RIP Buttons the Horse, gone to join Violet the Pig in the great Walking Dead animal sanctuary in the sky. Ride long and free, sweet prince – or princess, I dunno, Buttons isn't a very gender specific name.
Any concerns about where this new, soft-rebooted Walking Dead is heading should have been assuaged by the end of “Forget”. For while this was another episode that was light on action, it was big on drama as Rick, Daryl and Carol covertly plotted their takeover of Alexandria.
The Safe Zone is a surreal, suburban Elysium, with each of our heroes (with two notable exceptions...) seeming to find what they've been looking for this week. He may still be fighting the urge to reach for his gun, but Rick grudgingly enjoyed Deanna's party and drew closer to Jessie. Daryl was won over by understanding, a plate of spaghetti and a room full of motorcycle parts. In Abe's case it was just a few beers.
The two who weren't quite as convinced were Carol and Sasha. The latter is clearly showing signs of PTSD and some of her behaviour here is troubling. I don't think the show is building up to making her a threat – that'd be obvious and a little crass – but something is clearly not right.
Carol, meanwhile, is becoming increasingly alarming. Caught filching guns by Jessie's young son, Sam, she first promises him cookies – and then that lets him know that she will kidnap him, tie him up and leave him to be eaten by walkers if he dobs her in...
This was a remarkably unsettling scene. We like Carol, we sympathise with her, so having her threaten the life of an innocent – and knowing that she's sincere and can make good on that threat – was a genuine shock.
It's smartly tied in to her character too. When she describes Sam's potential grizzly fate, she's also probing at the wound that Sophia's death left. Carol carries the weight of her past with her more than any of the others. She remains broadly sympathetic, but will that still be the case by the end of the season?
There was a lot of talk this week about “out there” and how it contrasts with the “in here” of the Safe Zone. As our characters all realise throughout the episode, Alexandria is a shallow sham – a thin veneer of civilisation scraped over the surface of a cruel and dangerous world. We should hate the residents with their petty concerns about pasta makers and pickles. We've seen the truth, after all. Like Rick and Carol, we know exactly what the world of The Walking Dead is really like.
And yet... there's something to be said for holding on to the little things. The people in the Safe Zone have managed to build a pretty good life for themselves - certainly more peaceful than we've seen over the last five years. The worry now isn't that Rick and co may get soft. It's that their hardness is going to destroy everything around them.
The Walking Dead airs on AMC in the US on Sundays and Fox in the UK on Mondays.
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