The Walking Dead Review: 'Remember'
It took long enough, but it finally happened. The survivors on The Walking Dead have found an intriguing but ostensibly safe new home, and the writers have finally made good on their promise to switch up the tone a little bit. "Remember" was the best episode of The Walking Dead in a long time, if only because it saw a genuine gear shift. At first, the episode prepares us to watch the group get betrayed after they mistakenly trust outsiders for the umpteenth time, but instead we get to watch Rick's group as the potentially untrustworthy outsiders, which is a thousand times more compelling at this juncture. This isn't Terminus 2.0, this is Rick and co. breaking bad.
The pattern has been well-established; the group gave the Governor the benefit of the doubt, and he decapitated Hershel. They gave the Termites the benefit of the doubt, and they tried to eat them. Tyreese gave Martin the benefit of the doubt and he tried to snap Judith's neck, Beth (sort of) gave Dawn the benefit of the doubt and Dawn tried to turn her into a sex slave, etc etc. If the fact that Alexandria seems to genuinely be a "safe zone" isn't surprising, it's only because the show desperately needs a revamp, but the episode that introduces them is pleasingly ambiguous.
There's an unsettling tone over the proceedings, and at first we're led to believe that it might be the result of some insidious secret Deanna and co are hiding, especially after she reveals that she exiled three men without elaborating on the specifics. There's a cannily-shot scene in which Carl is checking out the house, and the camera angle makes it look like a typical horror movie scene, in which the filmmaker is deliberately hiding the intruder behind the door or the monster on the ceiling. But then, the climactic moment comes, and Carl only finds a room filled with teenager paraphernalia, complete with a comic book that he clearly wants to read. This scene was emblematic of the entire episode, as Carl thought he was protecting himself, but was ultimately revealed as the sole aggressor in the room. By the end of the episode, it becomes clear that if there's a fox in the henhouse, it's not the Alexandrians, it's the Ricktators.
The writers have been building towards the "you can't go home again" conflict all season, with various survivors admitting to themselves and others that they wouldn't belong in a pre-apocalyptic world anymore. As luck would have it, Alexandria is the closest approximation they'll ever find to a world untouched by the apocalypse, and after everything they've been through, they can't bring themselves to re-adjust. This is demonstrated primarily through their physical transformations, or lack thereof. Carol and Daryl, both of whom have gone on record saying that they have become more themselves during this whole ordeal, have parallel arcs in this episode. Daryl, never the most subtle, just flat-out refuses to adjust at all, even to take a shower. He wants his outsides to match his insides, and his insides are still out there fighting walkers and hunting squirrels. Carol takes the opposite approach, dressing up as a Stepford wife and insisting that she's just a poor damsel in distress who cooks and does laundry for the group. She looks the part, but too much so, to the point that it just looks wrong. Her transformation is so clearly phony that it's effectively the same as Daryl's filthiness; it goes to show that if she ever was a person who could wear collared shirts and join the Junior League, she's not anymore and never will be again.
Rick's physical transformation was a little more ambiguous, which is fitting, since, as I said last week, he hasn't exactly adjusted well to the apocalypse. He has adjusted, but he's essentially been dragged kicking and screaming into the brave new world. More than any of the other survivors, the "angel" and "devil" on his shoulder have been fighting for his soul from the beginning. So when he shaves, it does look strange, especially since he usually had stubble even when he was relatively clean-shaven, but it's not on the same level as Carol. He just looks like Sheriff Rick again, and then it just becomes a waiting game to see whether he can allow himself to become that again.
The end of the episode gives us our answer, and in true Walking Dead fashion, it's not a happy one. When he says "If they can't make it, then we'll just take this place," he becomes the villain of the piece. This doesn't make them evil, as they would never rape and pillage like the people who took over Terminus, or try to eat people like the Termites, or senselessly massacre like the Governor. But if they were to take advantage of a relatively helpless community that was kind enough to take them in, they would be villains, there's no two ways about it. Re-playing Rick's interview answer while he put on his uniform demonstrated that we should re-interpret his answer in a big way (although we easily could have figured that out for ourselves without the unnecessary and heavy-handed voiceover). Originally, we're supposed to think he's talking about the nefarious "others," like Terminus or Woodbury, who might try to take advantage of the Alexandrians. And in his mind, he probably was, but his own group has now taken on that role. The man who once said "we don't kill the living" now can't even remember how many people he's killed, and there's no going back.
-The sequence with Deanna's son was the weakest part of the episode, even though it did serve to show us how naive and unprepared for the outside world the Alexandrians are. But Aiden was basically a caricature, so much so that his "I know I'm a douchebag" line was rendered completely unnecessary.
-That being said, we did get to see Tara pull skin off of a walker. I've become immune to a lot of the zombie gore, but that was gross.
-Tovah Feldshuh did a great job this episode, although my friend and fellow "24" fan made the excellent point that Deanna could have easily been played by Cherry Jones.
-I like Jessie as a love interest for Rick, although I don't know what to think about that creepy, shadowy encounter with her husband. (Also, would someone as paranoid as Rick have allowed a perfect stranger to have scissors so close to his head? Love makes us do the darndest things.)
-I'm sure many fans will complain that this will be Farm 2.0, I say bring it on. We could use a little more season two in our lives.
-I almost missed the ridiculous influx of homophobia last week, because I honestly didn't expect it. I expected a few comments, obviously, but there's been an openly gay character on this show before, and men kissing on television has become so much more mainstream. But the reaction just goes to show how important Aaron's storyline is, and how much work still needs to be done to normalize homosexual relationships in the media. The Walking Dead did a great job with keeping this story from the comics, not to mention this awesome takedown of all the bigots who were bugging them:
We've started to block some really hateful people, so if we don't ever reply to you, it might be because your ass got blocked.— The Walking Dead (@TheWalkingDead) February 25, 2015