The Walking Dead Review: 'Forget'
If the title of last week's episode of The Walking Dead, "Remember," asked whether the survivors could remember who they were before the apocalypse, last night's episode, "Forget," essentially answered with a resounding "no." At least in the cases of Rick, Carol, and Sasha, the survivors have reached the point of no return, and have not only become the villains of the piece, but have become the specific types of villains they feared and abhorred the most.
At the beginning, Rick was defined not so much by being a good guy, but by his desire to think of himself as a good guy. He was the sheriff, the white knight, the "nice guy." It may have taken him longer than Shane, but eventually he was forced to admit that certain moral compromises were necessary to protect his family. But regardless of his justifications, some of his actions have violated his "nice guy" image, and now his ego is shattered. He can't pass as the sheriff anymore, so pretty much anything goes.
This is what separates him from someone like Daryl, for example; Daryl never had a particularly precious image of himself, so his ego remained intact so long as he knew he was doing what he had to do. Rick, on the other hand, now that he knows what he's capable of, is lost. Once upon a time, Rick was the stand-up guy who was horrified that Shane could get frustrated with Hershel's family's complacency and kill a bunch of walkers in a barn. Now, he's the guy who could take advantage of a relatively helpless- and yes, complacent- group of people for the "greater good." And just like Shane, his conviction that he knows better than the Alexandrians comes out of an arrogance and sense of entitlement; when he says that the Alexandrians are "lucky" to have them, he might as well be calling them noble savages.
This sense of entitlement comes out in more insidious ways throughout the episode, particularly when it comes to his love interest, Jessie. Just as Shane felt that he was entitled to Lori because he was better suited to the zombie apocalypse, Rick feels that he's entitled to "take" Jessie just as he would the town. At first, I was unsure of this interpretation, as they do seem to have chemistry and he's presumably very lonely. But the scene in which he unconsciously reaches for his gun while watching Jessie and her husband too closely mirrored the scene in which Shane pointed his gun at Rick back in the second season. (Where's Dale when you need him?) Shane's entitlement came out in the worst way when he tried to rape Lori, and Rick's came out to a much smaller degree when he kissed Jessie. Once again, we're left to ask ourselves how Rick would feel about Shane if the same situation came up now, whether he would kill him, and whether he would deign to feel morally superior.
Similarly, Carol is reaching the logical end of her character arc and becoming a full-blown villain. While the last few seasons have seen her transform from a victim into a relatively hardened warrior, she now seems to be swinging the pendulum too far the other way. In this episode, she threatens an innocent child with a horribly graphic description of his death by walkers. We know she would probably never do it, but the cool, calm, collected way in which she terrorizes the kid is revelatory for her character. Not only does she threaten him with a lonely, violent death very similar to her own daughter's, but she engages in psychological terrorism techniques that we can only imagine she learned from her abusive husband, Ed. It was satisfying to see her become a stronger character who wouldn't fall victim to the Eds of the world, but now she's in danger of becoming an abuser herself.
Sasha's arc was less compelling, simply because it was both the least subtle and involved one of the least developed characters on the show. Sasha's been getting more screentime, which gives the illusion of character development, but she still doesn't really have a personality. Just like E.M. Forster's flat versus round characters, I can't get attached to a character when I can describe his or her entire personality in one sentence. Sasha is angry and reactionary, but there's not much else to say about her. It's a little bit similar to Tyreese, whose entire character could be summed up with "conflicted about killing people." He was perfectly likable, but I wasn't terribly bothered when he was killed off, and now that Sasha seems poised to meet a similar fate, I'm not sure I'll care very much.
Daryl's plotline was a welcome contrast to the other main character arcs, and was refreshingly true to his character. Just as it made sense that he would behave like a cornered animal and be wary of the Alexandrians, so it made sense that he would warm up to them once they were humanized. Daryl might have been willing to consider "taking" Alexandria while he was still having severe trust issues, but now that he senses that they're relatively well-intentioned people, it's not in his character to take advantage of them. Plus, the "outsider" bond between him and Aaron felt very genuine, and as we all know, Daryl is extremely loyal once he feels a bond with someone.
The episode didn't have too much to offer in the way of moving the plot forward (which isn't necessarily a complaint). But the big revelation came when Jessie's son stamped Rick with a scarlet A, which was likely a reference to their imminent extramarital affair, but also gave us Terminus flashbacks:
The survivors were kept hostage by the Termites in this train car, but more importantly, the Termites were kept hostage, raped, and tortured by a mystery group in that same train car. From the information we have so far, I doubt it's as simple as this mystery group turning out to be the Alexandrians. It's more likely connected to the three men that were kicked out of the community for thus far unknown reasons. But if they were using the "A" as a calling card, then they were probably still associated with Alexandria when they committed those transgressions. And all of this is likely connected to the "Wolves," who were once again referenced this episode when they killed a walker with a "W" carved into its forehead. Who knows what all these connections will add up to, but any connection to Terminus isn't promising, especially if the Alexandrians turn out to be responsible for the Termites.
-Carol's Stepford transformation cracked me up, but it was also significant to illustrating her aforementioned character arc. Seeing her in those floral prints and hearing her gab with the other June Cleavers about baking is hilarious and jarring precisely because her transformation has been so stark and complete. For better and for worse, the mother hen Carol that did the group's laundry is utterly dead, to the point that she serves no other purpose than as a punch line.
-Where in the world is Father Gabriel? He's been all but missing for several weeks, to the point that a short promo from an old episode that included the cowardly priest caused social media to blow up with variations of "Oh, right, he exists. Where is he again?"
-I get much sadder when movies and TV shows kill animals than humans. RIP Buttons.
-So Jessie's husband is definitely Pete, the villainous doctor from the comics. This is fairly predictable, but I hope the writers keep up the complexity of this plotline and resist the urge to excuse Rick's infidelity with Jessie by making Pete evil.
-Heavy-handed symbol of the week? Michonne literally hanging up her sword. WE GET IT.