In the internal argument I have with myself about what would be worst about the apocalypse (scheduled, postponed, and rescheduled often since my childhood), I usually come to the same conclusion: it’s grief. This was my conclusion last week, when a horn went off near Alexandria, interrupting the Zombie Parade. It’s Deanna, I told myself. She’s lost everything now, including her mind.
I was wrong. As it turns out, malice is a more fearsome post-apocalyptic enemy than grief. When Team Malice (aka the Wolves) attack the budding society of Alexandria in JSS, it’s unexpected and brutal. Alexandria has guns, so it’s close to a fair fight — but no one in the community can match the hate of the attackers.
This is something I tend to forget about the somewhat empty world of The Walking Dead: the other humans who survive tend to be much more dangerous to the survivor crew than even a quarry-load of zombies. As we saw in Woodbury and Terminus, hate is both food and fuel to most of the remaining survivors. And hate kills.
The Wolves don’t need reasons to hate the residents of Alexandria: hate is the reason. Zombies are ugly, but between a zombie and a bunch of people subsisting on three squares of hate a day? I’ll take the zombie, thanks.
I didn’t understand the point of our long walk with Enid at the start of the episode till much later. Since losing her parents in a car-trouble zombie ambush, Carl’s spooky love interest has taken to writing the letters “JSS” everywhere. When she takes off after surviving the Wolves’ attack, she leaves Carl a note. “Just survive somehow,” it reads, in script that hints at a life Enid might have had, in a gentler world, producing hand-lettered signs for hipster weddings.
Just survive somehow is the obvious mantra for the ablest of our survivors. Top of that list, of course, is Carol. Publicly dropping her cardigan-and-cookies disguise at last, Carol immediately goes Full Wolf (the better to take down as many actual Wolves as possible). She throws on some filthy outerwear, scribbles a bloody “W” on her own forehead, raids the armory, and starts killing every invader she sees. She also manages to finish off a wounded neighbor she’d earlier chided for smoking:
It’s a disgusting habit, and it kills you. Too many things are trying to do that already. – Carol
Just about every Alexandrian gets into the act, though. Jessie kills a she-Wolf with her haircutting scissors. Carl takes a machine gun to his would-be home invaders. Maggie goes hunting with a handgun and a knife. Aaron neatly dispatches quite a few Wolves, and discovers some Wolf intel in the process. And Morgan, of course, wields his Staff Of Ultimate Justice to deadly effect — almost.
Cornered by a pack of Wolves, Morgan actually lets three of them go with what amounts to a warning. In every case, the Wolves have shown themselves to be pure malevolence, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever; but he lets them go.
You keep choosing this life, you will die. – Morgan
We didn’t choose! – GingerWolf The Complainer
Morgan is the only member of the away team who made it back to Alexandria for the ambush. And he does convey the message: this is only round one of the War of Alexandria. The residents who survive the Wolves will next encounter the zombies — but by then I think Morgan, the would-be moral center of Alexandrian society, will be gone.
We last see Morgan pass Carol on the road out of Alexandria. They don’t speak to each other — there’s clearly no love lost between the Bakinator and the Staff of Justice — but their opposite directions, and shared silence, feel ominous. Like Rick, Carol prefers to cut down a threat before he proves himself as one. Morgan “all life is precious” Jones believes in choices, redemption, a life that isn’t ruled by chaos. When we see him making for the exit, his staff in one hand and a little bag in the other, it’s not a good sign for anyone.
Final Episode Thoughts:
- Does everyone. Keep saving. Freaking GABE. Ideas? Anyone? I need to know.
- Carol is the reigning badass of the Apocalypse. This is the second time she’s saved a community from certain death. She’s a cookie-baking weapon of mass destruction.
- Nice Touch of the Night: When Carol’s oven timer goes off, and Carl dutifully removes her sheet of treats from the oven.
- Enid’s encounter with the tortoise was easily the most gruesome moment of the episode.
- Jessie did some great work with the scissors tonight. She deserves more from life than a surly beanie-wearing teenage son and a suitor who thinks husband-killing counts as courting.
- I consider myself a peaceful type, but Morgan’s all-lives-matter message is pissing me off a bit. We do not negotiate with Wolves, Morgan! If that’s not part of the official Grimes Doctrine, it damn well should be!
- Maggie is a terrific diplomat. “Everyone that’s here is here because of you,” she tells a broken-down Deanna, in what might just be the line that pulls her back from the edge.
- The new doctor of Alexandria, Denise, has some experience with medical emergencies: she’s played by Merritt Weaver, the second best thing about Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. I know she’s playing a shrink here, and (SPOILER ALERT) I’m not fond of shrinks, but I really love Merritt Weaver. High hopes for this one!
- While I’m no fan of the Wolves, Alexandria was due for a wake-up call. Post-ambush, a shaken Alexandrite asks a member of the survivor crew, “How do you just live, knowing that’s the world?” Dude. How do you live, not knowing how lucky you are?