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The final steps have been taken on the road to Alexandria, but it certainly was a bumpy ride.
Since the return of The Walking Dead from its hiatus, all signs have been pointing toward the group’s eventual arrival at the Alexandria enclave. The community will be familiar to readers of the comic book series, but given writer Robert Kirkman‘s insistence that the television series will depart from the path of the comics (and the may past instances in which it has done so), it was reasonable to wonder how that path might differ.
The major theme of this episode was Rick’s paranoia, and his general loss of faith in the goodness of humanity. The episode brilliantly encapsulated the loss of faith, loss of general humanity, and the hunger for something better which has driven the group. Where the comic book series had the group fairly ready to trust Aaron after only a brief questioning, the television version of the collection of survivors has good reason to be more cautious. After their experience at Terminus, an element original to the TV , and not a component of the comic, this group has been burned on more than one occasion. Where The Walking Dead comic had only the Governor and the immediately obvious unsavory elements of Newbury to prepare the group for the appearance of Aaron, the television version has them already having been teased and then disappointed by the offer of security from the mouths of well-kempt, seemingly genial ambassadors.
The key for Rick in this episode is the importance of his family, something which the episode emphasizes to great effect. Judith becomes the x-factor which influences Rick’s decision-marking process, though the show’s writers aren’t exactly subtle about it. Carl’s support for Michonne‘s decision only underscores the importance of his family and their safety in Rick’s thinking.
In terms of character development, this was really Michonne’s episode to shine. We are beginning to see more of her becoming a partner and equal to Rick as opposed to a subordinate member of the group. Her willingness to challenge his decisions and push him in the direction she feels is most important is a huge step forward for her, as is her growing external focus. We see in her actions that she is focusing more on the welfare of others as opposed to merely her own survival. This is an evolution which began with her solo adventures alongside Carl and for which we’ve been given an increasing amount of evidence as this season has progressed.
There was a particularly standout moment from the script when Glenn comes up with the necessary knowledge to repair the RV during the final leg of the journey. What’s remarkable here is what goes unsaid. Rather than explain the source of his understanding of RV mechanics as having come from the long-departed Dale, Glenn smiles sadly and moves along. It would have been easy for the writers to give Glenn a moment to fondly or sorrowfully remember the wizened man, but instead they chose to subtly show us Glenn’s decision to avoid talking about those who they group has lost. The wordsmiths behind this episode deserve a salute for avoiding the easy pluck of emotional heartstrings and going instead with the understated moment for actor Steven Yuen.
Overall, this was a solid episode for The Walking Dead. Things have finally begun to move forward after several very character-centric episodes in which not a great deal happened, which the show sorely needed. There were some continuity issues with various cast members apparently being missing for extended periods, despite the group supposedly being together. That said, this episode managed to have a fair amount of action, several solid character moments, and moved the series’ plot far enough forward to begin seeing what the next challenge will be for Rick and the survivors.
All of this combines to earn this episode of The Walking Dead a solid 8/10.