Well this was an episode that was all about the emotional journey - and it was excellent for that
It was excellent in part because it’s clear, after last episode, that we need some emotional journeys because everyone is currently wallowing in an emotional wreck and unless we start stirring from that it’s only going to circle down
But also because this was always something of a core theme of The Walking Dead as a franchise: how do people react to the apocalypse, how do ordinary people change, grow and adapt in this world where all the rules have changed so completely.
Alicia works her way through the terrible storm to an abandoned home. Well a home with zombies anyway - which she promptly kills and then dumps outside. And then dumps out all their happy family photos
Alicia, in her deep depression, cannot even stand to see pictures of a happy family.
She barricades the house, explores and then finds someone else hiding in the house - Charlie.
This does… not make Alicia happy. She screams that she can’t be in the house with Charlie and runs out into the storm, desperately trying to get into a car. Which fails, she falls and ends up knocking herself out. Only to wake up and find Charlie has dragged her back into the house.
This also doesn’t make Alicia happy.
Charlie is barricaded in a bedroom and Alicia has a whole recapping yet deeply emotional rant of all the things Charlie has done to her and how utterly furious Alicia is at her. She’s responsible for the death of her mother, her brother and her community. Oh and her speech about Nick - Charlie killed Nick when he tried to save her, and he died slowly and painfully feeling like a complete failure and that his life was worthless
When it comes to laying on guilt trips Alicia is a master
But she has her own conflict: she’s torn. She can’t be here with Charlie. She can’t send her out in the storm. But if they’re both stuck in the house she’s sure she’ll kill Charlie - she doesn’t even know if she wants to, but she knows she will.
This is Alicia’s conflict. She knows Charlie is a kid. But she also loathes her for what she’s done and being a kid isn’t a pass for that. But she also wants to live up to her mother’s legacy of forgiveness and hope which definitely doesn’t include child murder. Even this isn’t necessary a matter of hope or positivity but about clinging desperately to her mother’s legacy and keeping her alive. This definitely follows on from the last episode when Alicia is struggling so much with her redemption but it’s one of the most toxic redemptions ever - it’s about clinging unhealthily to her mother’s memory, denying the present and self-flagellation. It’s toxic, it’s powerful and it’s painful
Alicia swings from not wanting to kill Charlie because it’s the right thing to do to then loathing her so much that she wants Charlie to live with the memory of the terrible things she’s done.; the garbage waste of a person she is
Yes it’s awful, so very awful. And a classic train wreck with this kind of drama and grief that these characters have been through. And yes, in this awful world this does come with Alicia screaming abuse at a child - but a child who has done a whole lot of bad
Alicia grudgingly recruits Charlie’s help to secure the shutters on the house and she manages to speak to her somewhat civilly. And sometimes turning back to her rage… it’s again a really powerful good portray of Alicia TRYING but not even sure she should be.
Charlie has also brought in the pictures of the family that Alicia dumped. While Alicia can’t stand to see them, Charlie needs to preserve them. In case someone comes, someone who knows them, someone who loves them. We have a classic argument - Charlie desperately clinging to hope, that there may be someone out there who loves still, there could be hope - while Alicia insists that it’s all bleak and awful and everyone who cares is dead. There is no hope. And keeping their pictures won’t make Charlie feel better either
While trying - so very hard - to do the right thing, Alicia finds the gun in Charlie’s coat. This is a very very very tense moment with Alicia fights with her desire to kill Charlie. Charlie flees upstairs and nearly kills herself via zombie - Alicia realises she’s suicidal and saves her.
But, as she openly says, she has no good reason to keep going. She has no messages of hope and won’t even say that suicide isn’t the correct option. But she has to keep going even with what she’s done - just as Alicia has
And here we see the beginning of the shift from Alicia: recognising parallels between herself and Charlie and not entirely seeing her as evil. But definitely not ready to forgive - and when Charlie seems to be looking for some kind of comfort, Alicia lashes out making it clear that whoa she is not offering comfort here. The fate for all of them is to die and become zombies. She’s also deeply hostile to Charlie’s attempt at small talk - and then feels guilty for her lashing out. Again can I say just how awesomely this portrayal of deeply conflicted emotions Alicia is facing and she doesn’t just have a big turnabout without a progression
And then the storm gets worse
So much worse that they have zombies threatening to come in and the end up in the basement, trapped in rising water that has reached up to their chests. Charlie faces this terrible fate and finally cracks and reveals her real fear: having watched her parents die and come back as zombies, she asks Alicia to kill her. She can’t come back as a walker, she cannot
And Alicia cannot bring herself to do it. Collapsing in tears, she can’t kill Charlie, even to save her, even when Charlie tries to provoke her with all the things she did
Thankfully a falling zombie shows them the basement doors and a way out.
When the storm clears, a lot has changed. Alicia buries the four dead zombies with the pictures Charlie saved. Charlie asks why she’s doing it - for her or Alicia but Alicia just says for them: someone may know and care for them. Yes this not-so-subtle moment is Alicia finding her hope again.
And as they drive back she describes the beach to Charlie - somewhere she’s never been and always wanted to visit in a quasi acceptance of apology. But just in case we get too hopeful when they arrive they find Victor, Luciana etc are all gone… and Alicia instantly assumes everyone is dead while Charlie desperately clings to the idea
This episode was emotional and powerful and… lacked subtlety. We had lots of powerful emotional moments that had so much weight and impact - but was delivered with, perhaps, a bit too much staring direct in the camera and yelling “did you get the moral message yet?!”
But… that’s not a problem necessarily. I mean the messages were powerful and really really really clear and not remotely nuanced but… is that a bad thing? I don’t think nuance is an essential in everything and didn’t detract all the power of this episode. Alicia may be being centred as the new protagonist for this series which seemed to have been a little at a loss for much of this season.
This episode was perfect for that, the emotional impact, the struggle, the conflict, the growth - it all worked. Not subtle - but very powerfully