A review of tonight's “The Walking Dead” coming up just as soon as I'm wearing a windbreaker…
Early in watching “Forget,” I had a thought I don't usually associate with this series, even when it's at its strongest: This is fun. Seeing the group try to adjust to something resembling pre-apocalyptic life, and particularly seeing Carol role play as the mouse she used to be, put a bounce into the proceedings. It wasn't suddenly a laugh riot, but there were running gags (the pasta maker), and people enjoying themselves, and it felt every bit as light and surprising as I imagine the experience is for Rick and the other characters.
And then Carol threatened to abduct young Sam in the middle of the night and tie him to a tree in the middle of nowhere to become zombie food.
This was perhaps the opposite of fun, but it was memorable and impressive in its own right, and speaks to the Bizarro “Walking Dead” nature of this whole situation.
Finally, our group is in a place of real safety and normalcy, and now they've become the villains. Carol is giving little boys nightmares. Rick – who once upon a time wanted to kill Shane for what he did with Lori – is kissing other men's wives, and putting his hand on his (other) hidden gun while watching Jessie walk around. He's starting to believe the Alexandrians are on the up-and-up, but that just means they're too weak to stop him from doing and taking whatever he wants, if it comes to that.
This is some ugly stuff – the Carol/Sam scene was one of the show's most uncomfortable scenes ever that didn't involve a zombie makeup effect – and has breathed a ton of life into the show after that bumpy start to this half-season. Where Hershel's farm and even the prison felt like places where the series overstayed their welcome for budgetary reasons, this new/old world feels rich and complicated enough that I could see a very long and creatively healthy stretch here, as the arrogance of Rick, the paranoia of Carol, the PTSD of Sasha, etc., slowly causes this paradise to crumble around them.
What's especially interesting about “Remember” is how, by episode's end, the member of the group's leadership troika who seems most willing to take the place at face value is wild horse Daryl, whose ranching adventure with Aaron (and subsequent spaghetti dinner with him and Eric) starts making him feel connected to these people and their place. That Aaron was able to stalk our group and learn so much about them unnoticed already suggested he had serious skills, but it was nice to see him in action, working in tandem with Daryl, and not flinching when he had to put down the poor horse after Buttons became a walker snack(*). There's still a chance Deanna may have some hidden agenda, but Aaron seems to be what he seems to be, and it's good to know that Daryl can make new friends at this point.
(*) I don't recall any zombie animals on the show to date. Do you think Buttons would have turned, or were they just putting him out of his misery after being chewed on by the walkers?
Mostly, though, I'm afraid that if someone offers me a cookie anytime soon, I'm going to have a flashback to Carol and Sam and be unable to eat the damn thing.
Some other thoughts:
* In his travels, Daryl comes across a zombie with a W carved in its forehead, the latest visual hint of a group calling themselves the Wolves moving around in this vicinity.
* Chekhov's Trophy Sword: At what point in the season will Michonne regret turning that thing into an ornament, prompted by a drunken Abraham's poetic musings on a soldier's difficulty laying down his arms?
* The last few weeks, Father Gabriel appeared in the background of a few scenes but otherwise didn't do anything, and I didn't notice him at all this week. With a regular and recurring cast this large, it probably doesn't make sense budget-wise to have Seth Gilliam appearing in episodes where he's just going to be a glorified extra.
* The song playing as Rick hears the walker on the other side of the wall is “Spicks and Specks” by the Bee Gees.
* Jessie's doctor husband Pete is completely friendly to Rick at the party. Are we to assume that he wasn't the belligerent, suspicious man on the porch in last week's episode, or just that he's putting on a good show when his wife is around?
Before we go to the comments, it's time once again to explain how this blog's No Spoiler rule applies to this show:
1. No talking about the previews for the next episode.
2. No talking about anything else you know about upcoming episodes from other sources – and, yes, that includes anything Gimple and Kirkman have said in interviews.
3. No talking about anything that's happened in the comic that hasn't happened in the TV show yet. (Or anything that's been revealed, like character backstory and motivation.) As with “Game of Thrones,” the goal is to treat “The Walking Dead” TV show as exactly that, and not as an excuse for endless comparisons with the comics. If you want to talk about the comics, feel free to start up a discussion thread on our message boards.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com