The Walking Dead has returned and there’s a major operation underway to extinguish a mega-herd of walkers that threatens the quaint community of Alexandria. As expected, things don’t go as smoothly as planned because plans—especially during a zombie apocalypse—almost always get derailed.

When last we left off, Rick was in the midst of becoming the unwanted shepherd of Alexandria, vis a vis killing local domestic abuser Pete upon orders from their ringleader Deanna. Rick is thus the captain of the ship now, as he should be, if not the defacto leader. How will he protect the group under this reorganization? He has a plan to lure a congregation of walkers that have been gradually piling into a huge Zombie Grand Canyon that looks like it could explode into a Lord of the Rings fight scene at any moment. In explaining his expedition, Rick tells the people of Alexandria, “I know this sounds insane, but this is an insane world. We have to come for them before they come for us. It’s that simple.”

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Simple, sure. Rick’s strategy, which sounds deceptively doable on paper, also shows a bunch of forces at play, including the breakdown and rebuilding of trust (Glenn and Nicholas), the perils of decision-making and the inherent lunacy of planning in this context. Rick has succeeded in finding a new home for his crew. He just has to convince some of the old skeptical inhabitants who question his killer mentality that his way is the best way. He has to pass down strategies that are ultimately based on instinct to a group of panicky people who haven’t battled one walker, let alone an entire army of them. Survival is an art they haven’t mastered, and teaching them is the exhausting yet necessary burden of a leader.

Above all, this episode was all about learning and re-learning. Survival requires control and Rick needs to make use of all the power he has—over both the walkers and the people—even if it means executing a dangerous mission. TWD has proven time and again that people are their own worst enemy. An Apocalypse makes it much easier to slip up and cause your own demise, so we’re all curious to see which of these Alexandrians has the chops to not die. As Rick says, he doesn’t take chances anymore and neither would we. What Would Jezebel Do?

1) Would we stop the people-finding missions?

As Rick and the group prepare for the big operation, Rick tells Daryl it’s time to end the routine errands of searching for survivors. Rick is down with Drake’s “No New Friends” philosophy and our dear Daryl thinks that’s a bad idea because more bodies equals better reinforcements. Legitimately, Rick is blinded by selfishness. He tells Daryl, “The people out there? They gotta take care of themselves. Just like us.”

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He’s faced enough enemies to be fairly paranoid. With newbies comes even more paranoia. Not to mention, social dynamics change much faster in apocalypse scenarios.

Would I want to take a chance on losing Daryl just to find more people? Not really. It makes sense to stop the missions for now and chill out. People will find them. But I’m going with Daryl here. Team members die and need to be replaced/recruited for the sake of numbers, plus community is a thing that’s kept this group together. Daryl tries to convince Rick of this more than once, telling him, “Finding more people, that is taking care of ourselves.”

People are commodities and no one knows that better than Rick, but he has bigger fish right now, understandably.

What about Morgan? He’s evidently the show’s new moral compass, along with Glenn. The camaraderie between him and Rick is special because it’s a callback to the first days of the outbreak when we were introduced to them. Morgan represents that sense of relief that a person in this world feels when they find out an old acquaintance is alive. Someone somehow survived and made it, which has to be a good thing for your psyche. Still, is it smart for Rick to trust Morgan? Yes and no.

Morgan cryptically says he’s learned his fighting skills from a “friend,” which could be anybody, including the Wolves (those people who might be carving the “W” on undead foreheads).

If anything, though, Morgan is the type of person you put faith in; he’s more upstanding than, say, Shane, and isn’t afraid to challenge Rick. Their bond is evident in a conversation during one of the black-and-white flashbacks when Rick walks in on Morgan practicing fight moves with a big stick. They’re feeling each other out, playing catch up and Morgan says, “The way I look at it, sometimes you’re safer when there’s no way out. We gotta get to know each other again, for the first time. Again.” And there’s your episode title: “First Time Again.”

Then, of course, there’s Glenn and Nicholas. It’s fitting that Glenn, as the calm antithesis of Rick, would give Nicholas (the dude who let Noah die) a second chance. Glenn is that necessary grounding force. And Nicholas is worth trusting because he’s got a debt to pay off.

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Trust issues also briefly come into play between Eugene and Heath (the actor who plays Dr. Dre in Straight Outta Compton), when Heath appears at the gate, back from a two-week trek. Eugene weighs whether to let Heath into the community, but only for a few seconds, confirming that Eugene would be be literal worst club bodyguard.

“Who the hell are you?” says Heath.

Eugene: “You first.”

I’m into this new guy, if only for the hair, which will surely be the death of him. Their banter adds the perfect amount of lightness to an anxious episode and Heath has a solid comedic energy with Eugene, who’s just happy to have a mullet (somewhat) friend.

2) Would we roll with Rick’s plan?

Yes, well, the plan is pretty brilliant and dumb as most plans are at this point. But it’s the only plan. And as usual no one presents a worthy alternative. Even if they did, it would likely be inferior to Rick’s because he seems to have logged a lot of hours of Black Ops.

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The idiot walkers kept falling into this ditch (which was created how?) and getting trapped. So the plan is to lure them there, blocking them off with the trucks and cars to force them away from the community. Daryl (on his bike) and Sasha and Abraham (in a car) are tasked with drawing the walkers to their final destination. Rick, Michonne, and Morgan group together and use the sound of flares to further attract them.

There seems to be some clear shepherding imagery here, right? The walkers are being blindly led into this canyon just as Rick is doing with Alexandria. This long-term strategy, mixed with all the overhead shots of zombies and darting black-and-white flashbacks, gives the episode a crisp cinematic feel.

(Note that when Rick reveals the plan, the group’s wild card Carol, who’s still disguising her badassness under coyness, says to the group, “This is terrifying” and fakes a look of terror. It’s a good thing they left her behind, given how this episode ends. Alexandria will need her.)

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Rick often buoys his decisions by taking away other people’s choices and being the only logical and loud person with a strategy. Most of the walkers are in this ditch, so it makes sense to try to get rid of them. Zombies move in herds, like Rick says, so might as well take advantage of their group think.

In the beginning of the episode, Deeana tells the village coward Father Gabriel that he was wrong about Rick’s crew being evil (remember when Gabriel snitched?). Completing this dichotomy, Morgan later tells Rick he was right (“You were right. It wasn’t over”), in reference to their initial meeting. Rick is the one person who’s highly skilled at dealing with the burden of right and wrong choices.

3) Would we end Carter’s life?

Yes, Rick should’ve done it the first time he had the chance. Instead, Carter gets a Get Out of Being Murdered by Rick Free Card and tags along with the group instead of staying at camp. Rick accurately describes him as somebody who shouldn’t be alive and says, “I wanted to kill him,” because he knew he would screw up at some point.

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Sure enough, Carter gets bitten and Rick has to kill him in the woods anyway. The episode ends with an airhorn that distracts the zombies and all but ruins Rick’s plan, like we expected. Carol and Carl are still in Alexandria and now a community that wasn’t even prepared for a few zombies will have an entire clan on their hands. Time for Carol to show out.


Contact the author at clover@jezebel.com.

Images via AMC

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