The Walking Dead Double Recap: Community

 Posted by on February 23, 2015 at 3:37 am  The Walking Dead
Feb 232015

walking-deadI don’t think any two episodes of The Walking Dead have been as different as these. Them was a tone poem on the weight of grief; The Distance is another move-the-plot step out onto the old tightrope of risk and trust. I found both episodes satisfying, for completely different reasons.

The first scene of Them set the mood: a closeup of Maggie’s eyes as she cried, then the sag of her shoulders as a zombie wheezed up behind her. She just seemed so tired: standing, turning, knifing the thing in the head, and sitting back down. She’d have rather been anywhere but here.

Anywhere but here was the unspoken mantra of all the survivors in that hour, as they searched for water, walked, fought off walkers, searched some more, and ate a sad dinner.

After a few years pretending he was dead, he made it out alive. And that’s the trick of it, I think. We do what we need to do, and then we get to live. – Rick

In an episode without much dialogue at all, Rick’s remembrance of his grandfather — a soldier in WWII — becomes the focus. The survivors have just found shelter from the rain they’d all longed for hours before, and it’s in that cabin with the others where Rick has his epiphany. “We are the walking dead,” he says.

This is the thing about trauma, especially the kind of siege people go through in times of war or terror. Parts of your life become mechanical: Get up, get dressed, eat something, go. Day after day is like this, if you survive. But what if the siege ends? How do you learn to live again?

That’s the dilemma the survivors encounter at the end of Them, when the “friend” who’d left them water as an anonymous gift presents himself. Aaron is an impossibly clean new face: polite, neatly dressed, with a recent haircut. He’s been following the survivor group for some time, which immediately everyone nervous. And he has an unfortunate tendency to joke, even about matters as serious as offering shelter in his “community.”

I know ‘audition’ makes it sound like we’re some kind of a dance troupe. That’s only on Friday nights. – Aaron

But as The Distance shows us, everything the man says appears to be true. The two cars he promised were parked nearby are there; the only gun he’s carrying shoots flares; he even packed some homemade applesauce for Baby Asskicker, in a neat little eco-friendly jar. Sure, the survivor group freaks out when they find a listening device in his car; but what other choices are left?

Trusting strangers who offer shelter has never worked out for the survivors. The farm was a boring mirage; Woodbury, with its tyrannical Governor, was a disaster; and the hipster cannibals at Terminus were the actual worst. Whatever this place is, it can’t be worse than a slave hospital or a Nazi slaughterhouse, right?

The decision is unanimous. Aaron’s “community,” Alexandria, will be the survivors’ new home. It may be temporary, however: in “the distance” that gives the episode its title, there at last is Washington D.C. Let’s hope someone in that RV is a lobbyist!

Final episode thoughts:

  • Aaron’s community begins with his partner, Eric — keeper of Aaron’s second flare gun, and apparently much more than that. Welcome, First Out Gay Couple in the Zombiepocalypse!
  • Aaron’s flare gun is responsible for this week’s great zombie kill. After the relentless sadness of last week’s episode, I think we all needed the pure comic release of that flare-in-the-eye shot.
  • How did Aaron acquire so many tools? Flare guns? A listening device? What else is this guy packing? Sewing machine? Apple peeler?
  • Interesting name, ‘Alexandria.’ Any history buffs want to weigh in on this one? It seems a very … ambitious name for a zombie-proof housing development.
  • The community of the survivors seemed stronger before Aaron arrived. The unforgettable unity of that scene at the cabin door, in Them — as one member of the group after another threw their weight against a stagger of zombies outside — won’t happen again for a while, I think.
  • Michonne, take the wheel. When Rick’s inability to trust even the least threatening new face throws him into a kind of leadership paralysis, quiet Michonne finds her voice.

We need this. We’re going. All of us. – Michonne

  • I’m happy with this development: to a point. Like everyone else, Michonne is weary, and willing to see promise in a place she hasn’t actually seen. This isn’t a world that rewards leaps of faith.
  • Rick’s stashed his gun outside Alexandria. Just in case. Rick’s instincts aren’t always right, but doubt has always been a safer bet than hope on this show. Why a blender, though?

  25 Responses to “The Walking Dead Double Recap: Community”

  1. Its interesting that Glenn and Maggie both represented going to Terminus as an affirmation of hope, a way of being true to Hershel’s spirit. Alexandria is a suburb of Washington D.C. directly across the Potomac River. The most famous ancient Alexandria was a Greek city, the capital of Ptolemaic Egypt and, later, the second city of the Roman Empire.

    • Incidentally, Alexandria isn’t quite a housing development — it was there before Washington was.

    • My favorite local institution, The Internet Archive, is modeled after the Great Library of Alexandria. (There’s a great story about TIA in a recent issue of The New Yorker.) I try not to mention fire when I’m on the premises.

      Our friends will probably be okay in the Alexandria community. Still, if a flamboyant guy named Caracalla shows up …

      • Caracalla would have been alright if he hadn’t murdered his brother. He was always a bit sensitive about that…

  2. Two words: “Chekhov’s Blender”

    • This is EXACTLY what I thought when he stashed the gun. From the TV Rules: If you see a guy do a thing, the thing will be important later.

  3. I wonder if the Alexandra Free Zone was originally designed for post WW3 use and is now mostly populated by members of the intelligence community?

    • All my life, I’ve been fascinated by the concept of people who actually plan to survive the end of humanity. When I was young, books like The Fate of the Earth said that survival was not possible — yet there have always been those who believed that for them, it would be.

      According to the global-thermonuclear-war forecasts of my childhood, Washington D.C. would be among the very first to go. Anything nearby would go as well. (I studied enough maps of fallout zones to know precisely how screwed all of us suburban kids would be.) We also knew that massive underground compounds existed, and that some people would survive in them for a time. If the Alexandria Community is one of those NORAD-style Undisclosed Locations, it would have to be very far underground.

      Back in the day, the nuclear-fallout maps gave us reason for sticking close to the big cities. “I don’t want to survive it,” my friends and I would tell each other. Then we’d discuss how much closer we could get to the center of the bull’s eye just before it all came down. We decided the nearest Ground Zero would be either Downtown L.A. or Long Beach — though the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena was a strong argument for staying where we were.

      These were literally some of the most memorable conversations of my youth. I’m not even kidding.

      But back to the superrich — who never planned to die along with the rest of us. I’ve recently learned that some of them expect to outlive life on Earth in Kansas, of all places.

      Yes. Kansas. I’m as surprised as you are.

      • What about a counter-force vs. counter-value strike?

        • I have not heard those terms in so long.

          When I was growing up, I learned that I lived at the intersection of counterforce targets (Pasadena, Long Beach, El Toro, and for some reason Pomona) and a countervalue target (Los Angeles). This was really important. I actually felt safer, knowing I’d be one of those people who never saw it coming.

          Remember “launch on warning”? Now THAT was scary.

          Ah, the things we discussed in second lunch period! Good times. :(

  4. Aaron = Frank Underwood

  5. Aaron’s community begins with his partner, Eric – Can’t wait to see the expressions on Rick’s crew when they are invited to Aaron’s & Eric’s for Bacon wrapped scallops, Chesapeake Bay crab cakes served with a nice Pinot Grigio and topped off with a lemon sorbet.

    Aaron’s flare gun is responsible for this week’s great zombie kill – true, dat.

    How did Aaron acquire so many tools? – Wait till you see his Aston Martin DB 5.

    Interesting name, ‘Alexandria.’ – also the same city where the opening and closing scenes of “No Way Out” were filmed; see Kevin’s comment above.

    The community of the survivors seemed stronger before Aaron arrived – After two years of just scrapping by, the air would be let out of your tires if two guys looking like they just stepped off of a J. Crew catalog showed up with bottled water and apple sauce.

    Michonne, take the wheel – comes a time in every man’s life when he needs to surrender to his woman (ok, this is my wishful thinking).

    I’m happy with this development: to a point – what could possibly go wrong?

    Rick’s stashed his gun outside Alexandria – hey, if I gotta stash my Glock 9, it might as well be in a Vitamix.

    • After two years of just scraping by, the air would be let out of your tires if two guys looking like they just stepped off of a J. Crew catalog showed up with bottled water and apple sauce.

      “Oh my God. I’ve been using ALL THE WRONG PRODUCTS.”

      As for Aaron and Eric, I think the survivors will see all of Eric’s candles and know right away. Tasteful home accessories … The Gays are here!

      I expect only Abraham will have a problem with this. Perhaps Father Gabe too — but he’ll be all ‘love the sinner, hate the sin,’ while also wondering why in this ruined world there’s no Eric for him.

      Either way, I’m down for it. :)

      • Ever since Aaron and Eric showed up I’ve been wondering: what if Merle had survived to this point?

        • I thought about that too. I’m glad we didn’t have to find out.

          The thing is, I really don’t want to see one of my favorite shows turn into the comment section of YouTube. We’re at a moment in American life when I think we know quite well what a certain demographic feels about everyone else. If we want more of that noise on TV, we all know exactly where to find it.

          But that’s not why I watch AMC. If story really does matter here, polemic needs to take a back seat to plot, pretty much always. To AMC’s credit, it does.

          While he was around, Merle was an interesting study in anger and fear. But I don’t miss him. Ever.

          • Professor Spouse and I had a long talk about people’s reactions to Aaron and Eric. We are both okay if someone says something about their own discomfort. Maggie’s a former Bible-thumper, after all. Abraham is a major redneck. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with someone saying, “Whoa, I’m uncomfortable” or “I can’t believe I have to accept this.” That’s fine. Because it doesn’t make the presence of Aaron and Eric any less groundbreaking or awesome, and in some ways, it makes it MORE awesome.

            As I said with the gay subplot on Downton Abbey, if you whitewash people’s attitudes, you trivialize the struggle. And I don’t think it’s awkward, or polemic, to have someone just briefly note that, shit, the world has changed THAT way too, because if they’re survivors, and good zombie-killers, nothing else matters.

  6. Rick’s crew never changes their dirty, smelly clothes. Sure, all the food and weapons are picked clean in every town by now, but there’s clothing in abundance. GO SHOPPING DUDES. Aaron is totally showing them up.

    I love the implied toughness of Aaron and Eric. I mean, was it Abraham who said that everyone left now is dangerous, because the weak are already dead? Eric especially seems a Spring Chicken, a powderpuff, but he’s survived almost 2 years of zombie-time. That means his pretty looks are deceiving. He may kill zombies while singing showtunes, but he can surely kill zombies.

    I have to update my “what do you call them” post to include “roamers”.

  7. I have been reading your reviews on the WD for about a year. this is my first post.

    your reviews are smart & informative. I also appreciate the comment section. I really like learning from other peoples observations.

    I am always exhausted when the episode is over but always wanting more.

    great blog.

    • Thank you so much, MJ, and welcome!

      My recaps of TWD are a relatively new thing here at Basket of Kisses — but I never miss the show (watching it is a long-distance family affair for me and my loved ones in Seattle), and this is by far my favorite season.

      I think I’ve liked the more introspective episodes of Season 5 (Self Help, What’s Happened and What’s Going On, Them) most. There’s an attention to time and direction in these episodes that I miss when the walkers stagger onto the scene and the slapstick killing begins again. These slower episodes are necessary, in the way crying is necessary when you’re grieving a loss.

      While Mad Men is still my great favorite, I love what a thoughtful show The Walking Dead has become. I’m such a fan now — with or without a good flare-in-the-eye zombie kill. :)

      Thanks for chiming in!

      • You said time. That reminds me. Remember this quote from Dale in the first season about his watch?

        “I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you may forget it for a moment now and then and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it.”

        Now look at the titles for the most recent episode and the remaining episodes this season.

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