The group has arrived at sunny Alexandria, the walls are high, the homes have electricity and running water, and the biggest threat there is Aidan the Douchebag. But there is a heavy price that must be paid in order to receive this sanctuary, and it is a price that can only be measured in facial hair.

"Remember" takes place immediately after last week's episode ended, as the group wanders slowly into Alexandria. Despite the laughing children Rick heard last episode, there are no laughing children to be seen. This isn't Alexandria piping in the sounds of laughing tots in order to trick new arrivals — although that would be pretty hilarious — but the show trying to make sure Alexandria doesn't immediately seem like a paradise. It's tough, because as Rick and the others learn, Alexandria is some kind of insane self-sustaining community, with its own solar power, water filtration, and basically all the amenities of the pre-zombie apocalypse world. It seems too good to be true.

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Certainly Rick thinks so, and spends pretty much the entire episode waiting for a trap to be sprung. Instead, he meets the town's de facto mayor Deanna, an Ohio senator who's taken charge of the community, and meets with the group in one-on-ones in order to assess them each and gives them jobs. Rick also meets Jessie, a kindly housewife who trims his greasy, greasy hair. When Rick loses sight of Carl and Judith for a mere moment, he runs through the neighborhood terrified, until he realizes they're sating a couple of old people who only want to pinch baby cheeks. Alexandria is the real deal.

Which means Alexandria has two major problems: 1) living in safety and with modern conveniences has made the residents of Alexandria weak, and 2) they've just let in Rick and his group. Rick and the group aren't in danger, the Alexandrians are in danger from them. They wander in hard, lean, dirty, armed to the teeth with weapons, and clearly ready to defend themselves in a moment's notice. But while Rick and the others think they're just being cautious — and they are — to the residents of Alexandria, they look like murderous maniacs in comparison.

As the show has constantly examined the line between surviving and living, between doing the horrible things that sometimes need to be done to stay alive, while trying to keep yourself from losing your humanity entirely, this newest chapter is potentially fascinating. While Rick and the others have been barely surviving since they left the prison — even Glenn says "We were almost out there too long" — to have them arrive at a place where everyone has not only been living, but living in incredible comfort, they almost seem feral in comparison. This is only highlighted by their refusal to trust their new hosts; even though they're all given houses, Rick and the others sleep together in one house, almost like animals. This is not a coincidence.

So the question is whether Rick and the others can "remember" what's its like to live in the old world, or if they're too far gone to assimilate into a community that doesn't want to murder them and/or eat them. There's no better emblem of the group attempt to rejoin civilization than Rick shaving his giant, unkempt beard. Seeing Rick/Andrew Lincoln's smooth chin is impressively jarring; it's been a long, long time since Rick wasn't sporting stubble of some kind, and his beard growth was essentially a physical barometer of his life in the wild. It's silly and a bit obvious, but it's true.

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Rick shaving the beard is visually momentous, and holy crap is it bizarre to see a clean-shaven Rick Grimes again. After Jessie cuts his hair, he looks almost exactly like he did in the pilot — except for his eyes, which are haunted with what he's seen and done since he woke up in that hospital bed. "Remember" goes even further, as Deanna appoints Rick Alexandria's constable, with Michonne as his partner. Seeing Rick come down the stairs of his home in a button-down shirt and tie, as if the world had never been overrun by the living dead, is as shocking a sight as The Walking Dead has provided. But just because Rick looks like he's joined the Alexandrian civilization, doesn't mean he really has. As coldly he tells the group at the end of the episode, if their new neighbors can't get with their program, they'll simply take Alexandria for themselves.

It's a chilling moment to hear Rick talk about overthrowing a group that has peacefully and optimistically let them in, but in a way, it's also clear proof that Rick and the others aren't too far gone. The Termites would be plotting to take control of the town (and eat everybody) the minute they entered. The Governor wouldn't have bothered entering, and instead tried to take the place by force. Rick and the others are giving the Alexandrians a chance, which isn't much, but still sets them apart from those who have definitely been out there too long. If the Alexandrians somehow endanger Rick and his friends, they're done. Survival is job #1.

It's a philosophy Rick shares with Deanna, who knows that Alexandria needs Rick and the others at least as much as Rick and the others need Alexandria. She knows her people aren't tough, and in order to protect them she needs strong people who know how to survive to keep them safe. In fact, I'm betting that Deanna knows of a specific threat to her community, one that her people couldn't possibly have faced on their own. It's a risk to let Rick and his people inside, but it's very possibly a bigger risk not to try to bring them in. And remember, Aaron had been watching them and scouting them for goodness knows how long — it's obvious that Deanna was looking for a group that was willing to do what it takes to survive without having lost its humanity.

She may have found Rick in the nick of time.

Assorted Musings:

• "It's a damn good thing we're here." Rick, with the line of the night.

• Other fine moments in Andrew Lincoln acting without talking: The shower. I have never seen anybody enjoy a shower more than Rick Grimes enjoyed that one.

• Daryl fucking hates Alexandria.

• Carol puts on a grandmom sweater and starts pretending like she's ready to lead a youth group. Knowing what she's capable of, it's exceedingly creepy.

• The kids of Alexandria have videogames; Carl is almost angry at how comfortable their life is. I don't blame him. Hard to go back to playing Super Smash Bros. when you've had to cut your baby sister out of your mom's stomach and then shoot her in the head to keep her from eating you.

• Thanks to young Enid, Carl discovers an easy way to climb over the wall. I'm sure this will cause no problems down the line.

• I sense Deanna's husband is in for a bad time. Go ahead, dude. Give Rick shit. See how that works out for you.

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• Speaking of problems, Aidan is Alexandria's resident supply run leader, and he's a self-admitted douchebag, but also an idiot. He tied up a zombie who killed four of his men, and likes to taunt it before he's goes on runs because… well, he's a dipshit, mainly. The zombie gets lose, almost eats several people, and Glenn kills it to Aidan's anger. Glenn completely stares Aidan down, and its awesome. And it proves that Alexandria needs Rick and his people. Bad.

• If you use the word "pre-game" to describe anything zombie related, you pretty much deserve to die.


Contact the author at rob@io9.com.