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Trust takes on a whole new meaning in the world of The Walking Dead. The phrase "survival of the fittest" gets thrown around as though it's an excuse or justification to partake in the kill-or-be-killed mentality. Rick has plenty of reason not to trust outsiders, but does that mean he should exclude every one of them from the group? Maybe Rick's not the right guy to be making those kinds of decisions right now, as tonight's episode suggested in its final moments.
The structure of both camps seem to be on unsteady ground right now. The episode began with Rick and his people causing a bit of mayhem at Woodbury during Daryl and Merle's fight-to-the-death battle royal for the entertainment of the residents of the once cozy little safe haven. Rick and his people succeeded in freeing Daryl (and Merle), taking the lives of a few residents in the process and bringing their attention to Andrea, who hadn't yet discovered that her old friends were in the neighborhood.
Rick, Glen, Maggie, Merle, Daryl and Michonne escaped Woodbury relatively unscathed, after which Rick promptly refused to let Merle join them at the prison. It's a good call. Not only is Rick well aware of what a problem Merle can be, but Merle's also a pal of the Governor's. Who knows if Merle will hold a grudge against the Governor for setting him up to fight his brother, but Rick has no reason to trust the guy either way. The problem is, Daryl's not just going to abandon his brother. So now Rick and his group are out one Daryl, which is like being out five guys in one. Daryl and Merle set off on their own.
With Daryl gone, it seems like Rick should be particularly open to hiring a replacement, which would be Michonne, a woman who has proven to be particularly capable of taking care of herself and others if it comes to it. She's a prime candidate for a place in his group. While Rick was willing to bring her back to the prison so she could heal, he insisted she had to leave as soon as she was well. I want to hope that he'll change his mind on that, but the end of the episode suggests his mind is kind of in the rafters.
Upon returning to the prison, Rick was introduced to the newbies, Tyreese, Sasha, Alan and Ben. The foursome presented themselves as cooperative toward Hershel, Beth and the others who stayed behind at the prison, but in private, Alan and Ben were plotting to overthrow the residents. They would have probably regretted doing that, had they gone through with it. I can only imagine how Rick would have reacted to finding a new group of people taking up residence at his prison and the rest of his group either dead or tossed to the curb. But Tyreese and Sasha vetoed the plan.
Tyreese made a pitch to stay and join Rick's group, offering tombe contributing members to their group and help them in any way they could. Hershel was on their side, but after witnessing a woman up in the rafters, (presumably a hallucination of Lori), Rick freaked out and made them leave.
I don't like Rick being haunted by Lori. It's not just that seeing Rick unravelled shakes the whole foundation of the show. He's entitled to a breakdown after all he's been through. It's the lack of subtlety in seeing a fancy-dressed woman hovering above that feels a bit like overkill to me. Yes, he's devastated that his wife is gone and it's affecting his leadership abilities and his mental stability in general. But between the weird "phone calls" last year and now the hallucinations, the message is coming in louder and clearer than necessary.
While I don't love the execution, I do like the parallel between Rick and the Governor. While Rick is insisting on blocking out all outsiders, the Governor seems to have lost his flare for leadership. What was once a seemingly perfect, safe little community is now proving to be anything but. After Rick's ambush left Woodbury shaken, panic ensued, followed by a few walkers who managed to make their way inside the barriers. They managed to take a bite out of one of the residents. Andrea took care of the walkers but hesitated when it came time to "help" the bitten man. The Governor walked out and promptly shot the man in the head, then went back home without a word. When Andrea confronted him about his refusal to address what happened, he brushed her off and treated her like an outsider who hasn't really earned an opinion. That in itself isn't great form (though unsurprising), it was his indifference toward addressing the people that seemed out of character for him.
In the end, it was Andrea who addressed the people and attempted to rally their spirits. It seemed to work, but I have a hard time imagining Andrea holding onto a leadership role for very long. Granted, she could rise up and surprise us in that regard, but most of what we've seen from her thus far suggests she prefers to do her own thing. How would she handle it if people start coming to her for everything?
Both groups appear to be in bad shape. People are wounded. People are dead. And worst of all, their leaders aren't in the best shape mentally. That can lead to bad things as major decisions are made going forward.
We'll close this out by addressing the state of some of Rick's people. First, there's Carol and her reaction to Daryl's departure. We've seen her and Daryl growing close since Season 2. It was clear from her expression when Rick told her Daryl left that she was devastated by his departure. She took it personally, and why shouldn't she? Daryl didn't just leave the group. He left her. Maybe they weren't romantic, but they were close, so his sudden exit likely hit her hard. But it was interesting to hear her talk about the nature of abusive relationships and how easy it is to fall back on old habits. If her husband showed up alive and told her to come with him, she'd like to believe she'd be strong enough to refuse, but when it comes down to it, she doesn't really know. Is Daryl and Merle's relationship an abusive one? I'm not sure we got to know them well enough as a "couple" to know for sure, but we do know Merle well enough from his past behavior to know he's a hot-head who will put a bullet in the brain of anyone who gets in his way, no questions asked. Daryl can do better. Hopefully he'll realize that and return to the prison and to Carol.
And then there's Glen and Maggie, both of whom have been through the wringer and are probably in worse shape mentally than they are physically. What's worse, neither of them wants to talk about it with others or with each other, which could drive a major wedge between them. Earlier in the episode, we saw Glenn take his rage out on a walker, stomping the thing's head in and still seeming angry when it was over. Anger seemed to turn to shame or maybe disappointment later on, when he was back at the prison and talking to Hershel.
I think Glenn takes his responsibility for Maggie very seriously, and the admiration and approval of her father means a lot to him. So when Hershel was telling him he was glad they were both ok, Glenn seemed to deflate. Of course, what the Governor did to Maggie wasn't Glenn's fault and there was nothing he could have done to prevent it, but I can't imagine he's thinking especially rationally right now. Hearing Hershel's kind and appreciative words probably only made him feel worse. Maggie didn't appear to be in much better shape. She might just want to forget the whole thing and move on, but I'm not sure that can happen if she doesn't sit down with Glenn and work through it. This could get worse before it gets better… if it gets better. I hope it does.