Never has an episode of The Walking Dead made me so eager to see what’ll transpire next. It’s ironic really, given that, at first glance, nothing much happens in “Remember”. Everything is played beneath the surface as Deanna, the mayor of Alexandria, interviews each of our heroes, assessing their strengths and vulnerabilities so as to better seduce them. The whole thing plays like an elaborate game of chess, making for a very different type of threat. I don’t even know what the other shoe will look like when it finally drops, but the suspense is killing me!
Mind you, our heroes are proving surprisingly well equipped for psychological warfare. Take Carl for instance, the way he focuses on duty rather than grief (i.e. vulnerability) when describing what happened to his mother. Indeed, “Remember” settles offhand one of the longest standing mysteries on The Walking Dead, but the true revelation lies in the boy’s assessment of the Alexandria community: “I like the people, but they’re weak, and I don’t want us to get weak too.” I love the line he draws between integration and assimilation. His new love interest, Enid, seems to share his feelings, though part of me fears she’s just spying for a nearby tribe of conquerors.
Daryl’s approach in “Remember” feels a tad more confrontational. Refusing to clean himself up, sit during the interview, or, you know, enunciate, he goes out of his way to alienate the citizens of Alexandria. His message rings loud and clear: “I don’t need this!” After all, the fall of civilisation has been rather kind to the hillbilly tracker, essentially bringing every survivor on The Walking Dead to his level of existence. Still, I love that his first words to Deanna express concern for the children in his tribe: “The boy and the baby, they deserve a roof, I guess.” Will the mayor latch on to this subtle hint, or will she reject the born loner and ruin any chance of cooperation between the two tribes?
Only Glenn shows vulnerability in the interviews. Confessing that you’re desperate strikes me as a major strategic faux pas. However, my favourite character on The Walking Dead makes up for it by staying true to himself during his trial run with Aiden. Deanna thanks him for knocking her son down a peg, but does she realise the man cannot be manipulated? Way back in “Cherokee Rose”, Maggie criticised him for downplaying his leadership skills. As “Remember” demonstrates, this turns out his gift. Glenn will always follow the dominant members of the group, but only until they stop going in his direction, at which point he just takes over. When you think about it, that’s not following at all.
Carol can also fall into line while sticking to her own agenda, though her method in “Remember” strikes me as a bit underhanded. Okay, it’s freaking hilarious, one of my favourite bits in five seasons of The Walking Dead, and we should all thank the writers for having the courage to drift from the source material and turn her character into this amazing badass. I love the level of foresight inherent to her lies, the way she positions herself not just as a benign pawn but as a “people person” whose ideal job involves access to everyone in Alexandria. I still have doubts about Deanna and her community, but we can be sure our favourite widow won’t be drinking the Kool-Aid!
Ultimately, though, the decision rests on Rick, who embodies every facet of his tribe. Like his son Carl, the man presents himself to Deanna as a man of responsibility; like Daryl, he makes it clear that his people can survive without Alexandria; like Glenn, he shows his good will by sharing his expertise; and, like Carol, he fakes his own assimilation to get a better vantage point. Upon hearing the former deputy’s contingency plan at the end of “Remember”, a thought occurred to me about this latest arc of The Walking Dead: what if the other shoe waiting to drop turned out to be our heroes?