[MASSIVE spoilers throughout. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200 if you haven’t watched the episode.]
Red balloons appear often in modern media. They symbolize hope and danger, youth and fear of growing up. Letting go of one is said to be a metaphor for letting go of those childish, unimportant feelings for something that is more realistic.
So, it’s no coincidence that we saw red balloons tied down, anchored to Alexandria’s perfection.
We were expecting Rick to make his decisions as to the future of the town and Jessie’s situation, and he did — loudly. The dude is blinded by infatuation (it can’t be love yet, can it?) and is using that to drive his interaction with the married woman. Yes, she’s in an abusive relationship and needs to get out of it, but Rick is incredibly creepy and awkward towards her. It eventually leads him to confront her, almost forcing her hand to admit she has (some kind of) feelings for him. When Hubby of the Year Peter discovers them, all hell breaks loose and we get an action movie level window shattering scene.
But more on all that in a second. First we have to cover what lead up to this, and where everything is headed. And it’s at least based on the goings on of the zombies.
A few weeks back we discovered a walker with a “W” carved into its forehead. This episode we see another, as well as what’s described to us as a suspiciously growing numbers of the undead. Darryl and Aaron, out looking for new members of the community, have been keeping an eye on all of this. As they’re examining the infestation, they see a light off in the distance. Humanity! There’s more of it! But who? Following the light they come across gruesome scenes filled with chopped up body parts and a disemboweled tied to a tree. Someone has been feeding the walkers, “herding” them towards Alexandria. Alexandria is essentially a utopia, but someone is trying to take that away.
While we thought this could be something that factors into the finale, it may be not much more than setting up next season.
Sasha, still having her world ripped away from her, is doing a poor job of recovering. She blames the world and takes it out on the walkers, spending hours and hours killing them executioner-style through the back of their heads. It’s borderline sadistic, and even Michonne notices it. “She’s hunting them,” she says. Remember that Sasha was almost calling them to her last week, and when that didn’t work she went out after them instead. Her lack of trust could be extremely dangerous to everyone.
In fact, I thought it would lead to disaster for the blossoming young love. Carl and Enid have been playing a sort of weird tag while chasing the undead. Enid seems to understand the dangers of life now (“It’s their world, we’re just living in it”) and has no fear trotting off on her own in the middle of the forest. Carl, himself infatuated (like father like son, eh?), runs out after her. They actually get stuck together inside of a tree as a herd shambles by, with Carl an inch away from getting a real kiss before chickening out. It’s a small narrative thread that I like seeing, too. “Love in the Time of Zombies”. This is the first real relationship we’re seeing, possibly a reflection of what life will be like for teenagers now, with a sort of modified innocence that other relationships are missing. Everyone else is stuck together because of necessity, while Carl and Enid may actually be following a more traditional path.
It’s why I thought they’d probably get shot by Sasha, since the show is notorious for killing off someone just as their survivorship is wrapping up. They’re the Romeo and Juliet of things now.
The division in the town is strong, with sides definitely forming. And thanks to Aiden’s death we have the stake that forces it apart. When speaking to Deanna about Aiden’s death, Nicholas purposefully (and falsely) blames Glenn to cover his own tracks. We already know what kind of person Aiden was — Deanna even mentioned she was happy when Glenn beat the crap out of him early on, and that Nine Inch Nails CD that was played during his weird wake was apparently one of his. He was a jerk, suspicious of any outsiders that would threaten his position in the group. He was Deanna’s son, so when the others didn’t fall for his crappy leadership he antagonized them. Nicholas was clearly a lemming to Aiden, and preserving his memory would probably put him next in line for Aiden’s role.
So we have two clear sides — naive towns folk and survivors — and the Romeo and Juliet that connects them.
And it comes to a head as Rick comes flying through that glass window onto the pavement. As he and Peter proceed to wreck each other’s faces, Peter smacks Jessie. Rick, infuriated, takes control of the fight — and ends up smacking Carl. Rick and Peter are reflections of each other. Peter is a drunk physical abuser of family while Rick seems to mentally abuse those around him. Both try to enforce control through physical, violent means. Rick is even starting to feel a little like the Governor to me.
So when he’s confronted by Deanna and told that he’s basically the cause of all of the evils of the group (thanks to the earworming of the hypocritical Father Gabriel) he flips out. “If you don’t fight, you die!” Fight what? Who? Each other? Fight the new reality? Fight the old ways? I’ve lost sympathy for Rick. I used to admire him for being a leader that put others before him, but he’s regressed into a sociopath. He can’t be trusted, even by those closest to him, as evidenced by Michonne knocking him out to calm him down.
And so when Deanna effectively chooses the abusive Peter over Rick, she’s essentially saying “we’d rather live our fairy tale then deal with whatever reality you’re bringing”.
One more episode and we see if this is a fairy tale or a nightmare.
All images courtesy AMC