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Can the survivors of The Walking Dead shed the psychological baggage of what they’ve been through? Can they, as this episode is entitled: Forget?
For four seasons, the characters who comprise the show’s core cast have been through every imaginable hell which Robert Kirkman could dream up. Now, facing the prospect of stability and security, we’re left with the question of whether or not the group can accept that and integrate themselves back into society. As Glen mentioned in the previous episode of The Walking Dead, in his estimation, the group has “almost been out there too long.” When they arrived at the gates of the Alexandria enclave, they were clinging to the cliff of sanity by their proverbial fingernails. Can wild horses be brought inside? “The longer they’re out there the more they become what they really are.” The alternative, of course, is made perfectly clear to Darryl in a very overt way as he watches the stallion be pulled down by the small pack of walkers. Running free in the world of the dead has the same, inevitable conclusion for everyone: Death.
This episode is about acceptance, about whether or not it it is possible for the survivors to come to terms with the possibility that there may be more to their future beyond struggle and, if that possibility is real, that they will have to relearn how to function in a society with breadth beyond the small, close-knit tribe they’ve come to know.
Each of them is coping in their own unique ways, ranging from complete and open acceptance to subtle rejection of the softness the life in Alexandria represents. Rick, Darryl, and Carol retain their paranoia and concern over the motivations of the people who’ve lived in the enclave since the change. Rick and Michonne seem at odds over precisely how much to trust Deanna’s motives. In their experience, those who offer safety have always had ulterior motives. Rick also seems to retain doubts regarding the long-term plans Deanna has expressed. Deanna’s making every effort to integrate Rick and the survivors into the community, hardly even being subtle in the attempt. As avatars of that paranoia, Darryl, Carol, and Sasha represent the purest distillations of the struggle.
This episode The Walking Dead, while lacking the high drama of the previous two installments and the striking moments they provided Andrew Lincoln, provided the cast a number of moments to shine. Watching Darryl’s ponderous shift in how much he trusts Aaron was a wonderfully understated transition carried off fantastically by actor Norman Reedus. The other remarkable performance was delivered by Melissa McBride as she managed to show the Stepford Wife version of Carol with just enough subtle micro-expressions indicating its false nature to make it believable for the viewers in the know.
Finally, Sonequa Martin-Green’s portrayal of Sasha’s rising madness in the face of such a stark change in the nature of her life was chilling, to say the least. The constant tension in her body and face was a fantastic outward representation of the internal chaos raging within her.
Sasha’s refusal to accept the reality of life within the walls of Alexandria is perhaps the most telling sign of what is coming in the future. Rick remarks early in the episode that the residents are the luckiest people he’s ever seen, and he is completely right. Past the initial outbreak and the evacuation of Northern Virginia, the residents of Alexandria have been largely exempt from the grim realities of the world of the dead. Is Alexandria as safe as the people living there seem to think it is? Given that the show loves to build up and then break down the hopes of the survivors, it is far from unlikely that there will be no forthcoming threat to the safety of Alexandria and those who call it home.
While the main storyline progressed in this episode, the bigger questions come from the several lingering mysteries hanging over the show. Specifically, the mystery of who took Rick’s stashed gun and the mystery of the Wolves. The gun was only referenced once, it’s likely that the show’s writers are going for a somewhat slower burn with that sub-plot. The Wolves, on the other hand, seem poised to become a prominent piece of the show. Where before the references to them existed only as background matter, now they are being openly acknowledged. This would suggests that it will be brought to the foreground sooner rather than later.
The slow burn continued in this episode of The Walking Dead, with many of the pieces being moved into position for a seemingly inevitable power struggle, and the fractures within the core group of survivors beginning to become apparent. while it lacked any blaze-of-glory action and did little to move along the super-arc of the show, it was a solid character study and offered it’s cast some excellent opportunities to work their theatrical magic, earning it an estimable 8/10.