The Walking Dead 5×15 ‘Try’: “It’s their world…we’re just living in it.”

The Walking Dead 5x15 Cover

Television reviewing is tricky business.  Not everybody can do it.  Yes, I’m talking about the glorified “recaps” that people call reviews, where they basically reiterate all of the plot without any level of critical analysis, where an “it’s so cute that they’re finally together” or a “I’m so mad they killed him off” counts for an analytical statement.  There’s a level of critical analysis that is imperative in discussion about modern artistic storytelling, where we need to look at it in the context of its thematic discussion as well as its place in history.  For example, you can’t look at Orange is the New Black without discussing feminism just as you can’t look at Breaking Bad without discussing toxic masculinity and the current state of our economy).  But there is a gut feeling that reviewers need to take into account as they interact with art.  Why are you bored?  Why are you angry?  Why are you sad?  Those who write the glorified “recaps” are in the right ball park; they just need to analyze the feelings they have about the art they consume.

The Walking Dead 5x15-3

Source: AMC

I talk about this because, as I was watching “Try”, my own feelings fluctuated between extreme engagement and boredom, and I was attempting to figure out exactly why I was feeling both of those emotions.  The extreme engagement always came during the scenes involving Rick or Daryl, where the boredom set in as I was watching Carl run through the woods with Enid or Michonne try to pull Sasha out of her insane PTSD reaction.  And it made sense.  The real excitement of this Alexandria storyline doesn’t come innately from the characters’ personal struggles (though, in a moment, we’ll get to why Rick’s struggle is the most interesting).  It comes from the inevitable explosion that is to come when the Alexandria status quo and the status quo of the outside world come to a head.  And, just from putting the pieces together, we know that the inevitable explosion is going to come when the conflict with Rick and Pete results in death, as well as when The Wolves assault Alexandria.

The Walking Dead 5x15-2

Source: AMC

I don’t often like to extrapolate when I’m reviewing television shows because that means attributing some of the quality of an episode to events that I haven’t seen yet, but it’s easy to tell that The Wolves will be featured in the finale and that there will be some sort of conflict between them and Alexandria.  The scenes that show Deanna becoming more and more frustrated, Daryl and Aaron uncovering the brutal work of The Wolves, and Rick dealing with Jessie and Pete all build up the tension that is sure to explode in the finale.  Just as “Us”, the penultimate episode of Season 4, built up to the events in the finale, “Try” is doing the same.  Even the vicious fight in the episode’s last few minutes was aimed at building tension.  It doesn’t necessarily make “Try” a great episode on its own, but the heavily serialized nature of the back half of this season works to make it a brutally tense bridge to the finale.

The Walking Dead 5x15-5

Source: AMC

Of course, there were many moments in this episode that were not quite as enthralling.  Michonne going after Sasha became tedious, especially when juxtaposed with the nail-biting tension in Rick and Daryl’s storylines.  Sasha’s issues have never really been more articulate than frustration over Tyreese and Bob’s deaths, and this felt like terrain that the show had covered earlier in “Forget”.  The only facet of her story that felt new and unexplored was her comments to Noah where she told him that he wasn’t going to make it.  Michonne saw how Sasha’s problems were similar to her own when she had lost the people close to her, so she stepped in to help her, but Sasha was still too emotionally beaten to respond positively to it.  Hopefully, Sasha’s PTSD storyline will amount to something in the finale, but for now it feels like it’s just there to fill time.  Carl and Enid’s story is also something that doesn’t seem like it works at this point in the season.  The connection between them makes sense, as they’re both from the outside world, but it doesn’t feel developed enough to really mean much.  These storylines are really just a bad allocation of time.  The Alexandria storyline is decent enough right now, but it could benefit from more exposition, and taking away some of these less necessarily storylines could have given it a little more time to breathe.

The Walking Dead 5x15-1

Source: AMC

But the real shining aspect of this episode comes from the battle over Rick’s soul.  It has been in the background for most of the season, but it’s really beginning to shine through with “Try” and will surely be the emphasis of the season finale “Conquer”.  The first half of the season dealt with Rick descending into madness with the fighting in Terminus, slaughtering Gareth and the cannibals, and murdering Lamson in “Coda”.  The second half of the season, on the other hand, dealt with the possibility of growth, of regaining the humanity that Rick has lost.  It’s why he’s the constable of Alexandria; it’s his ability to be who he was, or at least part of that.  But, in order to do that, he needs to compromise those two people.  He needs to be able to be the man he was, but also commit the violence necessary to survive.  And now that it comes time to commit that violence, Rick finds himself descending back into the man he was when he had to slaughter Gareth with the machete.

The Walking Dead 5x15-4

Source: AMC

It’s why Michonne knocked him out at the end of the episode.  He isn’t ready yet.  Alexandria needs the Rick Grimes that shows empathy like he did with Jessie, that experiences love in the way he did with her.  It needs the Rick Grimes that is willing to pull the trigger when necessary.  But it doesn’t need the Rick Grimes that is willing to beat a man to death in the street.  The juxtaposition between Rick and Pete is very important here; while we saw Pete push Jessie out of way, we saw Rick do the same with Carl.  Rick still has it in him to hurt everybody and anybody that is a threat to him, and it shows in how ready he was to point his gun at Deanna and the rest of Alexandria.  “Try” doesn’t necessarily resolve Rick’s feelings at all, but brings them to a head.

Ultimately, the next episode can push the story in a plethora of ways.  Rick could be exiled, the group could be exiled, the group could take over Alexandria, the group could team up with Alexandrians to defeat The Wolves.  Whatever happens, there needs to be an emphasis on the shifting of the status quo.  Because The Walking Dead needs to be about more than just wondering who is going to die next.  It needs to show us the importance of one’s soul and then make us wonder if these people are going to gain their own souls back.  Either that, or they descend into madness and have to be put down like rabid dogs, like Rick was almost put down here.

So what do you think will happen in the 90-minute finale?  Do you think Daryl is going to die?  Do you think Rick will take over Alexandria?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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  • Guillermo

    It’s really fascinating to see Rick reaching yet another breaking point. This whole season seems to have been leading so far to that final speech. Rick truly wants to believe that Alexandria could be a safe place, but he only sees people undermining the potential of this place due to incompetence or blind idealism. He has good points, but at the same time he can flip a switch and turn into the bloodthirsty Rick from Four Walls and a Roof just like that.
    Yvette mentioned something that I found interesting in Talking Dead: Rick sees the idea of Lori in Jessie. And that makes his actions so much more poignant, when I see it like that, this is also him trying to go back in time in his mind and fix his mistakes from back then in a way, fruitless as it might be. Maybe this is something he needs to achieve some balance.

    • Guillermo

      And sorry for the double comment, forgot to add: As for Daryl, I think he’ll likely make it out alive this season still. Right now, I see two main characters at risk: Glenn and Carol. We saw Nicholas pick up a gun during the episode and clearly he has issues with Glenn, and I would imagine him trying to get Pete on his side as they both seem to have started sharing a dislike for Rick’s group. And in the case of Carol, well, Pete is still alive, and I could see her doing something rash that will end up in her death. That gun Nicholas got from that bucket is gonna be important, though.

      • Michael St. Charles

        Thanks for the comment! Definitely let me know when you watch the season finale. I’m curious to see if you’re as disappointed as I am.