Though it’s been foreshadowed ever since Alexandria came in to the picture, it was still a little shocking when Rick finally snapped this week, attacking Pete the surgeon in an effort to have Pete’s wife/punching bag Jessie for himself and ending the episode bloody and ranting about how he and only he knew how to survive. Tellingly, no one had his back, unless you count Michonne, who ended his tirade by bashing him on the head from behind.
After spending season after season lurching from one Big Bad villain to the next, the idea that Rick himself has broken bad and will have to either be brought back to sanity or taken down – by Michonne or someone else – is the most interesting story turn this show has taken in quite a while, while also being perfectly plausible. After years of killing any and everyone who gets in his way in order to survive, it makes sense that Rick would eventually apply that logic to more mundane matters, like getting rid of a romantic rival.
The show bobbled the ball a little in terms of whether Jessie reciprocates Rick’s fixation on her – at first she appeared to regard Rick as a stalker, then she seemed to be into him, then she seemed horrified again – but overall Rick’s “King Kong ain’t got nothing on me” moment was compelling and sets up what should be a great finale next week and, beyond that, a fascinating season 6.
Richard Rys at Vulture isn’t sure Rick’s group will all stay loyal to Rick:
There’s a clue as to where things are headed early on when Rick and Glenn discuss what went down at the warehouse. Nicholas, being a complete coward, lied through his teeth during his on-camera confessional, making himself sound like a hero. He also warned Deanna that these newcomers are bad news. Glenn, of course, tells Rick what really happened, that these people have no clue when it comes to survival. (Duh.) That leads to this exchange:Over at The A.V. Club, Zach Handlen could go either way:Rick: Their rules? We don’t answer to them.That’s a heavy statement for Glenn to make. He just watched Noah get torn to pieces thanks to one Alexandrian’s incompetence. Yet he still thinks life on the inside is preferable to what’s out there. There’s a clear division among those who are ready to assimilate and those who are pushing for a hostile takeover. The latter camp seems to have only three members now — Rick, Carol, and Sasha.
Glenn: We are them now … we’ve got to make this work.
Rick has been on the edge for a while now, but it’s fascinating here to watch him rant at the townsfolk, because part of what he’s saying (like the fact that these people are absolute shit at going on runs outside the fence, unless it’s Aaron on a recruiting trip) is legitimately true. That doesn’t make him sound reasonable or even sane, but it also makes him impossible to dismiss. The show has tried to do ambiguous conflicts before, and fumbled them because it’s hard to work up a lot of tension when the “bad” guys are too indistinct to be a clear threat. But there’s tension right now because the Alexandrians apparent decency works in perfect contrast with our heroes’ rugged desperation. It’s still entirely possible that all of this will collapse next week, but for once, there’s a fight going on with a risk that feels more pressing than the loss of a location or the sacrifice of a couple of cast members. We’re trying to figure out if Rick Grimes has a soul left.HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall feels the show is struggling to service its many characters:
This was another busy episode, albeit not as clumsily stitched together as last week’s. The show continues to have difficulty juggling the cast when it’s at this size. On the one hand, I appreciate the effort to periodically check in on everyone; on the other, it’s difficult to have Father Gabriel and Maggie vanish completely after what she overheard him telling Deanna last week, while the emotional arcs of Sasha and Michonne felt less potent after both were absent from the previous episode. The season’s first half, which split the ensemble up into smaller groups that each got their own spotlight episodes, also left certain characters behind for weeks on end, but because they were focused on so heavily when they were around, the effect wasn’t lessened as much as when the supporting characters trade off weeks where they get a few minutes to remind you what they’re dealing with. It’s a trickier approach when everyone but Daryl and Aaron are in the same location at the same time, but it’s not impossible to do here.Laura Prudom at Variety worries about a house divided:
It’s been fascinating to observe the evolving dichotomy between the two factions in terms of morality: To Deanna, a man beating his wife and children is acceptable collateral damage when that man is a surgeon who could come in handy when someone is injured. And while outright execution should never be justifiable in “civilized” society (there are pros and cons to a jail when there are limited resources for food/water), her preferred method of punishment is exile, which, for the untrained Alexandrians, is practically a death sentence in itself, albeit one where there’s also a good chance that the banished inhabitants could regroup, come back and exact their revenge. Rick’s approach is more brutal, certainly, but undeniably more practical — and it’s Rick’s practicality that has kept his group alive for so long. And since someone outside the gates is carving Ws into victims’ heads before leaving them to die and reanimate as walkers, there’s a fairly good chance that the culprits are some of Deanna’s previously exiled Alexandrians, biding their time and filling the woods with zombies in preparation for an upcoming attack. They’re also apparently the type of people who tie victims to trees and allow zombies to eat them alive, so whether they’re banished Alexandrians with an ax to grind or just psycho outsiders, they seem like bad news.
And to the contrary, The New York Times' Jeremy Egner thinks a common enemy is just what Rick and Deanna need:
These “W” folks seem like no kind of fun, but if they turn their attention on Alexandria, they might be Rick’s best chance at being re-embraced, or at least tolerated, by Deanna and friends. I wondered a few weeks back if there wasn’t some outside threat motivating Deanna to bring in rough characters like Rick and Co. Might there still be some hope for their alliance in the form of a common enemy? Or might the Alexandrians finally pay dearly for their weakness and get slaughtered by some other group next week, who then becomes the Big Bad for next season?