The Walking Dead: 512 “Remember” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
Ever since the fall of the prison back in the Season 4 mid-season finale a little over a year ago, Rick Grimes and his increasingly massive crew have been pretty much homeless, wandering from place to place with only short stops before the next catastrophe pushed them back out into the never ending Georgia woods (or more recently, the Virginia woods, which look exactly like Georgia woods – go figure). With the group hardened by days out in the world, how would they react to a potential new permanent sanctuary?
This week’s episode, Remember, introduced us to the Alexandria Safe Zone – a potential new utopian sanctuary for Rick and co – and, as expected, not everyone was entirely open to the place. Interspersed throughout the episode were short clips from the crew’s interviews with the Safe Zone’s leader, Deanna – and while these segments varied in quality (Daryl’s brief grunting as opposed to Rick’s thoroughly interesting little speech), the opportunity to examine how each character reacted to the Safe Zone was one that was seized by the show’s writers.
This yielded some excellent character moments such as Carl’s recollection of Lori’s death; Rick’s suspicion and the opportunity for Carol to shine again as she effortlessly played Deanna, portraying herself as a ditzy and clueless mother figure (rather than the truth, which is more along the lines of ‘ruthlessly pragmatic murder machine’). Remember was an episode primarily interested in studying the aforementioned enormous ensemble of characters that make up Team Grimes – and these little segments were a great way of showing each character’s differing outlooks on Alexandria while shaking up the show’s format a little.
However, despite all the strong character insights, one character continued to be something of a sticking point – Daryl. His reserved and withdrawn nature in Alexandria may have been a nice throwback to his attitude in season one, but Daryl’s moping felt extraneous and uninteresting for the most part. Daryl may be a fan favourite, but the constant focus (as with his eye-rolling segments in Them two weeks ago) on Daryl can often yield some poor and ultimately unnecessary material for the character that bogs down parts of the episode in repetitive faux-development
Likewise, the attempt to flesh out some of the Alexandria residents such as Deanna’s son Aidan fell short – Aidan was essentially a caricatured idiot, and every moment he spent on screen felt utterly grating to watch (so you can imagine this reviewer’s cheers when Aidan was easily felled by Glenn). It may have been intentional, but to pull out cardboard characters like Aidan smacks of somewhat lazy writing in parts.
The inhabitants of previous sanctuaries for Rick’s group were very much aware of their predicament and accustomed to the ways of the apocalypse (aside from that strange time in season two where Hershel trapped walkers) – but the Alexandria residents, having been cooped up in the safe zone since the beginning, were an interesting subversion of the hardened apocalypse veterans that we’ve met lately.
The bizarre normality (for apocalypse standards, anyhow) of the place was nicely conveyed – with teenagers nonchalantly offering Carl the chance to play video games, and Rick finally shaving off his terrifying Santa Claus beard and getting a haircut – to the point where the suburban feel felt genuinely bizarre in comparison to the previous season and a bit of the show. This was a huge shift from the slightly more primitive and brutal lifestyle Rick’s crew had occupied beforehand, and it’s exactly the short of status quo change that the show needed – and along with this shift in setting came an interesting change in the group’s portrayal.
Out in the wild or in a cannibal-infested deathtrap, Rick’s crew was always the good guys – capable of brutality, perhaps, but always on the side of the angels. What Remember (and to a lesser extent, last week’s episode) portrayed the group as was something far darker – paranoid, violent new arrivals intruding on a group of people who seem genuinely peaceful and friendly for the most part. The final scene particularly hammered it in, but throughout the episode it’s very much apparent that from Alexandria’s perspective, Rick’s crew are the ones who represent a threat to everyone – not any ‘evil’ villain like the Governor. While I criticized Rick’s overly negative portrayal last week, the attempt at portraying Rick as the bad guy felt heavy handed – while Remember’s portrayal was far more subtle; and all the better for it.
Despite the general lack of threat (aside from, of course, the threat by posed by Rick’s crew) in Remember, it’s worth noting that we’re just four episodes off the season finale – and the episode provided several intriguing mysteries to fuel the final quarter of the season. From Rick’s missing gun, to the enigmatic Enid and her excursions outside the safe zone walls, to friendly resident Jessie’s not-so-friendly-sounding husband Pete, Remember ensured that there was plenty of threat and mystery to chew on while Rick’s crew acclimatize to the Safe Zone (none of which, incidentally, will involve a certain character named Negan: yes, I’m talking to you, half the internet). Because, quite frankly – would it be The Walking Dead if things were entirely safe and nice?
Remember’s cliffhanger wasn’t so much a shocking ‘to be continued’ moment as the quietly chilling conclusion of a thematic thread I mentioned earlier – as Rick, Carol and Daryl discussed the weakness of Alexandria’s residents, Rick simply replies they won’t get weak; and if Alexandria’s residents can’t make it, Rick’s group will just take it. If it wasn’t apparent before, the cliffhanger makes it clear that Rick’s group is dangerous. After months on the road, they’ve become the sort of paranoid and ultra-capable people that take sanctuaries by force and without any sort of guilt – in the absence of any immediate threat to the Safe Zone, Rick’s crew are the temporary villains of the piece. It’s a development that, despite the risk of feeling forced, feels like the natural next step for our hardened ‘heroes’ – and presents plenty of juicy potential for some fresh and interesting storylines in the Alexandria Safe Zone. For the sake of the Safe Zone’s mostly nice residents, let’s just hope they can make it after all…
A couple of character beats fall short, but Remember is an example of how to do a character-focused episode of The Walking Dead right – with a well-executed introduction to the group’s new home and plenty of fuel for the season’s final stretch, the show is firing on all cylinders.
Scene of the Episode: Taking It and Making It – Rick issues his mission statement for Alexandria, promising that the group won’t get weak. Watch out, Alexandria…