[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead. Read at your own risk.]
Rick Grimes might look like the clean-shaven man in uniform we met in The Walking Dead pilot by the end of Sunday's episode, but he most certainly is not the same guy.
Despite his hesitations in the previous episode, Sunday's Walking Dead begins with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) leading his ragtag group of survivors inside the walls of Alexandria. And it's clear from the very first moment that the people inside those gates are perhaps more afraid of our dirty, road-weary heroes than Rick initially was of them. (It probably doesn't help that within two minutes or arriving, Daryl (Norman Reedus) crossbows a possum and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) blows the head off a walker with her rifle. "It's a good thing we're here," Rick quips.)
But just when it seems that Rick & Co. might be too hardened to join this idyllic community, Rick learns that's exactly why they were invited in. Or at least that what Deanna Munroe (Tovah Feldshuh), the former Ohio congresswoman who helped turn a solar-powered planned community into the Alexandria safe zone she now leads, would have Rick believe. "We need people who have lived out there," Deanna tells Rick, who can't believe this group has survived the entire zombie apocalypse in relatively comfy peace.
"You should keep your gates closed," Rick warns. "It's all about survival now, at any cost. People out there are always looking for an angle, looking to play on your weakness. They measure you by what they can take from you, by how they can use you to live." Although Rick clearly speaks from personal experience, Deanna seems to think that Rick's words of warning suggest he's already protecting his new community, and she has Aaron (Ross Marquand) show Rick to the two homes that've been set aside for Rick's group.
After a much-needed shower and shave, Rick meets another local: pantry worker (and former hair stylist) Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge), who drops off some food and offers to help match Rick's hair to his newly shorn face. Jessie reveals that she has two sons who want to meet Carl (Chandler Riggs), and she urges Rick not to write the people of Alexandria off just yet. But, ever distrustful, Rick decides his group will all sleep in one house for the first night -- especially since Deanna made them all surrender their firearms.
And Rick has reason to remain distrustful. Although Deanna spends much of the next day meeting with the rest of the group and assigning them jobs, Rick sets out to explore. Not only does he encounter several walkers (Deanna said the area was evacuated and there are very few people, living or dead, that remain in the area), but he also discovers that the gun he hid in a blender before entering the gates is mysteriously missing. (Plus: During an overnight walk, Rick encounters Jessie's husband, who doesn't seem to be as outwardly friendly as his wife.)
But perhaps the biggest red flag is Deanna's son, Aiden. Because he had some ROTC training, he is the designated leader for supply runs. After recruiting Glenn (Steven Yeun), Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Noah (Tyler James Williams) to do a dry run, they discover that Aiden's crew recently lost four people during a walker attack. But Aiden has stupidly tied up the walker that was responsible, to remind the scavenger crews to keep their heads straight and follow Aiden's orders. Glenn clearly has no interest in that, especially when the group discovers that Aiden's prisoner has escaped. When the walker attacks, Aiden insists that the group keep him alive. But after Tara loses control of the walker, Glenn steps in with his knife and puts it down.
Once the group makes it back inside the gates, Aiden and Glenn engage in a war of words about Aiden's poor leadership. After Aiden tells his mother she should have never let Rick's group in, he takes a swing at Glenn, who puts Aiden on his backside with a quick jab to the nose. Deanna and Rick quickly break up the brouhaha, at which point Deanna tells Rick that she wants him and Michonne (Danai Gurira) to be Alexandria's new constables and tasks them with keeping the peace.
After Rick suits up in his cop uniform for his first night shift, Daryl and Carol (Melissa McBride) rehash their concerns to Rick about staying in Alexandria. "This place is gonna make us weak," Carol says, echoing something Carl had previously said to his father. But Rick disagrees. In fact, in the episode's chilling final moments, it becomes clear that Rick's early words of warning to Deanna may have been about him. Rick tells Carol that they are staying with or without Deanna's approval, and proves just how different he is from the noble lawman we knew in Season 1.
"That's not going to happen," Rick says. "We won't get weak. That's not in us anymore. We'll make it work. If they can't make it... then we'll just take this place."
What do you think of the people of Alexandria? Are they weak and stupid, or are they playing Rick? And what did you think of Carol's new outfit? Did she look sweet or, as Daryl suggested in the episode's funniest moment, "ridiculous"? Hit the comments below with your thoughts!