And then we met Aaron. The great challenge before the writers of this show is to take a show that has been about survival and zombie kills and elevate into a show about rebuilding civilization. The prison season had moments of this, and those remain the best episodes we've seen. But mostly the show has been content to put our friends in danger and expect us to be satisfied with the fact that it sometimes lets them die. But this approach is losing its power as the remaining characters seem to be easily identifiable as Untouchable (Rick, Darryl and Michonne) or Biding Their Time (Everyone else.)
Aaron is the first character with the skill set to make the show about something more than the endless cycle of being chased by zombies and killing incompetent bad guys. He worked in the Niger delta for an NGO. He knows how to negotiate with hostile clans and he knows what really matters in building bridges. The writing on his first full episode was of course uneven. (The bit about not wanting to eat apple sauce because his mean mommy made him eat apples to make him more manly? Is that a thing? And I can't for a minute believe they couldn't find a less insulting way to let us know that the new good guy was also our first gay guy on the show.) But there was good stuff too. He showed that he knows how to negotiate and how to empathize with desperate people. There is great potential in him.
Last week we met Deanna the putative boss of the Alexandria Safe Zone. The best characters on this how bring something to the Zombie Apocalypse that was also meaningful in their old life. Deanna was a Congresswoman. For all our national ambivalence about the current congress, the fact is that the House of Representatives is still the best collection of former High School Class Presidents in the world. You don't get there by accident and you don't stay there without some people skills. I think Deanna has great promise, although I suspect her run on the show might be short in order to make Rick the unquestioned leader again. This story is still a hero's quest and Rick is our hero.
It was great to see Rick back in uniform last week. Andrew Lincoln is a pretty good actor but the show has demonstrated the limits of his range at times. Rick isn't very convincing when he's overly anxious or bordering with insanity. Rick is still a cop and a great one. I think these next few episodes will give us a chance to see him revert to his basic humanity. That doesn't sound especially exciting but this gets me back to the challenge of the show in the first place. Can they make this horror show a compelling story about how to rebuild a civilization? It's a tall task but the Aleandria Safe Zone seems like as good a stand in for the Garden of Eden as anything we're going to get.
There are two kinds of Walking Dead fans. Those who enjoy the zombie kills and can take the story as it comes and those who really want to see where the story goes. I'm in the latter group and that makes the somewhat pointless art of predictions necessary.
1. Episode 5 will be relatively calm. I think we get one more hour of the Group getting acquainted with Alexandrians. There will be an obligatory action scene, most likely involving Aaron and Darryl teaming up to kill some Walkers outside the walls.
2. The next bad guys will be the people that Deanna exiled. (But not Negan). I think the last 3 episodes will involve a now familiar pattern of meet a threat, suffer a setback, beat the threat.
3. Morgan will return in Epsiode 7 and bail out Rick's group in the finale.
4. Deanna will die during this confrontation with the bad guys.
5. Of course someone major will die in the finale. My hunch is Carol because I don't think Deanna buys her Suzy homemaker act for a second. If there was any doubt about this, her line to Rick about being a great poker player is a less than subtle tip off. (Tell, if you prefer.) This either leads to her proving invaluable in an unlikely way (for the 10th time) or she will be mistrusted by Deanna and somehow that will go to shit. The other contenders for a serious death are Glenn and Maggie but they have not built that up at all.
6. We could get a bonus death of a group member, but it won't be anyone we care about. It strikes me that Abraham might not be very useful in Alexandria but I think he will be very useful once Negan shows up and the group truly finds itself fighting wars. (Season six could be great!) So I don't think it will be him but between Tara, Rosita, Gabriel and Noah, there are some spare people taking up oxygen in the group.
7. The season will end with relative calm and we'll have a time jump before season six. I expect that Season 6 will find the group having lived a couple years of relative peace. At some point they have to explain Carl going from nine years old to a teenager in such a short time. And it would be helpful if Judith were out of infancy.
8. I saved this for last because it's the most specific. Rick will start a relationship with Michonne by season's end. Of course I have been wrong before. But I think this is the love story we have been waiting for. If you think about the group as currently constituted, you essentially have four adult couples: Glenn & Maggie, Abraham and Rosita, Darryl and Carol, Rick and Michonne. Only two of these couples are actually having sex but I think that will change soon. Alexandria should give them the chance to enjoy life a little. Come to think of it, I think Darry will finally bone Carol...and then she will die. His many fans of the distaff gender will finally see him have sex with a woman and then he will be the sexiest thing of all: a widower.
The rest of the group are probably not going to pair up anytime soon. In the comic books Eugene ends up with Rosita after Abraham gets killed but that doesn't feel believable on screen. Father Gabriel is an Episcopal priest but I don't think he's still wrecked with grief about what he did. Sasha is still mourning Bob and Carl has made the mistake of falling for a feral Emo girl. (We've all been there kid.) I don't see that working out well which leads me to my last prediction.
9. Enid is a spy. No one that young survives on the outside for very long. I think she is a spy for the next group of baddies. She's probably the person we saw watching the group as they headed towards Alexandria a few weeks back. And she seemed a little too nonchalant about hopping that wall. I think she was going with a purpose. I think she was reporting to her old friends, probably the people that Deanna exiled. She will deliver the trouble to Alexandria and break Carl's little heart in the process.