The Walking Dead: “Welcome” Review

The group arrives at Alexandria.  But will they stay and live in peace?

*********SPOILERS BELOW**********

The survivors stand outside the wall of Alexandria.  As the steel gate rolls open for them Carl catches a brief glimpse of a girl in a shed nearby.  Aaron goes inside and the group waits.  They hear a rattling in garbage cans behind them and turn with weapons ready.  A possum climbs out. Darryl kills and collects it as the gate opens.  The group enters and Sasha without hesitation turns and puts a bullet through a walkers head when Rick says her name.

This scene is in so many ways golden.  From Rick’s casually ordering Sasha to kill the walker without even reacting, to Darryl’s holding up the recently killed possum for the guard at Alexandria with the unforgettable “Brought dinner.” This scene not only offers some great humor that the show has been lacking but immediately shows that Rick and his group aren’t just survivors anymore.  They are quite possibly the most dangerous people out there.

Rick goes to meet with the leader of Alexandria, a woman named Deanna.  She talks to him about what the world was like before and what it is now.  She asks to videotape the conversation as Alexandria runs on transparency.  He agrees and tells her she should keep her gates closed.  He is cynical and states that everyone measures you now by how you can help them survive.  She notes that he isn’t even sure if he is staying and he is “already trying to protect this place”.

Deanna is an interesting addition to the cast.  Whenever we meet a new leader we have to wonder what their angle is, but with Deanna we really could believe she is as honorable as she says.  She is clearly intelligent, aware of her community’s weaknesses and strengths and works like a salesman.  She also shows that she isn’t foolish or arrogant and is a welcome rival for Rick.

We get a glimpse of the groups adjusting to their new surroundings, a place that feels like paradise after years out on the road.  Maggie is overjoyed at the smell of clean linens.  Rick gets to have a hot shower and clean shave.  Carl plays video games with other teens who live nearby.  Senior citizens play with Judith.  A kind neighbor even gives Rick a haircut.

I have to commend the acting in this episode as I felt for the group the whole time.  Every time they took in some new luxury in the community it made my heart warm as I believed this was a group that had truly lived without these things.

Despite the joy at the little amenities we see some difficulties for the group.  For one they are none to happy turning over their weapons which is almost comedic to watch as they lay gun upon gun onto a tray wheeled around by a portly happy woman.  Carol struggles to lift the large rifle from around her chest.

We see brief glimpses of Michonne, Glenn, Darryl and Carol meeting with Deanna as well.  Glenn says they have almost been out in the world too long.  Darryl is on edge and avoids answering her question about whether or not he wants to be there.  He simply states the kids deserve a safe home.  Michonne echoes a similar sentiment but is clear that the whole group needs it.  Carol talks about how she was just a poor old woman with no real survival skills that the group took in out of pity.

These scenes really show how the characters are settling in.  It also does a good job of explaining why the group would take gamble on Alexandria.  However one point I have to make is Carol is brilliant.  That she steals all of her scenes can not be stressed enough.  Carol is brilliant.  She perfectly plays the role of the harmless weak old woman.  She convinces everyone she is just a poor granny that can not take care of herself.  It’s not just what she says to Deanna.  It’s her body language, she comes off as worn down.  It’s her seeming ineptitude with firearms and handling of weapons.  Its the way she speaks so fondly of being a housewife with her “wonderful husband”.  She sells it so naturally. We know that if and when the Alexandria crew turns out to not be as kind as they seem, Carol will burn them down without them even knowing what hit them.

Deanna stops by to see how the group is settling in.  Rick mentions that she assigned the group jobs but didn’t give him one.  She tells him she has one in mind for him and Michonne, is working on one for Sasha, and is still trying to place Darryl.  She expresses an admiration for how such a diverse group who had nothing in common could band together and form a family like they had.

The big point of this episode is family and community and this scene drives that home.  While it can feel a little heavy handed I think that may be the point as Deanna sounds much like a politician.  She almost seems like she is speaking to her constituents for reelection and worried about her approval rating.

Carl see’s one of the teenagers from earlier sneak over the wall.  This particular teen is a girl named Enid who had also come from outside.  At the same time Rick is going to retrieve the hidden pistol he left last episode in a shed outside the wall.  Rick discovers the pistol gone and runs into Carl as they are descended upon by walkers.  The two of them make short work of the walkers, one of them sneaking up from under a blanket in the garbage pile.  Carl asks Rick to allow him to finish it and Rick hands him a piece of rebar that Carl uses to impale the walkers skull.

Carl and Rick have been concerned this episode with going soft.  This scene puts those fears to rest.  Killing walkers, defending themselves is now second nature to them.  It’s as instinctual as breathing.

Glenn, Tara and Noah are sent to meet up with the supply running group, led by Deanna’s son Aiden.  Aiden brags about how he was in ROTC before everything happened and the “Sweet biscuit” firearms they got for the supply run before handing Glenn, Noah and Tara three pathetically small pistols.

Seeing Glenn, Tara and Noah try not to laugh at Aiden’s attempt at ubermachismo and tiny guns was played for great effect.  You can even catch a brief eye roll from Glenn as he and his group are used to using assault rifles and are now handling tiny handguns.

Aiden talks about the procedures they have to follow while outside, and that they must follow his commands at all times if they want to survive.  He mentions that they lost four people on a previous supply run because of how dangerous it is before taking the newcomers to see a Walker they have chained up.  He says that the walker was one of the ones that killed his people and that with every run they stop by it on the way.  When they get there the walker has gotten loose and attacks them after Aiden and his cohort call out to it and make as much noise as possible to draw it to them.  The walker nearly kills Aiden and then struggles with Tara as she tries to stop it from killing Aiden’s cohort.  Glenn eventually stabs it in the head.  Aiden yells at the three of them for not following his orders and they storm back to the compound.

Aiden tells Glenn that his people will need a new job since they are not ready to be outside on supply runs.  Glenn responds that Aiden has it backwards and implies he may have gotten his old group killed with his recklessness.  The people gather to watch including Darryl, Michonne and Rick.  Noah and Tara try to convince Aiden to back off as does Deanna.  Aiden takes a swing at Glenn and misses before being knocked back by Glenn in a very one sided fight.  When Aiden’s friend tries to join in he is quickly tackled by Darryl who nearly strangles him before being pulled off by Rick.  Deanna makes a big show of stating Rick and his people are to be treated as equals and ordering everyone to hand in their weapons, then tells Aiden and his partner to come see her after they do.  She then tells Rick and Michonne she wishes for the two of them to be their constables.  Once they agree Deanna turns to Glenn and thanks him for hitting Aiden.

This scene really highlights the difference between the groups.  While Aiden is a little boy playing soldier, Glenn actually is one.  The reality of the situation they now live in has not touched the Alexandria compound as much as it has Rick’s group.  This is even better highlighted by Darryl’s reaction as he quickly resorts to almost lethal means in the brawl, and even after being pulled off by Rick he circles like a rabid animal ready to pounce.  It also shows why Deanna would allow the group in.  She needs people who really know what it is like outside the wall and how to defend themselves.

Rick dresses in his new sheriff uniform and walks through the house to stares of surprise and shock from his group.  He goes out onto the porch and speaks with Darryl and Carol.  He tells them that they can settle in.  They are going to make this work here.  Darryl and Carol are concerned that it may soften them.  Rick reassures them that they can’t go soft, they lack the ability to.  He then tells them if the people of Alexandria can not survive that, then “we’ll (Rick and his group) take this place.”

This scene wraps up the introductory episode of Alexandria well.  It sets up the new arc, makes clear the groups goal, and foreshadows potential problems well.  Rick is right on the line of becoming a villain and we have to wonder if he will become one the very monsters he has been faced with.

FINAL SCORE

10/10

This episode really had a lot to offer.  It was humorous, heartwarming and had enough action to satiate a desire for some awesome moments.  Carol, Glenn, Darryl and Carl all getting great moments to shine while we got deeper into Rick’s psychology was just enough payoff and the right amount of setup for the rest of the season.

+Carol’s homemaker act

+Darryl’s complete inability to act civilized

+Glenn showing some skills in a fight

+Carl showing he is still tough

+Deanna is a politician through and through

+The family dynamic of the group

 

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image source:  http://www.vixenvarsity.com/2014/11/24/spoiler-alert-the-walking-dead-season-5-set-photos/

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