Things are tense in Alexandria. There's only one person who can keep the group and the Alexandrians from turning on each other, and that's Rick Grimes. Which makes it problematic that Rick Grimes is missing, and Crazy Rick — last seen making imaginary phone calls to Ghost Lori — has taken his place.
Trying to tell whether "Try," the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead's fifth season, is a good episode or not is kind of impossible. It's clearly such a set-up to next week's finale that it might as well have been titled "Part One and "Part Two" (even though the finale is going to be 90 minutes long, apparently. Yikes!). I'll need to watch that before I can truly judge "Try," but I can tell you this — this was by no means a boring episode. So much happened! In fact, let's start simply and check in with everyone whose scenes can be summed up in a line or two:
1) Sasha is going crazy, and is sneaking outside to murder every single zombie she sees. It's like when Tyreese went hammer crazy, except his sister isn't calming down.
2) Carl keeps sneaking out to follow Enid when she sneaks out, and a teenage romance begins among the zombies.
3) Nicholas lies his ass off to Deanna about what happened last episode. He basically casts Glenn as himself, of course.
4) Glenn tells Nicholas he can never set go outside the walls again, because he'll die (more in the "get himself killed" sense than "Glenn will murder him" sense). Nicholas manages to grab a secret gun, which will presumably be used in the finale, Chekhov-style.
5) Deanna and her husband are sad their douchebag son is dead, and celebrate his life by remembering his godawful taste in music.
6) Carol makes Deanna and her husband a "sorry your son was torn limb-from-limb and eaten by the undead" casserole. Deanna is not moved.
7) Last but certainly not least, while on their search for survivors Aaron and Daryl find a pile of zombie body parts, and then the corpse of a woman who was tied to a tree, alive, for zombies to snack on. She has a "W" carved on her head.
That's the quick stuff. The main story in "Try" is Rick trying to address the Pete situation, Pete of course being the husband who hits his wife Jessie and son Sam, but is also Alexandria's surgeon so everyone else more or less let him get away with it. So Rick faces his first challenge as Alexandria's constable, which would be a tense situation even if Deanna's Douchebag Son hadn't died last episode, meaning Deanna is very much second-guessing adding Rick's group to her idyllic community.
Now, Rick Grimes would have been tormented about how to balance justice with his personal desires, and considered every course of action, weighted in terms of the group's new and uncertain place in Alexandria. And he would have gone to Deanna, Alexandria's leader, to figure out a solution together.
Crazy Rick gets as far as talking to Deanna, which is admittedly pretty responsible for Crazy Rick. But once there, he tells Deanna about the problem, and is quite angry to learn that Deanna has been hoping the problem would resolve itself so that Alexandria wouldn't lose its surgeon.
Perhaps Rick Grimes would have appreciated the irony of Deanna choosing what is best for her group over what is right, but Crazy Rick does not. He suggests murdering Pete, to Deanna's horror. Deanna suggests exile, to Rick's disgust, as he's certain Pete will return with some kind of army (he may be overestimating ol' Pete) so it's better to kill him now. The two pillars of the community agree to disagree, just without the agreeing part.
When Rick enters Jessie and Pete's home the next day, he says he's there to help Jessie and Sam… but there's a look in his eyes that gave me the feeling he was looking, maybe just subconsciously, for a fight much, much more than attempting to do the right thing. Because when Pete returns home to find Rick in his kitchen and Jessie demanding her husband leave, all it takes is for Pete to grab his shirt for Crazy Rick to go into berserker mode.
The fight is dirty, and that's clearly on purpose. There's nothing civilized about it, there's no thinking involved — Pete and Rick just claw at each other and choke each other, both fighting like wild animals. They toss each other through the window, and tumble into the street, where a crowd of Alexandrians and the group both witness the brawl. It's honestly tough to tell the two of them apart sometimes, although when Jessie tries to get involved, it's clearly Pete who punches her away. But when Carl tries to pull his dad off his target, Rick shoves his son away with just as much brutality.
It's obvious that the show is trying to equate Rick and Pete here, and Rick is not coming off favorably. Sure, he doesn't beat his wife (it helps that she's dead, I suppose) but he had a moment where he was ready to murder Pete an episode or two ago — before he knew about the abuse — seemingly just because he had the hots for Jessie. He's been plotting to take over the town at some very flimsy provocations. He's never even tried to truly join Alexandria, but has put on his constable uniform purely to play the part. But then Rick does something even Pete (probably) wouldn't do —
— he pulls his gun.
Despite the fact we've only been in Alexandria briefly, this is clearly taboo; most of Rick's group is as shocked as the Alexandrians that someone would draw a gun, in anger, inside the walls. And Rick doesn't just hold it on Pete; he starts waving it around at everybody, and begins a rant worthy of the Governor, in my opinion, bolstered by the fact that he's screaming it with his face covered in blood while waving a loaded gun at all his new neighbors. Here it is, transcribed by Uproxx:
You still don't get it. None of you do. We know what needs to be done and we do it. We're the ones who live. You just sit and plan and hesitate. You pretend like you know when you don't. You wish things weren't what they are. You want to live? You want this place to stay standing? Your way of doing things are done. Things don't get better because you want them to. Starting right now, we have to live in the real world. We have to control who lives here. Your way is going to destroy this place. It's going to get people killed. If you don't fight, you die.
Rick believes Alexandria's veneer of civilization is a lie, that it's the same inside the walls as it is outside. It's never occurred to Rick that civilization has always been a lie — a lie agreed upon, to quote my favorite TV series Deadwood — that only the agreement to believe the lie, that society has rules, is what makes civilization work. Civilization — Alexandria — was built so that people wouldn't have to fight or die. Rick is rejecting Alexandria. Alexandria isn't rejecting him.
Or at least it wasn't, until Rick makes it abundantly clear he's too crazy to be allowed to stay. Deanna's cold eyes are all the condemnation we need to see, but nothing shows how far Rick has fallen than Michonne clubbing her partner in the back of the head, right in the middle of his rant.
Alexandria finally has its first criminal, courtesy of Rick Grimes. It's just not how anyone expected it to happen.
Next week's season finale is 90-minutes long; make sure your DVRs are set accordingly. I'm pretty excited, because I have no idea how the writers are going to resolve this, and I love that TWD is getting more and more capable of surprising me. Based on the "Next Week On," it looks like Rick is getting kicked out of Alexandria, which is the civilized punishment that Deanna favors. But if that's true, what happens to the rest of the group? They might have abandoned the sanctuary of Alexandria for Rick Grimes. But leaving electricity and running water for Crazy Rick? That's a whole different story.
• Enid's kitchen timer sound bombs are pretty clever, actually.
• I really liked the window shot before the commercial break during the Rick vs. Pete fight — I liked how the camera just let us hear the fight inside the house for a little while before they inevitably crashed through the window.
• Jessie, trying to explain Pete's shittiness: "There are things in his life that have happened—" Rick interrupts with the line of the night: "I don't care." The lack of fucks Rick gives in those three words is, frankly, astounding. He doesn't care so much that he can't even be bothered saying it a clever way. Rick does not give a single shit about Pete's past on every comprehensible level. It's amazing.
• If someone wanted to recut that "Sasha freaks out and kills all the zombies" scene, but adding the narrator of Halo multiplayer, you'd be doing the world a favor. Someone really needed to be yelling "KILLTACULAR" in the background there.