions will tell us more about where this "Pleasantville" plot is going.